Introduction to Becoming a Judge

This section is intended to give a basic overview of 'Judges' and 'Judging' that we hope will be useful for anyone who is considering organising a tournament or becoming a judge. Please bear in mind that it is only an introduction to judging and is certainly not comprehensive, but it should give a good flavour of what it is all about so:

  • if you are intending to organise a tournament, ask advice from a local judge you respect and make sure you have a good working knowledge of the relevant parts of the current GNAS Rules of Shooting;
  • if you are considering judging as a career (albeit an unpaid one), then again discuss with a local judge or contact your Regional Judges Liaison Officer (JLO).

Contact information for local judges and the SCAS JLO can be found in the SCAS Directory, also known as the 'Green Book', which is provided to every club secretary.

Why Do We Have Judges?

Most sports have some form of official, whose purpose is to make sure that all the various rules are followed and that an event proceeds smoothly.

In cricket and tennis they are called 'umpires', in rugby and soccer they are called 'referees'; some sports also have 'line judges', 'assistants' or similar with more specific responsibilities. In archery they are known as 'Judges'.

There are several obvious answers as to why we have judges (some of them are uncomplimentary and mostly untrue!), but the real reason is simply to ensure that shooting takes place safely, fairly and enjoyably. So let's take each of these in turn and explain a bit about them:


Although modern equipment is capable of inflicting serious damage, the sport has an excellent safety record.

This is in part down to the care of club administration, event organisers and archers themselves, but experienced officials add an extra layer of care that reduces risks still further. So judges are used in the following main circumstances:

  • new clubs and clubs using a new venue are required to provide evidence that the location satisfies the safety requirements of ArcheryGB and the insurers; qualified judges can provide an expert opinion on potential risks, and advise on any limitations to shooting that should be observed (e.g. maximum distance or number of targets).
  • at tournaments that are controlled by judges, those judges are responsible for ensuring that the archery range is set up correctly with suitable safety margins and any risks to the public are properly identified and managed; they also ensure that the competitors shoot in a safe way and provide extra eyes, just in case the unexpected happens (like passers-by suddenly appearing on the range).


One of the more obvious and traditional roles of any official is to ensure that competitors adhere to the rules, such as time limits for shooting an end of arrows and maximum draw-weight for compound bows. Also included here would be the job of ensuring that scoring is done by an approved method and correcting errors in a way that can't be mistaken for attempted cheating.

But it is also about ensuring that the range itself is set up correctly and that targets are set at the right distances for the advertised round - being asked to start shooting a York round with the targets set at 100m is not everyone's idea of fun! An error like this could have a serious impact on results, most obviously in a team tournament with a mixture of ladies and gentlemen that is not the same in every team.


Finally a role that is not as obvious, but arguably just as important and one that is frequently not appreciated - after all many people complain when things go badly, but how many stop and think about it and comment when the day goes as it should?

So a major emphasis in judging is to look out for and help solve the kind of problems that can make the difference between a 'tournament' and a 'good tournament' that archers want to go back to next time.

The Judge is there to:

  • make sure that the day goes smoothly and ends before night-fall,
  • ensure that the targets and other range equipment are safely secured,
  • provide an unbiased viewpoint if there is a dispute,
  • help solve a thousand and one problems that can arise for the organisers and competitors alike,
  • liaise with the general public,
  • drink tea and (I am reliably informed(?)) eat cake/Haribo.

When Do We Need Them?

Club Venue Inspections

As we have said above, any new club and any existing club that is going to use a new venue is strongly advised to have the venue checked by a judge.

While checking by a judge is not mandatory, it is strongly advised, not least because it provides a concrete demonstration to the insurers that the club is treating safety seriously.

Club Target Days

For the normal running of club target days a judge is not required, but this does not imply a free-for-all. On the contrary, the safety and smooth running of the day means that someone has to be in control and the GNAS Rules of Shooting require that a 'Field Captain' is appointed, who will take on the normal responsibilities that a Judge would at a tournament.

While this role can be taken on by any experienced archer, there are different approaches to deciding who will do it:

  • some clubs nominate a suitable person on the day,
  • others go so far as to elect a Field Captain at their AGM as a post on their club management committee.

However if a club wants to run a tournament, then this might be a different matter - and that is what we will cover in the next section.

It is also worth pointing out that the Field Captain at a club target day is permitted to shoot.


Strictly speaking, you only need to have a judge present at a club tournament if it carries National or World Record Status, but tournaments organised by county or regional associations are required to have a judge present, even if Record Status is not involved. Other tournaments (including many organised by clubs) can go ahead using a Field Captain in the same way as club target days. Many choose to use the latter approach, partly to keep the event less formal; this is fine, but it is important to bear in mind that you need more than just someone who has been in sport for a number of years - the Field Captain for a tournament needs to have a very good knowledge, understanding and experience of the sport.

Record Status tournaments and those organised by county or regional associations always require a judge to be in charge. The minimum level for the judge in charge is given in Appendix B to the GNAS Rules of Shooting.

