Draft of New Rules for Mid-2024


Rules is please to release our draft of the upcoming rule release. The draft of the changes is here: Draft Rules Changes

A summary of the substantial changes is here: Change Summary

After an initial release earlier this year in February, Rules looked at member feedback regarding our proposed changes, especially with regards to shoulder-strikes to the sternum area (colloquially know by many as “can-openers” or “sternum-busters”). After discussion, Rules will not be implementing any prohibition with regards to contact to the upper chest area or sternum.

Changes included in this release are as follows:

  • Sub-Headers added for additional clarity and ease of reading
  • Creation of the new penalty class: unsporting contact
  • New definition for Strike in the glossary
  • Inclusion of casebook entries regarding dangerous contact to teammates
  • Inclusion of illegal hold penalties (aka “pinning”)

Some notes regarding the changes:

  • The Misconduct penalty category has long been a “catch-all” bucket of all things illegal but that don’t fit neatly in the existing penalty categories. This change will create a new penalty category that houses these actions. Many of the contact penalties from Misconduct will be moving to Unsporting Contact. Misconduct will still continue to be home for non-contact based infractions and contact to officials. Officiating Education and Rules will be collaborating on updating the WFTDA Officiating Cue, Codes, and Signals document to reflect this change.

  • Rules Theory has always been of the opinion that dangerous contact to teammates is grounds for removal from the game. We presented this to membership a few years ago as a clarification and membership asked that this be put to a vote. We are including it in this draft of the rules so membership can vote on it.

  • We are also adding new sub-headers to the rules to make navigation of the rules easier and more practical. While most sections of the rules are untouched by the addition of the new sub-headers, we have had to reorganized some areas (i.e. grouping similar rules together).

Rules is intending these new change be put to vote in June with a July implementation date. This avoids distribution of the WFTDA Regional Championships take will be taking place in May and June, but gives plenty of time for teams to make adjustments for WFTDA Global Championships in November. Additionally, Rules feels these changes are not significantly substantial and should not require major adjustment by the teams and skaters.


ad 1.3.2: Could the second paragraph be changed to “The only officiating decisions that can be the subject of an Official Review are those made during or after the prior Jam, or during the Lineup Time preceding the prior Jam” aligning the wording of the rules with actual practice (and capitalizing the glossary term “Lineup Time”)?

ad 1.3.3: The Officiating Procedures released last week say exactly 30s of period at the end of a jam means no more jam. Now this rules update indicates that it means there is another jam. Can we please get this consistent? (And given that in CRG 30.0s looks the same as 29.8s and different from 30.2s, I’d suggest to make it consistent at 30.0s means no more jam.)

ad 1.5.1: “Lineup Time” is not capitalized. Same in 2.2.2 “Lead Eligibility”

Glossary “Lineup Time”: Should be: “The time between the end of one Jam or Timeout and the start of the next one.” Otherwise timeouts would be part of lineup time (and people might get ideas about displaying a lineup clock during timeouts :speak_no_evil:).

Glossary “Role”: For consistency with the rest of the rules the skater roles should be Jammer, Pivot, and non-Pivot Blocker.


Clarification question for @darthbling

You mention

But then in the updated casebook scenario C4.1.5.A it states

Keep in Mind: Strikes are not limited to only the point of the knee. Forceful jabs or punches using the shoulders or elbows are also considered Strikes. This is true regardless of whether the target zone of such a strike is legal or illegal.

These two statements seem contradictory.
Is there just not specific language being used to call out can-openers etc and they’re not legal? Or does the Casebook need to be updated, because based on the above Keep in Mind they are to be interpreted as NOT legal, but they ARE legal?


The draft rule changes and change summary still includes the language making chest strikes a penalty, while the overall post seemed to say they would not take up that change? Please clarify

Also - are the changes being approved as a single vote ?

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I’m also still reading this document as illegalizing all strikes with all body parts, including legal blocking zones. The current ruleset only prohibits striking with the elbows and knees (which are both illegal blocking zones). To me this would still illegalize can-openers. To fix it (and not have the rules be changing), section 4.1.5 should add the bold part: “Intentional and forceful strikes with the elbows or knees;”.


