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11 December 2017

A Technical look at the Ball Holder

By Stan Battock, IWRF Technical Commissioner


This article is to help players, coaches and officials understand what constitutes a ball holder and whether ball holders presented at a tournament are legal or illegal.


The rules of Wheelchair Rugby are written for IWRF sanctioned events. Competitions outside of these events can and do change the rules to suit their competitions. The Invictus Games is a good example of this and some ball holders used in this event would not be legal at an IWRF event.


To begin let’s look at the rules and the definition of a ball holder:

Players may use additional devices to support the ball. This support must be level with or higher than the seat frame. No part of the ball can rest within the seat frame. Straps may be used to secure the ball as long as 75% of the ball is available to be played and only make contact within the bottom 25 % of the ball.


The first key word in this rule is “support” in - devices to support the ball

What this infers is that a ball holder is there to support the ball, not protect the ball.


If a ball is put into a players “lap” and the “ball holder” does not support the ball – then by definition it is not a ball holder.


These are two examples of illegal ball holders:


This is illegal on 2 counts.

Clearly not supporting the ball, the lap is doing that.

This holder is not in contact with the bottom 25% of the ball


This “ball holder” is similar to the previous and fails for the same reasons.


Subtle difference between a ball holder and a ball protector


Legal – It is there to support the ball, it is almost an extension of the lap

Note example only – this would need to be checked with a ball.


Illegal – In this case if a ball is placed in the lap it will not be supported by the “ball holder”

Note example only – this would need to be checked with a ball.

The second critical part of the rule is: Straps may be used to secure the ball .. only make contact within the bottom 25 % of the ball.

As indicated with the first 2 pictures in this article, the “ball holder” was making contact above the 25% bottom portion of the ball.


Other examples are shown here:

Closer to 50% than 25%

Closer to 50% than 25%

Note: In this example, the ball is inside the frame


50% of ball is below the “support”


50% of ball is below the “support”


These are samples of legal ball holders



The rule also states: Straps may be used to secure the ball:


This must be read in context with the first part of the rule which states: ..additional devices to support the ball.

If a player uses strapping the convention used is that this may not protrude above the knee as per this rule: A player may use padding between his knees. This padding must not protrude above the top of the knees.


This has been ruled as – any strapping across the knees must be flat in nature and not extend above the knees.

If a player wishes to use strapping then it must meet the following requirements

  • It must not extend above the knees
  • It must be flat across the knees and between the knees

Examples of illegal and legal strapping across the knees


Twisted strap – not flat


Not a flat strap – sitting too high above the knees


Legal - extends flat across the knees


Legal - extends flat across the knees


When looking at a ball holder during a game referees are looking to see that 75% of the ball is playable. There are occasions when a ball carrier under duress will force the ball further into the ball holder, similar to an athlete without a ball holder who protects the ball by pushing it down into their lap.

Once the duress has gone the referee will be looking to see that the ball has returned to a legal state. It is incumbent on the ball carrier to ensure that 75% of the ball is playable.

If the player needs to adjust their ball holder when this occurs to ensure that 75% of the ball is playable then the referee make look closely at the legality of the ball holder.

By doing this the player may be playing with an illegal chair – or a chair that can switch between being legal and illegal.



Clearly less than 75% playable at this point, but what happens once the hands are remove is when it is judged by the referee


The new rules seek to clarify the ball holder. As such the rule will clarify the following:

  • Ball holder must be rigid and fixed to the chair (ie it cannot move in any direction, thus preventing the possibility of it becoming illegal – deliberately of accidentally and providing an advantage to the player due to the flexibility of the holder)
  • Ball holder may only make contact with front of the ball and bottom of the ball. (this is to prevent ball holders that can have the ball pressed into them so that they do not come out.
  • Strapping across and between the knees must not protrude above the knee. This brings strapping in line with blocks and current interpretations.

Also as part of the chair check

  • At all IWRF events the ball holder will be tested with the athlete in the chair. The ball will be pushed down into the holder to mimic a player protecting the ball. How it returns to a legal playable position will be assessed as part of the chair check.

It is incumbent on all players to present themselves at an IWRF tournament in a legal chair, the chair check process just confirms this at that point in time. Hopefully the rule clarification and recent articles about ball holders will assist in providing all participants in the game the information they need to ensure they have a legal ball holder.