Officials in Table Tennis

Table tennis officials are an integral part of our sport, but who are they and what do they do? Find out here...

 By Martin Hughes
 Owner and Editor

Officials in Table Tennis - Umpire

Who are the officials in table tennis and how do you become a table tennis official?

Can anyone do it?

What qualifications do you need to have?

How much money do they get paid?

Discover the answers to all these questions, and much more, right here...

Table Tennis

Read my downloadable books for the best information

Ebook - The Rules and Regulations Explained Ebook - The Real Secret to Choosing Your Table Tennis Racket Ebook - Service Secrets Ebook - Improve your Doubles Play

^ Top of page ^

Table Tennis Officials

When we refer to the officials in table tennis, we often only think about referees and umpires, but there are many other table tennis officials too.

You see, in order to run a high-level table tennis event successfully, you'll need referees, deputy and/or assistant referees, competition managers, umpires, assistant umpires, timekeepers, stroke counters, racket testers, technical officers and jury members.

Table Tennis Officials by courtesy of the ITTF

Additionally, you'll need lots of other officials for tasks such as; preparing the table tennis courts; transporting the players; liaising with the media etc.

However, in this article, I'll only be focusing on referees and umpires.

^ Top of page ^

Difference between a Referee and an Umpire

A referee is usually responsible for the entire running of a table tennis event which includes supervising all the umpires, whereas umpires control individual matches.

^ Top of page ^

Can anyone be a Referee and Umpire?

Officials in Table Tennis - Racket Control by courtesy of the ITTF

So who are the referees and umpires that we see at table tennis events, and can anybody do it?

Well, anyone who has an interest in table tennis can apply to be a referee and / or an umpire, but not everyone will be able to reach the necessary standard.

The first requirement is to have a good knowledge of the rules and regulations of table tennis together with a clear understanding of how they apply to different competitions. This is necessary in order to ensure a fair result.

Referees and umpires also need to be able to control events and matches unobtrusively, so they need to gain the respect and trust of the players and their coaches.

They're also responsible for the presentation and running of the entire event. This includes controlling each match and the appearance of the playing area, so they need to be well organised and physically capable of undertaking those tasks.

An additional requirement for International Referees and Umpires is the ability to understand and speak the English language.

^ Top of page ^

Are Referees and Umpires Paid?

The officials in table tennis are usually part-time volunteers, rather than full-time paid officials, who give up their free time for the benefit of the sport of table tennis.

However, at some events they are reimbursed for travelling costs, hotel costs, food and other expenses or they are provided free-of-charge. These will vary from competition to competition.

Generally, the high profile international table tennis events will always pay expenses and / or provide transport, hotels, food etc, free-of-charge, whereas at a local level there may be none at all.

Whenever expenses are paid to officials, they are usually paid by the organiser of the event.

^ Top of page ^

Qualifications for Officials

So what qualifications do the officials in table tennis require?

Well, the type of qualifications which they are required to have will always depend upon the level / standard of the competition at which they are officiating.

Additionally, there are diffferent requirements depending on whether they are officiating at an event in their own country, or in another country.

If they're running a high-level table tennis event then they will need to be suitably qualified, but for local, lower-level events, they may or may not be required to possess suitable qualifications.

^ Top of page ^

Training Programs and Test Procedures

Officials in Table Tennis - Training by courtesy of the ITTF

Each National Association develops their own training programs and test procedures for officials who operate within their own country, but referees and umpires who want to officiate at ITTF events in other countries have to meet the standards set by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).

However, the ITTF does offer each National Association help and advice regarding suitable standards, training programs and test procedures because the ITTF hopes that each country will develop training programs which also prepare their umpires and referees for participating at an international level.

Training programs need to include practical (field of play) elements as well as theoretical (laws and regulations) elements.

This means that, as well as knowing the rules of table tennis, or to give them their correct title - The Laws of Table Tennis - officials will also have to know how to apply them to a match situation.

Most National Associations have 2 to 3 levels of qualifications. The lower levels are usually limited to a particular geographical area, whereas the highest level has national status.

The lower grades usually have titles such as Club Umpire, Local Umpire, County Umpire, State Umpire, Provincial Umpire and Regional Umpire, whereas the highest national grade is usually titled National Umpire.

^ Top of page ^

Qualify as a Table Tennis Official

Officials in Table Tennis - Exams by courtesy of the ITTF

Many table tennis players have probably had some very minor experience of being an umpire at a local level, but this is usually restricted to merely calling out the score, rather than being in control of the match and applying the rules.

In order to qualify as an umpire you'll need to start umpiring at a local level and gain some experience. Then, if you want to progress further, you'll need to undertake the relevant exams and practical tests which are required if you want to be an official at a regional and National level.

And if you want to qualify as a referee you'll first need to qualify as an umpire.

So if you're interested in being an umpire or referee, you should contact your local organiser or your National Association for advice.


