WP20 Ordinary Fouls

WP 20.1 It shall be an ordinary foul to commit any of the following offences (WP 20.2 to WP 20.16), which shall be punished by the award of a free throw to the opposing team.

[Note. The referees must award ordinary fouls in accordance with the Rules to enable the attacking team to develop an advantage situation. However, the referees must have regard to the special circumstance of WP 7.3 (Advantage).]

WP 20.2 To advance beyond the goal line at the start of a period, before the referee has given the signal to start. The free throw shall be taken from the location of the ball or, if the ball has not been released into the field of play, from the half distance line.

WP 20.3 To assist a player at the start of a period or at any other time during the game.

WP 20.4 To hold or push off from the goal posts or their fixtures, to hold or push off from the sides or ends of the pool during actual play or at the start of a period.

WP 20.5 To take any active part in the game when standing on the floor of the pool, to walk when play is in progress or to jump from the floor of the pool to play the ball or tackle an opponent. This Rule shall not apply to the goalkeeper while within the goalkeeper’s 5 metre area.

WP 20.6 To take or hold the entire ball under the water when tackled.

[Note. It is an ordinary foul to take or hold the ball under the water when tackled, even if the player holding the ball has the ball forced under the water as a result of the opponent’s challenge (figure 3). It makes no difference that the ball goes under the water against the player’s will. What is important is that the foul is awarded against the player who was in contact with the ball at the moment it was taken under the water. It is important to remember that the offence can only occur when a player takes the ball under when tackled. Thus, if the goalkeeper emerges high out of the water to save a shot and then while falling back takes the ball under the water, the goalkeeper has committed no offence; but if the goalkeeper then holds the ball under the water when challenged by an opponent, the goalkeeper will have committed an infringement of this Rule and if the goalkeeper’s actions prevented a probable goal, a penalty throw must be awarded under WP 22.2.]


WP 20.7 To strike at the ball with a clenched fist. This Rule shall not apply to the goalkeeper while within his 5 metre area.

WP 20.8 To play or touch the ball with two hands at the same time. This Rule shall not apply to the goalkeeper while within his 5 metre area.

WP 20.9 To impede or otherwise prevent the free movement of an opponent who is not holding the ball, including swimming on the opponent’s shoulders, back or legs. “Holding” is lifting, carrying or touching the ball but does not include dribbling the ball.

[Note. The first thing for the referee to consider is whether the opponent is holding the ball, because if the player is doing so, the player making the challenge cannot be penalized for “impeding”. It is clear that a player is holding the ball if it is held raised above the water (figure 4). The player is also holding the ball if the player swims with it held in the hand or makes contact with the ball while it is lying on the surface of the water (figure 5). Swimming with the ball (dribbling), as shown in figure 6, is not considered to be holding.


A common form of impeding is where the player swims across the opponent’s legs (figure 7), thus reducing the pace at which the opponent can move and interfering with the normal leg action. Another form is swimming on the opponent’s shoulders. It must also be remembered that the foul of impeding can be committed by the player who is in possession of the ball. For example, figure 8 shows a player keeping one hand on the ball and trying to force the opponent away to gain more space. Figure 9 shows a player in possession of the ball impeding the opponent by pushing the opponent back with the head. Care must be taken with figures 8 & 9, because any violent movement by the player in possession of the ball might constitute striking or even brutality; the figures are intended to illustrate impeding without any violent movement. A player may also commit the offence of impeding even if the player is not holding or touching the ball. Figure 10 shows a player intentionally blocking the opponent with the player’s body and with the arms flung open, thus making access to the ball impossible. This offence is most often committed near the boundaries of the field of play.]


WP 20.10 To push or push off from an opponent who is not holding the ball.

[Note. Pushing can take place in various forms, including with the hand (figure 11) or with the foot (figure 12). In the cases illustrated, the punishment is a free throw for an ordinary foul. However, referees must take care to differentiate between pushing with the foot and kicking – which then becomes an exclusion foul or even brutality. If the foot is already in contact with the opponent when the movement begins, this will usually be pushing, but if the movement begins before such contact with the opponent is made, then this should generally be regarded as kicking.]


WP 20.11 To be within two metres of the opponents’ goal except when behind the line of the ball. It shall not be an offence if a player takes the ball into the 2 metre area and passes it to another player who is behind the line of the ball and who shoots at goal immediately, before the first player has been able to leave the 2 metre area.

[Note. If the player receiving the pass does not shoot at goal, the player who passed the ball must immediately leave the 2 metre area to avoid being penalised under this Rule.]

WP 20.12 To take a penalty throw other than in the prescribed manner.

[Note. See WP 23.4 for method of taking a penalty throw.]

WP 20.13 To delay unduly when taking a free throw, goal throw or corner throw.

[Note. See note to WP 16.2]

WP 20.14 For a goalkeeper to go or touch the ball beyond the half distance line.

WP 20.15 To last touch the ball that goes out of the side of the field of play (including the ball rebounding from the side of the field of play above water level) except in the case of a defensive field player blocking a shot over the side of the field of play, in which case a free throw is given to the defensive team.

WP 20.16 For a team to retain possession of the ball for more than 30 seconds of actual play without shooting at their opponent’s goal. The timekeeper recording the possession time shall reset the clock:

(a) when the ball has left the hand of the player shooting at goal. If the ball rebounds into play from the goal post, crossbar or the goalkeeper, the possession time shall not recommence until the ball comes into the possession of one of the teams;
(b) when the ball comes into the possession of the opposing team. “Possession” shall not include the ball merely being touched in flight by an opposing player;
(c) when the ball is put into play following the award of an exclusion foul, penalty foul, goal throw, corner throw or neutral throw.

Visible clocks shall show the time in a descending manner (that is, to show the possession time remaining).

[Note. The timekeeper and referees must decide whether there was a shot goal or not but the referees have the final decision.]

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