Hey Ref! An ‘Official’ Q&A

By Barry Faguy

HEY REF! I heard that there are new rules as of January 2014. Is that true—and will that cause any changes to the way we play?

It’s not so much new rules as it is new wording, though a few minor changes to some provisions were made. The rewording itself is an attempt to clarify things by simplifying the English—especially in areas that were the object of the greatest commentary or questions over the years. One big wording change is the removal of all the formal guidelines appendix—something I lament greatly. I would actually have liked to have seen an expansion of the guidelines, given the countless questions that we can come up with about the rules (but don’t get me started on that subject).

In any case, among the provisions that have changed, one concerns the call made when a serve is not good; the word ‘Fault’ is now used for all of them. This means that, in so far as the serve is concerned, there is no longer a call of “Foot fault”, “Out”, “Down”, or “Not up”.

Another change falls under the ‘Contributed’ category of injury, where the previous allowance of one hour was reduced to fifteen minutes—but with an additional fifteen-minute break being an option. Also, the ‘Opponent-inflicted’ category was softened a bit to acknowledge the accidental nature of some of these—and so allowing the injured player fifteen minutes to recover. This contrasts with the current provision where, should the injured player require time to recover, the match would be forfeited by the player who caused the injury.

Finally, the ‘Interference’ rule has been restructured such that the provisions are grouped by the form of interference that occurred, rather than grouped by the three possible decisions— all in the hope of making decision-making easier.

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As benign as it may seem, even something as small and unobtrusive as a band being worn around a knee for tendon issues can cost you a point if it falls on the floor during play. If it was noticed and your opponent stops, a stroke will be awarded to them.

HEY REF! My opponent won a crucial rally but, immediately after, we noticed that she had lost her watch in the middle of it and no one noticed it. Shouldn’t I have been awarded the rally?

Interestingly, with the 2014 edition of the rules, the provisions regarding ‘Fallen objects’ now have their own rule title instead of their former place in the rule dealing with continuity of play. In any case, its principles haven’t changed and, unfortunately, you’re out of luck. The decision you were hoping for applies only if the object is noticed during play and play is actually stopped.

It’s worth noting that a small addition was also made to this ‘fallen-object’ rule. It now allows the non-striker to ask for a let should the racquet be lost by contact with the incoming striker—whereas previously, the non-striker was up the creek without a paddle (er…I mean, without a racquet!).

HEY REF! An injury occurred when I was reffing a match. It looked to me like an opponent-inflicted one but I was confused. When exactly should I consider an injury to be in the opponent-inflicted category?

The rules (including the new edition of 2014) have always given us a clue about some of this by using the words “deliberate or dangerous play or action” to describe actions that qualify. An example might include an injury caused by the striker taking a swing at the ball knowing full well that the opponent is in the way; another is one that results from football-style barging clearly meant to displace the opponent. Examples like that are sometimes seen when we have two players who are clearly antagonistic towards each other— sometimes actually ‘gunning’ for each other. Then, we also have players whose style of play is just like they were bulls in a china shop.

We previously mentioned that the 2014 rules have added the sub-category of “accidental” to opponent-inflicted injuries. No details are given, but I’d suggest that a reasonable approach is to use this characterization when the injured player was not involved in any form of interference. An example might be a player being struck by a racquet that has flown out of the opponent’s hand; another might be when a player is hit by the ball, but while clearly out of the ‘danger zone’.