Fancy badminton, but can’t play like Lee Zii Jia? Be a tournament official instead!

Almost every Malaysian loves badminton. But not many can excel in the game.

But, you have a chance of being a part of the game, along with the world’s best shuttlers – by being a tournament official.

“We welcome members of the public who are keen to be tournament officials to come and take up the challenge,” said Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) vice-president, Datuk Kah Kau Kiak.

“All they need to do is to reach out to their respective state badminton associations and find out about the various courses offered.”

Kah, who is the national body’s technical officials committee chairman and Penang BA president, is serious.

“There aren’t enough local umpires and referees,” he said.

Kah knows this as he has been serving badminton for decades. He set up Young Way Badminton Academy in 1998. The academy trains some 600 players annually.

He was the vice-president of Penang BA from 2000 to 2015, before being elected president in 2015. His current term ends in 2025.

“The academy has hosted many local and international tournaments, of all age groups, for years. We have seen several players graduate from the academy, including world champion Loh Kean Yew. Loh was born in Penang, but later left for Singapore, and now represents the republic.

Having spent years organising tournaments, developing officials was a natural thing to do.

“BAM’s technical officials committee is tasked with managing and controlling tournaments, from the start, till the very end. We need to ensure that we have enough technical officials, and they need to be constantly updated through courses.

“We also conduct workshops and seminars to equip them with the latest in umpiring.”

Kah says BAM works closely with the Badminton World Federation (BWF) and Badminton Asia.

“We are involved in exchange programmes and even support the local state badminton associations.”

While Covid-19 disrupted the sporting calendar and saw tournaments cancelled or postponed, Kah said the committee ran a theory examination, online.

“We also conducted Zoom meetings regularly to discuss issues like how to send more of our local umpires and linesmen for courses, and to find out ways to better equip them for future tournaments.”

Several Malaysian technical officials were involved in recent major events, including the Tokyo Olympics, Tokyo Paralympics, 2021 Indonesia Open, the Badminton Asia Team Championship earlier this year, and the 2022 Swiss Open.

At present, there are two BWF-level, and one Badminton Asia-level referees from Malaysia. There are also six BWF-level umpires, and 10 Badminton Asia-level umpires.

In badminton, the referee is in charge of the overall match and will ensure that the tournament is held in compliance with badminton laws, BWF rules, and other regulations that apply to the particular competition.

An umpire sits on an elevated chair by the side of the court and makes calls regarding points, or the players’ faults.

“Some of our technical officials are retiring this year, so our committee will have to fill the vacancy. As such, we have to appraise and carry out upgrading exercises for the other officials.”

Kah said tournaments were crucial to the development of better officials.

“BAM has planned a number of tournaments, hopefully all can be carried out on schedule. But we are in a difficult period, due to the threat of Covid-19.”

Several nations in Europe, and South Korea, and China, had seen surges in the number of daily Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.

While the pandemic is beyond anyone’s control, Kah hoped to see more Malaysians take up the challenge and become officials.

“Take the courses, there are the Level 1, 2 and 3 courses for officials. Every state badminton association will hold the courses.

“There are, of course, criteria set by the state associations, but it’s best for those interested to reach out and find out more if they are keen to officiate matches.

“We, in return, will organise more courses,” he added.

Visit BAM’s website to find out where your state association is located.