Water Polo Analysis

FINA Postpones New Water Polo Rules Debate


FINA will not debate or vote on the proposal of water polo rules’ reform during the Technical Congress in Budapest on July 13rd: they will postpone any decision to another future congress, probably in October. The news leaks directly from FINA: on next July 11th, the executive committee in Budapest will propose to defer the debate about the water polo rules and then that proposal will have to be approved by the FINA Bureau on the next day, July 12th.

That move is motivated because FINA fear that the proposal about water polo reform can be rejected at the Technical Congress, due to the large opposition of water polo community and of the European Federations led by LEN.

Also, the Technical Congress comes a few days before the FINA president election, scheduled for July 22nd: LEN President Paolo Barelli is running against the current president Julio Maglione.

Therefore the reform of water polo rules has not yet been retired: FINA will start again the discussion after their presidential elections.

COMMENTS BY RUDIC- In Budapest, during the Fina Congress, the new water polo regulation will also be voted.

We coaches have always been against this reform for a specific reason: it has never been supported by any technical proof, no data has been collected about these new rules. I think they will only damage water polo.

Meanwhile, IOC has already included 11-player rosters in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic program.

It must be made clear that the IOC has just approved what was proposed by FINA. FINA reduced the number of water polo players in order to insert more swimming competitions. It’s a bad decision and water polo community will oppose it. We’re open to cooperate with FINA, but not this way.

“-This is what I have been saying all along. FINA is responsible for the 11 man rosters, not the IOC. It had nothing to do with gender equity; it had to do with promoting and adding new swim events. ”

Quotes from Dragan Jovanovic

Former Yugoslav international player and Canada’s head coach, Dragan Jovanovic is today the executive director of the World Water Polo Coaches Association (WWPCA), as well as one of the most involved people in analyzing the rules changing which will be discussed at the Fina Congress in Budapest. We talked with him about the 11-players rosters inserted by CIO and FINA in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic program.

“I will only speak in my name: soon WWPCA will give an official statement about this topic”, Jovanovic said.

Mr. Jovanovic, what will be the consequences of the 11-players rule?

It will have multiple effects. First of all, the injury rate will increase: I’m just supposing it because no studies have been conducted about. FINA should have involved experts and players and they should have verified the rules in different competitions.

How would the game change?

That rule could affect on performance: a water polo with fewer players can not be a better water polo. The proposal of Fina also contains fewer moments of rest for the players during the game (just 3 minutes in the middle interval and only 2 time-outs instead of 4, ed.). Fewer players and less resting are two elements that don’t match with a good show. It’s a contradiction. Physical demand will increase and game speed will be lower because the players will get tired earlier. More tiredness means less movement but also more physicality. Over the last 20 years, water polo community has been talking about giving more dynamism to the game: we’re going right in the opposite direction. And there is more.


These rules will also damage the development of water polo. Having 11 players rosters and the limit of 3 exclusions we risk that many teams could end their games with less than 7 players in the field: is that the way to promote our sport? Furthermore, water polo is the oldest team sport in the Olympic program, but it has fewer athletes than any other team disciplines. I don’t want even to comment that, it’s clearly a mistake.

Do you think the water polo community should resist to that?

I think that before to approve these rules, Fina should hear some experts: coaches and players must be invited by Fina to speak their opinions. The WWPCA will soon give an official statement: it will be supported by people who spend every day along with the players on the pool deck, who have been studying the game for years and who have spent their own lives in this sport. None of them were consulted. It looks that the European federations, led by LEN, want to oppose the new rules. I was at LEN Congress in Marseille and in Budapest, during the Final Six. Many things have been said, but I haven’t seen yet an official declaration (but Len has published a statement on its website, ndr). LEN should take a leadership role against the new rules.

Part of FINA welcomed the 11-player roster as a great success because it allows increasing the number of female teams at the Olympics to 10.
I agree to increase the female teams at Olympics, but not this way. The matter is that there are no water polo people inside Fina, swimming people is governing everything. And they keep us in darkness: so far we only knew rumors about these changes.

How can water polo get out of that situation?

We suggest to postpone all the decisions and to seriously test the new rules. No sport in the world has ever made such radical changes without first evaluating them. FINA tested a set of rules for two years, then they have presented completely another set that has never been tried.
Are you worried about the future of water polo?

Yes, I absolutely am, and many people are too. We have devoted our lives to waterpolo and we aren’t against the changes, but they must be founded on true data.
“Ahh, the future of water polo! I have been saying this for the past 2-3 years; but nobody listens. It took the decision by FINA to have 11 total players to finally wake everybody up and see that FINA doesn’t care about the future of water polo.”

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