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Table Tennis Referees

By Wendell Dillon | Nov. 17, 2020, 5:30 p.m. (ET)

Fei Ming

Table Tennis has been in the Olympic Summer Games since 1988.

In table tennis we have 4 levels of referees:

International Referee (IR) – Qualified by the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF).

National Referee (NR), Regional Referee (RR) and Certified Referee (CR), all qualified by USATT.

We have 4 levels of umpires:

International Umpire (IU) – Qualified by ITTF.

National (NU), Regional (RU) and Club (CU), all qualified by USATT.

We have 6 levels of tournaments in USA, identified by Star level: 0-5 Stars, graded on various criteria, primarily based on prize money and number of players. Higher level tournaments have tighter requirements on playing conditions, including court size, lighting and umpire requirements.

The US Open and National Championships (Nationals) are 5 Star events. The Open requires an IR; an NR can serve as a deputy referee; we normally invite one IR from a foreign association as a deputy referee. The Nationals normally has an NR as Referee and may have one or more NR or IR as Deputy Referees. We invite a foreign IR or NR as a Deputy Referee.

3 & 4 Star events are major regional competitions, requiring a RR or higher.

2 Star and below can have a CR or higher as referee.

At all tournaments, the referee is responsible for:

  1. The draw – Draws are often made by computer programs. The Referee is responsible for checking the draw and making any changes necessary to conform to proper procedures.
  1. Evaluating playing conditions
  2. Umpire orientation & assignment 
  3. Interpretation of the Laws & Regulations
  4. Tie breaking procedures
  5. Coordination with Tournament Director and Referee Team

At the US Open and Nationals, we normally have 45-50 umpires. Most matches are not umpired. These tournaments have 90 or more events and 600 or more players.  We provide umpires for the late rounds of the major events and semi-finals and finals of all events. We have two or more Deputy Referees who work in shifts. Including the Referee we have 2 on duty at all times. The referee is responsible for coordinating the efforts of the referee team, including a Chief Umpire and Deputy, who are responsible for assigning umpires to matches.

ITTF Regulations specify an umpire and assistant umpire for each match. USATT (and most other associations) do not meet this standard. At lower-level events, most matches are not umpired. Most tournaments have one or more umpires, in many cases they also play.

The club umpire exam is open-book and can be taken on the USATT web site. To advance to higher levels, an umpire must meet time requirements (normally one year) and record at least 25 matches, certified by the Referee.  A limited number of matches can be recorded in each tournament.

For further information go to

Wendell Dillon, IR