New Rules Plus A Rule Proposal

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Today the FIVB finally released the rules of the game for 2013-16, thus confirming and refuting some of the rumours that have been floating around since the Olympics.
The confirmations are pretty clear. The rules for the first contact after the serve have indeed changed. From next year a double contact will no longer be allowed when taking the serve on the fingers. The second confirmation is the use of cards in sanctioning. The yellow card will now be shown as a warning without the loss of a point. A point will only be lost after a red card. The change in sanctioning will have zero effect on the game. The change in service reception will have a huge effect.
The first effect will be in officiating and therefore also in playing and spectating the game. By making the rules different for different types of first contacts, the only possible outcome is confusion. In the heat of the moment referees will whistle a free ball reception as a fault even though the rule for that has not changed and players will go mental. Or when they do not whistle it, the players will go mental. Overall the pressure on officials will only increase and spectators will be confused because no one has taken the time to explain be difference. This will have a negative impact on the spectacle of the game.
The second effect is mostly unknown. It will change tactics in the short term. I am confident we will see the return of the two receiver formation as more or less standard in men’s volleyball. It will improve reception in the medium term as players get better at receiving float serves exclusively with their arms and they practice it more. Which leaves the long term. Two receiver formations could lead to more float serving which could lead to reception as an individual skill becoming relatively more important than spiking which could lead to more receiving (i.e. smaller) outside hitters. Or it could lead to high ball hitting becoming more important and teams effectively using two (big) opposites along with one receiver plus libero. Or it could lead to something completely different.
The rumoured rule changes that didn’t change were changes to the centre line rule and to the screening rule. Both of those would have been welcome. The changes to the net touch rule have led to dozens more centre line infractions being called. This does not add to the spectacle of volleyball. Quite the opposite in fact as no spectator has ever seen the blocker go under the net when he turns around and is therefore even more surprised than the blocker himself. And the screening rule has become quite ridiculous. Virtually every team systematically screens the server. They are not subtle about it. I suspect at least half of all serves are technically faults. I am not against screening per se, for reasons that I won’t go into now. The ridiculous part is that it happens so openly and is never called. I think the spectacle of the game would be improved if both of those rules were scrapped altogether.
The philosophy behind the actual changes made was to bring indoor and beach volleyball more in line with each other. That makes me smile a little bit because I am old enough to remember that the reason the ball handling rules were originally relaxed was to bring them in line with beach volleyball. But it does bring me to my proposal for the next rule change. In beach volleyball, the scorers indicate which server is due to serve (don’t get me started) to ensure there are no rotation errors which reduce the spectacle of the game by eliminating a rally. In indoor volleyball, players are required to remember the service order for themselves. But they are allowed to ask at any time for the correct rotation, whether they are serving or not. This affects the spectacle by allowing players to waste time through incessantly asking for the rotational order. If the scorers table showed the current server, teams would no longer be able to pretend to be dumb, I mean waste time.
Just a thought…


  1. I’m a bit puzzled as to why you think the 2-passer system will come back due to the rule changes. I thought that three passers became common because of the improvement in serving, rather than anything to do with the passing rules.


  2. I have to agree with Alexis with that. I think the jump serve is here to stay and so we’ll need to keep three passers available in every rotation (same as we always did before we could use our fingers). I think we might see a slower outside ball because it will become easier to push a front court receiver towards the baseline in reception and slow him/her down for the attack.


  3. The 3-passer system is used a lot because of the quality of current float serves. It is effective because of the ball handling rules that allow receivers to stand relatively close to the net, therefore closing off many of the angles that the servers have.
    For many receivers, the float serve is more difficult to receive than the jump serve. They are able to get by by standing up in the court and using their hands to receive a lot of balls effectively. The lack of angles available means that it is often very difficult get at this receiver.
    With no hand reception, the first thing that will happen is that the receiving line will go back one step. When they are further back, there are more angles open to the server, particularly those involving the weaker 3rd passer. This receiver will therefore be much more exposed and will need to receive more float serves, and with his arms.
    If this receiver is exposed, I’m pretty sure many / most teams will be better off receiving with two.


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