First I want to applaud the rules committee for reading and hearing and taking feedback from membership. It takes humility to do that and I know from my time on Rules and Cert and Competitive Play that the best and most dedicated volunteers produce these as labors of love, and to have parts of them criticized is really really hard so, bravo for being able to iterate like this!

My notes are as follows. Of course this is mostly critical but please also note that I love everything I don’t mention. :slight_smile: Noting also that, anything I said in the prior post that wasn’t addressed, I’m assuming y’all just decided not to.

  • Rules change: Today, if one pivot IS touching the line and the other is NOT, the latter pivot must line up behind the former. In the new ruleset, that is no longer required (2.2.6)
  • “A Jammer becomes ineligible to earn Lead during a Jam if they commit a penalty during that Jam or the lineup time before that Jam” this appears to mean a “late hit” penalty by the prior jam’s Jammer would disqualify that Jammer from earning lead in the subsequent jam.
  • “Blocks on or by Blockers which have impact while there is no Pack should be ~immediately~ penalized.” Is this intended to be a change, which would encourage pack referees to reform the pack prior to issuing these penalties? Or is this understood to NOT be a change because ALL penalties should be assessed immediately anyway?
  • “It is legal for Jammers and Pivots to either leave the track or adopt a down position to retrieve an out-of-bounds helmet cover” → it’s also legal for Pivots to intentionally leave the Engagement Zone to get the helmet cover, right? So could we just say “it is legal for Jammers and Pivots to intentionally adopt an unblockable position in order to retrieve the star” to simplify and catch-all?
  • 4.2.2, adding the phrase “Cutting one single teammate” doesn’t really make sense because there is no OTHER discussion of when to penalize that behavior. Maybe this should be moved to the Casebook? Or if not, we should more fully clarify the scope of impact, rather than implying it by saying what isn’t impactful: “Cutting an opponent or more than one teammate should be penalized.”
  • The new Unsporting Conduct section: “Forceful contact which to an Official, where that contact is negligent or avoidable” – this should really be any forceful contact to anybody BESIDES teammates/opponents during gameplay, right? Where would contact to a coach, to a fan, or to a teammate/opponent in the bench area while a jam is not on, be categorized?
  • I would strongly strongly recommend updating the rules to make it legal to “hold” a fouled-out blocker rather than putting them in queue, since officials are now required to violate this rule as part of the standard practices. I would just add one sentence to the new " Timing Skaters Removed From Play" section at the end. “A blocker who is removed from play should not be placed in the queue; they should be held standing until a seat becomes available.”
  • “the Head Referee’s responsibility to oversee the safety of all participants during a game” – this is a rules change, and I strongly object to it. Roller derby is not safe! It is dangerous as heck, with broken fingers, legs, feet, ankles, and concussions all over the place. Putting this into the ruleset leads to overzealous officials who think that it’s OK to penalize legal action. I believe the idea here is that “unexpected behavior,” i.e. stuff that is outside the bounds of normal gameplay, is what you’re trying to say the HR is responsible for controlling. I agree with that but I think we need to make it clearer that normal gameplay is itself unsafe but that that’s ok. The way I explain this to new officials is to use consent language. The officials ensure that everybody gets the game they consented to by signing up to play. That includes a lot of unsafe stuff, which they consent to. But beyond the game, if there is additional unsafe stuff that they did NOT consent to, it is the officials’ job to ensure that it stops, is penalized, etc.
  • I also don’t understand what “without the necessity of an expulsion” means. I assume this means they’re cut from the roster but there’s no penalty assessed to someone? How would we time them? Would the be allowed to stay in the bench area? Would they be allowed to cheer? I think the idea here is good but I’m not sure it’s prudent to create a third class of “removed from play.” Maybe we could just say this is an expulsion without an additional penalty, i.e., to say “this all adds up to an expulsion but the penalty for it has already been served.” Because they would legit be being expelled, colloquially, right?
  • Ceding in the glossary, refers to “Fully Out Of Bounds,” but the glossary definition is “Out Of Bounds (Fully)”. Those should probably be aligned.

