What is the role of a table tennis umpire?

What is the role of a table tennis umpire?

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:

the role of ITTF umpire and referee
the role of ITTF umpire and referee

 

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.

Umpire and assistant umpire is checking the player's racket and measuring the net height
Umpire and the assistant umpire is checking the player’s racket and measuring the net height

I’ve created the online tool that can help you quickly check if your racket, your rubbers are allowed.

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).

Umpire verified your racket before the match
Umpire verified your racket before the match

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.

ITTF umpire should keep the game in a fluid way but not to disrupt the game
ITTF umpire should keep the game in a fluid way but not to disrupt the game

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

Umpire has an important role in table tennis
Umpire has an important role in table tennis

 

Players and umpires line up before the match
Players and umpires line up before the match

 

Umpire is acounting 1 minute with his chronometer for the time out
An umpire is counting 1 minute with his chronometer for the time out

 

Umpire showed who will serve the next point
Umpire showed who will serve the next point
Umpire keep the score correct so the player and the audience can follow the match
Umpire keep the score correct so the player and the audience can follow the match

 

Umpire is announcing who has won the point
Umpire is announcing who has won the point

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.

"Not High Enough" gesture from umpire
“Not High Enough” gesture from the umpire

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.

Umpire said Let
Umpire said Let

Watch these videos to understand the 8 simple serving rules in table tennis.

8 Simple Service Rules table tennis
8 Simple Service Rules 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 😀

Umpire doesnt talk much - you should understand their gestures
Umpire doesn’t talk much – you should understand their gestures

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.

ITTF Blue badge umpire the highest level of table tennis umpire
ITTF Blue badge umpire the highest level of table tennis umpire

 

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?

No.

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.

ITTF international umpire and referee
ITTF international umpire and referee

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.

ITTF officials travel all over the world to work at events and support the development of table tennis
ITTF officials travel all over the world to work at events and support the development of table tennis

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.

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.

net height checker
net height checker

A yellow card. I’m a member of UNATT (National Union of Table Tennis Referee).

yellow card
yellow card

A red card.

red card
red card

And two white cards.

white card
white card

A coin.

a coin to decide who will serve first or who will choose the playing side
a coin to decide who will serve first or who will choose the playing side

Another gauge.

another gauge for 40mm and 44mm ball
another gauge for 40mm and 44mm ball

And a small towel to clean the table.

small towel for the umpire to clean the table
small towel for the umpire 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.

ITTF umpire should keep the game in a fluid way but not to disrupt the game
ITTF umpire should keep the game in a fluid way but not to disrupt 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.

Officials at the ITTF World Tour
Officials at the ITTF World Tour

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.

They are mostly old, and mostly the “amateur” players. They know the rule of the serve, but they don’t know how to serve. So how can they be a referee to catch the pro’s serving fault?

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.

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