Oh boy...in an effort to save money, the ISU, quite secretly I might add, decided to change the number of judges at major ISU events from 12 to 9. This season's events affected include the Grand Prix Final, Four Continents Cup, European Championships, World Junior Figure Skating Championships, and the World Figure Skating Championships.
Despite the decreased number of judges, the judging platform hasn't changed, causing some uproar. The computer will take all nine judges scores and randomly select five to count. That's right...only five judges will decide the marks at major ISU events going forward. If you do the math, conceivably a group of countries could get together and run a block even though they are anonymous due to the reduced numbers. And we know who benefits from blocks...not Asian or North American skaters! And at an event like the World Championships where spots to the next Olympics are decided, the pressure to block vote could certainly be higher.
ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta calls it a money thing. He said in a telephone interview that the international body was forced to make the cuts because of difficult economic times and declining revenues from sponsorships and television deals.
Beverly Smith of the Globe and Mail writes, "It is recommended to be wise and to save the money when possible," he said. "Why have 12 people in attendance and to pay board and lodging and travel costs for 12 when we can do the same job with nine?"
"It's a sad day for figure skating," said Sally Stapleford, former chairman of the ISU's figure skating technical committee who was ousted after the Salt Lake Games in 2002. "In the 6.0 era, we never used five judges. It was always nine judges for the European, world and Olympic Games. Everyone that knows anything about results - and fairness - realizes that the larger numbers of judges used, the better."
Two things I hate about this whole situation. One...in 2006, why in the world did the governing council give the executive board of the ISU the power to fiddle with the judging system without having a council vote. And two...I hate that the ISU decided to reveal this news while the world is in an economic tailspin and use that as a shield against further criticism. Who can argue about saving money at times like these? Give me a break.
I have a solution...why not make all nine judges count and get rid of the anonymity so we can see their scores! I've long not been a fan of hiding judges, let's get rid of it once and for all. That way the ISU can save money and be fair all at the same time.