The WFTDA released a minor update to the 3.0 ruleset on Monday. Most of the changes in the new 3.1 are small tweaks and clarifications that resolve ambiguities that became clear in the 3.0 shakedown, and will likely be invisible to casual fans. However, there’s at least one significant change that will certainly have effects on upcoming bouts.
The single most significant change affects the end of periods — previously, periods would always end when the period clock expired, leading to many final jams that weren’t quite long enough to allow for any scoring. This has been altered in 3.1 — now, periods end when the last jam reaches its natural conclusion, so that a jam may continue after the period clock has expired. Many leagues use or have used this variation in their local seasons, and it was in effect for the 2007 ECE bouts, but this marks the first time the “natural conclusion” language appears in the official WFTDA rules.
Safety language around blocks with and to the head has been added as well. Any block with initial contact landing above the opponent’s shoulders or any block initiated by a player’s head is now specifically considered a major penalty.
The logic of the cutting track philosophy has been officially expanded to re-entry from the penalty box. Skaters have always had to return to play at the back of the pack from the box, but previous ambiguity made it unclear as to how severe the penalty would be for failing to do so. New rules here specify that re-entering from the box in front of one pack skater is a minor and in front of more than one is a major — so an overeager player might find herself going right back to the box if she jumps back in too early!
There’s been an added rule for the skating out-of-bounds penalty, making it a major to do so “in a manner which substantially cuts short the lap distance” — closing a 3.0 loophole where a skater could cut as wide a swath of track as she wanted, as long as she didn’t pass anybody while doing so.
Finally — in one of those minor changes that fascinates referees but may not be noticed by the average fan — there’s been some important language added in relation to split pack scenarios in 3.1. Previously, with a split pack defined as two groups of skaters, equal in number, with more than 10 feet between them, it was possible for a pack to be considered split even if one of the groups did not actually meet the other criteria for a pack (that is, it did not contain members from both teams.) New language now specifies that the split pack does not exist unless both groups meet all criteria for a pack.
Lovers of rules minutiae will certainly want to keep an eye on rules.wftda.com, the official blog of the WFTDA rules committee, for answers to specific questions that may not be directly addressed by the existing ruleset.
Additional reporting: Johnny Zebra