So you want to sit in the chair? You want to be the on calling ‘In’ and ‘Out’ at Wimbledon? It’s possible – but it’s not easy. You’re going to need a love for Tennis that burns like a beacon, as well as an eye like a hawk and a complete impartiality. If all three of those sum you up, keep reading!
There are two types of umpires – line umpires and chair umpires, but you have to run the line before you can sit in the chair – this is a hierarchy, after all! A line umpire is responsible for calling whether a ball has fallen inside or outside the lines on the court, and the chair umpire is responsible for making sure the score is kept properly and that the spirit of the game is maintained.
Salary & benefits
A line judge can expect to earn around £20,000 per year, once they make it into the professional game, where most chair umpires earn around £30,000. Once you get into the top echelons of the sport, the cream of the crop of umpires can earn around £50-60,000 per year!
There are many benefits of working in the profession, including gym facilities, travel expenses and uniforms made by Ralph Lauren, but none of them compare to having the best seat in the house!
Working hours completely depend on the schedule of play, as one might expect, but games can often go on for hours at a time and there is no respite for the judges, who have to constantly be on top form. This means that the hours worked are extremely high-pressure and allow for no mistakes.
You have to start at the bottom of the profession, learning how to line umpire at the Lawn Tennis Association’s basic training, before going out to use this expertise in local, county and regional events. Good umpires will be given the opportunities to rise up the ranks and will then go on to umpire in professional tournaments where the real money is made.
Once experience has been gained in the field, the best umpires will be invited to apply for selection to a chair umpire accreditation course, also run by the LTA in the United Kingdom. This builds on the knowledge as a line umpire and also provides an introduction to life in the chair. This is examined at the end of the course and accreditation is given to those who pass.
Training & progression
The officials licence scheme is for those who have completed the basic courses and want to be considered to umpire at a higher level. It provides an easy way for clubs and competitions to identify those who comply with the high standards of the LTA as well as the opportunity to apply for selection at LTA events.
Those with a cool head, a keen eye and an ability to concentrate for hours are the best umpires, and those who impress at a local level are often those who move up to become the officials in the most important competitions in the world.