| Comments ]

WFTDA rules set 4.0 is finally here. Some will cheer in victory, others will weep and hide their faces, but all WFTDA sanctioned bouts must use the 4.0 revision as of June 1st, 2009. Which, in effect, means not only WFTDA leagues will be using it by that date, but most WFTDA-aspiring leagues as well. Essentially all flat-track leagues that bout interleague can be expected to be on-board by this fall.

So what do skaters really need to know? What dirty deeds can we no longer get away with and what get-out-of-jail free cards have been issued? Read on for a very un-official overview of the major changes.

Let's start with the biggest and most anticipated changes first.

Cutting the Track

The Derby Goddesses have smiled and the WFTDA rules committee has finally seen fit to fix the broken, needlessly anal Nazi-ism that was 6.2.10.

The fix comes in the form of redefining re-entry. Under the 3.1 rule set, cutting the track penalties were issued upon re-entry to the track, which was defined as "when any part of the returning skater's skates, body or equipment are touching the floor inside the track boundary."

This caused skaters to be penalized even in situations where they were down (and incidentally, according to the rules, out of play. How you could be 'improving your position' and also be out of play always escaped me), or otherwise not actively trying to pass other players. Under the old definition, there was no room for legal intent.

The new rules, now under section 6.8, state that
"downed players that have re-entered the track are subject to applicable cutting the track penalties when they return to an in bounds, upright and skating position."

Can I get an amen?

Now you actually have to be skating, in bounds, and otherwise in play to get a cutting the track penalty. Although getting knocked across the infield may still subject you to tripping or blocking out of bounds penalties, so remember to fall small. Still, it's great to see this rule now phrased in a saner fashion.

New handling is also given to the issue of a skater straddling the boundary line. Previously a skater with one foot in bounds and one foot out was given cutting the track penalties immediately upon passing other players. Now these penalties are assessed once that skater no longer has a skate out of bounds (new section 6.8.2). A skater that is pushed or blocked over the line while in forward motion now has a chance to drop back and re-enter legally as long as she corrects herself before she ceases contact with the out of bounds area. So in this case, going completely out of bounds and re-entering legally is kosher, but just picking up the out of bounds foot will get you nailed with a penalty.

The final change to cutting the track rules is regarding entering behind the initiator of a block or other wise out of play skaters. Previously, if a blocker took an opponent out, and herself in the process, she could still force her opponent to enter behind her or suffer a penalty if she re-entered play first, creating a race to get back in bounds.

That rule has been changed, now stating in sections - that a skater may enter in front of a player that blocked her out of bounds "When the initiating skater [goes out of bounds / downs herself or falls / exits the Engagement Zone] at any time after the initiating block."

No longer will we see a player get a major cutting the track penalty for cutting around the 'last line of defense' if that foremost skater is out of play.

All in all the changes to the rules surrounding cutting the track are brilliant, and have restored some much-needed balance to the universe. While not exactly in the realm of ushering in world peace, it has without a doubt prevented many riots from breaking out on Saturday nights in warehouses and arenas across the United States.

Jammerless Jam

Like peanut butter with no peanut, WFTDA has taken up the stance that the jammerless jam is silly. Or at least boring, and better avoided from now on.

Instead of restarting the jam with blockers now sporting the stars when both jammers are penalized, the new rules opt to instead spring the jammers from the Sin Bin early. Like parole, but without the community service. Section 7.4 states "When the second Jammer is seated in the penalty box, the first Jammer, who has already been serving her time, is released back into play by the penalty box official. The exact amount of time the first Jammer served before she was released will be the exact amount of time the second Jammer will serve before she is released back into play."

So if Jammer numero uno goes to the penalty box, and the opposing jammer then makes a trip to the penalty box and is seated 35 seconds later, the first jammer is set free as soon as the second jammer's cheeks hit the seat and the second jammer serves a penalty of 35 seconds before being released herself.

While personally, I found nothing wrong with the old rule, this new take on the jammer-free situation serves to keep the action of the game moving at a better clip while lessening the chances that I will suddenly and unwillingly be saddled with the star. I know some of you know what I mean, although at least one die-hard fan and announcer will mark the passing of the grand 'ol jammerless jam with a tear-stained shot or two.

