The ICF Canoe Polo Committee will host a seminar in Madrid, Spain, this weekend to look over major changes to competition rules.

Financial limitations has meant this has been by ‘invitation’ to continental technical delegates, and primarily to those federations who over the years supported all four categories at ICF world championships, with a view to having global representation at the meeting.

Eighteen people from 13 countries, representing four of the five continents as recognised by the ICF, will attend.

"This is the first time we have been able to host such a meeting and so far as possible we’ve tried to reduce costs for those attending and have been kindly supported by the ICF Headquarters," ICF canoe polo committee chair, Greg Smale, said.

"The 2019 canoe polo technical (now sport rules) group changed the card sanction system, the first significant change in 25 years of the world championships. We also re-introduced the defended goal penalty shot.

"Significantly, for a lot of referee decisions the word ‘should’ changed to ‘must’ to try and generate more consistency."

Mr Smale said many of the changes flowed from the last ICF world championships.

"The card system in particular was changed with reference to sanctions at the 2018 world championship in Welland, Canada, and a ‘power play sanction’ was introduced having compared sanctions on players in other sports," he said.

‘"As the season has progressed, we have tried to attend competitions and give more detail to athletes, coaches and organisers, and while not perfect, there has been a general feeling the rules are moving in the right direction.

"But as the committee was aware, some areas still need tidying up."

The canoe polo committee has set a date for the introduction of the new rules, which will give athletes and officials time to adapt.

"I would like the next changes, which will come into effect January 1, 2021, to be the last significant playing changes for a few years to enable the sport to settle and to focus on other areas of development," Smale said.

"The current rules have in the main resulted in far less fouls as the sanctions are more serious. It’s easier for spectators and commentators to understand but there still needs more simplification not complexity. Feedback at the European and Asian Championships has been that the referees were more consistent.

"The top national teams have adapted very quickly, as did the top rugby teams in the recent rugby world cup, but obviously as you work down the sport it takes time for federations to adopt into their new seasons and onwards down to club level.

"With this in mind the timing seemed perfect to try and ensure the ‘tidy up changes’ and future direction are discussed, and there is as far as possible consensus on the way forward. This seminar includes some of the most knowledgable canoe polo ‘experts’, who have played and coached at the very highest level, have some responsibility for their federation/continental development and whose consultative group knowledge will, I hope, help this great and very exciting discipline to move forward in a good direction.

"We are all volunteers and I sincerely thank all those attending for their significant time and expense travelling."

Actual approved rule changes will not emerge from the meeting as they will be reported back to the ICF Canoe Polo Committee in full and onto the ICF Board Meeting in March 2020 and ICF Congress in November 2020.    

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