The 2017 Rules of Ultimate

Working through the changes so you don’t have to!

A draft version of the 2017 rules documents is available for discussion.

The next update to the official rules of ultimate is coming soon and recently a draft version of the new rules document has been released for public discussion.

An important goal of the updated rules is to minimise the number of differences between the WFDF rules and the USAU rules. With this in mind, most of the changes are simply rewording or re-clarifying existing rules without changing how they work. However, there are some rather notable changes which I will go through and give my thoughts on. Although I am a WFDF Game Advisor (and will be calling on some of my experience to form my opinions), all opinions are my own.

The lesser changes

Let’s start with some of the smaller changes.

  • Firstly, games will be played to 15 points rather than 17 (Rule 4.2).

Games to 17 did feel slightly too long.

  • You are now no longer offside, on defense, for leaning over the endzone line with your feet behind the line (rule 7.4).

In practise we never considered a player to be offside unless they had a foot well over the line anyway.

  • The stall comes in at stalling 6 after a “pick” call!

This fact is now explicitly stated in rule 9.5.4, for clarification. Note also that a contested stall-out still comes in at stalling 8 (not stalling 9!).

  • In section 10 of the draft rules we now have to say “in play” rather than “disc in”.

Not really sure why that change was made…

  • Rule 16.3 now explicitly states that, as the thrower, if you call foul and then throw away anyway; this is a turnover.

This situation does come up from time to time and often results in a discussion. There should be no discussion. It’s a turnover.

  • Standing up is still not a travel (assuming you stay roughly where you were).

You can read about this in detail in rule 18.2.4.1. Again, not a rule change but there was some confusion about this rule.

Some interesting changes to the pick rule occur in section 18.3. Games involving lots of picks are not fun to watch; or play in. So to try and minimise pick’s:

  • You are now allowed to delay your “pick” call by up to 2 seconds to see if the pick affects the play. Moreover, during a stoppage we can now adjust our positions to stop picks occurring once play restarts.

Hopefully these changes will make the game flow a little better, but they might take some getting used to before they are used effectively by most teams.

  • Timeouts are now 75s long, rather than 2 minutes.

Unfortunately you can still take timeouts as the thrower during a point, but we can still dream.


The Big Changes

There are a few changes that will have a larger impact on the game.

  • Firstly, the pre-stall is coming to WFDF (rule 8.5).

For those of you not aware of this term; the pre-stall is the time the intended thrower is allowed to take to pick the disc up and set their pivot after a turnover.

If the thrower takes too long, a defensive player within 3m of the intended pivot point can start the stall count. In this rule set the intended thrower has 10s if the disc is in the central zone, 20s if the disc is in the endzone.

This rule already existed in championship events but now even your local pickup games will have the pre-stall! So don’t waste time walking the full length of the pitch to pick up the disc, because you will be stalled out.

  • A subtle change is coming to rule 13.4.1 (the double-touch turnover rule) which now says that a turnover only occurs if you “catch” your own throw rather than “contact” your own throw.

This means that after messing up your up-wind backhand pop to your dump, you can now get involved in the resulting sky battle! But only if you mac the disc on to a teammate. I don’t imagine this situation to occur particularly often, but it is most definitely a rule change so that is why I list it under “big changes”.

A much needed, and welcome change, to the way uncontested defensive receiving fouls in the endzone work is being introduced in a change to rule 17.2.2.

Image there are two offensive players and one defensive player in the defending team’s endzone as the disc is thrown towards one of these offensive players. Suppose the defender fouls the receiver of this throw (before they catch the disc) as the other offensive player is just standing and watching, and suppose this foul is uncontested.

In the old version of the rules, the receiver and the defender would walk to the front of the endzone and then check the disc in. This leaves the other offensive player unmarked in the endzone for an easy score.

  • In the new version of the rules, the receiver will gain possession of the disc where the foul occurred (inside the endzone) and this is where the disc check will be checked back in. However, a goal has not been scored! So rule 14.2 applies and the player with the disc must walk back to the nearest point on the front of the endzone.

Finally, the biggest change to be introduced in the 2017 rules:

  • The “contact” marking infraction now resets the stall count to stalling 1 (rule 18.1.3.1).

This is a huge change. Previously, contact was rarely called — despite being the most common marking infraction. Rueben Berg has stated that this change was made to converge with USAU.

Although it seems strange to change the contact rule but not any of the other marking infractions (even though they all have a large impact on your ability to throw the disc) this one change will ensure that markers respect some of the other infractions. It is quite difficult to wrap, for example, without causing contact while the thrower pivots.

Having said that, all marking infractions can be contested so I do hope that we don’t find ourselves in a situation where throwers are looking for contact and markers are contesting and having long discussions about the issue on a regular basis. The rule appears to work in the US so I hope the same it true for the rest of the world.


One Last Interesting Change…

To close, I thought I would bring up one final change which may spark some debate.

  • Rule 13.4 now says that no equipment which “provides and unfair advantage” may be worn. Does this include gloves…?

(Answer: gloves are still fine, but I’m sure that won’t stop some people from kicking up a fuss anyway.)

To close, we should note that these changes are not final until the official document is released. These are just draft changes, we will have to wait and see if any further changes are made.