Shorter penalty time part of recent WFTDA rules changes

by Jim Almy

Flat track derby teams all over the world are going to find one aspect of their game changing drastically when the new Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) rules changes take affect April 1.

The amount of playing time a player has to sit out during a jam when called for a penalty will be half as long, thirty seconds instead of the full minute presently in use. Coaches and officials with the Rat City Rollergirls were in agreement over the effects of that change to penalty time — it will increase emphasis on defense; scores will be lower.

Photo by Jenny Evans

“There won’t be as many power jams,” said Derby Liberation Front Coach Dan Barnett. “More teams will be at full strength for more of the bout. It will cut down on the scoring.”

The rules changes will not be in effect for this Saturday’s (March 15) bouts at KeyArena. RCRG Chief Marketing Officer Jessica Ivey, aka Scarlet Leather said that, “We are currently reviewing how we want to implement the new rules, and officials are preparing for the change by studying and practicing the new rules set at weekly scrimmages. They will not be in effect for this Saturday.”

The local league has some wiggle room when it come to the new rules as they apply to WFTDA sanctioned bouts and not the home team bouts which the RCRG have played in the first half of their season.

“There is currently discussion among the league about whether we should play under the new rule set for the Championship Bout in April – we are not obligated to play under this rule set since our home teams are not playing WFTDA sanctioned bouts (only our All Star team does),” said Slamburger Patty, Director of Media Relations.

The rules re-writes, which happen annually or as the association deems necessary, are all adjustments of the guidelines which already control play. These include a change in the review process; needed clarification of the passing-the-star procedure; a fine tuning of the definition of line ups as they deal with false starts and yielding; who gets penalized when a multi-player block link is called (the initiator of the link or the linker closest to the referee); some easing of what constitutes being out-of-bounds to cut the track; a volume of tweaks as to what can be called out-of-bounds during regular play; added clarification of jammer penalties; and a new, some think overdue, rule about flopping or diving.

Teams are going to be allowed two official reviews per period if the head official determines that an officiating error was made when the first review is requested. Previously, the rule was only one review, no second chance, no matter the outcome of the challenge.

A common mindset of everyone interviewed — once it is decided to use the new rules set there will be no break-in period.

“The rules are what they are and we need to enforce them to the best of our ability. The fastest way to learn is to get called for doing it wrong and learning from that. To be quite honest, the changes are not that huge and, in most cases, are more forgiving to the skaters,” said Reed d’Rulz, Head of RCRG’s Non Skating Officials.

Officials will hold a question and answer session for all skaters to help with the information flow. Head Referee Sir Osis said that, “At Rat City, we will hold an off skates training/rules session for the players once they decide exactly when the switch will happen. Most of what ‘changed’ in the rules set are clarifications of wording and aligning of terminology.”

The new rule set is available online at the WFTDA website ( and no matter when RCRG has the new rules take effect, skaters, coaches and referees alike have begun studying the changes.