Ever wonder how playing in a high stakes official badminton match would be like? There would be a large audience and cameras pointed at you from every angle. Lots of people would be watching you – maybe millions around the world. But the ones who would be watching you the closest…would be the officials! They’re looking to enforce that all the rules of badminton are followed so that a fair game is played. They act as a 3rd party that should have no biases and therefore shouldn’t take sides. How many of them are there though and where do they sit? Let’s take a look.
A badminton match is coordinated by a total of 12 badminton officials. This includes 1 umpire, 1 service judge, and 10 line judges. The umpire sits atop a high chair next to one end of the net. The service judge sits on a low chair on the other end of the net. Line judges sit on low chairs located around 2.5 to 3.5 meters (8.2 to 9.8 feet) away from the court and looking directly down their assigned line. Tournaments also often have a referee who is in charge of the entire tournament rather than a particular match and does not sit near any particular court.
1. The Umpire
The badminton umpire is the badminton official responsible for running a particular badminton match and sits atop a high chair at one end of the net. The high chair allows the umpire to literally oversee everything that is going on in the match. There are no other officials on the umpire’s left and right. Rather, that space is reserved for bins where players can place their bags and other items.
The umpire needs to have the best and highest position on the court in order to fulfill his/her duties as well as possible. These duties include managing the players, other officials, overruling calls, keeping track of score and where players stand, checking for faults, and much more. We won’t go into too much detail here though since we’ve already dedicated a comprehensive post that every aspiring umpire and competitive player should read to understand how matches are officiated.
2. The Service Judge
The service judge sits in a low chair on the opposite end of the net from the umpire. The service judge has the best spot to watch the players as they serve. When the service judge sees any service faults, he or she will immediately call a fault to notify the umpire and players to stop the rally and award a point to the opposing team. Note that the service judge only watches for faults from the serving player, the umpire looks for faults from the receiving player.
The service judge sits on a low chair because that allows them to be near the same height as the shuttlecock during the service, giving them a better view to judge whether the server has committed a fault. The service judge primarily looks for 2 particular faults during the serve. The first is checking whether the player hits above the 1.15 meter (3.8 feet) mark. There are transparent panels in front of the service judge that helps them to determine where that height is. The panels are set up in a way to let the service judge accurately see the height at which players strike the shuttlecock. It has separate lines drawn for when the player serves from the quadrants closer to the service judge and when the player serves further from the service judge.
The second fault the service judge checks is for whether the racket is not pointing in a downwards direction. There isn’t any special tools used to help the service judge here and so it can be a bit subjective as the call must be made in a split-second decision.
Service judges also perform 1 other duty, which is to change shuttlecocks when it is approved by the umpire. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic though, players now use dispensers at the side of the court to get new shuttlecocks as to reduce contact. Most international tournaments use Yonex Shuttlecocks, which is what we also recommend, especially the AS-50s for serious players.
3 – 12. The Line Judges
Line judges sit in low chairs 2.5 to 3.5 meters (8.2 to 9.8 feet) away from the boundaries of the court. Their chairs are positioned such that they can see directly down their assigned line so that they can make the most accurate judgement when calling shots as in or out. It’s important to note that the chairs are positioned directly down the lines as a shift in position can alter the line judge’s judgements fairly significantly. The angle at which the line judge sees the line can make it seem closer or farther away from the line.
Out of the 10 line judges, 4 of them are on the same side of the court as the service judge (2 on the left of the service judge and 2 on the right). They are positioned at the short service line and the back boundary line. The short service line judges only have to make judgments during services while the line judges at the back boundary line must be alert for the whole rally. Additionally, the back boundary line judges will also judge line calls for the doubles long service boundary during doubles games.
There are 3 line judges on each end of the court which judge line calls for the side lines and the middle line, which is only applicable during the service. The side line judges are positioned on the inner sidelines for singles and the outer sidelines for doubles.
If you were a line judge, you’d probably want to be one of the middle line judges – they have it the easiest. They just have to pay attention during the serve and then can enjoy the rest of the rally with great front row seats! Not only that, they rarely even have to make a line call since most players don’t even hit out on the center line. Here’s one funny and rare occasion where the middle line judge has come into play…and even the far side line judge!
And that was from the 2018 World Championship semi-final! Even professionals mess up sometimes. Anyways, hope we were able to shed some light as to where all the badminton officials sit and why they are there.
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