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The Epidemic that is the Official Review

Let me start out by saying that I'm not going to mention what WFTDA Sanctioned game I was watching last night because I don't want to throw these specific officials and coaches under the bus. It's been happening more and more throughout the WFTDA and last night was just taken to its logical extreme.

There was a point in the first half where there was an official timeout/review/whatever at least 8 jams in a row for no other reason that I could see other than a coach coming out to the infield to complain about a call. It happened at least 15 total times in the game. Name me one other sport where this kind of clock stoppage would be allowed.

It's not just coaches/captains at fault, though. Refs sometimes call multiple official timeouts on their own to discuss calls and they can drag on for 5-10 minutes with no roller derby being played and even derby-savvy fans having absolutely no clue what is being discussed. Refs, you either saw something or you didn't. The longer you take to make a decision, the less likely it is to be the right one.

Yes, of course I want every call to be accurate but if it comes at the expense of grinding gameplay to a halt and disenfranchising fans, it's not worth it. People came to watch roller derby, not to be confused by a bunch of people in black and white stripes. If they wanted that, they'd go to mime performance.

The rules state:

2.6.4 Referees may call an Official Timeout at any point. This will stop the clock so that
referees have time to review a call or adjust the number of skaters on the floor. Officials must stop the official period clock between jams when time exceeds
thirty (30) seconds.

9.2.10 In the event that there is a disagreement regarding a referee’s call or scoring, only the
Captains or their Designated Alternates may discuss the ruling with the referees. Skaters,
coaches or managers may act as Designated Alternates.
9.2.11 Official Review: A team request for a review of a referee decision. A Captain or Designated Alternate requests an Official Review by asking the
Head Referee for a timeout. The Head Referee, in order to allow the Official Review, can grant a team
timeout, take an Official Timeout (not charged to either team, see Section 2.6.4),
or decide to wait until the end of the period. The Head Referee will never wait
until the end of the final period. During the Official Review, all referees will conference with both Captains. The Captain requesting the review will explain the grievance. The Head Referee will investigate the grievance with the other referees, and
together determine merit. The Head Referee will announce a decision. This decision is final.
9.2.12 A team may be granted up to one Official Review per period.
9.2.13 Official Reviews must be requested before the following jam starts. Only the immediately
preceding jam is subject to Official Review.

Obviously, a good ref unit that is enforcing the rulebook will not be caught in this trap. But, as we know, not all refs are created equal. Essentially, coaches and captains can go stand in the infield and force an official timeout. The next jam will not start with a coach in the infield and refs are forced to stop the clock if the jam does not start in 30 seconds. I guess the head ref at this point figures "well, we already stopped the clock, let's talk about this call" instead of sending the coach/captain(s) back to their bench like they should've done before they stopped gameplay. Pretty soon, that sets a precedent that any call can be argued and I guarantee that if you give a coach that kind of freedom, they will use and abuse it.

Here are two things that absolutely need to be added to the rulebook. Every attempt should be made to keep official timeouts as short as possible.

9.2.14 Captains and Designated Alternates may not leave the bench or track to speak with the referees unless requesting an official review or calling a timeout.

This leaves end-of-game situations a little wiggle room if a long official timeout needs to take place to be certain that best call is made. It also keeps coaches and captains from stopping play just by entering the infield for 30 seconds.

Something has to be added to the rulebook or better refs need to be trained because if this continues to happen, roller derby games will start taking 3 hours to play and no fans will be left by the end of it.

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