FINA Testing Experimental Water Polo Rules at Youth World Championship

As an ongoing part of the debate in the world of water polo over whether the sport needs new rules or better marketing, FINA will experiment with the former at a number of major global tournaments in 2018.

In April, at the FINA World Water Polo Conference, the global organization for aquatic sports produced a series of interviews discussing the topic. American women’s National Team coach Adam Krikorian didn’t think that the rules were the issue.

“Many people look at the USA for an example of success of sports like basketball and American football. People would be surprised to see that most people are not going to a basketball game to watch the match itself, they also come to enjoy the atmosphere, the dancing, the music. It is a cool place to be and to be seen. That is what we need to create for our sport,” Krikorian said. “It really has to do with the branding and the marketing of the event. The culture is something we need to create.”

FINA’s new experimental rules are mostly built around speeding up the pace of play.

They will be applied to 4 tournaments in 2018:

  1. FINA World Men’s Youth Water Polo Championships in Szombathely, Hungary (Ongoing)
  2. FINA World Women’s Youth Water Polo Championships in Belgrade, Serbia (August 27th-22nd, 2018)
  3. The FINA Women’s World Cup in Surgut, Russia (September 4th-9th, 2018)
  4. FINA Men’s World Cup in Berlin, Germany (September 11th-16th, 2018)

The results of the tests will be presented at the FINA congress in December.

Some of the rules will be more controversial than others, including those allowing players to put the ball in play and take shot fakes on foul-shots; reduction of shot clock time on certain resets; and the reduction of the break between periods. Others should be more widely accepted, especially at the World level where they are technically possible without great costs, including automated video systems for indicating the end of exclusion fouls, and giving coaches electronic signals to request a timeout rather than awaiting the attention of the referee.

Experimental Rules Amendments:

  1. After a corner throw, after a rebound where possession does not change, and after an exclusion, the shot clock will reset to 20 seconds, rather than the traditional 30 seconds. This mirrors rules changes made by the NBA in basketball where the clock doesn’t reset to a full 24 seconds in all situations.
  2. A free throw shall be taken from the location of the ball, except a) if the foul is committed by a defending player within the defender’s 2 metre area, the free throw shall be taken on the 2 metre line opposite to where the foul was committed and b) where otherwise  provided for in the Rules. FINA hopes that this will speed up the game by not returning the ball to the place of the foul in all cases.
  3. A player taking a corner throw may a) shoot directly, b) swim and shoot without passing or c) pass to another player. This might be the biggest change yet, as it allows players taking corner throws to become direct attackers immediately.
  4. An ADDITIONAL Substitution Re-entry area will be at any place in between the goal line and the center field line on the teams half of field of play (for flying substitutions). [Note: an excluded player or the substitute must always re-enter via the re-entry box in the corner]. This would allow for mid-play substitutions to be made more quickly.
  5. A time-out button will be given to each bench, and that button will be pressed to request a time-out, simultaneously with a coach’s verbal request. This would allow the removal of timeout officials from beside the bench, which opens up the lines of sight to the field of play.
  6. Reducing the break between the 2nd and 3rd periods from 5 minutes to 3 minutes.
  7. Shifting duties from certain signals from the responsibility of the secretary to automatic visual effects, i.e. the last 5 seconds of exclusion time. FINA notes that this change is not likely to be implemented in 2018, because of the lack of availability of equipment.
  8. A change to the outside-6-meters shot immediately after a foul that would allow players to take a shot after visibly putting the ball in play (the ball must leave the players hand), including after dribbling or faking a shot. Previously, the shot was required to be immediate, or they were ineligible to shoot the ball.
  9. Allowing the goalie to move or touch the ball beyond the half-distance line, which entitles them to participate in shoot-outs, or take penalty shots. This change could increase the use of late-game tactics by allowing the goalie to play on offense without having to substitute them for another player.
  10. Reducing the number of timeouts from 1-per-period to 2-per-game, and limiting timeouts from being called after the awarding of a penalty throw.
  11. Changing the definition of over-the-back fouls with a player intending to score a goal to eliminate a potential call that the ball was in the player’s hand.
  12. Use of headsets for referees to communicate.
  13. Video monitoring of matches to “identify and sanction incidents of brutality or extreme violence that occurred but were not appropriately punished or identified during a game.” Sanctions will be applied after the match

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About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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