History of major Tour Rule Changes
Some of the dates for these changes are estimates; any exact dates would help.
Current master list of IRT Rules: IRT Rules of Play.
Sept 2019: Just ahead of the new 2018-19 season, two new rules announced by IRT ref Scott McClellan. The text below taken verbatim, italics are my comments:
Dec 2017: Announcement made on Facebook that the tour, effective immediately, is changing its scoring rules to match Amateur/International
scoring rules (two games to 15, tiebreaker to 11, all games win by one). Also announced that line judges will be used on an "as needed basis" depending on the availability of
camera angles. Instant replay will continue to be the primary appeal method. Official announcement here.
Sept 2015: A referee at the 2015-16 opening event in Overland Park, KS is spotted going to the IRTnetwork.com film crew
to perform an "instant replay" check of a short serve. Is this a new rule change? Do players get "TV appeals" like they do
on the Tennis tours? Apparently yes; one TV appeal per game when playing on the court with video equipment.
Oct 2010: the US Open gives the top 16 players protected byes into the round of 32. Heretofore, the main draw started at the round of 64.
June 2010: new commissioner Jason Mannino implements several rule changes to the tour to address various issues and complaints about the game (announced in
the IRT Newsletter 2010 v1, text below taken verbatim, italics are my comments):
- Screen Serves: The referee should call a screen serve immediately, not considering whether the receiver requests it by raising their hand. There is then
additional factors described to help guide the referee as to how to determine a screen serve. This rule change tries to take the judgment call out of screen
serves; some referees have attempted to make split-second judgments in the past to not call a screen if the receiver was given an opportunistic return of serve/
kill opportunity. That has led to inconsistent enforcement of screens. This attempts to mitigate that issue.
- Jumping and Hinders: If a receiving player jumps and clears this height described in more detail on the rules page on either a cross-court or straight-in
shot but is contacted by the ball or the hitting player holds up, a replay hinder will be called. This just officially documents a reffing rule that's more or
less already been put in place; if you jump sufficiently high you can make the argument that you've "cleared" the path of the offensive shot and thus if you get
it, you're not actually blocking the shot.
Fall 2009 (for the 2009-10 season): Implementation of the use of side judges in tournaments that make use of the portable court (or in other words, for the Majors).
For years the IRT has resisted calls to make use of the appeals judges as are available in amateur competitions. Reasons mentioned included costs, lack of enough
qualified judges and the lack of empowerment of the primary referee.
Fall 2002: IRT introduces tournament "dropping" scheme, resulting from a loophole in the rankings system that existed prior to the Fall of 2002. Players are
now allowed to drop their worst tournament points from 1 or more tournaments based on the number of events in the season. The number of results allowed to drop is as follows:
- I. Two Serve Rule - Player has two (2) chances to get the serve in play. IRT has been one serve since August 1990; there has been considerable discussion on this rule change. The belief is that this will lead to more drive serving among players who now rely fully on lob serves and will add more excitement to the game. This is done in reaction to an overly-strategic game of lob serving and returning, where most of the points were won on errors or mistakes as opposed to the excitement of drive serving and power.
- II. Ten Second rule - Player has (10) seconds to put the ball in play after the referee calls the score. Referee is to call the score at the end of the last rally. If the court is wet, referee to call the score immediately following the court being in safe condition. This rule is directly in response to "pace of play" complaints from sponsors and fans. The IRT wants to speed up play, where in the past pedantic pre-serving rituals of players would result in 30 second gaps between points. The penalty for violation will be 1st a Warning, 2nd automatic burning of one of the player's timeouts, 3rd and subsequent Technicals and a point penalty.
What remains to be seen is the gamesmanship seen during past failed attempts to implement so called "shot clocks." The opportunity exists for the receiving player to hold up their racquet until just before the clock expires and thus delaying the rhythm/normal motion of the server. Judgement may still be needed by the referee to fairly implement this rule.