That then leaves us with the question of how many judges do you need?

The minimum number of judges you must have is not specified in either the GNAS Rules of Shooting or the accompanying Shooting Administrative Procedures, but the normal recommendation for target archery is one judge for every 10 targets (or part thereof); in any but the smallest shoot you should ideally have at least two (or one judge and a Field Captain) just in case more than one issue arises at the same time and to give the judge the opportunity for an occasional comfort-break. World Record Status tournaments may require more and also provide for an additional official, the 'Director of Shooting'.

It is also important to note that anyone acting as a Judge or Field Captain at any tournament is not permitted to shoot.

Becoming A Judge

Any archer who is considering becoming a judge is advised to discuss it with an established judge first; it is also a very good idea to discuss it with the Regional JLO, who can provide more information and answer any questions - this would be especially valuable if the archer doesn't know any local judges well enough to approach. This way you can find out exactly what is involved in the initial training and assessment and what you are committing yourself to in the longer term.

Bear in mind at this point that Target Archery and Field Archery involve separate qualification (the former includes Outdoor and Indoor Target Archery, Clout and Flight).

Once you are sure that this really is for you, the next step is to fill in the Application for Appointment as Candidate Judge and send it to your county Secretary. The county committee will then discuss the application at the earliest opportunity and decide whether or not they are able to support the application. If they do feel able to support it, they will then forward it to the Regional JLO; if not, they will discuss their reasons with the applicant and the Regional JLO to decide the best way forward.

The reason for the county involvement is simply that in most cases the Regional JLO will not know the applicant and therefore needs confirmation that (s)he has sufficient experience within the sport - this normally entails at least 2 or 3 years in the sport and preferably has attended several tournaments as a competitor or organiser.

The endorsement of the initial application to become a candidate judge is the only role county associations have in the judge training process; thereafter everything is dealt with by the Regional JLO together with the assigned mentor and it is they (and ultimately the judge assessor), who run the process right up to qualifying as County Judge.

The candidate and the Regional JLO look together for a suitable qualified judge to act as mentor to the candidate; ideally the mentor will be an experienced judge who is reasonably local to the candidate. The mentor is there to provide help and advice to the candidate and introduce the candidate to tournament organisers and other judges, but it is the candidate's responsibility to find suitable tournaments where they can work with the judges to improve their knowledge and experience.

Tournament Organisers are at complete liberty to invite whichever judges they wish (subject to the rules on minimum level of judge mentioned earlier), but it is obviously to everyone's advantage in the sport to include candidates whenever possible as it is at tournaments where the overwhelming majority of a candidate's training takes place - remember the first rule of judging: "There are never enough".

There are a number of basic criteria that you must satisfy before you can be assessed to become a County Judge (e.g. a minimum period as a candidate and attending a minimum number of tournaments) and these are listed in the GNAS Form J10 - National Judging Scheme. Once you have completed these and you, your mentor and the Regional JLO agree the time is right, you will need to arrange with the Regional JLO for an assessment, following successful completion of which you will have climbed to the next rung of the ladder - County Judge.

Career Path

Not everyone has the ambition, desire or time to climb to the top of every ladder in their life; that's OK! There are more local and county tournaments than there are major international events, so we need more County Judges than International Judges; so there is no pressure to keep climbing, if that is not what you want.

But if you are interested in taking your judging career further, there is plenty of opportunity and you will be given the help and encouragement you need - remember that first rule of judging!

Whatever level you aspire to and whatever level you achieve, remember that the work has not completely finished: all judges are re-assessed at intervals, so you will need to keep up a minimum level of tournament attendance as a judge (and at tournaments appropriate to your current level) and you also need to keep up to date with rule changes and how the role of the judge is gradually evolving. Probably most important of all, if you are enthusiastic about your role, you will want to take every practical opportunity to deepen and broaden your experience - even attending major events in other roles can be a chance to learn more about the sport and this can be a great help in your development as a judge too.

This short introduction is not the place for a detailed explanation of the responsibilities of the different levels of judge, but here is a very brief synopsis:

Level/Grade Primary Responsibilities (as at November 2011)
County Judge in charge of non-Record Status Club/County Tournaments
Regional Judge in charge of UK Record Status Tournaments (except as below) and Regional Tournaments
National Judge in charge of World Record Status Tournaments (except as below) and National Tournaments
Continental Judge in charge of World Record Status Tournaments organised for or by Continental Associations (except as below)
International Judge in charge of World Record Status Tournaments organised for or by World Archery (e.g. World Championships, World Cup, Olympic/Paralympic Events)

Further Information

The following are taken from the SCAS Judges' welcome pack that is issued to archers when they first apply to become a Candidate Judge and are reproduced here by kind permission of the SCAS Judges Liaison Officer:

Welcome Letter Download as a PDF document
Judges and Tournaments Download as a PDF document
Guidelines for being a Mentor Download as a PDF document
GNAS Form J00 - Application for Appointment as Candidate Judge Download as a PDF document
GNAS Form J10 - National Judging Scheme Download as a PDF document