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Date: 7/18/2016

The 2016 IHF Women’s Youth (U18) World Championship throws off on Tuesday 19 July and all the final preparations are in place for what will be an exciting two weeks, at the end of which a new world champion in this age category will be determined. 

The main focus from an IHF perspective in the lead-up to round one of the group phase is to ensure the absolute preparedness of all referees, delegates and team officials. As such, all IHF referees have completed several days of lectures and testing, with special attention to the updated Rules of the Game as implemented on July 1. These rules have also been discussed in detail with team officials at the official technical meeting held on July 18. 

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. 

All of the rules were implemented following several years of testing and feedback, including discussion with top coaches at the IHF Forum in Denmark in October 2014, and testing 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. 

Playing Rules and Referee Commission (PRC) member Ramon Gallego presented a detailed lecture for all teams at the official technical meeting held on the eve of the first matches, including showing video clip examples of the rules in effect and their importance, and question and answer sessions for all officials. 

The rules were already in full effect at the 2016 IHF Women’s Junior (U20) World Championship with positive results, and all teams, coaches and officials at Slovakia 2016 will be asked to give feedback following the competition. 

Members of the PRC have been pleased so far with the success of the rule updates, which have brought about notable tendencies in the championships played under them. For example, the strict number of passes after passive play is called has been noted to make things far clearer for both teams on court, while the goalkeeper rule has introduced a strong tendency for coaches to bring on additional field players as the potential problems caused by substituting with a different coloured jersey are eliminated. 

Gallego concluded his presentation to the team officials with a promise that all delegates will assist through the transition, to ensure all teams are not only clear but to help minimise any potential for mistakes on the part of coaches and players – of which there have so far been none. 

“First, we would like to receive your feedback after the tournament, and second, each day please ask us if there are new situations or anything,” Gallego told the team officials. 

“On the part of the technical delegation we will try to help you as much as possible – even to prevent these technical mistakes. But I must tell you until now and in the Pan American tournament, there have been really, really zero [mistakes].”