(Heading out now, will read the casebook sections tomorrow!)

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I took this to mean, a skater that is unsafe for the level of play (i.e. unstable and constantly falling over) but the concerning actions aren’t penalisable so couldn’t be upgraded to an expulsion cos there was no penalty. But that is my personal interpretation of what I read.

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Same. And regarding how to treat them: I’d apply the same procedures as for a skater who had multiple jams called off for injury - the only thing that changes is that they may not be sent to the track. Otherwise they are treated like any other rostered skater.


Muffin wrote: " * Rules change: Today, if one pivot IS touching the line and the other is NOT, the latter pivot must line up behind the former. In the new ruleset, that is no longer required (2.2.6)"

I do not believe this is correct. The rules as written now state that only NON-pivot blockers must line up behind pivots touching the line:

“If either Pivot is positioned touching the Pivot Line at the Jam’s start, all Non-Pivot Blockers must be behind that Pivot’s hips.”


Muffin wrote: " * 4.2.2, adding the phrase “Cutting one single teammate” doesn’t really make sense because there is no OTHER discussion of when to penalize that behavior. Maybe this should be moved to the Casebook? Or if not, we should more fully clarify the scope of impact, rather than implying it by saying what isn’t impactful: “Cutting an opponent or more than one teammate should be penalized.”

This is not an addition, and is the language present in the rules now.

@Smasher about “non-pivot blockers”: Rereading things, I agree with you now.

@Smasher about “cutting one single teammate”: This text already exists, but it’s being moved. My feedback is about “where to move it.” My opinion is that it seems out-of-place in its new location, and that the better place to say it would be in a casebook entry. (I do not feel very strongly about this.)

@Speedy & Sin: if this is the case I think we should phrase it as, “In instances where a Skater has repeatedly proven to be a significant safety concern to themselves or others on the track, the Head Referee may use their discretion to prevent that Skater from participating in future jams, and may also require that skater to leave the bench area as if they had been expelled.” Or something like that.

My request is to clarify which components of “an expulsion” are within the HR’s discretion. Preventing further play is obvious, but the others are less obvious.

CASEBOOK NOTES! (I have to make one big post b/c the new forums don’t allow three consecutive posts.)

Notes on the casebook!

C4.1.5.A is also in discord with Bling’s statement that Rules is no longer trying to illegalize the canopener. It is a rules change to make all pointy bits illegal to strike with, whereas currently it’s only elbows and knees. If that’s the intent so be it, but I do not understand how this wouldn’t just be secretly banning the can-opener using more generic language. Please don’t read me as sarcastic here, I’m just confused.

Scenario C4.1.5.H. Recommend removing the phrase, “, contacting White Pivot’s head” from the scenario, as it adds ambiguity. Or, address the ambiguity in the Keep In Mind. But if I am correct that the action described is clearly expellable, even if they hit the white pivot legally, chest-to-shoulder, then we don’t need to add the “head” aspect. (The head is also not mentioned in the Rationale/KeepInMind).

Scenario C4.5.1.I. In my view this should be a scenario of when TO penalize teammate-on-teammate contact, with a keep-in-mind about when NOT to. As written, this just says “one thing that was never a penalty is still not a penalty,” so I don’t feel like the case is informative. I’m also not sure where the line would be where hitting an opponent in the back would ever rise to this standard. A flying leap, probably…like H, but what if it’s my teammate I’d hit?

C4.2.1.N. Recommend rephrasing the rationale and keep in mind to say “unblockable position” rather than down position. “Down” is clear from the scenario but as written it seems to be less extensible than intended.

C4.3.E. In my view, the first sentence of the Rationale belongs in the Keep In Mind, because it is not “about” the outcome. It is also redundant with C4.3.N so in my view it can also be removed.

