What is the role of an umpire and referee in table tennis? The umpire shall be responsible for many things, but here is the main responsibility of an umpire.
The main role of table tennis umpire
Based on the ITTF handbook, a table tennis umpire is mandatory in table tennis. There are currently 2381 official ITTF umpires and referees. Their role is to keep the table tennis in a good way. Here are their roles:
1. Check the equipment regulations:
Firstly, before playing the match, the umpire will check for your equipment. Whenever you change your racket during a match, you must show the umpire your racket.
The umpire will check your racket to ensure that rackets abide by all ITTF regulations including, but not limited to, racket covering thickness, flatness, and presence of harmful volatile substances (in some cases).
They will also check the acceptability of equipment and playing conditions.
2. Control the match
The ITTF handbook also explains that “The umpire is the person appointed to control a match“. While the assistant umpire is the person appointed to assist the umpire with certain decisions.
The main responsibility of the umpire is to “maintaining the continuity of play” (based on the rule book).
The main role of the umpire is to maintaining the continuity of play
3. Check the fault serve
Umpire also there to check your service. It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied.
If you fail then they will decide that a service is incorrect (called “fault serve”). I’ve explained the service rules that you need to know.
Watch these videos to understand the 8 simple serving rules in table tennis.
Here you are, the 8 simples gestures of an umpire:
This action is necessary for taking action for breaches of the advice or behavior regulations. Help promote the table tennis a Fairplay game.
How to communicate with the umpire?
How to communicate with the umpire? How to understand their gestures?
In general, the ITTF umpires don’t talk much, or they don’t know how to talk, to explain to the players. Or maybe they don’t like speaking, I think 😀
So you need to learn the umpire signal, the code. It’s not difficult. It’s easy! You need to learn just 8 simple signals. I’ve explained them in the video above.
In general, there are about 8 gestures of the umpire that you should know. I’ve explained all of this on pingsunday, just search “table tennis serving rule pingsunday” to find it.
What is ITTF “Blue Badge” umpire?
“Blue badge” umpire is the highest level of international ITTF umpire. So having the blue badge mean that you are the members of a very special group that possesses the highest award and a vote of thanks for the contribution made to the sport of table tennis.
Overall there are currently 274 Blue Badge ITTF Umpires.
Asia, which now has a total of 115 Blue Badge referees, provides the largest number of new names; China, Chinese Taipei, India, Korea, and Malaysia complete the list.
Here is the uniform of ITTF umpire:
Based on ITTF, China with 28 Blue Badge Umpires, Japan with 20 overall. They are followed by 17 for each of Germany and India. The Korea Republic has one less with 16 officials; the total is 15 for Russia, whilst for Hong Kong and the United States it is 10 each.
Here is the full list of the highest level ITTF umpire: the elite Blue badge members.
Is ITTF umpire well-paid?
When you are the ITTF umpire, you are proud!
All are proud to sit in the best seat during the competition. You have some occasions to control the most prestigious matches.
The travel expenses are paid, but ITTF umpires are volunteers by nature.
The main role of table tennis referee
For each competition as a whole, a referee shall be appointed and his or her identity and location shall be made known to the participants and, where appropriate, to the team captains.
The referee shall be responsible for
- the conduct of the draw;
- the scheduling of the matches by time and table;
- the appointment of match officials;
- conducting a pre-tournament briefing for match officials;
- checking the eligibility of players;
- deciding whether play may be suspended in an emergency;
If you want to learn to be the ITTF umpire/referee, you can watch these videos:
Referee Training Videos
Hand Signals for Illegal Services
Some basic material for an umpire
Before analyzing this example, I want to say. I’m also a table tennis umpire in France. I understand well the table tennis rules. The umpire should announce the score after every point. For example, 0-0 should be said: “love all”..
It’s not too complicated to become an umpire in table tennis. Here are some fundamental materials to have to conduct a table tennis match as an umpire.
Here is my material case.
A net height check ruler, and also a rubber thickness checker.
A yellow card. I’m a member of UNATT (National Union of Table Tennis Referee).
A red card.
And two white cards.
And a small towel to clean the table.
The good, the bad and the ugly?
However, in my opinion, there are 2 big problems for the current ITTF umpire.
1. Disrupt the game too often
As I explained above, the main role of the ITTF umpire is:
The main role of the umpire is to maintaining the continuity of play
Some umpire forgets it and has destroyed the game.
The role of an umpire or a referee is to maintain the match in the fluid order. So that the players can play without disruption and the viewers could enjoy the match. This the main role of an umpire: Is to keep the match in a normal way.
But their role is not to teach the player “how to serve”.
You know, the rule, the theory is always something I say “grey”. Something like “near vertical”, “high enough”, so it’s all estimation. It’s very subjective. So it depends on the umpire. We don’t have an exact measurement. So the umpire should be flexible.
For example, in this case, look at this service of Ovtcharov (watch in the video). Is it near vertical? I’m not sure, it’s on the borderline.
But why we should interrupt this point. Because even he threw the ball not very vertical, it does not disturb the opponent.
If the opponent doesn’t complain, they can read very well the serve. Then the umpire should not interrupt the game. It’s disgusting for the viewers.
2. Some umpires are not good enough
The quality of some umpires is very low. They are simply not good enough for this sport.
I’m sure! Give them a racket, and a ball. In this case, as shown in my video above you will see.
Disclaimer: I respect every table tennis umpire. But I just want to say the current state of the umpire. There is still something to improve. I hope we can do better, for the image of table tennis.
You should read
Coach EmRatThich was born in Hanoi, Vietnam in 1983. He started playing table tennis at the age of 8. After finishing his Ph.D. in Paris, University Pierre Marie Curie (Sorbonne University) in 2011, he is now a table tennis coach in a small club in France (about 153 players). Interested in table tennis coaching for a global audience, he founded pingsunday.com, one of the best online coaching programs for table tennis players. Using the Chinese coaching philosophy, his table tennis lessons are free, which allows many table tennis players to improve fast. He can speak English, French, Vietnamese, and a little bit of Chinese.