More Rule Changes?

Posted by

After the, shall we say, debacle of the last lot of attempted rule changes (ie they changed the ball handling rule and then rescinded the change before it took effect), it appears there are more suggestions on the table, some of which I’ve heard about it, some not, and a few of which are ridiculous.

The linked report suggests the following proposals.

  • Require servers to land behind the end line
  • Back row attackers must land behind the 3-meter line
  • Eliminate open-hand tip
  • Eliminate overhead serve receive serve
  • Penalties for a missed serve
  • Free substitution – any player can sub for any player at any time
  • Any contact with the center line is a violation
  • Any net touch by an athlete is a violation
  • Decrease the number of points per set

Before I make any comments, I would like to state categorically that I love volleyball.  I think volleyball as it is played now is more interesting, more dynamic, more exciting and is a better spectacle than it has ever been before.  It is just better in every way. I suggest anyone who thinks otherwise take a tour through, there are plenty of old matches linked there now. The reason volleyball is better, is the combination of rules, techniques and tactics.  I think that many of the alleged ‘problems’ with volleyball, no longer exist, or at least exist to a much lesser degree than is often supposed.  For example, the old bugbear of the length of rallies (ie the balance of offence and defence) doesn’t really hold anymore.  Offences are getting close to their limits and defence is catching up fast. The recent World League finals showed that clearly.  Plus, and this is the point everybody overlooks, rallies are interesting because they are ‘rare’.  What makes the game interesting is the balance between shorter and longer rallies.  I would contend that balance is pretty good right now, and I think the technical and tactical evolution of the game are pushing volleyball clearly into an era of longer rallies.  But if we have to talk about rule changes, let’s…

Landing behind the line – This idea has been around for as long as the jump serve and backrow attack have existed.  I think this would be a nightmare to adjudicate.  The referees would have to stop watching the ball and net in order to keep their eyes on the feet of the players after they have played the ball.  They would then call faults that occurred away from the area that every single spectator (and the TV cameras) is watching. I dare say this would lead to quite some confusion, not too mention innumerable missed net and touched called.  I can’t think of anything that will affect the flow of the game more.  Please stop talking about this.

Open Hand Tips – I am dumbfounded.  The only possible reason I can think of for this one is to standardise the rules between indoor and beach volleyball.  If you take out the tip and more importantly, the possibility of the tip** in women’s volleyball the 2012 Olympic final might still be being played.

Eliminate Overhead Service ReceptionI don’t agree with this one. I don’t agree that allowing overhead reception makes the game ‘uglier’ or is less ‘skillful’ or is less ‘traditional’.  For one thing, it affects such a tiny proportion of rallies (ie rallies with both overhead reception AND a possible ball handling violation).  The problem, as I have said before, is that it makes the spectating and officiating of the game more complicated by having different rules for different phases of the game.  I don’t like this, but I could live it.

Penalties for Missed Serves – The only reason to propose this is to deflect attention away from debating a rule change they are seriously contemplating.  Because this is not serious.

Free Substitution – I understand this one. Substitutions negatively affect the flow of the game. However, to allow free substitution would fundamentally change the game in a way it has not been changed before. Fundamental to volleyball is that every player must ‘play’ every position. Even allowing for the specialisation that we have, this is the rule that makes volleyball the team game that it is.  This would need to be debated very carefully.

Centreline Faults – To address the injury point, I would guess that at least 50% of ankle injuries that occur are as a result of landing on a player from your own team.  So I think that part of the debate is misleading.  I would also add that as a proportion of the number of jumps at the net, ankle injuries occur pretty close to 0% of the time.  Think of the thousands of jumps, in training and games, between injuries.  If the reason for changing this is injury prevention, I don’t think it is a valid reason.

Net Touches – I may be in the minority, but I find it impossible to get my head around the idea the current net fault rule is more difficult to officiate than before.  Net faults can only occur at a small section of the net. If 2nd referee is watching only that part of the net, as they should, they can see net faults. Every time the net moves but you don’t see a net touch, don’t blow your whistle. Problem solved. Next.

Number Of Points Per Set – I refer back to my response about missed serves, and wonder why this one is the last on the list.  Could it be because we have spent so much time debating the other that we are too tired to bother with this one, the one that is the only one actually being considered?  European League tested sets to 21 this season, together with timed periods between serves.  I have heard that this rule change is a certainty, with the reasoning that it makes the games slightly shorter to fit into TV time slots and that it standardises indoor and beach volleyball.  But after 1000 words, I don’t have the energy to think about whether it is good or bad…


**The possibility of the tip dictates that defences must play a particular way.  If there is no possibility of a tip, defenders can change their positions and be more effective at defending spikes. 



