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ISU Cuts Judging Panels; Critics React

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The International Skating Union quietly decided last week to cut the number of judges at major skating events, according to the Globe and Mail. The ISU's governing council reportedly chose to cut the number of judges from 12 to nine for money reasons. The ISU sent out a letter about the change on Saturday.

Some have expressed concern that this system will provide more vulnerability to judging manipulation. Remember that according to the judging system, the highest and lowest scores are dropped, and then two random scores are dropped. The judge reduction would have only five scores counting.

According to statistics experts, with fewer countries on the panel, and smaller panels, a voting block of judges wanting to back a particular skater could make up the vast majority of the panel, rather than just a slim majority.

A change in the constitution made at the 2006 Congress allowed the council to make decisions about the current judging system without having to consult member federations. The issue was not brought up to members at a congress four months ago.

Many in the skating world had heard little about the change yesterday. It was news to at least two U.S. judges when contacted yesterday.

The new rule affects all of the major events for this season: the European championships, the Four Continents championships, the world junior championships, the world senior championships and the Grand Prix Final.

The article writes ISU President Ottavio Cinquanta says the cuts were forced because of the economy and "declining revenues from sponsorships and television deals."

There is also a quote from Sally Stepford, former chairman of the ISU's figure skating technical committee as criticizing the low number of judges. "Everyone that knows anything about results – and fairness – realizes that the larger numbers of judges used, the better."

A lot of people aren't happy with the judging system in the first place and I have a feeling that decreasing the number of judges isn't necessarily going to be met with approval throughout the skating world as news spreads.

There also seemed to be a sort of "challenge" (for lack of a better word) sent out by Cinquanta to the U.S. and Canada, as far as increasing skating's popularity and revenue for tv contracts.

"The future must be evaluated rather quickly," he said. "I hope the Games in Vancouver will be beneficial to the Canadian movement as well as to the U.S."

That seems a pretty direct statement that if the revenue from U.S. and Canada doesn't pick up, the ISU is going to be in more trouble and perhaps make some more changes. I wonder how much the ISU is making off contracts in other countries (obviously not enough) and if those contracts have also decreased.