International Umpires

Officials in Table Tennis - ITTF Badge by courtesy of the ITTF

After you've gained your National Association's top qualification and you've had sufficient experience, your National Association may decide to nominate you to take the International exams.

International Umpires have two levels of certification - the basic White Badge and the advanced Blue Badge.

However, these are just titles and do not actually exist as "badges".

Qualified International Umpires wear a copper-coloured badge issued by the ITTF.

^ Top of page ^

Uniform for Officials in Table Tennis

Officials in Table Tennis - Uniform London 2012
Officials Uniform

It's important that all officials in table tennis are neatly dressed at all times.

Therefore, National and International umpires and referees will be required to wear a standard uniform while they are officiating.

However, at a local level, smart clothing may suffice, rather than any particular uniform.

International Umpires working at ITTF non-world title events can wear either their National Uniform (if one exists) or the ITTF International Umpire Uniform. However, International Umpires working at ITTF world title events must wear the ITTF International Umpire Uniform which comprises the following...

  • Navy blue jacket
  • Light blue shirt
  • Khaki or Tan trousers or skirt
  • Red tie or scarf
  • Black belt, socks and shoes
  • Navy blue sweater (if required)
  • ITTF International Umpire Badge / Pin (on left lapel of jacket)
  • Name tag (on right lapel of jacket)


Details about the duties of table tennis referees and umpires, can be found here.

Details about umpires hand signals, can be found here.


^ Top of page ^

For more information about the major table tennis tournaments, take a look at my other articles...

Table Tennis Officials


Olympic Games

Click here to show/hide all pages about the Olympic Games

2020 Olympic Games - Tokyo, Japan

2016 Olympic Games - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

2012 Olympic Games - London, England

2008 Olympic Games - Beijing, China

2004 Olympic Games - Athens, Greece


World Championships

Click here to show/hide all pages about the World Championships

2009 World Championships - Yokohama, Japan

2010 World Team Championships - Moscow, Russia

2011 World Championships - Rotterdam, Netherlands

2012 World Team Championships - Dortmund, Germany

2013 World Championships - Paris, France

2014 World Team Championships - Tokyo, Japan

2015 World Championships - Suzhou, China

2016 World Team Championships - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

2017 World Championships - Dusseldorf, Germany

2018 World Team Championships - Halmstad, Sweden

2019 World Championships - Budapest, Hungary

2020 World Team Championships - Busan, South Korea


ITTF World Tour

Click here to show/hide all pages about the ITTF World Tour


World Cup

Click here to show/hide all pages about the World Cup


European Championships

Click here to show/hide all pages about the European Championships

2008 European Championships - St Petersburg, Russia

2009 European Championships - Stuttgart, Germany

2010 European Championships - Ostrava, Czech Republic

2011 European Championships - Gdansk/Sopot, Poland

2012 European Championships - Herning, Denmark

2013 European Championships - Schwechat, Austria

2014 European Championships - Lisbon, Portugal

2015 European Championships - Russia, Ekaterinburg

2016 European Championships - Budapest, Hungary

2017 European Championships - Luxembourg, Luxembourg

2018 European Championships - Alicante, Spain


Commonwealth Games

Click here to show/hide all pages about the Commonwealth Games


Table Tennis Events Calendars

Click here to show/hide all pages about Table Tennis Events Calendars


World Rankings

Claim Your FREE Membership
and Join the TOP TABLE

Claim Your FREE Membership

And get Exclusive Information via Email from

Tips •  Strategies •  Techniques •  Tactics
Rules •  Equipment •  Coaching •  News & much more

Enter your details here

First Name

Email address

We respect your privacy

Join me at the Top Table Join me at the Top Table

Claim Your FREE Membership and Join the TOP TABLE

And get Exclusive Information via Email AllAboutTableTennis

News & much more

Enter your details here

First Name

Email address

We respect your privacy

^ Top of page ^

How this site is financed (AATT) is completely free to use.

However, it's run by one person only (Martin Hughes) and has high running costs that need to be paid for.

This web site receives thousands of visitors every day and therefore, to keep it completely free to use, advertising and affiliate links appear on this web site.

However, these adverts and affiliate links do not influence the advice and recommendations given on this web site.

My intention has always been to give you the best possible information, advice and recommendations, based on my 48+ years involvement in the sport.


Adverts appear automatically on my site, provided by third parties, and are not directly controlled by me.

When you click on an advert, it's tracked to AATT and will generate a small payment to me.

Affiliate links*

Affiliate links are links to other web sites who sell related table tennis products.

These work in the same way as normal links, but when you click on it, the link is tracked to AATT and, if you make a purchase, may generate a small payment to me.

They do not cost you anything to use, and any products you choose to buy will not cost you any more than if you went directly to that web site.

These are principally links to Amazon, Megaspin and Bribar, but may include others from time to time.

These links are identified by having an asterisk (*) by its side.

AATT cannot identify any user who clicks on an advert or affiliate link.