Loaded Question

Recently I asked a question of the general readership: “Should important WFDF games include Observers?”

I admit that I phrased the question in a vague manner as it doesn’t state (as a reader pointed out) what “important” is.

With WUCC coming up it is plausible that most readers consider games held in Prague to be important or perhaps finals games to be important enough to consider adding Observers. In the context of UPA finals the addition of Observers to every match is plausible but perhaps not financially viable, hypothetically speaking.

Let’s take a moment and look at the numbers though:

[poll id=”2″]

Officially (as official as this blog can get) a majority of readers are against Observers in important WFDF games. While the result is in favour of “No” the “Yes” side was initially leading due to North American readership participating initially.  The pattern in voting linked to geographic location highlights yet another difference between the UPA and WFDF zones.

Europe (excluding UK)
United Kingdom
North America

It’s interesting to note that the UK votes follow the World average in their opinion of Observers.

I will admit that the question was sufficiently vague and was primarily a way to get people thinking. Speaking of thinking…I got to thinking how open WFDF members would be to Observers. While almost universally every non-UPA/CUPA (now USA Ultimate and Ultimate Canada respectively) member was against Observers a commenter pointed out that it wasn’t too far in the past that WFDF allowed for and defined Observers.

In this document from the WFDF website you’ll find the following:

  • 404.15 Officials
    • A. Definition: A number of non-playing officials may be involved in a game of ultimate. Such officials include time-keepers, score-keepers and observers. Their role is to assist the teams, not to enforce the rules. A single person may perform multiple official duties.
    • B. Time-keeper. A single time-keeper may be appointed to signal time elapsed between points, during time-outs and to signal the start or end of a playing period.
    • C. Score-keeper. A single score-keeper may be appointed to keep score and indicate to the captains the completion of a half, the game, the number of time-outs used or remaining, or the fact that the game has gone into overtime.
    • D. Observers.
      1. At their discretion, the captains may agree upon up to six experienced individuals, who are not participating in the game, to act as observers. The duty of the observer is to carefully watch the action of the game for the sole purpose of rendering a decision in the event of a dispute that cannot be resolved. Observers shall remain passive and shall not make any calls on their own initiative.
      2. When a dispute arises which cannot be resolved by the players involved or their captains, the observers may be called upon by the captains to make the call. The observer with the best view of the play makes the call. If the observers so choose, they may discuss the play among themselves before rendering a decision.
      3. By calling in the observers, the teams agree to abide by the observers’ decision.
  • E. Sanctioned Events: Score-keepers and time-keepers shall be mandatory at all WFDF-sanctioned events.

The latest version of the rules rely entirely upon players to make calls apart from instances that involve turnover situations (2009-03-14 rules section 1.10):

Rules should be interpreted by the players directly involved in the play, or by players who had the best perspective on the play. Non-players, apart from the captain, should refrain from getting involved. However for calls relating to “out-of-bounds” and “down”, players may seek the perspective of non-players to assist them to make the appropriate call.

That paragraph belies the fact that sometimes (in practice it’s most of the time) that an off-field player has best perspective on a play and that they should be allowed to make a call.  In the context of in or out of bounds rulings an Observer is not needed as most of the time the right call is made by the players involved or those on-field.  Should a disagreement arise then players that were standing on the line can be asked for assistance.  It’s rare that a player not on the field will be involved but there is ample reason to believe that a fair ruling would result should said player be asked.

In the grand context of WFDF it is simply a matter of time before Observers are reintroduced.  As the sport evolves and North America exports their style and brand of aggressive Ultimate the need for Observers will become apparent.  There will be much gnashing of teeth and rhetoric from both sides but the explosive growth of our sport will necessitate the need for eyes watching our feet while we watch the disc.

[Update] You can find a related article on the subject above here:  http://iamultimate.com/2010/06/quite-the-perspective/

Turning to a different topic here’s the latest poll:

[poll id=”3″]

4 thoughts on “Loaded Question

  1. “In the grand context of WFDF it is simply a matter of time before Observers are reintroduced.”

    I am not sure how you have drawn this conclusion. As the Chair of the WFDF Ultimate Rules Committee I am not aware of any such push for Observers to be reintroduced for WFDF.

    • I have three reasons as to why I see a push in the near future:
      1) North Americans play with Observers and may start to push for them to be included as they start to attend International tournaments in greater numbers.
      2) From conversations with competitive players around the World I’ve asked the question directly as well as had extended conversations with the players. Right now it’s very ideological but those that play the style of Ultimate that the US has exported tend towards wanting Observers.
      3) It’s very much a matter of the North American style of Ultimate being exported Internationally. The Spirit surveys coming out of WUGC 2008 shows how players are getting more aggressive in play and it may behoove the Rules committee to take note of the changing game.

      On another note: I would enjoy analyzing the Spirit surveys for the US, Canadian, South American, and British teams (or all of the surveys in general).

  2. “That paragraph belies the fact that sometimes (in practice it’s most of the time) that an off-field player has best perspective on a play and that they should be allowed to make a call.”

    Players may ask for advice from off-field players, but the responsibility to make a call still lies with the Players. They can choose to ignore this advice.

    • I’m troubled that a player may choose to ignore the advice. By asking for advice from off-field players a player indicates that they did not have best perspective and those that they are asking do have best perspective. Ignoring any advice means that they are deciding that the perspective (even if it’s the best) is irrelevant if the advice is not to their suiting.
      Shouldn’t the call be made by the persons that have best perspective? Isn’t asking for advice from an off-field player the same as asking a non-active Observer?

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