FINA Conference: Water polo must be modernised!


The FINA Water Polo Conference, a big convention, with 224 delegates from 107 nations, was closed in Budapest today. During the three-day event in the capital of Hungary, experts, athletes, coaches, referees, representatives of the FINA and national federations…  discussed the future of water polo.

Topics of presentations and discussions at roundtables, held during the conference, were: the proposals od the rule changes,  game improvement solutions, how water polo can become more attractive for the spectators, marketing solutions… Many ideas to reform the sport of water polo were discussed.

The conclusions of the  Water Polo Conference is clear. Water polo, the oldest Olympic team sport,  needs changes and to attract new audiences and those who have been our audiences for many years.

Maglione:  We must change now

Dr Julio Maglione

Dr Julio Maglione Photo:

FINA President Dr Julio Maglione at the closing press conference said:

“This gathering was fundamental to discuss the future of Water Polo!  The protagonists of our beloved sport – athletes, coaches and referees — but also those in charge of promoting, marketing and elevating the level of water polo, got together and came to a conclusion: We need to change.And more important: we must change now!” (source FINA press realise)

Maglione thanked the FINA  Technical Water Polo Committee and all experts for the extraordinary work for this organisation.

“The outcome of these discussions is that the dream of the water polo community may be a reality soon; to transform the game into an even more attractive experience, at all levels”.

Maglione also said that water polo had all the ingredients to be a great success. The sport is played in the water, has good-looking athletes, and generates passion and emotion.

“I believe we now have all the tools to modernise the game. To improve it. To take it to another level. To adapt it to the 21st century”.

Testing of new rules ends in October

One of the most interesting sessions of the conference was today’s presentation  “Game improvement solutions”.

A notable referee Mark Koganov, FINA Technical Water Polo Committee Vice Chairman, addressed the implementation of the new rule suggestions.

The new rulebook will be published before the 2019 World Championships, alongside a video rulebook, better explaining the rules. He talked about the sharing of information with all national federations, testing of the proposals with referees involved.

The suggestion is that the easy adjustments of the 21 suggested rule adjustments be tested first in, perhaps, 100 matches. Bigger-impact rule changes would need between 300-400 matches around the world within national competitions.  Testing will be finished in October. Tested rules will then go to the TWPC for analysis and eventually to a FINA Technical Congress. The final proposals from the TWPC will be in late October in time for the Congress in November 2018.

Major FINA events where testing will occur are the boys’ and girls’ youth world championships, followed by the two World Cups.

TWPC suggests more than 16 teams at the World Championships

Ken Kuroda, a Technical Water Polo Committee member, in session “New activities in water polo” presented the suggestion that the World Championship competition includes more than the 16 teams currently for men and women, possibly 20-24 teams with the schedule extended to nine days and preliminary matches played in different cities.

Up to 10 matches could be played in a day, up from the eight currently.

The World Cups, being staged these years, may have lost their lustre, but they do include qualification for World Championships.

Krikorian: Rules should be the least of worries

On the round-table discussions on Friday, selected experts, and national federation and continental representatives discussed the proposed new Water Polo rules and other possibilities of improving the game of water polo.

Keynote speaker Adam Krikorian, USA women’s coach, winner of 15 gold medals:

“We must move forward with a sense of urgency, but knowing that change does not happen overnight. This is clearly our moment and we must embrace it. Nothing we have discussed here should be surprising. We all have the best interests of our sport in our hearts. The past few days have given everyone momentum, he said. It is so important that we must push that momentum forward.”(source FINA press realise)

He said the rules “should be the least of our worries”. Some of the challenges include improvements to FINA and infrastructure to promote growth.


Water polo has to be more dynamic, 15-player rosters…

These are some of proposals and experts opinions that were presented at the Conference:


Dragan Jovanovic, Director General of the World Water Polo Coaches’ Association,  presented some of the most important proposed rules, which will be tested, including:

Moving the 5m line to 6m; allowing the goalkeeper over halfway; allowing corner throw person to drive in and shoot without passing; a delayed exclusion (before whistling, the referee can wait to see if the action leads to a goal. It is, in fact, a rule for advantage.); ball taken upfield within 10-15 seconds and not come back over the half; a maximum of two timeouts per match; a game video monitoring system.

Jovanovic also talked about two extra players in the team (15-player rosters)  for World League and World Cups, except in Olympic year.

He touched the introduction of wireless headsets for referees to communicate with each other and the delegate to save stoppage time

The wireless headsets for referees were already tested at the FINA Intercontinental Tournaments in New Zealand (Intercontinental qualifications for the World League Super Final) two weeks ago.

Ratko Rudic, four-time Olympic champion coach, said: “competition is the heart of the system”. Because of  that, the current FINA competition system should be reviewed at all levels. He said more national federations needed to be motivated to enter continental qualification. Development programmes need to be introduced to gain more youth engagements.

There were a lot of proposals for new rules, that were presented at the conference, as well as at in the last few years. Rudic agreed with “95%” of the water polo rules proposals. Rudic said the rules need refreshing, respecting traditions, but also to explore innovative ideas. He promoted the need to produce a video rulebook based on video material. There was also a need for a less static and more dynamic game.

Alessandro Campagna, Italy’s men head coach, suggested that FINA organise the first beach water polo world championships. (beach water polo rules are available on the FINA website).

With the IOC’s new rule of 11 persons per team at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, timelines were discussed that allow for testing of new rules and how the 13-player game would turn into 11 persons, especially for the competitions in the qualification series for the Games in Tokyo.

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