March Update from Rules Coordinator

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#1

Hello VUL Rules Gurus,

We are well overdue for a rules update, so there are a couple of common rules I'd like to bring up. This email will address 'Dangerous Plays' and a rule that isn't in the official rules, 'too many players'.

First, I'd like to remind you that you can forward these emails to your teams. But if you are not excited about spamming your team with 'fine details' about the rules, please bring up the subjects I cover in the huddle before your games start. Some members of your team might like to know the details or have questions.

Dangerous Plays:
The rules state 'It is the responsibility of all players to avoid contact in every way possible.' The 11th edition rules also state that there is incidental contact caused by players converging into the same space that may not be a foul. However, the following rule (XVI.H.4) supersedes every other rule as specifically stated in the rule itself.
'Reckless disregard for the safety of fellow players or other dangerously aggressive behavior (such as significantly colliding into a stationary opponent), regardless of whether or when the disc arrives or when contact occurs is considered dangerous play and is treated as a foul. This rule is not superseded by any other rule.'
What this means is that any player may call foul if they believe they are being put in danger of injury by another player. That means that if two players are converging on the disc, and one of them hurls themselves in the air recklessly to get the disc, causing the other player to stop in fear of being injured, it's a foul. It is subject to the same foul/contest resolution rules. ie the player can agree their play was dangerous or disagree, but they must respect their opponents opinion that they were in danger.

Also keep in mind that the VUL is about enjoying Ultimate. No single play is worth risking an injury to your friends.

Too many players:
This is one that keeps popping up on the rules forum, possibly because there is no treatment of it in the USAU rules or VUL additions. In 7v7 a point should not start unless each team has the right number on the line, and there is no subbing during the point. But in 5v5-sub-on-the-fly rules, sometimes a little sloppy subbing can result in one team having too many players. Let me state what I think the treatment is:

If a team has more than 5 players on at any time during play, the call is 'violation'. Any player may make the call, play should stop and the player numbers should be corrected. If the extra player has benefitted the offense, it should be an immediate turnover.

If a turnover occurs and it is discovered that the defending team achieved the turnover with too many players, the disc should revert to the thrower, the player numbers should be corrected and play is resumed.

If the offensive team scores a point and it is discovered they had too many players, it should be a turnover at the last thrower, the player numbers should be corrected before resuming.

Turnovers for having too many players might seem harsh, but it's an incentive to maintain a proper subbing procedure. High five as you sub! Hopefully, this is one that won't come up too often.

Until next time,
Alan

nep By nep

Hi Alan. Nice to meet you here on the forums.

I disagree that there should be a turnover just for having an extra player on the field by accident. Penalties are in opposition to the spirit of Ultimate, which assumes that no one deliberately tries to break the rules. See https://www.vul.ca/comment/27147#comment-27147 for greater detail.

There are penalties in Ultimate.  Calling a timeout when you have none results in a turnover.  Being offside more than once on a pull gives the receiving team the disc at mid-field.  Those are just two examples.  I'm sure there's plenty more.

nep By nep

I see your point. But I didn't say there are no penalties in ultimate, I said they're in opposition to the spirit of ultimate.

The first paragraph of the rules says: "It is assumed that no player will intentionally violate the rules; thus there are no harsh penalties for inadvertent infractions, but rather a method for resuming play in a manner that simulates what most likely would have occurred absent the infraction."

I would argue that the time out turnover is as much an attempt to rebalance the playing advantage as opposed to a penalty (and it isn't called one, whereas in other sports penalties are called such -- 10 yard penalty, 2 minute penalty, etc.). And as for the disc at mid-field, I'd call that a penalty but that's only for games with observers, which are the higher competitive games, and which, again, I think require a sterner balance to the advantage of being ahead of the line -- in most play, it's not as big an advantage, so there isn't a corresponding balance....

VIII. Starting and Restarting Play
B. Pull:
4. Positioning before the pull:
e) In games where Observers are used, the Observers may monitor and call offsides as appropriate. The first instance of offsides for each team will result in a warning and a re- pull. After a team has received its warning, any further instances of offsides are treated as follows:
(1) receiving team offsides: receiving team starts with the disc at the midpoint of the end zone they are defending, after players set up and a check is performed.
(2) pulling team offsides: receiving team starts with the disc at midfield, after players set up and a check is performed.

Hi Nep,

Nice to meet you.

You raise a very good point. It is assumed that no player is deliberately trying to gain an advantage by abusing the rules. And, in most cases, I would expect no advantage was gained and players can err on the side of leniency by simply backing up the play.

But I will add that the defensive team is entitled to judge whether they have been unfairly disadvantaged by playing D against an extra player and 'what most likely would have occurred' may well be a turnover. For example, the extra player receives a pass in an unmarked position - strictly speaking, had they not been there, I'd expect it to be a turnover. In cases where the extra player had been on for numerous passes, perhaps handily beating the zone defense, then the defensive team may feel hard done-by, even though the mistake was unintentional. And admittedly, because it is most likely unintentional, figuring out who the 'extra player' is, is not straight forward.

