As the roller derby world turns the page to a brand new year, the pages that define the flat track game will look the same as they did in the old year.
As a result of a change to its rules revision cycle, the WFTDA will not be releasing an updated version of its Rules of Flat Track Roller Derby for this season. The January 1, 2015 version of WFTDA rules will continue to be used in WFTDA and MRDA games, and as the base of JRDA junior roller derby rules, through 2016.
The next update was originally scheduled for December 2015. However, during the year WFTDA membership voted to move to a two-year cycle for discussion, testing, and implementation of rules, replacing the bi-annual cycle the WFTDA had been using for most of its history. The organization will review their progress later this year, hoping to release the next rules version for the 2017 season, on December 1, 2016.
The WFTDA has been wanting to switch to a two-year rules scheme for some time, though this is not the first time it has tried making the change.
Until the end of 2009, WFTDA rules were fast-evolving and required two updates a year. After the mid-year 2010 rules update, the WFTDA announced it would switch to a two-year cycle, as it is doing now. Unfortunately, the ruleset that was locked-in was broken and filled with game-breaking loopholes, giving rise to the “slow derby” gameplay that drove many fans away from the sport. The WFTDA would be unable to address these problems in the rules for the 2½ years following.
After getting some desperately-needed rule updates in 2013 and 2014, and settling on a much more stable January 1, 2015 version of the rules, the WFTDA feels the time is now to try for another two-year plan.
However, the plan isn’t going off without a hitch.
In November 2014, ahead of the impending December 2014 rules update, the WFTDA announced that there would be a change to the rules regarding skater numbers. These requirements, which would simplify numbers and make them larger on jerseys, were to be implemented along with the December 2015 WFTDA rules update.
Except, there is no December 2015 rules update!
Despite this, the skater uniform number rules will be changed as originally planned, but instead as a sanctioning requirement. This means teams playing in WFTDA and MRDA sanctioned games, mock-sanctioned games for WFTDA Apprentice leagues, and strength-factor ranking challenge games for newly-ranked WFTDA members must immediately abide by the new jersey rules.
Everyone else out there that uses WFTDA roller derby rules — league home teams, recreational leagues, independent leagues, black and white scrimmages, etc. — are fine with their current jerseys for the time being, since current WFTDA rules do not have such a requirement.1
But it does mean that the official WFTDA rule book is now in direct conflict with official WFTDA sanctioning requirements. Though uniform regulations are a pretty minor place for this to happen, it’s still something that needs to be dealt with as a consequence of not being able to edit the text of the rules more frequently.
On the other hand, giving players and teams more time to feel out the current rules, and the WFTDA more time to collect member feedback on how the feeling out is progressing, may be just what the doctor ordered at this point in the history of WFTDA rules.
We’ll see what comes of the shift in rules policy throughout the year, and in the anticipated next version of WFTDA flat track roller derby rules 11 months from now.