Five English umpires are stepping up to the international stage after completing their Level 3 International Umpire qualification.

The five who have all passed their exam are Dan Bullen, Beate Nicol, Vladimir Shadrunov, Sheila Walshe and Gary Whyman. Walshe and Whyman are pictured above.

Nicol and Walshe were both among the umpiring team at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this summer, while Bullen was also selected but later earned a wildcard to compete at the Games as a player.

Reaching Level 3 International Umpire status means the umpires can apply to officiate at most WTT and ITTF events around the world. After at least two years at that level, they are eligible to work towards the elite Level 4 Blue Badge status.

Walshe’s story is remarkable, given that she does not play the sport and only got involved eight years ago when her children played in local leagues in Scunthorpe.

She said: “Eight years (minus one-and-a-half years for Covid) of working from no experience to passing the International Umpire exam, when I am a non-player, that’s blinking remarkable!”

Dan Bullen

British Para pathway athlete Bullen has one eye on when his playing career is over, though he will have to officiate at one or more international tournaments each year to maintain his status.

He said: “Passing the exam has proven to me that I have a very good understanding of the rules and will give me more confidence when umpiring.

“I have done this exam for when my playing career is over so that I can give back to the sport.”

All the umpires have mentors to thank for helping them get to this stage. Walshe thanked John Mackey, Dave Cochrane and the late Steve Welch for helping her on her journey, while Whyman thanked John Lawton, who first got him into umpiring.

Shadrunov and Whyman were also keen to encourage others to follow in their footsteps.

Vladimir Shadrunov

Shadrunov said: “It is a great way to participate in the sport that you love at the highest level. You will have an opportunity to practise skills that you may very well need in your life outside of table tennis – such as decision making under pressure, self-discipline and conflict resolution. And you always get the best seats to see some great table tennis!”

Whyman, who hopes to become a Level 1 Umpires course tutor in the future, had this advice for prospective umpires: “I would say to go for it and trust your instincts. Listen to the more experienced umpires and take notes when they are explaining something to you. Watch them in action dealing with different situations that crop up.

“Go on any training available. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Do plenty of revision. Try and find out which other umpires are going for the same qualification as you so that you can support and encourage each other.”

Beate Nicol

Aled Howell, Table Tennis England Coaching and Education Manager, said: “A massive congratulations to all our newly qualified International Umpires. They’ll now have the opportunity to apply for international events and have potentially umpire some of the best players in the world from the best seat in the house!

“It’s vital we continue to support and progress our umpires, so England has a presence of umpires on the world table tennis scene.”

Click here to find out how to start your own umpiring journey.