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February 20, 1998 (NEW SHUTTLENWS) - While the Asian and European Zone qualifying tournaments for badminton's world men's and women's team titles (the Thomas and Uber Cups) are taking place in Manila (Philippines) and Sandefjord (Norway), the Cup Finals scheduled for late May in Hong Kong are in danger of not being held at all, following the bankruptcy of an Indonesian company which had been signed up to be the main sponsor of the championships and which had fallen victim to the massive economic shock known to economists and business writers as the Asian contagion.

The International Badminton Federation are struggling with this problem and were scheduled to have a press conference today in both Manila and Sandefjord to clarify the situation. The press briefing has been postponed, giving rise to speculation among the teams playing in Manila and in Sandefjord of an outright cancellation.

The federation is looking at alternatives - signing up a new sponsor quickly, postponing the Finals to allow more time to find a new sponsor, holding the Finals without a major sponsor, moving the Finals to another venue, and outright cancellation of the 1998 Finals.

The federation depends on the world championships, the Thomas and Uber Cups Finals and the world Grand Prix Finals for much of their budget. For the federation to hold the Finals without a major sponsor means not only losing revenue but spending money out of their reserves.

Cancellation of the Finals would be the biggest blow to badminton as a result of the Asian contagion. Earlier this year, the Korean Open was cancelled. The Vietnamese badminton association has already notified the international federation that it will not be holding the Vietnam Open slated for April due to economic reasons. The Thai association has also cancelled the Thai Open scheduled for November, while the Indonesian and Malaysian associations are considering holding their Opens with reduced purses.

The purse at the U.S. Open is also in jeopardy, since its main sponsor also has an Indonesian connection.

Aside from its impact on tournaments, the Asian economic turmoil is also affecting players and coaches. Team sizes for overseas tournaments have been reduced, and in Malaysia, coaching salaries are being renegotiated with talk of the Malaysian association being forced to dismiss their foreign coaches including head coach Morten Frost.