C4.3.O and N and E are a little bit weird together. E makes sense because it is forceful and avoidable. That is also true of O. I don’t see how E and O are different because the same rationale is applied in the same way. O also adds a new (unneeded) rationale about “did the official expect it,” which is odd to me because the official ALSO did not expect it for N! But N is normal gameplay and for unexplained reasons, O is not? O also has a bit in the rationale that is not about the scenario, about an official who is off skates. My recommendation is to add the scenario from O as a second example in a keep in mind for E. Or at the very least…align the rationales or explain why the rationale is different here. Then, remove O or replace it with a separate example about contact to someone not wearing pads.

I agree the phrasing isn’t clear with the intention of the HR being able to remove from play for safety. (urgh words)

Re C4.1.5.A - Isn’t generically wording the rules kinda the point? We don’t say “You can’t punch someone in the head”, we say “contact to the head is illegal” cos that’s covers more “stuff”, including “punching people in the head”. I feel like it covers the can-openers without adding in a really problematic illegal target zone. Again I think it’s the particular wording isn’t clear - leaving more up for interpretation globally depending on how things are read.

I agree with the opinion that the language used is too vague regarding which strikes are prohibited, which contradicts the statement about not making can-openers illegal. The rules under sections 4.1.5 and C4.1.5.A should clearly specify which body parts are involved in ‘intentional and forceful strikes’ to avoid any ambiguity


“It is legal for Jammers and Pivots to either leave the track or adopt a down position to retrieve an out-of-bounds helmet cover” → it’s also legal for Pivots to intentionally leave the Engagement Zone to get the helmet cover, right? So could we just say “it is legal for Jammers and Pivots to intentionally adopt an unblockable position in order to retrieve the star” to simplify and catch-all?

Per 4.2.1 (“nor may Blockers intentionally leave the Engagement Zone”), currently I believe it is not legal for Pivots to leave the EZ to retrieve an “out-of-EZ” helmet cover (Star or Stripe).

Expulsions have other negative consequences not desired in this case. In sanctioned play, they require a meeting and a lengthy form to determine whether to recommend suspension. But avoiding paperwork is just a side effect here.

The main point is to allow the officials to say “The very presence of this skater on the track is unsafe, and we are removing them from the game for that reason.” At present, officials do NOT have that latitude under the rules. If a coach says, “No, we’re keeping this skater on the track,” then the only option the officials have is to end the game entirely.

It isn’t necessarily associated with a specific action, and it isn’t intended as a punishment, which is why it isn’t necessarily associated with a penalty or an expulsion. The point is to PREVENT someone getting their leg broken by an obviously unsafe skater WITHOUT having to wait for it to happen.

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Thank you to Rules for all the work, and for looking at member feedback! Had some thoughts upon review I wanted to share.

I would like to +1 all previous comments that stating that Rules will not be implementing any prohibition to shoulder-strikes seems at odds with the actual updates proposed. While a Target Zone (sternum/chest) is no longer proposed in the Rules updates, there is still a significant change with the addition of “shoulders” in the definition and prohibition of Strikes.

The definition for Strike states “Forceful contact made to a Skater using a focused blocking zone”, but then includes multiple examples that do not meet that criteria: hands (punching), elbows, and knees are not included in the Rules definition of Blocking Zones. The inclusion of shoulders in this definition results in a significant change as it introduces a legal blocking zone that, depending on how it’s used, can become illegal.

I disagree with the opinion that these changes are not significantly substantial and should not require major adjustment by the teams and skaters. I think the introduction of the Strikes definition and prohibition on its own is not insignificant for skaters to adjust to. I also think there are a few other areas that are not trivial - Scenario C4.1.5.F introduces expulsion as a result of pinning. I don’t necessarily disagree that we should review these potential updates, but I am hesitant to agree that a July implementation gives plenty of time for adjustments prior to WFTDA Global Championships. Teams (not all, but some) are still struggling to get games. Let alone quality, sanctioned-level games with full officiating staff, across multiple crews, let alone across regions to allow proper calibration of how calls are being made with a very new Rules update. Some teams will have no chance to see how other crews/regions are calling games post-Rules update until they get to Global Championships.

I would like to ask if there is a possibility of separating certain updates into independent votes. I think a lot of the updates can be voted in without much issue, but I would be hesitant to approve the update as a whole with the proposed timeline.

