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Officials working at Wimbledon
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British Tennis Awards: The official spotlight

• 3 MINUTE READ

With Wimbledon in full swing, we’re shining the spotlight on the people calling the shots. At The Championships alone, there are 358 officials working as chair umpires, line umpires and off-court staff, covering over 650 matches played during the fortnight.

240 of these are British officials, and that’s not forgetting the hundreds/thousands of competition organisers, court supervisors, referees and umpires playing a crucial role in organising and supporting tournaments – no matter how big or small – up and down the country.

On Tuesday 3 July, we announced the Official of the Year at the 2017 British Tennis Awards ceremony, held at Wimbledon.

There are 975 LTA licensed officials working in British Tennis, all rallying together to create more opportunities for players of all ages to compete. Each year, we celebrate our officials with the British Tennis Awards so their support is recognised at county, regional and national levels.

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In a star-studded ceremony hosted by former British No.1 Andrew Castle, the Official of the Year award was presented by James Keothavong – one of the most recognisable chair umpires on the world stage.

The award went to Robert Balmforth, with Jenny Sayer and Tim Pearce hot on the heels as finalists. Check out their inspiring stories below to find out what makes a brilliant official…

Robert Balmforth, Yorkshire

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Robert is an ITF Silver Badge Chair Umpire and a tutor at LTA Umpire Accreditation courses (new officials) and LTA Pro Chair courses (existing officials). In 2017, he worked a remarkable 200 days and chaired around 150 matches around the world!

Robert is an ABTO Evaluator of Chair Umpires and is highly-respected amongst his fellow officials.

He was the Review Official at the Davis Cup final in both 2016 and 2017 and was selected as a member of the ITF Development Group. ITF selections are on the basis of experience, officiating potential and feedback from the ITF/Grand Slam Officiating team, so this really was a phenomenal achievement.

Robert completed the career Grand Slam in 2017, chairing main draw matches at all four Slams. His efforts saw him promoted to one of few Silver Badge umpires and he was invited to teach at an ITF Level 2 School in Cape Town – a true testament to his status as a top international umpire of the future.

“I am honoured to have won this award and very proud to represent both Yorkshire and British Officiating. The support from the LTA has been instrumental in me achieving my goals as an official and to be a winner alongside so many inspirational people in the tennis family is amazing.”

Jenny Sayer, Hampshire

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Jenny’s passion for competition is second to none. She has put a massive effort into grassroots tennis, running regular beginner match plays and organising the County Winter League which is aimed at players new to team competition. Jenny also organises the county’s Team Tennis, Road to Wimbledon and School Games (for two counties), as well as organising and refereeing British Winter Regional and County Tours. On top of this, she still finds time to court supervise for various tournaments.

Jenny has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the competition structure, rules and regulations, and willingly helps other referees. She goes above and beyond by refereeing and umpiring at more than the required number of tournaments – during the winter season, she coordinated 22 Winter Regional Tour events across the South West region!

Over the last year, a County Competition Working Group has been formed which Jenny chairs for the county, as well as contributing at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Council meetings. She also assists with the county team selections and as a tennis parent herself, she is always available to give advice and support to parents and players.

Tim Pearce 

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Over the past year Tim has run four of the largest events in Surrey as a referee, with consistent positive feedback in all surveys. He has also helped mentor new referees into the profession and one of which shadowed him at the 2017 Quorn Family Cup National Finals at the National Tennis Centre in London.

Last year, Tim joined the National development group for referees, working towards his White Badge international qualification. Furthermore, he took ownership of the Sutton Tennis and Squash British Tour - the largest Grade 1 premier event in the country. He also joined the team for the ITF Grade 1 and Junior Wimbledon Qualifying team. These opportunities have allowed Tim to expand his refereeing profile, but more importantly develop as a referee because of the reputation he has earned amongst his peers.

Tim is an official who is held in very high regard across the county and nation. Refereeing at numerous tournaments such as the British Tour, County Championships and County Cup, he has continued to set high standards by working tirelessly with a positive approach, to ensure he delivers a fantastic experience for both players and parents.

Feeling inspired?

Find out how you can get into officiating here!

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