What Is a Service Judge in Badminton?

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Every game of badminton will kick off with a serve, but if a game is going to stay faithful to the Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) rules, the service needs to be legal. Who gets to decide on the legality of a service? The official is none other than the service judge.

The service judge is one of the technical officials on the badminton court. They sit in a relatively lower chair opposite the umpire and have two responsibilities. One is to call out a player if they commit a service fault. The other is to provide a player with a replacement shuttlecock if the need arises.

Like every technical official in badminton, the service judge is one of the pivotal officials appointed by the tournament referee. According to the BWF’s Instructions to Technical Officials, the service judge must communicate any service fault to the umpire.

Curious to learn more? Join me as we explore the roles of the service judge, as well as other interesting facts about this other pivotal badminton official!

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What Does a Service Judge Do in Badminton?

A service judge’s main task might just last for a few seconds. Nonetheless, without their call, the umpire will be at a loss regarding the legality of a service. This can cause the game to be delayed as a result of a let.

A service judge in badminton needs to check that everything about a service is legal. The service judge is in charge of making sure that everything from the method of service to the position of the service and receiver is correct. Once the service judge sees breaches in the BWF’s service rules, the service judge communicates the service fault to the umpire using hand signals. In a situation when there’s a need for another shuttlecock, the service judge can also provide one following the approval of the umpire.

Service Judge Sitting Position

Because there are different types of service faults, the service judge needs to communicate them using different signals. The gestures are in line with the BWF’s Technical Official Instruction for Service Judges and are as follows:

The Right Hand Swinging Inward

This gesture means that the server violated service law 9.1.2. Under law 9.1.2, a legal service can only be a backward movement of the server’s racket head. At the completion of this movement, the shuttlecock is expected to be struck towards the receiver’s end of the court.

If a service is anything other than a backward movement of the server’s racket head, the service judge raises the right hand and swings his or her hand inward with an open palm.

The service judge may also perform this gesture when the server violates service law 9.1.7. Law 9.1.7 is breached when the server doesn’t follow through with the serve. This means that the racket cannot go backwards once it starts going forward until the service is delivered.

Right Hand Swinging Inward
Right Hand Swinging Inward

When the server quickly pulls back on the racket, the service judge will call a service foul — regardless of whether the shuttlecock makes contact with the racket head or goes to the other side of the court.

The Right Hand Pointed Towards the Right Foot

This is a sign of the violations of service laws 9.1.3 and 9.1.4. Law 9.1.3 states that the server and receiver need to occupy diagonally opposite ends of the court. If there has been a lapse, and the server and receiver occupy the wrong parts of the court, the service judge points to his or her right foot.

Another instance where the service judge does this is when there’s a violation of law 9.1.4. This law states that parts of both feet need to be in contact with the area occupied. If one foot of any player is not in contact with the surface of the receiving or service area, the service judge calls “fault” and communicates this to the umpire.

Right Hand Pointed Towards the Right Foot
Right Hand Pointed Towards the Right Foot

The Fingers of the Left Hand Rubbing Against the Palm of the Right Hand

When the service judge does this, the server violated service law 9.1.5. Law 9.1.5 is violated whenever the feather of the shuttlecock is the first part that makes contact with the racket during a service.

Fingers of the Left Hand Rubbing Against the Palm of the Right Hand
Fingers of the Left Hand Rubbing Against the Palm of the Right Hand

The Right Hand Held in Front Above Waist Level

This gesture indicates a violation of service law 9.1.6. According to law 9.1.6 of the BWF’s Service Laws, services need to start from below 1.15m from the surface of the court. In other words, when serving, the server needs to hold the shuttlecock below 1.15m from the surface of the court and strike with a backward movement of the server’s racket at that height.

If the server initiates the serve but does so with the shuttlecock above 1.15m from the surface of the court, the service judge will call a service fault and hold their hand at chest level with their palm facing down.

