WFDF Ultimate Committee Chair Discusses The Recent Rule Changes

The World Flying Disc Federation logo.Last week, the World Flying Disc Federation announced rule changes set to take effect in 2013. Ultiworld spoke with Si Hill, the Chair of the WFDF Ultimate Committee, to get some more background on the changes and what the organization hoped to accomplish.

UW: What was the main impetus for these rule changes?

SH: We have had a team working on the WFDF rules for a number of years now. When the project started the WFDF rules were in need of some major re-work. That was completed in the updates that occurred in 2007 and 2009. However, we felt there was still an opportunity to make further improvements – and make a few bug fixes. We wanted to leave some time for people to get used to the previous set, however – so we put any changes on hold for 3-4 years.

Other than finding places where we could attempt to improve the language, there are three main themes in the most recent update:

1. Remove/reduce unnecessary stoppages in play

2. Support self-refereeing – enable it to work as effectively as possible

3. Converge with USA Ultimate rules where practical

We spent a great deal of time discussing/arguing whether we could make a really substantial change to the pick rule on the basis that it is a frequent source of frustrating delays – but in the end we really were not satisfied that we had a workable improvement.

UW: Which changes do you see as the most significant?

SH: I hope the most significant changes turn out to be the tools that will live alongside the rules. The WFDF website has a clear rules area with good resources (interpretations document, translations for the new rules are being worked on right now, rules quizzes, etc). I think we all know that frequently problems in self-refereeing occur when players are unsure of the rules and how to interpret them. We are looking to introduce a “rules-certification” process so that teams can have at least one player who is known to be knowledgeable and up to date on the rules. Beyond this we are looking to produce more video clips that can sit alongside the rules and interpretations document to help improve understanding of the intended meaning of the rules in practice.

I was really hoping that none of the individual changes would be seen as “really significant” on their own. I see this update as mostly a collection of small and simple improvements. In my opinion players are still coming to terms with the introduction of “contact” and the changes to travel [rules]. I think both of those changes are good, but they show that people need time to adapt.

UW: I think the new rule allowing non-players to assist on up/down and line calls is a pretty big deal. This seems to offer some of the benefits of “third-party” perspective without adding observers. Do you think that’s true?

SH: I think a huge number of players do this in a really sensible way all the time and all we wanted to do was make it clear that it is OK to get some extra information from anyone who might have had a good view of what happened if you think you need help. It is pretty obvious that players catching a disc near the line are not always best placed to see if they are in or out — and same goes for the defender. It seems equally obvious that there will be players who are not currently on the field of play that might have a good (the best?) view of that situation. So if there is some doubt – why not see if those other people can help?

So does this offer potential benefit of third-party perspective without adding observers? Yes.

I don’t want to see the introduction of USAU-style Observers to the WFDF rules – but equally – I do not see Observers as some sort of “evil disaster” and I can certainly see the attraction for players. I believe really strongly that if we want our sport to be an enormous global sport one day then we should work extremely hard to retain a model of self-officiating at all levels because:

(a) It is an incredibly strong point of differentiation for us.

(b) The rules of most team sports make it much more difficult to implement than it is in Ultimate – which is just a happy piece of luck for us, I think.

  1. Charlie Eisenhood
    Charlie Eisenhood

    Charlie Eisenhood is the editor-in-chief of Ultiworld. You can reach him by email (charlie@ultiworld.com) or on Twitter (@ceisenhood).

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