The era of semi-professional umpires has dawned in badminton, with members of the first batch appointed by BWF officiating at the Asian Leg in January and at the recently-concluded YONEX Swiss Open 2021.
The appointment of Bert Vahorenbeeck (Belgium), Diraj Gooneadry (Mauritius), Fabio Betto (Italy), Iris Metspalu (Estonia), Jiten Bhatt (Australia), Robbertus Tommy Oscariano (Indonesia) and Trish Gubb (New Zealand) is a milestone in BWF’s quest to achieve excellence in officiating.
The umpires were selected by a BWF recruitment panel that interviewed them after examining their grading and appraisal in previous tournaments. Their appointment is a significant moment in over 120 years of competitive badminton as umpiring has all along been on a voluntary basis.
BWF President Poul-Erik Høyer said: “This is an important step towards ensuring that umpiring becomes a viable career. Umpiring has always been voluntary work, and, while we greatly value those who continue to volunteer with us, we did feel that in certain key areas, it was time to have a stronger engagement with them as this involves a lot of hard work and commitment and time away from their regular jobs.
“For badminton to have paid technical officials is huge for the sport. It’s something people have been demanding. This is a great way to achieve consistently high umpiring standards.”
The umpires will participate in workshops and other educational and developmental activities that will help them improve their skills and support the development of technical officials around the world.
The professionalisation of umpires follows a similar step for referees which was started two years ago; both part of a joint plan towards ensuring excellence in officiating.
BWF has eight semi-professional referees: Carsten Koch (Germany), Chris Lawrence (USA), Eric Lissillour (France), Girish Natu (India), Ivanka Pokorni (Croatia), Lynne Nixey (New Zealand), Nicos Vladimirou (Cyprus) and Pencho Stoynov (Bulgaria).
Of the seven semi-professional umpires, three – Vanhorenbeeck, Betto and Oscariano – officiated at the three-tournament Asian Leg in Bangkok; two – Betto and Metspalu – were on duty at the YONEX Swiss Open 2021, and one – Vanhorenbeeck – will be officiating at next week’s YONEX All England Open 2021.
Candidates were interviewed by a recruitment panel which consisted of the Chair of the Technical Officials Commission, Chair of BWF Umpire Assessment Panel, and BWF representatives. The process to select the seven umpires from a pool of 19 candidates took over a year.