- III. Arguing Skips, Double Bounce, Short or Foot Faults - At no time may a player question or argue skips, double bounce, short or foot fault calls. This rule is in direct response to repeated complaints from sponsors and fans about the incessant and continuous conversations of complaint that some players keep against the referees. This is nothing new to professional racquetball; Brumfield and Hogan were notorious for prolonged outbursts against referees, and the modern player knows that intimidation tactics can lead to favorable calls later on in the match. However, in this case even the players (via council) agreed that a change was necessary. The IRT plans on shooting live in the coming seasons, unedited, so time spent complaining is just wasted on tape. The hope is that Racquetball player-referee interaction will become closer to what exists in other racquet sports (Tennis, Squash) where some disagreements occur but the professionalism will stand out.
- IV. Hitting after the Rally - No player shall hit the ball after the rally has ended. Slight clarification; the LOSER of the previous rally cannot hit the ball in anger or in disgust after a lost rally. Obviously the server-to-be needs to be able to take possession of the ball by virtue of "hitting it" with his racquet.
- 15 events or fewer: players can drop two (2) lowest results
- 16-18 events: players can drop three (3) lowest results
- 19 events: players can drop four (4) lowest results
- 20 or more events: players can drop five (5) lowest results
This decision was made in part to allow for players to be able to overcome injuries mid-season and not have any
chances for a high ranking be automatically dashed. Previously, players who missed events were given "divider" points, which were defined as the average round
position attained that season. This turned controversial when Swain carried an injury into the last tournament of the 2001-2 season, and by skipping the event
was given enough "divider" points to ensure winning the title without playing. Had he played, he would have risked an early round loss and risked losing
the season ending title to Mannino.
Aug 1999: New tourney format announced: top 8 players get byes into round of 16 (except for the US Open
and Pro Nationals, and other major tourneys as determined by prize $). Also, prize money distribution changes
announced, paying to the round of 16. See this Excellent Explanation of
why IRT has protected seedings from long-time touring pro Mike Guidry, as he wrote in 2002-2003.
?? Date (mid 90s I believe): Seeds 5-8 are randomly generated each tournament, to eliminate the same matchups occuring at each tournament. Per Mannino,
the rule was officially changed in 2005 but I thought it was done far before that (in the mid 90s). Official rules define the "Seedings Flip" as follows
(text Mannino's from a meetandplay.com post 11/4/10):
The tour will use "Flip" seedings, which randomizes the 5-8 players in order to prevent repeated matchups in the 16s and quarter finals. All Grand Slam
events are a straight draw, as are the first and last events of the season. Otherwise one of three seeding randomizations is used.
- Straight draw
- 1-6 2-5 3-8 4-7
- 1-7 2-6 3-5 4-8
- 1-5 2-8 3-7 4-6
The rotation is said to go Straight draw, then two "flips" then another straight draw, excepting for any GS events.
Aug 1991: Win by 2 implemented in in all games, not just in 5th supertiebreaker. Qualifying protects
the top 16 players into the round of 32.
Early 1990s (unclear exactly when): Between 1990-1992 the rule requiring a set position for starting the service motion was instituted. This was to
eliminate the annoying/deceptive “continuous motion” and of multi-bounce serving by certain players in tournaments. thanks to John Reigstad for the
information; he was the original submittor of this request to the National office.
Aug 1990: Change to one-serve
?? date: Quadrant serving used in experimentation, as reaction to dominant drive serving from Swain, Inoue, others.
Aug 1989: Mandatory eyeguards, new ranking system, 5th game win by 2 (supertiebreaker rule).
Aug 1988: Some Finals were played USRA rules (2 games to 15, tiebreaker to 11, win by one) for TV length purposes.
Oct 1981: scoring goes to 3/5 games to 11, win-by-one
Summer 1981: 1981-2 season the first where the "Season ending Champ" is determined by season ending points, not just who won Nationals.
Pro tournament entry open to all: top 24 given byes to round of 32, all others qualify.
Aug 1974: NRC starts first real tour (IRA also holds pro events). The "Season Ending Champ" was determined from the year end nationals tournament, not from points accumulated during the year. Rankings were really just used as tools for seeding during tournaments. Thus the winner of the NRC Nationals/DP/Leach was the winner each year, until 1981-2 season. IRA also had Nationals in 1975, resulting in two "Season Ending Championships" for that year.
1973-4 "Season" had no Nationals and thus no real "Pro Winner."
Aug 1973: First "Pro" event occurs.
Aug 73: Original Pro tour Scoring was the best 2/3 games to 21, tiebreaker also to to 21, win by one. Qualifying protects the top 16 players into the round of 32.