What is a Line Judge in Badminton?

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In badminton, several officials make up the technical staff. Some of them, you’ll see on opposite sides of the post. These officials are the service judge and umpire. Other officials aren’t easy to spot. If you’ve tuned into games live, you’ll likely have seen 10 people surrounding the court. These are the line judges.

A line judge in badminton has one main duty — to make calls about where the shuttlecock has landed. As per the Badminton World Federation (BWF) regulations on technical officials, there are usually 10 line judges in a game, each with their respective lines to watch. There can be less depending on the level of play.

Line judges, like other officials in a tournament, are crucial to the progress and flow of an official tournament game. Without their calls, umpires can get confused, and the game can devolve into chaos without an instant review system on hand.

Read on to learn more about what line judges are, what they do, and how they keep games fair and accurately scored!

Before we jump into the details, note that I’ll be highlighting the roles and responsibilities of line judges in official sanctioned play — not casual badminton games.

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What Does a Line Judge Do in Badminton?

Different sports have their own line judges. Usually, line judges in sports like soccer (football if you’re reading this from across the pond) make calls on the positions of players. In badminton, line judges don’t look at the players at all.

In fact, badminton line judges keep their eyes on the shuttlecock the whole time and see where it lands during play. Based on where the shuttlecock lands, a line judge will make one of two calls. A a line judge calls whether the shuttlecock is in or out. Or the line judge makes a call about the legality of a serve.

Position of a Line Judge
Line judges sit 2.5 to 3.5 meters away from their respective boundary lines.

According to the BWF’s official tournament instructions, line judges should sit 2.5 to 3.5 meters away from their respective boundary lines. This ensures that they don’t interrupt play. Depending on where the line judge sits, they will be responsible for certain calls. Here are the details.

Line Judges on the Back Boundary Lines: Calling In or Out

The eight line judges who make calls on whether a shuttlecock is in or out sit at the back boundary lines on opposite ends of the court. Throughout the time the shuttlecock is in play, they need to monitor where it lands. If a shuttlecock lands base-first on the inner sideline during singles play, the line judge assigned to that line will consider the shuttlecock “out.”

Shuttlecock on the Line In or Out
IN or OUT?

Line Judges Just Behind the Service Judge: Calling a Bad Serve

On the other hand, line judges near the service judge make calls on the legality of a service based on where the shuttlecock falls. They’re positioned just behind the service judge to get a good view of the service line or boundary line they’re assigned to.

Line judges look at service lines which are the lines in the middle of the playing areas of the court. These lines separate service areas and receiving areas. All they need to do is see whether a served shuttlecock lands on a receiver’s area (for a legal service) and if the shuttlecock goes beyond lines.


How Line Judges Communicate Their Calls

Where the shuttlecock lands will determine the calls they make. Once they see where the shuttlecock lands, they communicate their calls to the umpire using certain hand signals.

Line judges master these during their certification and training. The BWF has three different hand signals for line judges to use depending on the calls they need to make.

The first gesture is the hand pointed at the line. This signals that the shuttlecock landed within or on the line, meaning that the shuttlecock is considered “in.” This will prompt the umpire to add a point to the player or team who made the shot.

The second is standing, extending hands to the sides, and yelling “out.” This means that the shuttlecock landed outside a boundary line.

Lastly, there are situations where a line judge wasn’t able to catch where the shuttlecock landed. In this case, the line judge can cover both eyes. This will signal to the umpire that the line judge is unsighted, prompting the umpire to either defer to his or her judgment or call a let. In certain situations, the umpire and referee can use an instant review system if it’s on hand.

Why Are Line Judges Important in Badminton?

We now know what line judges do — which is make calls based on where the shuttlecock falls, as mentioned earlier. Here’s why it’s a big deal in badminton.

Whether an umpire awards a point to a badminton player or not depends on the call of a line judge. A line judge is in charge of communicating the position of the shuttlecock, prompting the umpire to decide whether or not to add a point or not to a player or team. Because the call of a line judge determines to whom the point goes, the call of a line judge also affects who gets to serve next.

