I have been the Chair of the WFDF Ultimate Rules Committee since April 2009, and a member of the committee since June 2008. The Committee is made up of Ultimate players from a variety of countries, including USA, England, Germany, Australia and Japan. The bulk of the redrafting and editing is managed by the Rules Secretariat, a group of five experienced and dedicated committee members, four of which were involved in off field roles at The World Games in 2009.
The process for deciding how we redraft and amend the rules is generally based on several factors:
- making the rules as easy to understand as possible
- reflecting how the game is actually played
- reducing unnecessary stoppages
- tying up any loop holes we discover
- trying to align with the USA Ultimate (UPA) Rules
We have members who are on both the WFDF committee and UPA SRC so we are in quite a good position to be able to remove as many unnecessary differences between the WFDF and UPA Rules. For a sport with such a relatively small player base it seems strange to have two different sets of rules being used. I hope that one day we could all use the same rules, but I’m not sure how we will manage that. At the very least it would be good to remove as many as the noticeable differences between the two rules sets, which I think we are moving towards.
I got involved in the rules committee because I was quite passionate about the rules. As a self refereed sport I think that knowing and understanding the rules is hugely important. Sadly it’s almost all I think about. I recall waking up one night and fretting that I didn’t know how to resolve a specific scenario! I find the best way to learn the rules is to look them up. When something happens on the field that you aren’t sure about, don’t just rely on hearsay to know what to do. After the game, grab a copy of the rules and look it up.
I have been watching with interest what is happening in America with the use of Observers. It seems that there is a push for more and more of the calls to be in the control of the Observers, rather than the players. To me, this is a move away from Ultimate being a self-refereed sport, and to my knowledge, is not something WFDF is considering.
At World Games WFDF used Line Assistants to help players make calls about in/out and up/down (as well as make hand signals of what calls the players were making for the benefit of spectators/commentators). I thought this was a really good step that enabled players to make calls based on the best advice available.
I am interested in seeing if we can add to this role by allowing players to ask the Line Assistants questions about specific rules, but still leave the final decision up to the players. If players aren’t sure what a rule, is or what the correct interpretation is, they could ask a Line Assistant. The Line Assistant wouldn’t give their opinion on what had actually happened in a play, rather they could describe the rule that was relevant to that particular incident and leave the players to make the final decision. Too often players make calls that are actually not based on the rules.
My hope is that we can have a system where players can self referee, based on the most accurate information possible. So if someone isn’t sure if the disc was caught in bounds – ask someone who had a good perspective. If players can’t agree if the stall count is supposed to come in on 6 or 9, ask someone who knows. But I think these types of roles would only be needed at high level championships.
But that is as far as I would like it to go. I don’t think that self refereeing is just some nice feel good idea about how you can play sport; I actually think it is a really good way to fairly adjudicate sport. The part of playing a self refereed sport that I enjoy the most is that players are never trying to do something illegal while the referee isn’t looking, or faking that something happened when it didn’t.
Admittedly self-refereeing doesn’t always work and it can be abused by those who want to cheat, but referees don’t always get calls right either. However it should be difficult for just one player to bias a game with bad calls, as EVERYONE should act as a referee. It’s the one thing that I see that annoys me the most – players knowing their teammate did the wrong thing, or made the wrong call, and not saying anything. If you see a teammate make a bad call – you should tell them!
Note regarding WFDF Rules:
WFDF Rules will be used at WUCC 2010 in Prague. Players can find these rules here: http://www.wfdf.org/index.php?page=rules/index.htm.
There is also a new WFDF Rules Website here: http://www.wfdf.org/rules_ultimate which highlights the differences between USA Ultimate and WFDF Rules (also available here in PDF format: http://www.wfdf.org/rules/WFDF_2009_v_UPA_11_Rules.pdf)
The key new differences are regarding “Travel” and “Marking” Infractions. Videos for these rules can be found on the Rules Website, and here: http://www.youtube.com/user/wfdfultimaterules
Reuben Berg is the Chair of the WFDF Ultimate Rules Committee. He was the Captain of Australia at AOUC 2007, as well as the Assistant Coach of the Dingos and WUGC 2008, and of Australia at The World Games 2009.