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New Water Polo Rules Explained

Andrey Kryukov is the FINA Bureau Liaison for the FINA Technical Water Polo Committee. Also, a former water polo player for the Soviet Union, and is the Secretary-General of the Kazakhstan National Sports Federation as well as the Vice – President of the Asian Swimming Federation (AASF). Mr. Kryukov is the world’s most important decision-maker regarding the future direction of the game of water polo today. There are new rules in water polo in 2019, and here is a summary of these changes are.

  1. How can you score from a free throw awarded outside of 6 meters?

When the foul is whistled, both the foul and the ball must be on or outside the 6-meter line. If you are not sure whether you are in the right position to score, the referee will give a sign by raising his hand to confirm that you are in a shooting position to score from the free throw. In that case, you have the options to shoot directly or to continue the play by putting the ball into action. As FINA’s Water Polo Technical Committee explained, this means that the ball needs to leave the hand. You don’t need to throw it in the air, you can pick it up and drop it on the water, but the detaching needs to be visible. Even switching the ball from one hand to the other on the water surface means you continued the play and that the defender can attack you. After putting the ball back into play, you can fake, swim or shot.
If the referee asks for the ball because of cap replacement, injury or some other issue, you can’t shot directly anymore, but you can put the ball in play and proceed as previously mentioned.

2. Free throw shall be taken from the position of the ball

The game continues from the ball position, not from the position of the foul. The only exception applies when the ball is inside the 2-meter line during the foul call. The following free throw needs to be taken from the 2m-line. Keep in mind that you are not allowed to score a goal if the ball was inside the 6-meter mark, even if you were fouled outside of 6 meters. So for example, the defender made a foul on you on 6.5 meter, while the ball floats to 5 meters – in this case, you cannot take the ball and go back outside the 6-meter line and shoot.

3. When does the shot clock reset to 20 seconds?

This one is quite simple. Every time you get a second possession (corner, exclusion, missed a penalty, missed shot), the shot clock is reset to 20 seconds if you had less than 20 seconds on the shot clock when the possession is gained. However, for example, if 23 seconds left, the time will continue to run from there and not reset.
NOTICE – the clock will reset to 30 seconds only in case of a neutral throw or if the coach decides to choose possession instead of penalty in the last minute game situation (when opposing team deliberately wants to commit a penalty foul to regain possession quickly).

4. Is every foul from behind committed against the player with the ball facing the goal inside the 6-meter line a penalty?

Yes and no… FINA’s Water Polo Technical Committee explained you need to be in a probable goal position, and have the intention to score. So if you are not alone in the counter-attack, this picture below shows the area of probable goal position in which the rule should be applied.

The only way to defend this is to have contact with the ball (so no arm nor hand!). When attacking, the correct tactic is to act as if nobody is behind the player, and keep the ball in the front and try to score a goal. The referees are guided to wait for the call, so even if there is a foul and the player is in the situation to score, they will let the player finish the action. But, it is missed, no penalty, and if there is a goal, the defender won’t get an exclusion.

5. A goalkeeper can join the offense and play at any time

It is an exciting rule when a team has the last possession at the end of the period. There have already been some examples where this rule created an advantage for the attacking team.

6. Flying substitutions

Flying substitutions are possible in the outline area between the goal line and the half court mark. Excluded players still need to use the re-entry box. Substitutions are possible as many times as the coach wants. When leaving the pitch, the head must be above the water, and need to clap hands with player who is coming in.

7. Other new rules

  • shorter halftime break (from 5 to 3 minutes)
  • two timeouts per game instead of one per period
  • video technology during the game to determine (only) goal-line decisions
  • video technology to determine unpunished brutality fouls after the game


Source: TotalWaterpolo

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