I have been playing Ultimate since 2001 and I have been lucky enough to attend all the big WFDF events since 2006. I love Ultimate. I love the throwing, the diving, the catching. I love the Ultimate community. One of the other things I love about Ultimate is that it is self-refereed. It’s about integrity and respect. I love when I explain the sport to people I can end by confidently saying: “and it’s completely self-refereed, even at World Championships”.
When the bronze medal match finished at the World Games last year I was despondent. I thought the game had been played in such poor spirit. I thought that the self-refereed nature of our sport had failed. It had failed to present itself as spectator friendly. It had almost failed to deliver a fair outcome. Something had to change. When I was able to watch it back again I realised it hadn’t failed as badly as I had first thought, but it had still failed. I think it failed on two accounts: discussions took too long, and the players didn’t seem to trust each other any more.
After World Games I was given the job of Chairing the WFDF Task Force to “Consider its Position on the Spirit of the Game and On- Field Officiation Issues for Ultimate”. Given my experience in Cali, I knew we had to look at a few different ways of dealing with these issues.
The USAU have a great system that is tried and tested to deal with these issues. And it is a much better system then a fully refereed system as it still keeps the vast majority of calls with the players. But it undoubtedly removes some of the responsibility from the players. I understand why this system is in place, but I believe that we can achieve similar outcomes without removing any of the players responsibility for making calls.
To achieve this, the Task Force came up with the idea of introducing a new WFDF Official – the Game Advisor. The overall idea behind Game Advisors is to provide players with support and advice to enable them to self-referee the game as efficiently and effectively as possible. The Game Advisors do not remove any responsibilities from the Players – Players and Captains remain solely responsible for making and resolving all calls.
The role of Game Advisors is based on the idea that no one maliciously intends to break the rules – they just forget sometimes in the heat of the moment and we need someone to be making sure they know about them and encourage them to comply.
The duties of Game Advisors at WUCC 2014 include:
- Closely monitoring rules regarding time limits and offside, and encouraging teams to comply with these rules
- Providing perspective on down calls and line calls, and clarifying the rules, when asked
- Providing warnings regarding incidents concerning the WFDF Conduct Policy, and referring incidents to the Tournament Rules Group.
The GA role could be slightly expanded for future events, if Congress approves the recommendations set out in the Final Task Force Report, but the Players would still retain sole responsibility for making and resolving all calls.
We recognised the importance of ensuring that the role was undertaking by suitably skilled and experienced people. As such Greg Connelly, Byron Hicks, Liam Kelly, Linda Kudo, and Shiellah Quintos have been recruited to undertake the role of Game Advisors at WUCC, all of whom have significant experience, in particular Byron and Greg who are heavily involved in the USAU Observer Program.
Given the small squad of Game Advisors we will have at WUCC, they won’t be used at all games. However they will be used in all showcase games and finals, and then in select games through-out the event.
The TRG Role has also been tweaked at WUCC to ensure they can be more responsive to address any possible issues. The TRG, like in previous years, has the power to disqualify a player or an entire team from any event or from the entire tournament, toalter or nullify the result of any event; or order an event to be partially or completely replayed.
I strongly believe that the changes that are being introduced at WUCC, and the additional changes that could be introduced pending Congress approval, will help to alleviate some of the issues we have seen in the past, while still maintaining the player controlled aspect. I am sure there are some parts of the Ultimate community who would rather just see the introduction of Observers, and others who would rather see no officials at all. I think what we have with Game Advisors strikes a functional balance between those two views, and I hope that for years to come I can continue to tell people about this sport that I love. And I can continue to end that conversation by saying that it’s completely self-refereed, even at World Championships.
The full Task Force report is here: http://www.wfdf.org/news-media/news/press/2-official-communication/593-wfdf-board-of-directors-approves-final-report-and-recommendations-of-spirit-of-the-game-task-force
The role of Game Advisors at WUCC is detailed here: http://www.wfdf.org/news-media/news/press/2-official-communication/596-wfdf-releases-updated-appendix-to-the-rules-of-ultimate