How Do You Become a BWF Referee in Badminton?

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Badminton is a fun and exciting sport, and many players aspire to become great athletes in the game. However, there are some who’d rather become referees — officials that oversee the entirety of a tournament. If you’re reading this, you or someone you know might be planning to become one.

So how does a person become an accredited or certified Badminton World Federation (BWF) referee? There are a couple of steps you need to take, and most of them involve training. You need to begin at a local level, slowly moving your way up as a referee for national associations and tournaments. Only after passing another assessment will be accredited or certified as a BWF referee.

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What is a Referee in Badminton?

Before I dive into the nitty-gritty of becoming a badminton referee, let us first discuss what exactly a badminton referee is. Many who only know the sport from watching games or televised plays might be thinking of the official that sits on a high chair right next to the net. That’s not a referee. You’re thinking of an umpire. They’re one of the technical officials in a game, in charge of overseeing matches and the court.

A referee is someone with higher authority than an umpire. They are the officials that oversee the entire tournaments, making sure that they’re conducted according to the official rules of the BWF and Laws of Badminton. They are also in charge of enforcing regulations and guidelines specific to a tournament. Because of this, referees act as the overall authority of the entire event. All other officials answer to them, and they have the power to make calls for various situations — and that’s just for the games.

Badminton Referee
Badminton Referee

Referees are also in charge of other aspects of a tournament. They need to ensure that players have the right facilities to train and practice, see that courts are safe and up to playing standards, and approve schedules of all matches. Finally, they need to make sure there’s a panel of technical officials with adequate skills to preside over games. The BWF, in particular, requires equal international representation for officials during their tournaments. All these roles make a referee the mind of an entire tournament, so their role is extremely demanding and hectic.

What are the Criteria to be a Certified Referee in Badminton?

Past and current badminton players have thought of becoming a referee at some point in their careers. It’s one of the best ways to stay involved in the sport in case they retire or are unable to play competitively. Still, becoming one takes more than just skills in the sport. As I’ve mentioned, the role of a referee is extensive. It goes above knowing the rules of the game: there’s a lot of bureaucracy, decision-making, and coordination involved. That’s why it’s not easy to become a BWF-certified referee.

BWF Certified
BWF Certified Referee

If you do have plans to become one, there are certain criteria you need to reach to become a certified referee, and you have to remember that only the BWF can certify you for international events. That’s different from being accredited, which I’ll discuss later. For now, let’s dive into the requirements you need to meet to become certified.

At the most basic level, you need to already be a referee for national tournaments. Having this status means your national badminton association can start to train and develop you for bigger roles. Once you gain enough skills and experience, you can undergo assessment for continental level tournaments. Assessors will conduct the tests and determine if you’re ready to become a BWF referee. If you pass, either or both BWF and continental badminton associations provide additional training and seminars to ensure that you retain the skills to officiate international-level tournaments.

What are International Referees in Badminton and Who Selects Them?

There are many international badminton tournaments happening every year, and these demand a lot of coordination, planning, and guidance from a central authority: the technical officials. Today, some of the most well-known international tournaments are the Olympics, BWF World Championships, Thomas Cup, and Sudirman Cup. While the locations and scope differ from game to game, the role of the international referee is the same.

Much like how local referees take charge of a regular tournament, an international referee oversees every aspect of these major events. But there’s also the added task of coordinating facilities, schedules, teams, and other officials contributing to the demanding nature of the role. So in most cases, only the most experienced and qualified referees are assigned to these tournaments. So who selects them?

Unsurprisingly, it’s the BWF that appoints referees for international games, but only for Grade 1 and Grade 2 tournaments. These include the Olympic Games, para-badminton cups, and the BWF World Tour. For Grade 3 Continental Level tournaments, it’s the host country that appoints the referee. These include the International Challenge and the Future and International Series. For multi-sport events where badminton is included, the BWF will assign an international referee should the host country request it.

What is the BWF Accredited Referee/Umpire and BWF Certified Referee/Umpire?

BWF recognizes only two levels of referees or umpires: accredited and certified. The latter is the highest level anyone can attain, so there are only a few in the world who have this recognition. It takes many years and a high level of experience to reach these titles, so the effort you put into reaching them sometimes takes a lifetime of work. So what is the difference between an accredited and certified BWF referee or umpire? Surprisingly, there isn’t a lot.

For starters, certified referees and umpires are the priorities when it comes to assignments. They are the ones who usually handle the most high-profile or major tournaments and usually have seniority and tenure in the role. Accredited referees and umpires can still officiate major assignments with certain limitations. Ultimately, who gets assigned is still based on the decision of the BWF and other relevant authorities for a specific tournament. Factors like budget allocation and the format of events can influence who gets assigned, as well.

To become an accredited BWF referee or umpire, you need to be nominated by a national badminton association and be a certified referee at the national level. In addition, you should be holding this position for a minimum of two years. Those who want to become BWF certified referees and umpires need to be accredited BWF officials first and must have held the designation for a minimum of two years. The biggest similarity between the two is that nominees must still undergo vigorous testing under appointed assessors. They also need to meet certain maintenance criteria set by the BWF to keep their designation for years to come.

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