World Water Polo Referees Association

Meeting with Chairman of FINA TWPC, Mr. Gianni Lonzi

Dear Colleagues,
The new season has started and pressure on the Water Polo Rules and Referees is higher and higher, and we would like to review the instructions from last season.


Our goal remains: “LESS IS MORE”.

Please pay full attention to whistle only important fouls. Until now we have reduced the number of whistles with less interference in the game, but still we can see many occasions, when fouls are rewarded unnecessary.

Head under the water is not a foul. Movement by the attacking player (head or body) into defender is offensive foul! (Contra Foul). Simulation cannot be awarded with a foul in favour of the player who commits simulation.

“Ordinary fouls should be awarded only if an attacking player loses possession of the ball as a result of the foul. Full advantage should be used throughout the game and the same when awarding ordinary fouls”.

On the other hand, a referee cannot allow a player who was fouled to lose possession of the ball. Jumping over head, holding, sinking and two hands up, are fouls. Delaying in awarding fouls can cause many problems E.G: defender gets the ball, pushes the ball away, the ball must be returned, action is stopped.

“In pressing we have many situations, where defenders have no intention to get the ball and they commits fouls directly on the body of attacking players in these occasions the referee cannot wait with the awarding of a foul and this foul must be awarded immediately”.

So how to approach the awarding of fouls?

Ordinary fouls are around 75% of all whistles in a game. The referee’s concentration must be the same, as when they are controlling the centre-forward position. Every foul is important. Referees must see the intention of the player:

  • Is the defender’s intention to get the ball or to commit a foul?
  • Is attacker’s intention to play with a ball, to score a goal, to put ball in to play, or to get a foul?

When we recognize the intention of the player and follow the rule our decisions will be better and correct.


WP20.1  NOTE: The referees must award ordinary fouls in accordance with 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).


Offensive foul are important decisions! It is not just an ordinary foul, because with this call, we take possession of the ball from one team and give it to another. Fouls should be awarded:

  • Influence on the game
  • Persistent fouls (holding, playing under water, pushing)
  • When ball is in the area (means in attack)
  • Dangerous play (elbows, movement with head)

Offensive fouls must be clear and visible and of course important for the progress of the game.
Don’t call offensive fouls when fouls are NOT important for the game, and nobody understands what happened:

  • Ball is far away, (action is going somewhere else)
  • There is no chance that centre-forward can get the ball (deep zone)
  • When players jostle for position
  • When a foul has no influence on the game

Again the referee must protect the action, and must reduce unnecessary whistles and follow advantage rule.
“Referees must see all fouls but award only those, which have an effect on the game, or the action. Advantage must be a priority part of water polo”.


Like players, referees should practice as well. It is extremely important to practice, to stay in good shape and to try all the instructions in a practice game before an official game. Referee’s behaviour must be under control at all times. We must respect all
participants in our sport and remain in a high professional level. Our obligation is to follow code of behaviour of WWR.


  1. The goal is to reduce unnecessary whistling.
  2. Instead of a whistle, sometimes referees can use hand signals to explain a situation.
  3. Apply advantage in spirit of the game.
  4. Referees should interfere only when it is important and necessary for the spirit of the game according to the rules.

WWR committee