On Monday, November 19, the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association released the most recent update to its ruleset. Beginning on January 1, 2013, all WFTDA-sanctioned games must be played under the new ruleset.
Monday’s release had been a particularly long-awaited document, as it was the first time in over two years that the rules had gotten a major update. From the release of WFTDA 1.0 in January 2006 to the previous release of May 2010, the rules had previously gotten a minor or major update at least once per year.
Below, a look at the most significant changes in the ruleset (not all changes are mentioned).
The biggest single change is the jettisoning of minor penalties; no longer will skaters accumulate minor penalties before being sent to the penalty box, which means everything that was a minor penalty in the previous ruleset has either been upgraded to a minute in the box or downgraded to “no impact.” However, penalties that result in a minute in the box are still referred to as “major” penalties in the ruleset, even though minors no longer exist.
Some of the key examples of contact which previously resulted in minor penalties but is now considered no impact / no penalty:
Contact to the back which forces the recipient “off balance, forward and/or sideways but does not cause the opponent to lose relative position” (6.1.1; it’s important to note here that being sent out of bounds is always considered a loss of relative position, though, and therefore a major.)
Contact below the legal target zone “that causes an opposing skater to stumble but not fall or or lose relative position” (6.3.3)
Contact to the head which is “secondary or which results from legally initiated contact” (6.2.1; this wording is new to the ruleset)
“Illegal contact with the elbow or swinging motion of the elbow that forces the receiving opposing skater off balance, forward and/or sideways but does not cause the opposing skater to lose relative position” (6.4.6)
Forearm or hand contact that forces the recipient off balance, forward and/or sideways but does not cause the opposing skater to lose relative position; pushing with hands or forearms; blocking initiated by shoulder with simultaneous or subsequent forearm push (6.5.5 through 126.96.36.199)
Contact from out of bounds that does not cause relative position loss; continuing a block while partially out of bounds; contact with a fully out-of-bounds opponent that does not affect their ability to re-enter play (6.8.14 through 6.8.16)
Out of play blocking that does not cause loss of relative position and out of play assisting that does not improve relative position (6.10.10 and 6.10.11)
Alternately, there is one notable contact minor under the previous ruleset that has been upgraded to a major penalty:
“Extended touching (lasting three seconds or more) with the forearms or hands to an opponent’s legal and/or illegal target zone” (6.5.6)
Stopped Blocking / Assisting
With the evolution of WFTDA-style derby towards a slower and more positional game since the release of the May 2010 ruleset, the new set gets much more specific about what’s allowable when blocking speed moves from a crawl to a stop; there’s a distinction made between positional blocking while stopped (mostly reduced to no-impact) and contact blocking while stopped or moving clockwise (mostly upgraded to majors or remaining majors).
The following actions are no-impact (previously minors):
Assisting while stopped in a way that doesn’t improve the recipient’s relative position (6.9.10), clockwise blocking that does not cause loss of position (6.9.11), positional blocking while stopped that does not cause loss of relative position (6.9.12), momentarily stopping while blocking but continuing to move counterclockwise at first legal opportunity (6.9.13; new rule.)
The following actions are major penalties (previously minors):
Physical contact while stopped or moving clockwise that forces the recipient off balance or in any direction (6.9.15 and 6.9.17), assisting while moving clockwise (6.9.16).
Previously, blockers entering the pack from the wrong direction (having either lapped the pack or fallen a full lap behind the pack) received minors; this has been upgraded to a major penalty (6.10.14 and 6.10.15).
The cutting track rules have been made both slightly more restrictive and slightly less so. Underneath the previous ruleset, cutting any single in-play skater would result in a minor penalty, while cutting more than one would result in a major. The new ruleset makes it a major to cut any opposing in-play skater (6.11.10), but downgrades cutting a single in-play teammate to no-impact (6.11.9). It is still illegal to cut more than one teammate, though (6.11.11).
Skating Out of Bounds
More upgrades come in this section; underneath the previous ruleset, skating out of bounds to avoid a block or to maintain or increase speed were minor penalties, but they are both major penalties in the 2012 release (6.12.5 and 6.12.6).
A false start (by either jammer or blocker) is downgraded to a no-impact if the offending skater yields position (6.13.2).
Jam Starts / Jam Endings
The big one here is that jam starts have been changed to a single whistle for all skaters in 188.8.131.52: “Blockers and Jammers begin at the jam-starting whistle.” There are no longer separate whistles for the pack start and the jammer release. This means that it’s no longer possible for teams to delay a jammer start by hovering behind the pivot line, and accordingly no longer necessary for a team to start on a knee to force an immediate jammer start.