Destroying the Pack and the Death of the Split Pack

Under 3.1 when a split pack situation existed and no pack could be defined, no one was legally allowed to block or assist. Referees would call for the pack to immediately be reformed, but by then a team could have just given their jammer a gratis pass through the pack. This was most easily accomplished by every girl on a team simply taking a knee and letting the other team get stride or two ahead.

This tactic was perfectly legal and was even seen used in innerleague play by top WFTDA leagues, such as Rat City. Although in the opinion of many fans and players, and apparently now the WFTDA rules committee, it was cheap and dirty and should have been punished.

With WFTDA 4.0 rules, that's where new section 6.5.7 comes in. "If a player, team, or group of skaters intentionally destroys the pack with a conscious and orchestrated effort, one penalty will be applied to a single player who is most responsible (or the Pivot per Section 7.1.2 and 7.2.4)."

It goes on to further clarify what intentionally destroying the pack means in section "Examples of intentionally destroying the pack, or creating a “no pack” situation, may include but are not limited to: one team running away, one team braking or coasting to fall more than 10ft behind the opposing team, a skater taking a knee, intentionally falling, or intentionally skating out of bounds in such a manner that the legally defined pack is destroyed."

Gone from the rules is the concept of the "split pack", to be replaced by "no pack". Either there is a pack, or there isn't, and if there isn't somebody has to answer for it as described in 6.5.13: "If the out of play action causes harm or has a measurable consequence for the game, it is treated as a major penalty."

Please note that this does not eliminate the strategy of trapping an opposing player and then speeding or slowing, as this still fits the legal definition of the pack. It simply gets rid of the ability to create a free ride for your jammer by falling behind or accelerating away from the other team.

Other changes

There are quite a few additional rules and clarified rules in this weighty revision, some of which will apply mostly to officials or team captains and alternates, but here's a look at some of the other items that have changed in WFTDA 4.0.

  • Gone is the "4, 16, carry-the-one" business for minors and majors that can be earned in a period. Now it's just 5 trips to the box in a half and you've fouled out. Easy peasy.
  • Players may now re-enter a tournament if they are subbed out of a roster for an earlier game.
  • A bout now consists of two thirty minute periods; gone is the option of playing three twenty minute periods.
  • The official period clock and jam clock must now be clearly visible to the referees, players and audience. Take note, leagues running without a score board!
  • All helmet covers used by a team in a bout must be the same color scheme. No mixing home and away panties because someone misplaced a set.
  • It's no longer required for blockers to line up in two rows behind the pivots as long as they are behind the pivot line and forward of the jammer line. The pivots are still the only blockers allowed to line up on the actual pivot line.
  • A skater exiting the penalty box before her time is up will earn a major, unless she was instructed to do so in error by an official.
  • Removing required safety equipment, such as a mouthguard, is now an automatic major and no longer left to referee discretion.
  • A major misconduct penalty will be earned for "the use of obscene, profane, or abusive language or gestures directed at an official, mascot, or audience member" and for "the excessive use of obscene, profane, or abusive language or gestures directed at an opposing player, manager, or coach." So remember, you can give the bird to your opponents, but not excessively.
  • A gross misconduct expulsion will be earned for "the repeated use of obscene, profane, or abusive language or gestures directed at an official, mascot, or audience member" or for "the repetitive and excessive use of obscene, profane, or abusive language or gestures directed at an opposing player, manager, or coach."
  • While we're on the subject of misconduct and bird-flipping, excessive or otherwise, it should be noted that coaches and managers are now held to the same standard of conduct as players. If a coach or manager is expelled, that team's captain must serve a one-minute penalty (though it doesn't count toward her 5-for-the-period cap).
  • Official Reviews must be requested before the following jam starts. Only the immediately preceding jam is subject to Official Review. So speak now or forever hold your piece.
  • Protective gear, such as mouthguards, must be worn while skating to and from the penalty box, or a major penalty will be issued.
  • Hockey style face shields or cages are now prohibited. So much for bringing sexy back.
Thanks for reading this overview of the WFTDA 4.0 rules set. Feel free to leave your comments and rants below. Please note that my previous Rule Smarts guides which have been affected by 4.0 will be updated soon to reflect the new rules.

Other resources:

From the horse's mouth, the official WFTDA rules version 4.0
Derby News Network's look at the new rule set
Also, from Derby News Network, a geek-a-licious spreadsheet of the revisions and clarifications (God bless derby nerds!)