Jane Hancock is one of England’s best-known umpires, who has travelled all around the world to “sit on the chair” and be part of badminton’s big family.  Our columnist Michaela […]

Jane Hancock is one of England’s best-known umpires, who has travelled all around the world to “sit on the chair” and be part of badminton’s big family.  Our columnist Michaela Bencova interviewed Jane about her life for Badzine.

Photos (archives) : Badmintonphoto

Tell us your story – how did you become a badminton umpire?

I started playing badminton when I was 15 years old – ancient compared with some! I represented my county here in England for a number of years before “retiring” to play league badminton at my local club.

My first involvement with being a court official was as a line judge, when in 1985 I line judged at the All England Championships. In those days, it was held at Wembley Arena, where London will host the badminton event of the Olympic Games in 2012. I was then persuaded to give umpiring a try and I qualified as an umpire in 1989 – the rest, as they say, is history.

How are umpires trained in England?

In England, we have a really well developed system of training umpires. After attending an initial training course, new umpires are allocated to a region where they will be invited to junior and senior tournaments as well as county matches. They are given support and mentoring by more senior colleagues.

Umpires then have the opportunity to progress through 4 further grades of umpiring. Each stage has a written test and assessors will monitor the performance and make recommendations as to who should be upgraded. Regional and national assessors monitor the performance of all umpires in our Association each season and give feedback to all members.

How many umpires does England have?

England has 163 active umpires. 36 of these are National or International grade. During last season our umpires attended 304 events and carried out just over 11,000 duties.

Some of them are married couples, I hear. Does this cause rivalry?

Over the years we have had several married couples who are both umpires in England. Many of your readers will know Bill and Nicky Bartholomew, who are both Badminton Europe umpires. Their easy-going nature and their great sense of humour always makes things friendly between them…I think!

Do you remember your first tournament as an umpire and how you felt?

Some of my earliest memories of umpiring are from the county matches in England when there was huge rivalry and sometimes aggression between some of the opposing players.  I used to get so nervous.  It’s always good to have a bit of adrenaline flowing before a big match but fortunately these days it’s from excitement and anticipation.

Which top tournaments have you umpired at and what are your aims for the future ?

I have been really fortunate and have umpired at 7 World Championships, the Commonwealth Games, the Super Series Finals and of course many times at the All England Championships. Obviously I would love to umpire at the Olympic Games – surely that has to be the aim of most International Umpires.

Do you remember any funny things that happened on court?

One of the most memorable occasions was when I was umpiring at the English Nationals. The laws had just been changed to introduce the use of yellow and red cards for misconduct and so when the mobile phone of one of the players on my court started ringing during a rally, I issued a yellow card. It wasn’t until some time after the game that it was reported in the press that this was the first yellow card to be issued anywhere in the world under the new laws.

What problems do you sometimes have on court?

One of the most difficult things to deal with on court is when players persistently challenge the service laws and as a service judge you have to strike a balance between maintaining the integrity of the game and upholding the laws of badminton.

As a court official, you try to avoid the politics of international badminton but sometimes that’s easier said than done.

What message would you send to players, umpires, potential umpires and other technical officials?

Come and join us!  It’s a huge privilege to be a court official and have the opportunity to umpire the worlds finest players at some of the most prestigious tournaments in the world. There is the chance to make genuine friendships with colleagues from across the world which makes the social aspect of foreign trips great fun.

Thank you Jane and see you soon around the courts!

Michaela Bencova is one of the world’s top umpires.  She is a BWF certificated Umpire, and she has agreed to join the Badzine team as our specialist for the new column “Official’s Whistle”.  Every month, she will be sharing with you her experience but will also interview some of her colleagues, explain rules, etc. You may also ask her questions.  She’ll be happy to answer.

About Michaela Bencova