Tuesday Tips: The Five Most Important Updates in the WFDF 2021-2024 Rules

There are a couple of key new rules to learn.

A Team Canada U24 Mixed player stretches for the catch at the 2019 WFDF U24 Championships. Photo: Paul Rutherford — UltiPhotos.com

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Earlier this week, the World Flying Disc Federation released the latest ruleset for ultimate. These rule changes were originally proposed in June, since then some minor changes were made and the new ruleset goes into effect on January 1, 2021, and will be used through 2024. The WFDF website has a lot of resources on the new rules, including a video on the main changes as well as a full tracked changes document showing alterations from the 2017 rules edition. There is also a handy document summarizing all the changes to the new rules. Here are the five most significant rules changes to keep in mind when returning to play under the WFDF ruleset in 2021.

1. Changes to Receiving and Offsetting Fouls After a Block

Previously, under WFDF rules, any contact initiated after a block would still result in a receiving foul. This means that if a player went for a block and made any subsequent contact that was a legitimate cause for a receiving foul, it would have resulted in a turnover if uncontested.

The new rules add a sub-clause under receiving fouls that reads:

17.2.1.1. Contact with an opponent’s arms or hands, that occurs after the disc has been caught, or after the opponent can no longer make a play on the disc, is not a sufficient basis for a foul, but should be avoided (excluding contact related to Section 17.1 and 17.3).

This new rule was made to better align with USA Ultimate rules. Under these rules, contact should still be avoided but minor contact (formerly called incidental contact) with the arms and hands that is not dangerous in nature is no longer grounds for a foul call.

2. Changes to the Continuation Rule

There are some changes to the continuation rule in the 2021 edition of the rules. The first change is that play automatically continues until possession is established only if a foul or violation is called while the disc is in the air. In the last iteration of the rules, continuation also was automatically in place if the foul or violation was called during the throwing motion. Just as in the last iteration of the rules, the play can still stand if everyone involved agrees that the event or the call did not affect the outcome of the play.

Another change involves which type of stoppages are covered under the rules. The continuation rule now reads:

16.3. Regardless of when any call is made, if the players involved from both teams agree that the event or call did not affect the outcome, the play stands. This rule is not superseded by any other rule.

In previous iterations of the rules, this only applied to fouls and violations. However, now this includes any call whatsoever. For example, if an injury is called before the disc is thrown, the previous edition of the rules would require the disc to go back to the thrower, but now if everyone agrees that the injury and the injury call did not affect the play, the play stands.

Furthermore, 16.3 has removed the language, “if play has not completely stopped.” This change means that continuation can be implemented off of a stopped disc. For example, a player may call violation because someone downfield moved just before a disc was tapped in to play off of a timeout. If a subsequent pass is made before some players recognized the call, and everyone agrees that the violation or call did not affect play, the play stands.

Note: A previous version of this article had an incorrect version of the rule. It has been updated and language in the final paragraph has been changed for clarity.

3. Give-and-Go Travel Rules Now Align with USAU

Previously, USAU and WFDF had different rules on what is allowed during give-and-go moves in terms of traveling. Previously, if you wanted to receive the disc and throw quickly while still in motion, you had to still be slowing down after catching and maintaining a ground contact through the throwing motion. The new version of the rules reads:

18.2.2.1. However if a player catches the disc while running or jumping the player may release a pass without attempting to reduce speed and without establishing a pivot point, provided that:

18.2.2.1.1. they do not change direction or increase speed until they release the pass; and

18.2.2.1.2. a maximum of two additional points of contact with the ground are made after the catch and before they release the pass.

So now, as long as you do not exceed two ground contacts after a catch, you can keep your speed and throw the disc without maintaining ground contact through the throw. This rule change was made to converge with the USAU rules.

4. Changes to How Offside is Handled

The “penalties” for offside violations have gone through many iterations in previous editions of the rules. The current rule matches the last appendix rules, which were only required at official WFDF-organized world championship events. The new rules are:

7.5. If a team breaches 7.3 or 7.4, the opposing team may call a violation (“offside”). This must be called before the offence touches the disc (7.8 still applies).

7.5.1. If the defence chooses to call offside, the thrower must establish a pivot point as per 7.9, 7.10, 7.11, or 7.12 and then play restarts as soon as possible as if a time-out had been called at that location.

7.5.2. If the offence chooses to call offside, they must let the disc hit the ground untouched and then resume play as if a brick has been called (no check is required)

There is still a difference between USAU and WFDF rules in that USAU rules have additional penalties with subsequent offside violations. Under WFDF rules, every offside violation in a game is handled the same.

5. Any Offensive Player Can Call Double Team

This last rule change is fairly simple. In the old rules, only the thrower was allowed to call double team. However, now any offensive player on the field can call double team if they see it.

15.5. In general only the thrower may claim an infraction, by calling the specific name of the infraction.

15.5.1. However any offensive player may call a double team, and any defensive player may call a travel infraction.

  1. Ravi Vasudevan
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    Ravi Vasudevan is Ultiworld's European editor and a host of the podcast EuroZone. Emails about EuroZone should go to eurozoneultimate@gmail.com. Ravi played for WPI in the US until 2008. He has been living and playing in Europe since 2009 and has competed at WUGC 2012, WUCC 2014 and WUCC 2018.

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