Referee Taking Care of All Officials
The referee ensure that all officials are taken care of including the line judges.

With all that in mind, you can see that a line judge’s responsibility is instrumental to the progress and flow of an entire badminton match. A moment of lapsed judgment or observational prowess on the part of a line judge can delay a match significantly with a let or the consultation of the referee or instant review system.

Due to the importance placed on their calls, the BWF places great emphasis on ensuring that all line judges have everything they need. This includes everything from courtside chairs to snacks and coffee at the concession stand.

In short, the line judges are among the technical officials the referee needs to take care of. This is stated in item 3.5.6 of Section 4.1.1 of the BWF’s Instruction to Officials.

What Qualifications Do You Need To Be a Line Judge in Badminton?

Not everybody can be a line judge. The BWF has requirements that make a person eligible to serve as a line judge in BWF games at the international level or the level of national or member associations.

According to the BWF, you’ll need experience serving as a line judge in national or local matches. Along with how you performed as a line judge, your experience will be assessed by the national association you’re part of. The national association can then submit your name to the overseeing Continental Confederation where you stand to be nominated.

Even at the national level, you’ll need to pass a line judge certification assessment. The assessment gauges whether or not you’re fit to be one of the 10 officials on the sidelines making crucial line calls. Luckily, the BWF has free resources for you to use as a reference when you’re preparing to be a line judge.

There are two free resources available to aspiring line judges. First, the BWF has a free line judge manual you can access. You’ll need to register for an account and select your preferred language.

Other than the free manual, feel free to use the BWF’s free video resources for technical officials. The BWF’s video gallery for technical official development has clips for every official, including line judges.

How Do You Become a Line Judge in Badminton?

Becoming a line judge in badminton requires a lot of preparation and studying. The journey to being a line judge begins at the national level and progresses to the international level.

To be a line judge in badminton, you need to begin your preparation at the national level. In particular, you’ll need to undergo training held by the national association of your country. The training will certify you to serve as a line judge for local or national matches. From there, you’ll be able to build experience, making you eligible for nomination. A nomination by your national association’s Continental Confederation will enable you to participate in the BWF’s line judge certification process.

The line judge certification will entitle you to certain privileges. Yes, you’ll be a line judge, but you won’t be a line judge just for national or local games. You’ll be able to serve as a line judge in international events. These events include major BWF tournaments and championships. You can also be a line judge in major events like Olympic badminton games and even the All England and badminton matches at the Commonwealth Games.

That’s not all. Being a line judge in one BWF tournament is an honor in itself. Imagine if you can spend four years doing it!

You heard me! BWF-certified line judges serve four-year terms. At the end of four years, you can renew for another four-year term if you want.

If being a line judge sounds like something that’s up your alley, check your nearest national badminton association. There, you’ll be able to find out what you need to do to sign up to start your journey to being a line judge for the BWF.

What Do Line Judges Wear?

One of the coolest perks of serving as a technical official for the BWF is wearing sponsored clothing.

In big sponsored events, line judges wear tournament uniforms. These uniforms come courtesy of the tournament sponsor. There are a variety of styles. Regardless of the style, the uniform will usually bear the name of the tournament and the tournament sponsor. Also, the logo of the BWF will be somewhere on the uniform.

Line Judge Uniform
Line judges wear tournament uniforms

Now, not every tournament overseen by the BWF will have a big sponsor like Li Ning or Yonex. This is usually the case for smaller local tournaments or games. In such situations, line judges will provide their attire. However, for uniformity, there’s going to be a general dress code officials including line judges should follow.

Line Judges: Keeping the Game in Line

Line judges fulfill a crucial role in how a badminton game shapes up. From scoring to service sequence, line judges determine many elements of the game with the accurate calls they make involving the position of the shuttlecock.

For what these 10 (or sometimes fewer) officials on the sidelines do, it’s no wonder referees do their best to take care of them.

Every official in badminton helps the game move forward. When it comes to the pivotal calls, some of the officials you can thank are your line judges.

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