The BBL and WBBL tip off with some rule changes introduced globally by FIBA.

Forget about the the power-plays, sin bins and five pointers of last weekend’s All Stars tournament at The O2.

Coaches, players, referees, table officials and fans alike will have to adjust immediately to some key rulings that have been updated in response to the game becoming faster, more athletic and more tactical in some foul situations.

The three main changes surround travelling, unsportsmanlike fouls in the fast break (transition) and game disqualifications. BBL fans can probably expect to see less travel calls this season but, if the players don’t adapt quickly, fans may also see more unsportsmanlike fouls and players heading for an early shower after being ejected.

FIBA, whose rules BBL play under, have revamped the travelling rule in response to a more dynamic game, whilst also trying to bring some (but not total) parity with travelling in the NBA.
Players who catch the ball on the move or after a dribble will now be allowed a gather step (step 0) followed by their legal two steps in the act of shooting or passing – exciting and athletic spin moves which were frustratingly waived off last season now become perfectly legal.
Stationary players are still prohibited from lifting their pivot foot prior to releasing the ball at the start of a dribble, and stationary players in the post or a trap are also still prevented from changing their pivot foot once they have established their pivot foot.

Fans view? To the untrained but enthusiastic eye what will appear like three steps (step 0 followed by 1-2) is now legal but four steps, or illegal footwork at the start of a dribble whilst stationary will continue to be penalised.

Unsportsmanlike Fouls
UFs, or flagrant fouls as they are referred to the other side of the pond, have undergone various rule changes over the last decade and 2017 sees a further enhancement to the UF criteria. The four existing Criteria (C1, C2, C4 and C5) remain and are the same as in previous years.

Tactical, deliberate or “stop the clock” fouls were a growing concern to the sport’s governing body, with many fast breaks/transitions finishing in free throws or side-line possession as opposed to dunks, alley oops or flashy lay ups. These fouls that now occur in the transition where a player does not have a Legal Guarding Position (LGP) are now deemed “unnecessary” and as a result will be automatically called as UF (under new criteria – C3.

C1 – UF foul called when a player makes no attempt to play the ball
C2 – UF foul called when player makes excessive contact in attempt to play the ball or an opponent
C3 – New – UF foul called when player without establishing LGP makes an unnecessary foul when an offensive team is in transition
C4 – UF foul called automatically when an offensive player on a fast break has a clear path with no defenders in between them and the basket, a defender makes a foul from the side or behind. The fast break is deemed finished when the offensive player begins the act of shooting (AOS).
C5 – UF foul called automatically when, in the last two minutes of the game (period 4 or overtime), a defensive foul is committed when the ball is live but still in the hands of the offensive player or at the disposal of the offensive player who is out of bounds.
Criteria C3 and C4 can only apply on the fast break/transition until AOS starts, and criteria C5 during the last two minutes of the game however criteria C1 and C2 apply at all times and may supersede the other criteria.

As in previous seasons, any player who receives two UF fouls during the game will automatically receive a game disqualification (GD) and have to leave the game immediately irrespective of whether they have committed five fouls or not and return to the locker room.
BBL regulations will then take care of any disciplinary matters through the normal BBL process.

Fans view? The clear and obvious unsportsmanlike fouls will still appear and get called, but players who continue to use tactical fouls in transition or stop the clock fouls with no LGP even though they attempt to play the ball will fall foul of the new UF ruling – and they can only do it twice!! Referees interpretations of LGP and unnecessary foul in transition will also need to be clear and consistent across the league.

Game Disqualification
The final big rule change is to do with discipline – updated a few seasons ago by FIBA so players who receive two UF or two Technical fouls in the same game are the given a Game Disqualification and cannot take part on the remainder of the game. Two Yellow cards = Red, basically in football terms.
The game changer for season 2017-18 is that now one Technical foul and one UF also now equals a Game Disqualification, placing a huge responsibility on players with one penalty already committed not to commit another during the remainder of the game.
And the new sanction is especially tight for Player Coaches, who will now receive a GD if they commit two technical fouls, one of which may be an unsportsmanlike foul, irrespective if they commit the technical foul as a player or on the side-lines as a Coach. (UF can only be committed on the court by players).
Head Coaches without a playing role are still under the existing rule of two Coach Techs or a combination of three Coach/Bench Techs meaning a GD for them.
Existing Player Tech + Player Tech = Player Game Disqualification
Existing Player UF + Player UF = Player Game Disqualification
Existing Coach Tech + Coach Tech = Coach Game Disqualification
Existing two Coach Techs or combination of three Coach/Bench Techs = Coach GD
New Player Tech + Player UF (or vice versa) = Player Game Disqualification
New Player /Coach Tech + Player UF (or vice versa) = Player Coach GD
As in previous season, any player/coach receiving a game disqualification (GD) has to leave the game immediately and return to the locker room.
And of course, any serious breach of rules with regards violence, fighting, offensive or threating language, serious mis-behaviour towards participants or officials can result in a straight Disqualification foul (DQ) and the offender ejected immediately from the game.
For any GD or DQ, existing BBL regulations will then take care of any disciplinary sanctions through the existing BBL process.

Fans view? The governing bodies are clearly clamping down on the ill-disciplined side of the game, and two Techs/UF meant players were out anyway, however with the new Tech + UF = GD and the new UF criteria (C3), players and player coaches will have to be particular careful how they respond to certain calls or they may find themselves with a choice of shower nozzles and an abundance of hot water.

Other Changes?
There are other minor changes, including
• Bench disqualification for fighting now penalised same as free throws making DQ penalty consistent and a little easier to cancel multiple penalties in some situations.
• More player friendly rules regarding leggings, shooting sleeves and compression under-layers which help with overall presentation
• Coaches have to submit official team sheets 40 minutes prior to tip off
• Official Referee signal for flopping/faking a foul introduced.
• Official Basketball Rules Equipment Appendix updated.

So there you have it – some major changes that will affect the BBL (and basketball around the globe) this season. Whether you are live at a BBL venue or watching on BBC/LiveBasketball/Unilad, the BBL fans will surely be joining the players, coaches and officials in adapting the new 2017 Official Basketball Rules.

The official rules of basketball can be downloaded free of charge from

  • Chris Dodds is one of the UK’s premier referees with experience of officiating at EuroBaskets and other major finals
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