The WFTDA have revealed a number of rule-changes that can be expected in upcoming WFTDA rules publications.
Currently, there are several rules which state that, if in doubt as to who was responsible for an illegal action, the skater nearest to the referee is to be given the penalty.
Examples include multiplayer blocks where, if two teammates are grasping, the penalty is issued to the grasper closest to the referee. Analogous guidelines apply if the initiator of an impenetrable link, or the skater most responsible for an impenetrable wall, cannot be identified.
Similarly for illegal procedures: If a team fields more than one designated pivot, and the pivot to last enter the track cannot be identified, it is the pivot closest to the referee handling the call who is instructed to remove the helmet cover or return to their bench. The same principle applies when a team fields too many skaters.
Finally, it is also the skater closest to the referee who is penalised if, at the jam-starting whistle, a pack cannot be identified because one or more skaters are improperly positioned.
The proposed changes state that in future, in situations where the initiator of these illegal action cannot be determined and in absence of a pivot, referees will penalise the skater furthest away from them.
WFTDA spokesperson Mental Floss commented:
“These rules have always seemed a bit lazy and imprecise compared to the rest of the rule set which, elsewhere, is anal enough to, for example, define impact as ‘Illegal forearm or hand contact to an opponent that forces the receiving opponent off balance, forward, and/or sideways but does not cause the opponent to lose relative position or the initiator or a teammate to gain relative position. For example, a slight but observable push with the hands or forearms.’.”
“Those rules about penalising the closest skater are entirely arbitrary anyway, so we thought we might as well switch them around for a while.”
“We felt that the current system was unfair and discriminatory towards skaters who commonly position themselves near the inside and outside edges of the track during gameplay, and are therefore always closest to the inside and outside referees. The skaters in the middle lanes of the track, those are the sneaky ones and should get their fair share of penalty calls. Those skaters already get away with more stuff, because they are often between other skaters and thus harder to see for referees. This rule-change should even things out a bit.”
One level 4 WFTDA-certified referee commented:
“To be honest, I mostly just give those kinds of penalties to a random skater anyway. And I’ll probably continue doing so.”
“Multiplayer block actions are often blocked from view by other skaters, so you kinda have to infer the appropriate penalty call from what you think might be happening.”
“That skater who looked at me funny probably did something shifty, I’ll assign the penalty to them.”
It remains to be seen if the general reasoning behind these rules is to be expanded to other rules. For example, if two teammates both commit a track cut, only one of the skaters (either nearest to or furthest from the referee) would be issued a cutting track penalty. Similarly for (gross) misconducts: if two team mates bite an opponent, only one would get penalised (probably the one that’s furthest away, because that’s less scary).