184.108.40.206.1 and 6.13.36 appear to be a preventative measure against shenanigans to force advantageous no-pack situations at the beginning of a jam: “Blockers may not intentionally take starting positions which purposefully prolong that skater’s ability to return to an in-play position or a team’s ability to reform a pack (e.g. intentionally starting on one’s back, intentionally starting in a dog-pile).”
Starting with too many skaters on the track is now no-impact (6.13.7 and 6.13.8).
Per 6.13.9, it is no longer a penalty to attempt to call off the jam while not lead jammer. (Successfully calling off the jam while not lead is still a major.)
Per 6.13.14, contact after the jam-ending whistle that does not cause the opposing skater to fall is no-impact / no-penalty.
New Major Penalties
6.3.12 Intentionally taking a knee in an attempt to avoid a block.
6.15, Delay of Game, is an entirely new subset of penalty which covers three different situations — failure to be on the track at jam start when in the penalty box queue (6.15.2), failure to field any blockers for a jam (6.15.3), and successfully requesting a timeout while holding none (6.15.4). In the latter two cases, the penalty is assigned to the team captain.
New misconduct penalties under 6.16 call for major penalties to be assigned if people are caused to “vacate their position to reasonably avoid being forcibly contacted” by a skater’s entry to the penalty box; notably, 6.16.10 specifies that it is “not limited to people in the penalty box,” which seems likely to cause some controversial conflicts between skaters on their way to the box and skaters returning to play from the box in a clockwise direction.
New Expulsion Offenses
6.3.15 is updated from “kicking another skater” to “intentionally kicking another skater.”
New language in 6.17.4 and 6.17.5 expands the universe of people who can no longer be legally abused by skaters. Previously, “the repeated use of obscene, profane, or abusive language or gestures” was expulsion-worthy if aimed at officials, mascots or audience members; now, announcers and “other bout production officials” also qualify. Notably, there’s a higher trigger for opposing skaters, teammates, managers, coaches and “other support staff” — the obscene, profane or abusive language or gestures must be both “repetitive and excessive” rather than simply “repeated” to merit an expulsion.
There’s a curiously strict new expulsion-worthy offense in 6.17.10: “Entry to the penalty box that causes either the skater, the skater’s seat, or another seat to forcibly contact another person. This includes people correctly positioned in their team bench area and is not limited to people in the penalty box.”
Star Pass Changes
It is no longer illegal for a pivot or jammer to skate clockwise or out of bounds to retrieve a fallen helmet cover, under 220.127.116.11 (“A Pivot may skate in any direction, including out of bounds, to retrieve the Pivot helmet cover”) and 18.104.22.168 (“A Jammer or Pivot may skate in any direction, including out of bounds, to retrieve the Jammer helmet cover.”)
A new 22.214.171.124.1 specifies that a pivot cannot become jammer if the original jammer is in the penalty box; the pivot may place the cover on her head, but will not become the legal jammer until the original jammer is released from the box.
In other helmet cover news, a new 126.96.36.199 specifics that lead jammer status is lost if the lead jammer’s helmet cover is removed by a teammate; the previous ruleset specified only that the status was lost if the lead jammer removed her own helmet cover. However, with the current ruleset only stating three ways to lose lead jammer status (committing a major penalty, removing the helmet cover for any reason, or having the cover removed by a teammate), it would seem that lead jammer status can still be retained if the helmet cover naturally falls off in the course of gameplay.
For the first time, the rules specify that jammers must be upright to score points (8.3.1); the related 188.8.131.52 specifies that an airborne jammer must remain upright while landing to score points for an airborne pass (previously, it was possible to score points without sticking the landing on an apex jump, so long as the landing was completely in-bounds.)
There’s also some new language in 184.108.40.206.1.2 – 220.127.116.11.1.2.3 that allows jammers to score on blockers ahead of the engagement zone while the jam is still in progress. Previously, these points were only scored if the jam ended with those blockers ahead of the engagement zone.
Overtime procedures get a minor update to specify that a post-May 2010 clarification applies to overtime as well. Previously, overtime rule 18.104.22.168 simply stated “If an overtime jam ends before two minutes for any reason, the bout ends immediately and the score stands. Additional overtime jams will only be played if the score remains tied.” The new ruleset makes clear that 22.214.171.124 creates an exception for overtime as well as regular game play: “In the event that a referee must call off a jam prior to its natural conclusion with time remaining on the jam clock but not the period clock, the points from the jam will remain and an additional jam may occur at the head referee’s discretion.”
Rule 2.2.2 remains unchanged.