Right Hand Held in Front Above Waist Level
Right Hand Held in Front Above Waist Level

How Many Service Judges Are in Badminton?

If you look around the court, you’ll see the service judge sitting opposite the umpire in a lower chair. Up to four line judges will be behind the service judge, but how many service judges are there?

In a badminton game, there’s one service judge. According to the BWF, the service judge needs to sit opposite the umpire. This is because the umpire must be able to see the service judge at the exact moment of a service. This allows the umpire to promptly halt the game should a player commit a service fault.

Service Judge Position
The service judge sits opposite the umpire.

You’ll see one service judge on the court, but if the situation calls for it, the umpire can call for a replacement of the service judge. Of course, since the situation calls for a replacement of a technical official, the replacement must be with the permission of the tournament referee.

Helping the service judge are four line judges sitting just behind the service judge. These line judges monitor where the shuttlecock lands, calling “out” whenever it lands out of bounds or on the wrong part of the court.

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

As one of the technical officials, service judges have important roles to play. This means that aspiring service judges have qualifications to meet.

Service judges, like other technical officials, need to have undergone training and certification under their national member associations. Training and assessment under national member associations will allow service judges to begin officiating events at the local or national level. As their experience in service judging builds, service judges can receive nominations at the level of their continental confederations. At this level, a service judge will be eligible to officiate major BWF tournaments.

In short, the pathway towards being a service judge resembles that of other technical officials. It’s a path that starts at the national level then climbs up to the international level.

How Do You Become a Service Judge in Badminton?

If you’d like to become a service judge, you’ll need to start preparing for training. Luckily, you’ve got the BWF to thank for the resources and information it has on its development site. The information for service judges is on the same page as that for the umpires, showing that service judges have equal importance to umpires.

To become a service judge, you’ll need to begin at the level of your national association. National associations hold developmental courses for technical officials, including service judges. Once you’ve passed the necessary trainings and assessments, you’ll be able to apply what you’ve learned as a service judge for local events. When you feel that you’ve had enough experience, you can ask your national association for a nomination. The nomination will allow you to undergo training under your member association’s confederation. After this, you’ll be nominated as a service judge for the big BWF-sanctioned events.

As mentioned, it’s important to ask your national badminton association first about training and development opportunities. Train and start getting experience at service judging locally first before trying to climb to the international level.

What Does a Service Judge Wear in Badminton?

Service judges have prescribed attire just like any other technical official on the court. The attire differs for male and female service judges.

Service judges wear similar uniforms to the umpires. In particular, the top is usually a shirt provided by the event hosts. The top, whatever style it takes, must bear the logo of the BWF and the tournament sponsor. For instance, if the event is the Yonex All England Open Championships, then Yonex will be the uniform provider and have its logo on the shirts. As for bottoms, male service judges must wear trousers. Female service judges, on the other hand, have the option to wear skirts, depending on the tournament’s uniform prescriptions.

Service Judge Uniform
A service judge should wear a top with the BWF logo, trousers or skirts and black shoes.

The BWF emphasizes the importance of looking professional in its instruction to umpires and service judges. The instructions state that service judges should sit with their hands on their laps. Also, the legs shouldn’t be crossed.

The only exception is when female service judges are wearing skirts. Female service judges (and umpires) wearing skirts can sit with their ankles crossed.

Since looking professional is key, jeans and other casual bottoms aren’t acceptable by BWF standards. Shoes need to be “smart.” As well, they cannot be any other color than black.

The Badminton Service Judge — Close Enough to All the Action To Make Crucial Service Fault Calls

The badminton service judge makes critical service fault calls and communicates them to the umpire. For this reason, service judges need to undergo rigorous training in badminton’s service laws and the hand signals that communicate the violations of each service law.

Being a service judge in a BWF tournament is an honor for anybody. On top of that, by being a service judge, you literally get courtside access to all the action on the court. It’s no wonder you’d want to be there!

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