While the Convenor will probably include a call for adjudicators when announcing that registration is open, the CA will have to do the bulk of the work in encouraging known judges, assessing applications and accepting/rejecting individuals.


You need to approve or accept judges in sufficient time so that they can register and pay within the host’s deadlines.

Rules and principles

The first criterion is the judge's eligibility under Rule 13 of the WSDC rules. That might seem fairly obvious; but at one tournament this was overlooked, as a result of which at least one person who was ineligible under the rules was judging in the rounds until he was recognized by another judge as a debater from the year before: hence ineligible under Rule 13(a)(iii). He had travelled all the way from his country and had paid airfares and registration fees – so it’s a good idea to clarify eligibility before judges arrive!

To be eligible, a judge must:

  • be nominated by the organisation or team of that person's nation;
  • be experienced at judging the highest level of senior school or university debates in their nation, and must have judged such debates regularly during the two years prior to the championship; and
  • must not have been a debater at the previous championship.

As CA, you might select a person who has not been nominated by their nation, or who is not experienced at the highest levels in their country and has not judged at that level in the previous two years - but only if they have judged at a previous World Championships and, in your opinion, are sufficiently experienced and competent to be an eligible judge.

Note that there are no such exceptions for a person who was a debater at the previous championship. They can never judge at the following championship. This is known in some quarters as the “x + 1” rule. However, they can be a “shadow shadow” judge - more on that later.


You should require a CV from judges when they apply to you as CA, and that should tell you whether they are eligible and their level of experience in judging. If ineligible, they cannot judge at the tournament at all - no exceptions - although they may shadow judge (more on that later) throughout the competition on the strict understanding that they will not be elevated to being a full judge but may well do so in following years.

If the CV doesn't tell you whether the applicant is eligible and doesn't tell you enough about their experience, then you can either reject the application or contact the applicant, referring to rule 13 and asking for a fuller CV by a certain date. If you do not set a timeframe for that CV, the applicant may well turn up to Worlds clutching the CV for the first time and expecting to be assigned some debates accordingly.

Not enough judges

We’ll deal below with the problem of having too many judges, and the right balance between local and international adjudicators. But it’s best to start off assuming you’ll have too few, and encourage a lot of judges to come – or at least to apply to come.

The Convenor may or may not be someone with good contacts in the international debating world, who is a member of various mailing lists. At any rate, it’s helpful for CAs to shoulder some of the burden of encouraging judges to apply. Welcoming and friendly e-mails sent out to various debate mailing lists, explaining the competition, the registration fees, and the eligibility criteria for judges, are helpful.

The CA may volunteer to answer any questions offered by prospective judges, and should also encourage them to familiarise themselves with the Rules, Notes for Adjudicators and Definition Guidelines (available at as well as inviting them to bring along their own copies of those documents. Just in case, spare copies shold be available for adjudicators at registration.

Try to get an early idea of numbers of judges, to know whether an impending crisis is developing. As a general rule, if every judge was experienced and trustworthy at WSDC level, it’s a good idea to have at least 5 or so spare per round – so at least 55 for a 32-team tournament, or 60-65 for a 36-team tournament. Given that many judges are new or perhaps unreliable, or may wish or need to sit out at least one of the preliminary rounds, or one or more judges could fall ill, the number should invariably be higher – maybe 60-65 for a 32-team tournament and over 70 for a 36-team tournament. Some have argued that a useful rule of thumb is to have a spare judge available for each debate per round. So for 36 teams, which require 18 debates per round and therefore 54 judges per round, there should be at least 72 judges available (54 + 18).

Consideration should be given to how many local judges are available. Countries like Australia or England will have a large pool of teachers, university students and others experienced in a debate format similar to WSDC. Other countries may have no more than one or two judges experienced in a similar format. In the latter case, the CA should pay particular attention to encouraging international judges.

Too many judges

This has been a problem in some years, up to and including 2004; but in 2005, 2007 and 2008, there were barely enough. Too many judges at the competition invariably means that many aren’t qualified, and so are hardly used; the total numbers are difficult to manage; and experienced judges feel excluded because they are given too many rounds off. Two few judges also means that recourse is made to many who aren't qualified and experienced judges may have to be overused.

The Adjudication Working Group (or another Executive Committee group) may propose enforcing or tightening our eligibility criteria in the future. In the meantime, the CA and Convenor should pay joint attention to those applying to be judges, and decide whether to accept them or not.

Why? Because traditionally debaters, coaches and judges pay a reduced registration fee – i.e. the Convenor subsidises each of them in terms of accommodation, local transport and food – so each extra person costs the Convenor a certain amount of money. Observers traditionally pay the full fee, so that the Convenor doesn’t make a loss.

This has been exploited in the past where people have applied to be judges in order to secure the lower registration fee, but aren’t particularly qualified to judge or may not even want to judge. In some instances adjudicators have even asked not to adjudicate on arrival at the tournament, once their registration fee is taken care of.

Accreditation of judges is a complicated area which needs attention, but in the meantime the CA and Convenor must see eye to eye – the CA shouldn’t be accepting lots of unqualified judges, when the Convenor has to pay for them. Until more guidance is given by the Executive, it’s up to the CA how to handle this, and he or she may decide to enforce an adjudicator cap.

Balancing needs

It’s good to have a geographic spread and to allow new countries the chance to send judges who can gain experience at WSDC. On the other hand, WSDC is the World Championships, not a training workshop, and the key aim is to ensure consistency in adjudication. A CA may want to accept 10 judges from Scotland if they all have top-class judging pedigrees, but has to consider the perception of lopsidedness and the fact that they all may come with one particular perspective on debating.

WSDC is an international competition and part of the excitement comes not only through the heats between international teams, but also because they’re adjudicated by three people from completely different parts of the world. School audiences tend to enjoy adjudications by foreign judges, as well as the introduction of the cosmopolitan panel. But for a school audience from England who hears an adjudication by an English judge, having perhaps watched a debate between Scotland and Wales, there will be no international flavour.

It’s certainly a bonus if WSDC is hosted in a country with a large pool of trained judges, as it means you have more options at your fingertips. But generally speaking, judges in the host country should see themselves as ‘substitutes’, who might only judge a few rounds – especially as the international judges have travelled far and paid much to be there. As always it’s your decision as CA, but something you should consider when recruiting judges before the tournament – the emphasis should be on an international spread rather than on whipping up judges from the host country – unless necessary.

See also: section elsewhere deals with picking specific panels.

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