The International Swimming Federation (FINA) has voted to introduce a video refereeing system to water polo “to identify and sanction incidents of brutality and extreme violence” that would otherwise go unnoticed.
The change is one of several that were approved by a vote of 161 to six at the Extraordinary Congress in Hangzhou prior to the start of the World Short Course Swimming Championships in the Chinese city.
It was also agreed that goal-line technology will be introduced where available, with FINA President Julio Maglione saying change is necessary to improve the sport and help it keep pace with what is offered elsewhere in “a very competitive sport international environment”.
“With your support, we will certainly be successful in enhancing water polo activities throughout all our National Federations, making this game a bigger attraction to the children and youth wanting to play this game in the five continents,” he told delegates at the Congress.
Maglione added that many of the changes were proposed after a “serious reflection” on the game.
“Meanwhile, some changes were made, but we needed, with the contribution of the water polo community, to do more in order to align this discipline with what is currently offered in a very competitive sport international environment,” he said.
It is not uncommon in water polo for infringements to go unnoticed as they occur under the surface of the water where the referees find it hard to see what is happening.
In an interview with the New York Times in 2016 two-time Olympian Natalie Benson said incidents including kicking, clawing and wrestling often go unpunished.
It is thought the new “video monitoring system” will help stamp out such incidents.
In all 12 new rules were approved by the Congress, including the use of audio equipment by referees.
Another states each team in a match may now request two-time outs at any point while they are in possession, while one states a penalty foul must now be awarded if a player swimming with the ball inside the 6-metre area is attacked from behind while trying to shoot.
That is unless the attacker only touches the ball.
In another change, a goal may now be scored from a free throw awarded outside the 6m area, from a direct shot, while another says the possession timer will reset to 20 seconds after various scenarios including a corner throw, a rebound or an exclusion.