WFTDA 2017 Rules Update

WFTDA 2017 Rules Update Photo credit: Deadwards

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association has experienced many changes over the course of 2016. Early in the year, WFTDA announced plans to unify officiating certification with the Men’s Roller Derby Association while suspending the certification program itself a few months later to iron out the transition process. In April Cassie Haynes was selected as the new Executive Director after Bloody Mary stepped down prior to her retirement from skating at the end of the season. Then, just before WFTDA Championships, WFTDA rolled out their new website with both fan and member components.

Things haven’t slowed down since tournaments, and on December 2nd WFTDA released the newest version of their rules of Flat Track Roller Derby and it looks much different than before. They previously intended on revealing them in December with an enforcement date of January 1st, but with such an extensive overhaul, there are updated documents slated to be released February 1st. This means that leagues will have until February 15th to read up and apply any changes to the track.

The very first WFTDA ruleset was developed in 2005 and has since gone through many revisions considering roller derby is still in its infancy, so we will likely see more changes in the future. Other sports of course also continue to evolve to this day, such as basketball which was created over 100 years ago, and football/soccer which began in 1863, so they’re in good company.

For those who have been around for a decade of derby, you might remember when games consisted of three 20-minute periods (2.2 as of 2008), there was a “penalty showdown” during intermission (6.5.1 as of 2006), or the list of whistles you had to remember (2.9 as of 2010). Also, the penalty section was much longer because every infraction laid out what fell under No Impact, Minor Penalty, and Major Penalty.

Old timers may have also ‘poodled’, started a jam with their whole blocking line up taking a knee, or laid down on the ground as a pivot to try and get your hips back further. These were some of the loopholes that skaters had found in past rulesets, and over the years WFTDA has made revisions to iron them out.

In 2010, the rules clarified that skaters could skate clockwise in the referee lane to re-enter the track. 2013 saw the first major overhaul of the rules which resulted in the blockers and jammers starting on the same whistle, minor penalties were done away with, and female identifiers were removed from the rulebook. The next year penalties were reduced to 30 seconds, and in December of 2014 forearms changed from a 3-second tracking penalty to an impact-based call.

It’s now been two years since the last revision, and with this ninth edition, WFTDA has decided to re-organize their rules and policy documents. On their own mobile-friendly and searchable site, the rule book has nearly been halved and broken up by principle and impact instead of action. The rules are supplemented by a Casebook which works as the reference material and precedent for how situations are to be handled. It details certain examples of how the rules might play out realistically but it shouldn’t be disregarded, it goes over certain things that the rule book doesn’t necessarily cover.

“It is the intent that this modified format will aid in comprehension, support both current and ever-changing -game play, and minimize exploitation of loopholes.” -WFTDA

Past revisions had built upon each other so there was always a summary of changes or a line by line detailed guide of the differences, but this time the revamp completely mixes things up. It seems to rely on most people having prior knowledge of previous rulesets, so looking at them now may plausibly be a bit overwhelming to anyone brand new to flat track derby. The old rules laid out all the aspects of the game in minute detail, now the rule book gives concepts and basics while the Casebook follows up with specifics and rationale.

To help everyone navigate the new structure, WFTDA has also provided a summary of changes to gameplay, changes to game structure, and items moved to the WFTDA policy and officiating documents. However, the policy and officiating documents, as well as translated and e-publications of the rules, won’t be updated and released until February 1st, so keep your eyes peeled.

According to WFTDA, leagues may begin using the new rules immediately, but it won’t be optional come February 15th for WFTDA member leagues.

Next week we will have a more in-depth look at what the major changes are and where to find them. Leave us any questions you may have about the new rules, and we will do our best to find the answers!

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Edited by Danger (ismymiddlename)