You are here

Encroachment Infraction

Encroachment hand signal

Encroachment hand signal

Breaking, false start, or encroachment

Frequency of Infringement: Moderate

Refereeing Difficulty: Moderate

What the Rules say:
Under Infringements:
"Starting play incorrectly according to these rules."

Under Signals:
"The signal is an arm extended straight up with index finger pointing up. Hand is then rotated several times such that the index finger inscribes an imaginary circle above the head that is parallel to the surface of the water."

In the penalty guide: (Listed as "Incorrect Start")
First Infringement, Accidental: Team Caution
First Infringement, Deliberate: 1 minute
Second Infringement, Accidental: 1 minute
Second Infringement, Deliberate: 2 minutes
Third and all subsequent Infringements: 2 minutes

When you should call it: When one or more players gain an advantage over their opponents by starting play before the signal to do so has been given or by being in an illegal starting position at the time the start signal is given. There are 4 'start of play' scenarios to watch:

  1. Beginning of a point. Penalties can be incurred under this rule for any of the following:
    Leaving the end-wall before the signal to start is given
    Failing to touch the end-wall with a hand (which MUST be visible to the chief referee) before leaving the end-wall and entering the play. This requirement applies to any player who enters the playing area before the puck has been touched.

  2. Beginning of an Equal Puck. Penalties can be incurred under this rule for any of the following:
    Submerging (snorkel tip drops below the surface of the water) before the signal to start is given.
    Starting play with any part of the body or equipment on the incorrect side of the plane of the puck when the signal to start is given. The plane of the puck is an imaginary plane that goes through the center of the puck and is vertical and perpendicular to the side walls or sidelines of the playing area. The ‘incorrect’ side of this plane is the side closer to the opponent’s goal.

  3. Beginning of an Advantage Puck. Penalties can be incurred under this rule for any of the following:
    Starting play with any part of the body or equipment on the incorrect side of the 3-meter plane when the signal to start is given. The 3-meter plane is an imaginary plane defined by the extended arms of the referees and which is vertical and perpendicular to the side walls or sidelines of the playing area. The 'incorrect side of this plane is the side closer to the opponent’s goal. Note: This rule only applies to the team being penalized with the advantage-puck start.
    Taking possession of the puck before the signal to start play is given. Note: This infringement is usually accidental and results from players being unable to hear the start signal.

  4. Beginning of a Penalty Shot. Penalty can be incurred under this rule only for the following:
    Leaving the end wall before the puck has been touched. Note: This rule only applies to the defender.

When you should NOT call it: When the encroachment does not affect the advantage held by the team in possession (see “Applying the Advantage Rule” below, and remember that delayed penalties may be appropriate in these situations)

When a player or players starts play incorrectly but does not gain an advantage over the opponent by doing so. Some examples of situations where you should not call the infraction are:

  • A player coming to the play from the subbing area at the beginning of an advantage puck is on the incorrect side of the 3-meter plane when the signal to start play is given, but he/she continues swimming on the surface and passes completely onto the correct side of the 3-meter plane before diving and entering the play.
  • A player leaves the end-wall before the signal to start play is given at the beginning of a point, but realizes his/her mistake and voluntarily returns to the end wall (and touches it) before entering the play. This is common at tournaments with multiple buzzers, as players frequently start on the wrong buzzer sound by mistake.

When an attacking player moves ahead of the puck BEFORE the signal to start play is given at the beginning of a penalty shot. Penalty shots cannot be started with players out of position, so the correct action is to inform the player of the correct starting position and avoid starting the penalty shot until all players are in their correct positions.

When an attacking player moves ahead of the puck AFTER the signal to start play is given at the beginning of a penalty shot. This is, in fact, perfectly legal and only warrants mentioning because many referees seem to think it is against the rules.

What else you should know: Puck placement for advantage-puck encroachment calls is slightly more complicated than for other infringements. For calls incurred during an advantage puck, follow these guidelines:

If the call is against the advantaged team, puck is placed back in the same spot where it was placed for the original advantage puck.

If the call is against the dis-advantaged team, puck is moved from the original advantage puck location 3 meters directly towards the dis-advantaged team’s end-wall, unless doing so would result in the puck being closer than 5 meters to that end-wall (in which case, the puck is placed 5meters from that end-wall). When the original advantage puck location is already 5 meters from the dis-advantaged team’s end-wall, any ensuing false start/encroachment calls against the dis-advantaged team result in the puck being placed 5 meters from the end-wall and straight out from the center of the dis-advantaged team’s goal.

Related rules: Applying the Advantage Rule

Encroachment, especially when committed by the dis-advantaged team during an advantage puck, frequently doesn’t affect the advantage held by the team in possession. In such cases, the advantage rule should be applied, and play should be allowed to continue until and unless the advantage held by the team in possession is lost. While this can happen anywhere in the playing area, the most critical situation is an advantage puck close to the goal being defended by the dis-advantaged team. As this situation generally results in one or more good scoring opportunities for the advantaged team, the play is likely to be fierce, with lots of players on the bottom. It is important to avoid interrupting the advantage held by the attacking team (by stopping play for an encroachment call against the defending team, for example) until any such advantage is lost. Generally speaking, the attacking team has the advantage as long as the puck remains inside the 6-meter circle (regardless of which team is in possession). The advantage may also remain with the attacking team even if the puck leaves the 6-meter circle, so long as the attacking team remains in possession. There is some room for referees to decide for themselves whether the attacking team still has the advantage, but when in doubt, it is usually better to allow play to continue until the attacking team has clearly lost the advantage.