Be sensible in resolving this (hopefully rare) case. And if teams disagree (ie foul-contest) the lenient approach of backing up the play and retaining possession should be applied, as you correctly stated.

Cheers,
Alan

nep By nep

Hi Alan.

"But I will add that the defensive team is entitled to judge whether they have been unfairly disadvantaged by playing D against an extra player and 'what most likely would have occurred' may well be a turnover."

This makes good sense to me, and I agree with it. Automatic penalty turnover, no; but often a turn-over, because often the defense believes (and the offense doesn't contest, and I think they'd have a hard time contesting...) that would be the outcome, yes... I like that.

(With the caveat, to try not to get bogged down in field discussion so we can all play lots. :)

So, just to clarify, we can or cannot call a dangerous play even if there is no contact? The rule states "regardless of...when contact occurs", which obviously implies that contact is necessary to be able to call a dangerous play foul.

As a rules nerd, I've struggled with this over the years, as the rule seems (to me) to clearly necessitate contact to be able to call the foul, but a player who sees themselves put at risk by a dangerous play must then allow contact to occur in order to not be disadvantaged by said reckless play? It just never made sense to me.

The other side of the coin, having a VUL-specific rule that eliminates the contact requirement of the rule, presents challenges of its own. Someone might make a dangerous play call if their perceived potential danger when in fact there wasn't any. We play a high-paced sport, often with small separations between players moving quickly. Sometimes players make poor spatial judgments that result in contact, but I would argue (anecdotally, of course) that the majority of plays in which players are moving quickly in close proximity are done so in a safe and controlled manner.

As a player on the larger end of the spectrum, there have been instances in my career where others have shied away from a play because they either heard or saw me coming. I empathise with their nervousness (as I'm sure there were instances in their past that didn't result in a positive outcome), but at the same time, there's a tricky line to determine what is worthy of a dangerous play call (unsafe play) and what isn't (safe play). At the end of the day, it's harder for outsiders to fully judge the intentions and level of control of another player.

It's a difficult problem to solve, as everyone should have the right to feeling safe when playing ultimate. If that means we remove the contact requirement, I think our sport would adjust, because no one play is worth hurting another person over.

A By A

I think this is good one to clarify. Re: if contact is required for dangerous play.

Or if someone was to do something perceived to be dangerous preventing another player to make a play on the disc, would that be a foul (so no contact at all).

I think it's the latter but I feel this could cause some disagreement on the field.

The Standing Rules Committee is very clear on the subject, as indicated in the annotated rules (http://www.usaultimate.org/resources/officiating/rules/11th_edition_rule...):

[Begin Quote]
Reckless disregard for the safety of fellow players or other dangerously aggressive behavior (such as significantly colliding into a stationary opponent), regardless of whether or when the disc arrives or when contact occurs is considered dangerous play and is treated as a foul.

(If no contact occurs, there is no callable dangerous play. Contact need not be severe.)

(The proper call in this case is "Dangerous Play." The caller should then briefly explain the grounds for the call. This call trumps any foul rules and should be used in situations where the play presented serious risk of injury.)

This rule is not superseded by any other rule.
[End Quote]

If the VUL is prescribing a modified ruleset, then (although I think that's a bad idea), the VUL needs to publish a modified rule and advertise it. Because under the 11th Edition, there is absolutely no question that you need to have contact before you can call a foul. You can call something else, but it's not a foul.

A By A

That is why I mention this rule needs clarification because if you look at the example Alaan posts

'What this means is that any player may call foul if they believe they are being put in danger of injury by another player. That means that if two players are converging on the disc, and one of them hurls themselves in the air recklessly to get the disc, causing the other player to stop in fear of being injured, it's a foul. It is subject to the same foul/contest resolution rules. ie the player can agree their play was dangerous or disagree, but they must respect their opponents opinion that they were in danger. '

emphasis on "causing the other player to stop in fear of being injured" that would indicate that no contact in needed.

Well, I presume Alaan is acting on this recent change to the Rules page:

[Begin Quote]
D. Miscellaneous

Footblocks are not allowed. If a footblock is attempted (successfully or not) by a marker within 3 meters of the thrower, the thrower can call a foul.

Fouls:NEW! Fouls include contact which takes place directly before, during or directly after either player makes a play on the disc.

Dangerous Plays:
From the USAU Rule Book on Fouls:
"Reckless disregard for the safety of fellow players of other dangerously aggressive behavior (such as significantly colliding into a stationary opponent), regardless of whether of when the disc arrives or when contact occurs is considered dangerous play and is treated as a foul. This rule is not supersede by any other rule."

Notes from the VUL on Dangerous Plays:
This means that if a player feels that their safety or that of another player is threatened, they are allowed to call a foul, citing dangerous play as the reason. However, there are many nuances to this rule that make it rather complicated to implement. See Rules FAQ for more information on Dangerous Plays.

Teams will receive formal warnings from the VUL if a complaint of dangerous play is made against them in a game report or in a separate email to the league manager. If a team becomes a repeat offender, the VUL may take more drastic courses of action which could include but are not limited to: fines, observers or official VUL representatives sent to games, being assigned a mentor, removal from the league.

