A brief summary of some of the Rules of the Sport...

Probably the most important aspect of the rules of Water Polo is the distinction between Ordinary Fouls and the more serious Exclusion & Penalty Fouls.

In this post, we will attempt to summarise the main aspects of the rules covering these infractions; however we will not cover every technicality. Hopefully the following information will give you a sound foundation from which to interpret the rules specifically pertaining to Fouls.

Ordinary Fouls

Ordinary Fouls are punished by the award of a free throw to the other team. The possible methods of committing an Ordinary Foul are summarised below:

  • To push, or push off, a player who is not holding the ball (note again the vital reference to "not holding the ball").
  • To delay unduly the taking of a free throw.
  • To advance beyond the goal line at the start prior to the referee’s signal.
  • To assist a player (includes a helpful push to the player swimming for the ball).
  • To hold or push off the goal posts, sides or end of the pool (except at the start).
  • To take an active part in the game while standing (except Goal Keepers).
  • To take the ball under the water when tackled (even if as a consequence of your hand being pushed down by an opponent).
  • To strike at the ball with a clenched fist (except Goal Keepers in their own 6m area).
  • To touch the ball with two hands at the same time (except Goal Keepers in their own 6m area).
  • To be within the 2m area unless you are behind the line of the ball (you are permitted a reasonable time to leave the 2m area after you pass the ball).
  • To take a penalty throw other than in the prescribed manner (i.e., with an immediate and uninterrupted movement).
  • To send the ball out of play, including rebounding from the side above water level.
  • To retain possession for more than thirty (30) seconds without shooting at goal.
  • To waste time.


Exclusion Fouls

Exclusion Fouls are more serious as you are sent out of the game for twenty (20) seconds or until a goal is scored or your team regains possession. The main Exclusion Fouls are:

  • To hold, sink or pull back a player not holding the ball.
  • To kick, strike an opponent intentionally or make disproportionate movements with that intent.
  • To impede the free movement of a player not holding the ball.
  • For a member of the defending team to impede or push an attacker prior to the taking of a free throw etc.
  • For players of each team simultaneously to impede or push prior to a free throw etc.
  • For an excluded player or a substitute to enter the field of play improperly.
  • To interfere with the taking of a penalty (Note 1).
  • To be guilty of misconduct such as foul language or persistent foul play (Note 1).
  • To refuse obedience or show disrespect for a referee or official (Note 1).
  • To commit an act of brutality (Note 2).
  • To leave the water except in the case of injury or with the referee’s permission.
  • To interfere with a free, goal or corner throw (only intentional interference).
  • To splash in the face of an opponent intentionally.

Note 1: for these specific Fouls, you are sent out (excluded) for the remainder of the game however your team may make an immediate substitution.

Note 2: for "brutality" you are sent out (excluded) for the remainder of the game. Your team may only make a substitution after four (4) minutes have elapsed.

In any circumstance, you can take no further part in the game after your third (3rd) exclusion or penalty foul during the game.

Upon exclusion, the excluded player must move to the "re-entry area" without leaving the water. It should be noted, however, that in many pools where we play it is necessary to leave the water at this point in order to make it clear that you have "left the field of play". You should confirm the exact “house rules” with the referees prior to the start of any game.


Penalty Fouls

Penalty Fouls, punished by the award of a penalty, are given in the following situations:

  • For a defender to commit any foul inside the 6m area but for which a goal would probably have been scored.
  • For a defender to kick or strike a player (includes an act of brutality) within the 6m area.
  • For an excluded player intentionally to interfere with play.
  • For an excluded player to re-enter improperly with the intention of preventing a goal.
  • For any improper re-entry during the last minute of a game.
  • For any player to pull down the goal with the object of preventing a goal.
  • For a player not entitled so to do, to enter the field of play.
  • For the coach of the team not in possession to request a timeout.



If you have any questions, please contact the Club Water Polo Coach and Secretary, Chris Martin:


(content verified correct as at October 2021)