There’s a lot of talk about how badminton umpires must make sure there is no undue delay in play, in order to make the sport more audience-friendly. Umpires are expected to keep players on a fairly tight leash and dish out warnings when they take too long to get ready to play the next point.
When players are in trouble or tired and their game is not working for them, we frequently see them doing their best to try to circumvent this by going for long walks around the court and trying to find ways to take little breaks to cut off bad rhythms/streaks. Most of these are things the umpire can approve or deny at their discretion, and we often see the umpire telling the player they can’t take a break, hurrying them to get ready.
If the umpire is already on a player for being too slow and delaying play, we sometimes see them instead take a challenge just get a break, even if the shuttle was not just out, but very obviously out.
Challenges, however, are not generally at the umpire’s discretion in the same way that towelling off, changing the shuttle or wiping the court is. Looking through the BWF Umpire & Service Judge Instructions, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of specific rules about handling challenges, except that players must challenge immediately. If they’re too slow in calling the challenge, the umpire can refuse the call – and what constitutes ‘too slow’ is entirely the umpire’s call. But there’s nothing in there, as far as I can tell, about other venues for the umpire to refuse a challenge.
Famously, in a round-of-16 game at the 2016 China Open, umpire Cai Fengjie incorrectly denied a Japanese set-point challenge. To all appearances, he gave no reason at all for doing so, but his refusal stood, and the Japanese duo lost the set. So at least in that situation, the umpire did seem to have pretty much full autonomy over allowing or disallowing a challenge (although this was a Chinese umpire, presiding over a game with a Chinese pair playing, in a Chinese tournament… so perhaps not quite the norm).
So my question is essentially two-fold:
- In general: does the umpire have the right to allow or deny a challenge call for any reason they see fit (not just the call being too slow)?
- More specifically: can the umpire decide that a challenge call is just a ploy to get a break and not made in good faith (i.e., there’s no way the player actually thinks the shuttle was in), and refuse to allow the challenge on this basis?