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It’s easy to get caught up in an enthralling badminton match, but have you ever taken a long hard look at the peripheries of the badminton court? If you have, you’ll see a few people without rackets who dictate the direction the match takes. One of these pivotal officials is the badminton referee.

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Referees ensure that a badminton tournament goes according to the Laws of Badminton. What this means is that referees are in charge of making sure the rules are followed not just during a match. Referees ensure that everything that contributes to a tournament match complies with the Laws of Badminton. Also, a referee is responsible to check the facilities of the court as well as the presence of qualified technical officials.

In short, a badminton referee makes sure that a badminton tournament not only goes smoothly but is also fair. What does it mean to ensure fairness in a tournament? We kick off this discussion by answering this question.

What Are the Major Roles of a Badminton Referee? 

Badminton referees have oversight over an entire tournament or championship, as per Section 17.1 of the Laws of Badminton. By “entire tournament,” I mean more than just during a badminton match since a match only forms part of the tournament.

The major roles of a badminton referee include communication with officials, coaches, and teams. A badminton referee must also see to it that enough technical officials are representing different countries. A badminton referee also needs to ensure that players have the right facilities and that these facilities are up to Badminton World Federation (BWF) standards. Other responsibilities of a referee include scheduling games and rescheduling them. Lastly, the referee must see to it that everyone in the tournament abides by the tournament or championship’s rules.

Communication with Officials, Coaches, and Badminton Teams

One of the major roles of a badminton referee involves communication. Sure, the referee can interact with players on the court, but the most important communicative role of a badminton referee is with coaches and other technical officials like the umpire. One example of a situation where a referee and official communicates is during the fault or disqualification of a player.

The badminton referee is also in charge of providing information to badminton teams about practice sessions and game schedules.

Ensuring an Adequate Panel of Technical Officials

The referee is in charge of making sure enough technical officials are present. Technical officials include umpires, line judges, and service judges. According to the BWF, the officials need to be of adequate international representation, coming from different countries.

Checking Equipment and Facilities

This may be one responsibility that the referee shares with the umpire. However, the referee has to take this further by evaluating the state of the court and facilities even before the start of any match.

A lot of this has to do with safety. The referee will be accountable for any untoward incident that results in a player’s injury during game time. To prevent this from happening, the referee needs to ensure that the facilities aren’t just at BWF standards but that they’re also safe.

Scheduling and Rescheduling Games

The badminton referee is responsible for the sequence in which games are played. In other words, the referee oversees the schedule of the tournament.

There are also situations when a game warrants rescheduling like in the event of withdrawals which require modification of the tournament draw. In such situations, the referee has the responsibility of determining and announcing when the next game is to take place.

Ensuring Compliance to the Laws of Badminton Throughout the Tournament or Championship

One of the most important roles of a badminton referee is making sure everyone follows the rules throughout the tournament. The Laws of Badminton have rules and provisions that govern more than a badminton match. Some of these rules involve questioning certain pieces of equipment. Others involve the presence of on-court officials before the game.

In short, it’s the job of a badminton referee to make sure that everything is according to the rules for the entirety of a badminton tournament.

Deciding on Line Call Disputes

Line calls are made, firstly, by line judges. Let’s be honest, though. Line judges can make faulty calls. In such a situation, the umpire can override the call of the line judge.

In the event of a dispute, tournaments usually have an Instant Review System. Whenever there’s doubt about the call of the line judge and umpire, the referee can use the Instant Review System. Using the system, the referee gets to determine whose call is valid.

What’s the Difference Between a Referee and an Umpire in Badminton? 

Indeed, umpires and referees share one main goal — ensuring that badminton is played fairly. However, they can’t be any more different beyond this shared goal.

The difference between a referee and an umpire is mainly the scope of their responsibilities. In particular, umpires officiate the court they are assigned to from the moment they set foot on the match court until they announce a winner. On the other hand, referees judge matters that contribute to the fairness of the match, including off-court concerns like the tournament schedule and the facilities.

An easy way to think of the difference is who reports to who. In badminton matches, umpires make calls based on the input of other technical officials like line judges. Umpires, in turn, report to the referee, as per Section 17.6 of the Laws of Badminton.

In a way, the oversight of the badminton referee is much broader than that of an umpire or any other official on the court.

CRAZY Badminton Saves Part 1
CRAZY Badminton Saves Part 1

Where’s the Referee Located in Badminton?

For many spectators, the most noticeable officials are the umpire and the line judges. The service judges are also easy to spot — you don’t need to look too hard to find them.

Referees, on the other hand, will likely be located on the sidelines. They’re not always easy to spot. Nonetheless, they’re close enough to the action to ensure that everything goes according to the BWF’s Laws of Badminton.

A badminton referee will often step onto the playing court in situations where he or she needs to speak to the umpire. For example, whenever a player commits any form of misconduct repeatedly, the umpire will call forth the player.

From here the umpire flashes a red card. Following this, the umpire needs to report the situation to the referee. The umpire then calls upon the referee to report the incident.

Another situation when the referee can approach the court is when a player gets hurt. As soon as a player gets injured, the umpire stops the match. The referee then approaches the player and calls for the medical staff.

In short, referees aren’t the most easy-to-spot officials on the badminton court. Be that as it may, they’re always nearby, ready to step into the court when the need arises.

How Do You Become a Referee in Badminton? 

Officials in badminton need to undergo rigorous coursework just like badminton coaches. Referees need to train and receive certification after passing a training course.

To become a badminton referee, you’d have to first train under your National Member Association. From here, you’ll be able to receive certification from your member association, building experience by officiating local games. If you’ve amassed enough skills and experience, you can train and be certified at the continental level. At this level, the BWF or your member associations confederation will hold training seminars to help develop you for officiating continental or international matches.

The training for being a badminton referee aims to do the following

  • Educate on the protocols of a badminton match and tournament
  • Help prospective BWF accredited and certified referees master the Laws of Badminton
  • Develop decision-making skills guided by the BWF’s statutes and the Laws of Badminton

How Many Referees Are There in a Badminton Tournament? 

A match in a badminton tournament can have as many as 12 officials. Add the referee, and you get a total of 13 officials, alongside 10 line judges, one service judge, and the umpire. I’ve got a whole post on where these officials are on the court. Feel free to check it out!

Every badminton tournament has one referee. As the most senior official on the court, the badminton referee is in charge of everything that goes on during matches and outside them. Since the referee has the broadest scope of responsibilities, the referee is arguably the most important official.

Although there is only a single referee appointed per tournament, there can be a number of deputy referees which can assume the same role and responsibilities as the referee of that tournament. 

The Badminton Referee — The Unsung Hero of a Tournament

It’s not a stretch to overlook the contributions officials have in the proceedings of a badminton match. From the umpire who makes tough calls to line judges who probably never shut their eyes, we’ve got officials to thank for the spectacle of a badminton match.

Of these unsung officials, the referee has the most responsibilities. Without the referee, badminton matches can turn chaotic in a hurry.

The next time you’re in awe of the skill and grace displayed on the badminton court, you’ve got the referee to thank for that.


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