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Date: 7/2/2016

With only hours remaining until the first match at the 2016 IHF Women’s Junior (U20) World Championship, the final preparations are complete as the IHF referees and delegates end a three-day course of lectures and testing. 

As with all IHF competitions, referees have successfully completed the shuttle run to the required standard, as well as a theoretical and video test on the morning of the first game day at the 20th edition of the Women’s Junior World Championship. Additionally, there have been a number of lectures presented by Playing Rules and Referee Commission (PRC) member Ramon Gallego, Caretaker Chairman of the Commission of Coaching and Methods (CCM) Dietrich Spate, and PRC member Bjarne Munk Jensen.  

The core focus of the lectures has been on the updated Rules of the Game, in effect as of July 1, 2016. The 2016 IHF Women’s Junior (U20) World Championship is therefore the first time the updated rules will be used in an official IHF competition following an extensive planning, testing and review process involving top-level coaches, IHF experts, referees and delegates, national teams and media. 

The rules were first discussed at the IHF Forum in Denmark in October 2014, then tested in 2015 at the IHF Men’s Junior (U21) and Youth (U18) World Championship with great success. Some rules were also tested at the IHF Emerging Nations Men’s Championship in Kosovo in June 2015. 

In summary, the rule changes adopted as of July 1 are:
Player injury: medical attention will only be administered on court if deemed absolutely necessary by the referees. Otherwise, the player must be treated on the side line and remain off court for three attacks. 
Goalkeeper as a player: a seventh court player may substitute the goalkeeper wearing the colours of the goalkeeper jersey, but may not enter the goal area or carry out the function of the goalkeeper. The player can only act as a court player. 
Passive play: following the forewarning signal from the referees, the attacking team will be allowed a limit of six passes.
Last minute: changed to ‘last 30 seconds of a game’. Clear punishments are defined to deter unsportsmanlike behaviour and serious fouls sometimes seen toward the end in close matches.
Blue card: a blue card is shown in addition to the red card to indicate a disqualification where a written report is required. 

Detailed information on the changes can be found here

Referees at the Junior and Youth World Championships in 2015 found the rules tested to be very effective, with particularly positive thoughts on the player injury rule designed to ensure less stops during the match, as well as the introduction of the blue card. 

“The blue card is very good as it shows what happened to the player; it’s easier, it’s clear and we don’t have to go to the coach and explain to them,” said Senegal’s Abdoulaye Faye, who whistles alongside Fadel Diop, after the tournament in Ekaterinburg last August. 

In addition to final preparations for refereeing under the new rules, the focus on excessive contact and long holding around the six-metre line continues. Dietrich Späte held a lecture on the second afternoon of preparation to discuss the nuances of this particularly difficult aspect of refereeing, with special attention for monitoring situations without the ball, isolated two-on-two situations involving the line player and one backcourt player, and how to share the visual responsibility of watching the entire court through two pairs of eyes most effectively.

Späte also said that based on recent trends, an increase in use of the seven-on-six technique in attack is expected. Many teams have used this tactic for significant periods of matches; one of the most notable being Denmark’s win against Hungary at the EHF EURO 2014 when the Scandinavian team substituted out their goalkeeper for every single attack throughout the 60 minutes. 

“Now the work of the referees is more complicated and it is important to have good cooperation,” said Späte. 

The evening before the first day of competition concluded with First Vice-President of the IHF, Mr Miguel Roca Mas welcoming all referees and delegates, informing the referees that they were carefully chosen for this championship based on their expertise to be able to ensure smooth adoption of the rules: “We put our best handball in your hands.”