[End Quote]

So no contact is necessary *in the VUL.* Again, although I think this is a bad idea for several reasons, it's nevertheless there. So it has to be much better advertised, and advertised as distinct from the 11th Edition.

Currently, it very deceptively says "this means that" when that is not at all what the 11th edition means.

This turned into a longer than expected reply. I have included a 3-point summary at the end of this post.

I'm glad this thread is prompting some discussion. There is a lot to reply to here but I hope that I can offer at least some clarification with my interpretation.

1.
First and foremost, I will state my interpretation of the USAU 11th edition rules. I believe it IS possible to have a foul when contact does NOT occur. The pertinent phrase in the previously quoted 11th edition rules paragraph:

'..... or other dangerously aggressive behavior .... is considered dangerous play and is treated as a foul.'

Dangerously aggressive behavior does not require contact. A blatant example is intimidating an opponent that is trying to catch the disc by yelling and causing them to cower in fear and drop it. But this also covers unintentionally intimidating situations where 2 players are moving towards each other for a 50/50 disc.

To repeat the scenario already discussed above: Player 1 leaves their feet, launching themselves vertically in an effort to get there first. Player 2 still believes they would have got there first, but pulls out of the play, avoiding contact because they think following through would cause serious harm to one or both players. Player 2 should make a call, stating they would have got it but feared for safety. Player 1 might contest if they don't think any harm could be caused, but at least they can ask their team-mates/opposition/spectators if they were acting recklessly.

I believe this to be a necessary interpretation because if it were not permissible to call a foul, player 1 might be rewarded for having the least regard for safety and player 2 penalised for successfully avoiding danger.

Also, I agree with atanarjuat that the call should be 'Dangerous play'. But it is "...treated as a foul." In practice, the call is usually:-
"Aaaah.....foul....pick...violation...something."

2.
Regarding the 'new rule' on the VUL website:
' Fouls:NEW! Fouls include contact which takes place directly before, during or directly after either player makes a play on the disc. '

I will be working to provide a better wording on this rule. It is a wording that has been adopted in the WFDF rulebook but to me it seems redundant and really needs some context.

Contact occurring before a play is pretty straight forward. Contact leading up to a catch can affect how the play turns out. Moving towards your opponent and bumping them (even unintentionally) before making a cut and getting the disc can be a foul if it put them off balance and they were unable to make a legitimate play. Oftentimes, this contact is light, not dangerous and players are jostling fairly for position. Depending on the players, they will often ignore the contact.

Contact during the play is usually handled appropriately. This is when most legitimate, unintentional fouls occur. When you're going for the disc and accidentally hit their hand, it's unintentional but still a foul.

Contact that happens after a play is often the source of ill will between players. When an overly aggressive player swats the disc away before landing heavily on an opponent, they sometimes cite 'incidental contact' as the reason it is not a foul because the contact happened after the disc was hit away from anyone's grasp. The addition on the VUL website makes it clear that this argument is NOT valid. If you make a legitimate play, you should be able to avoid harm to other players.

If you make a play where you are unable to avoid heavy contact with another player that had a legal position, you have fouled that player.

3.
In response to Injured Ninja. Sorry. I probably cannot clarify very much to 'rules nerd' level. And I'll be first to admit, an individual player's perception of dangerous play will be different than the next. But relying on player interpretation of an acceptable level of contact and aggression means that the game can be played with the same rulebook at multiple levels of competitiveness.

Ultimate is touted as a sport without referees, but the truth is that each and every player is a referee. The rules offer us a method to use the best perspectives to arrive at the correct ruling that matches whatever you want to get out of Ultimate (competitive dominance or beer after the game).

The VUL will often place players at each end of the spectrum on the field side-by-side. VUL policy will always err on the side of player safety.

-----

The summary:
1. If you feel you missed a play on the disc because you avoided a collision for safety reasons, call 'Dangerous Play'
2. Just because you swatted the disc away a full second before clattering an opponent doesn't mean you played legit.
3. Acceptable contact/aggression is regulated by players and is contextual. VUL holds safety paramount.

I'll confine my comments just to issue #1.

I'm sorry, but this is not a matter of opinion. Not only do fouls require contact by definition (See section II.E), but the XVI.4.H explicitly requires contact. It even says, unambiguously, as I quoted from the link above:

"If no contact occurs, there is no callable dangerous play. Contact need not be severe."

That is a direct quotation. From the USAU 11th Edition rulebook. There is no room for confusion here.

It seems that the USAU Rules committee has dealt with any ambiguity here. The phrase quoted by atanarjuat is visible in the annotations to the 11th edition rules. That link again: http://www.usaultimate.org/resources/officiating/rules/11th_edition_rule...

This implies that if you successfully avoid contact from a dangerous play, you are disadvantaged.

So what should you do to avoid an overly aggressive play by an opponent? I'd recommend still trying to avoid contact if you have the presence of mind to do so. If it is easy to avoid contact then, in retrospect, it may not have been such a dangerous play. If you are unable to take evasive action, find yourself bracing for impact or putting your hands out to stop the opponent colliding with you, then a dangerous play call is permissible and may be valid. "Contact need not be severe."