For quick reference of the changes mentioned in this post

From the Glossary
Forceful contact made to a Skater using a focused blocking zone with the primary intent of causing harm or injury. Examples include but are not limited to punching, jabbing with elbows, pointed and direct contact with the shoulder, or hits with the point of the knee

From 4.1.5:
Legal means of blocking do not include pinning or holding an opponent, even if the contact is made using legal Blocking Zones. Skaters who restrict opponents in this way should be penalized based on how the contact impacts a receiver’s safety. Intentional Strikes, such as using a shoulder to Strike the upper chest or an elbow to jab at an Opponent, should be penalized regardless of impact to the Target

From Scenario C4.1.5.
Red Blocker initiates a shoulder-to-shoulder block against White Pivot. As White Pivot moves laterally, Red Blocker adjusts and places their leg in front of White Pivot’s leg so that the back of their upper thigh initiates to the front of White Pivot’s hip. White Pivot leans over and traps Red Blocker’s thigh between their upper arm and body and does not release the contact when Red Blocker attempts to remove their leg.

Outcome: White Pivot is expelled from the game.

Rationale: Restricting opponents by intentionally trapping or grabbing is considered outside the realm of normal gameplay. Grabbing an opponent’s leg in this way is an additionally dangerous and unsporting tactic, as it directly affects a Skater’s ability to balance and maintain a safe skating stance.


This has been issued as a clarification last November, so is already in place.

But I agree that strikes with the shoulder being illegal is a significant change that should be a separate vote.

Based on the clarification, I was under the impression that pinning was a misconduct penalty and that trapping someone’s shoulder and exerting downward force was an expulsion.

My team has shared the same concerns about introducing pinning as an expulsion. Additionally, they have stated that it seems that this would be allowed already under the language that a head ref can expel players for play that is negligent, intentional or reckless. There also aren’t many scenarios that require an immediate expulsion. The team has expressed concern that naming the move specifically instead of simply calling it when reckless and intentional (as currently specified) may lead to the expulsion of blockers that are pressed in the middle of a wall, or other scenarios which look similar to or do actually result in the pin in ways that are clearly neither intentional or reckless.

To add to this concern, some players have also mentioned that this penalty has not always been called consistently. Specifically in scenario where someone is blocking with their arm in front of the jammer and their leg behind but not actually grasping or pinning the jammer. The jammer could disengage and they didn’t try and fail to disengage. I’ve attached a picture from a recent mixer as illustration.

Raising this to expulsion seems like a significant adjustment since in practice it hasn’t been called consistently.

Could we vote on this expulsion separately than the other rule changes?

We share the other outlined concerns about shoulder strikes. This would be a major change in gameplay and if the intent is to eliminate them, could we single that out to vote on separately?

Lastly, we share the opinion that these changes are significant enough that implementing them in July would present challenges. We have the same issues with fully staffing games and it will be hard to implement changes in gameplay and see consistency with a mid-season rule change of this magnitude.

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Are you referring to this clarification? Rules » WFTDA Roller Derby Resources

Sorry, I was having trouble finding the update publications and finding what dates they were released. If it was this one you were referring to, I would agree with CrashMountain’s follow up comment that we were under the impression that pinning could be a misconduct penalty per ref discretion - which actually seems to imply it’s not always penalty worthy. The exertion of downward force was the only portion which mentioned expulsion.

The new casebook entry seems to indicate that there is no penalty for pinning - that if it has impact, it is expulsion worthy.

You’re right, I got things mixed up there. The clarification did introduce expulsions related to pinning but not this specific scenario.

I’d still consider this expulsion in line with current rules based on 1: pinning is illegal and 2: dangerous illegal play is expulsion worthy as per several other cases. But without the new casebook entry it is not clear that pinning a leg should be considered dangerous.

C4.1.5.E has a non-expulsion penalty for pinning. I read C4.1.5.F as stating that pinning specifically the leg is expulsion worthy due to being illegal and dangerous. A keep in mind stating that pinning the arm would be a non-expulsion penalty might be helpful here.