International Umpire extraordinaire
As Umpire Co-ordinator for Table Tennis Wales, there isn’t much Peter Higgins doesn’t know about the game – having played it since the age of 11 and adjudicating on matches around the world and at the Commonwealth Games, Commonwealth Championships and Paralympics.
Peter started playing at his local Scout’s hall in Essex. Two years later, he entered the Boy of the Week tournament at Butlin’s – but unluckily George ‘Chester’ Barnes, who was to become an English table tennis champion and England’s number one player in the 1960s and 1970s, was also on holiday there at the time! But patience and practice paid off, and a few years later Peter did become Boy of the Week, and was invited to the Boy of the Year finals at the Butlin’s resort in Bognor Regis.
After getting married and moving to Northamptonshire, Peter played at a very high level in local leagues. And when he wasn’t playing, he was keen to adjudicate, and refereed at Wellingborough TTC and umpired at the English Senior Closed, and many 3 Star tournaments all over England.
Peter moved to a small village near Prestatyn in North Wales in 1987, and was invited to umpire at the Wales v Spain match in 1988, and at the Commonwealth Championships in Cardiff in 1989.
It was a very busy period in Peter’s life, with a lot of travelling to tournaments, both as a player and as an umpire – but it wasn’t until he qualified as an International Umpire in 1996 that his career really took off, including umpiring at two English Opens.
Peter’s long list of umpiring achievements include the Commonwealth Championships in Glasgow (1997 and 2009), two Commonwealth Games (Manchester 2002 and Glasgow 2014), the Paralympics in London in 2012 and the World’s Veteran’s Championship in Las Vegas in 2018, where he umpired five finals.
He’s also umpired at 11 consecutive UK Schools Games.
There aren’t many places in the UK where Peter hasn’t umpired, including the Isle of Man and Channel Isles, and he’s also travelled to Portugal, Italy and Ireland.
As one of only three International Umpires in Wales – along with Barry Robertson and Jackie Williams – he’s umpired every age group, from nine-year old Dragons to over 90 veterans.
“There is a lot more to being an International Umpire than people might imagine, especially before a match starts,” says Peter.
“You have to make sure the rackets are the right thickness and the rubber is correct, you have to check the clothing is all correct – white socks of course and that both players have identical kit on if they’re playing in doubles in a team event. You also have to check to make sure everything else is legal – the table, the balls, the way the room is set up; it’s a big job.”
“Even with wheelchair users, there are rules regarding everything from the dimension of the actual wheels to the height of the cushions.”
“The easy part of umpiring a match is when the game starts!”
And with the European Veteran’s Championships (EVC) coming to Cardiff, and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, both taking place in 2022, there are great opportunities for all umpires, from County to International.
“In Wales, we have a Junior Umpire Award and with experience you can take the Level 1 [County] umpire test paper and get on the ladder – progressing to National and International level, where the world’s your oyster,” adds Peter.
And of course Peter still plays – in fact, he’s recruited a group of 20 enthusiastic amateurs that now meet each Tuesday night at Cemaes in Anglesey, where Peter spends much of the year with his wife, to enjoy a game. All under the watchful eye of one of the UK’s most experienced International Umpires!