  1. I can say from my own perspective that in the German third or fourth league centre line faults are a big issue. I can say that attackers do not even think about their own or opponents health and simply fly over the centre line at every set that is too close to the net. The consequence is that the block is more and more afraid of the oncoming attackers and reduces their own intensity. Which leads to more and more sets placed right on the tip of the net. It´s easy to score when no real block is in the air.

    I am a huge fan of the “no contact with the centre line rule”.


    1. I am not at all convinced that the problem you describe could not be addressed under the current rules. If the players are really ‘flying over the centreline’, that is already a fault. It should simply be whistled. And it should be easier to whistle because that 2nd referee should be less concerned with net touches.
      If the problem is enforcement of the rules, then correct the enforcement.
      And if you have a setter who has such good control, he should be playing first league, not third 😉


      1. I agree if the hitters are really landing on the blockers and interfering with them playing the ball then it obviously a penetration fault covered by rule 11.2 and 11.4.2. It appears that the second referees are not doing their job.

        What is the timed period between the serves? The rules allow 8 seconds once the first referee gives the signal to serve. With a multiple ball system I wouldn’t imagine that there would be more than 15 seconds between the previous point ending and the next serve occurring. Of course the delay could be longer if there was a time out or a substitution.

        The interesting one with the various net touch changes over the year is that have gone from all touches on the net being a fault to the current situation where it is only if it interferes with play, which is usually the hitter playing a ball too close to the net and dragging the net down or the blockers get over zealous and touch the net whilst trying to block. I think I prefer the current ruling and I have been instructed to only call a net touch if it is a significant one, using the rule of thumb if the person in the back row of the stadium can see then call it. With the proposed video referral system this would make calling this stricter.


      2. I don’t recall exactly, and I didn’t see the matches, but I think they were blowing the whistle exactly 10 seconds after the end of the previous rally.
        The interpretation of the net fault rule that I understand is that only net touches on the top of the tape are faults. Every other contact is considered incidental, unless the player gains an advantage from the action. That is, there are very, very few judgement calls.


      3. Yes, enforcement is one problem. I believe that simply forbidding to touch the centre line would be much easier then correcting the enforcement. Most refs (on our level) deny to watch where they should… And here in the north they are happy if they can send two refs for a game. So no real enforcement here 😉


      4. I don’t understand how changing the rule will improve the enforcement.
        If the referees are already not looking at the centreline, how will changing the rule suddenly make them look at it?


    2. I agree with Mark on the centre line rule. I coach mostly young players and have huge problems with players jumping right under the net, dangerously. But the issue isn’t with the rule, the issue is with the coaching and officiating that they have received up to that point, along with, dare I say, their peers not vigorously encouraging the player in question not to play so dangerously!


      1. I agree with you and Mark mostly. Right now changing the rule probably wouldn’t help. I was just thinking that by forbidding to touch the centre line, the players would have a more clean and obvious rule to obey. The actual rule is clear enough for me but obviously not so easy to follow for many players and refs. But probably you are right that it’s already too late for this change.

        Anyway: removing the old centre line rule in my opinion was a very dangerous idea and I still Can’t think of a good reason to do so.


  2. I liked the 10 seconds rule. It makes the game more attractive in my opinion. 21 points is too short. Net mistakes are good the way they are now. Referies must be less “technical” in my opinion, let the players play ! If spiking 3m line is too hard to defend, they should try a 3m50 line This idea of not landing in the 3m line or behind the base line is absurd. Stop jumpservice, do it like in tennis. As it was before, foot to the ground is a better solution. Not that I want to see jump service out of the game.


  3. Interesting subject. I agree with Mark and Claudio for most part: 21 is too short and a 3.5 m line would be interesting. Jump service is ok, the tendency is already moving towards less risk in serve by medium speed serve or jump float. I would suggest to leave our beautiful game “as is” for most part and would suggest only two real changes to make the job of the referee easier: (i) in my opinion the first ball in the rally should be completely free to promote rally play. As long as it is not catched it is ok. (Ii) when blocking the ball it is allowed to touch the net for the block as long as the net is not pulled or forced down. Since there is a net, it will not be possible to reach over too far without pulling it down.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s