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WNBA Board of Governors Approves Two Rules Changes for 2019 Season

The WNBA Board of Governors approved two rules changes that will take effect in the 2019 season.

The new rules are related to the simplification of the clear path foul rule and an expanded definition of a “hostile act.” Details on each rule modification are below:

  • Simplification of the Clear Path Foul Rule – The changes to the clear path foul rule establish “bright line” standards based on the position of players at the time of the foul while also narrowing required referee judgment and reducing the number of variables impacting the rule’s application.
    • A clear path foul is now defined as a personal foul against any offensive player during her team’s transition scoring opportunity in the following circumstances: the ball is ahead of the tip of the circle in the backcourt; no defender is ahead of the offensive player with the transition scoring opportunity; the player with the transition scoring opportunity is in control of the ball (or a pass has been thrown to her); and if the foul deprives her team of a transition scoring opportunity.
    • Under the simplified rule, a clear path foul cannot occur if the fouled player is in the act of shooting or if the foul is caused by the defender’s attempt to intercept or deflect a pass intended for the player attempting to score in transition.
    • If a clear path foul is committed, the offended team will continue to be awarded two free throws and possession of the ball on the sideline nearest the spot where the foul occurred.
  • Expanded Definition of “Hostile Act” for Replay Purposes – For purposes of triggering instant replay review, the definition of a “hostile act” has been broadened to enable referees to determine the appropriate penalty for players or coaches if they are involved in hostile encounters with each other, referees or fans. (Under the old rule, the definition of a “hostile act” only included a player’s physical encounter with another player.)

The rule changes were recommended by the WNBA’s Competition Committee at its meeting on Oct. 29.