Water polo fouls and physicality

It’s no secret that water polo isn’t a sport for the faint-hearted. But while there is plenty of jostling and grappling for position in all matches, there are such a thing as water polo fouls, for which referees will call players to account.

Without water polo referees, matches would be mayhem.

In fact, the use of stricter ‘English rules’ at the inaugural men’s Olympic water polo competition in 1900 was thought to be one of the reasons American teams didn’t travel to Paris to play.

Read on to find out more about the different water polo fouls you will see referees give in a match.

Types of water polo foul

  1. Ordinary Foul.
    Also called minor fouls, these are punished by the reward of an immediate free throw to the other team. Ordinary fouls are very common in water polo.
    Click here for a full list of ordinary fouls on the FINA website.
  2. Personal Foul.
    There are two types of personal fouls. These are exclusion fouls and penalty fouls. Once a player has committed three personal fouls during a game, they must be substituted out of the match and cannot return.
  3. Exclusion Foul.
    Exclusion fouls are also known as major fouls and, unsurprisingly, are for more serious breaches of play than minor fouls. They result in a free throw to the opponents, and the exclusion of the fouler for 20 seconds.
    Click here for a full list of exclusion fouls on the FINA website.
  4. Penalty Foul.
    Penalty fouls are usually awarded when a major foul is committed within 5m of the goal, or when a clear opportunity to score is denied by a foul. These result in a penalty shot from the 5m line.
    Click here for a full list of penalty fouls on the FINA website.

Refereeing a game

Think you know your minor and major fouls?

Click here to find out more about qualifying as a water polo referee in England.