Table Tennis Officials

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This question about table tennis officials was submitted by
John from Manchester, UK and Dainelle Cuario from Calamba, Laguna, Philippines

Table tennis questions

My question is about table tennis officials.

Can you please tell me who are the officials in table tennis and what are their duties?

What do the umpires of table tennis have to do?


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----- Martin's Reply -----

 By Martin Hughes
 Owner and Editor

John and Dainelle,

Thanks for your questions.

The officials are all volunteers who give up their time to officiate at table tennis events.

Table Tennis Officials by courtesy of the ITTF

There are currently around 180 International Referees and 300 International Umpires, and each country will also have their own referees and umpires.

Their roles will differ depending on the level of competition.


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The top official is the...

Tournament Referee

The role of a tournament referee will differ widely from one Association to another and from one tournament to another.

At one extreme the tournament referee is involved in every part of the organisation, from drafting the entry form to arranging the finals.

At the other extreme, the referee appears only on the day of the tournament solely to decide any question of rule interpretation.

Deputy Referees

In addition, a competition manager may be appointed at major competitions, such as ITTF World Tour tournaments.

It's also usual to appoint one or more deputy referees, who exercise the authority of the referee in defined ways.

For example, they may be required simply to take the referee's place in his or her absence, to be responsible for particular topics, such as the legality of clothing and equipment, or to take charge of a particular area, such as a separate playing hall.


It's also essential for the referee and the deputies to agree at the start of a competition what their duties will be.

The objective of every referee must be to ensure that the tournament for which he or she is responsible proceeds according to plan, in full compliance with the relevant rules and without incident.

This ideal situation seldom occurs and the true test of a referee's ability is the way in which he or she deals with problems.

The referee's task is to listen to the various points of view and then to make, and to keep to, the fairest possible decision.

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For each match there is an umpire, whose primary duty is to decide the result of each rally.

In principle, the umpire has no discretionary powers, but he or she is required to exercise judgment in applying some laws and regulations ... such as deciding whether a rally should be a let because a player's service or return may have been affected by circumstances outside the player's control, or whether a player's behaviour is acceptable.

Where the umpire is officiating alone, his or her's is the final decision on all questions of fact that arise during a match, including decisions on all edge balls and on all aspects of service.

In these circumstances he or she is also directly responsible for timing the duration of play, but when the expedite system is in operation he or she is assisted by another official who acts as stroke counter.

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Assistant Umpire

For international competitions an assistant umpire is appointed and he or she takes over or shares some of the umpire's duties.

For example, an assistant umpire is solely responsible for decisions on edge balls at the side of the table nearest to him or her, and has the same power as the umpire to decide the legality of a player's service action, whether a player obstructs the ball and some of the conditions for a let.

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More Information

For more details about table tennis officials, and how to become an official, see my other article here...

For more information about umpires hand signals, you can read more here... hand signals


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

Table Tennis Officials


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