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The VAL Rules Committee was convened and asked to review a number of items across the VAL Regulations and VAL Handicap Guidelines, as has been done prior to each previous season. The full list of changes to the Regulations and Handicap Guidelines can be found in the respective documents as they are updated on the VAL website, highlighted in red.

The main changes include the following:

Group 3 prize money
The minimum prize money for Group 3 events has been reduced from $600 to $0.

Becoming Established sooner

  • Performances in Restricted, Masters, Open, Men’s and Women’s categories will count towards athletes becoming Established over the respective distances. Performances in underage events, however, will not be included.
  • Athletes can progress from Ongoing Assessment to Established status during the season. To help alleviate some of the additional workload that this change brings for the handicappers, athletes and trainers are asked to monitor the number of performances they have completed over each distance category and inform the VAL office if they believe their status has changed during the season.

OGA status events
For some events with a low number of races in a season, all competitors will remain OGA. This will apply to events conducted fewer than four times in a season or fewer than eight times in the previous two seasons.

First time interstate athletes
Interstate athletes who are competing in the VAL for the first time at a distance may not receive a handicap in front of the novice mark except with the approval of the Handicap Review Panel.

Competition footwear
Athletes competing in the VAL may continue to run in bare feet, or using non-standard footwear such as flats instead of spikes, but only with the approval of the Chief Steward. All competition footwear worn by athletes must be compliant with technical specifications for shoes approved by World Athletics under Rule 5. These specifications include restrictions on some types of shoe inserts such as those containing carbon fibre plates.

“First start” handicap adjustments
Established athletes can no longer be handicapped as OGA at the discretion of the handicapper for a one-off adjustment immediately after their first run of the season at an event distance. However, the handicapper can still recommend a lift outside of the schedule to the HRP for their approval.

Start times for Restricted and Junior 120m events
The start/ceiling times for Restricted/Novice and Junior events have been set at 12.65/12.45 seconds. This change is to allow the stewards and handicappers to more readily compare performances conducted by athletes competing in both Open/Men’s and Restricted/Junior categories.

Start and Ceiling times for Women’s 120m
The start and ceiling times for Women’s 120m events have been changed to 14.0 and 13.8 seconds respectively in order to accommodate the increasing number of female VAL athletes who would otherwise start behind scratch.

The Rules Committee considered at length the impact of the current handicap limits on athletes’ competitiveness, and the potential impact on athlete entries. Given the current handicap limits, very few VAL athletes will be impacted by this change for most events conducted throughout the season, with the exception of the Stawell Women’s Gift. However, the handicap limit at Stawell, and requirement for athletes to not start behind scratch, are at the discretion of the Stawell Organising Committee, so they essentially exist independent of this change to start/ceiling time.

Breaking ceiling time during the season
If an athlete breaks the ceiling time for their distance and category during the season, their new ceiling handicap for the next carnival will be adjusted to the average of the RPM of the performance that broke ceiling time, and their next best RPM from the past five years. This second RPM can include any other performance from the same competition at which the ceiling time was broken if relevant. If the athlete has won an event in the course of breaking ceiling time, then any penalty for winning will be applied subsequent to the adjustment to the athlete’s new ceiling mark.

Adjustments for performances on synthetic tracks
The schedule of adjustments for performances conducted on synthetic tracks has been updated to address some discrepancies and to reflect the improvements made in synthetic track design. The schedule in the following table will apply:

Otherwise 2.0 seconds per lap.

Handicap appeals
Previously when athletes felt their handicaps were incorrect, they could request a free Handicap Review, conducted by the handicapper for that event, by emailing the VAL office. The only appeal to that Review was to the Handicap Appeal Panel, which requires significant VAL resources to convene, and a cost to the athlete.

This process has been amended with the introduction of an intermediate step. Athletes can now appeal their handicap to the Handicap Review Panel if they are not satisfied with the explanation of the handicapper or believe an error has occurred.

Stawell Gift finalist penalties
The penalty schedule for Stawell Men’s and Women’s Gift finalists has been updated. The table below lists the penalties applied after a finalist has had their handicap adjusted to the lesser mark of either:

  1. Their notional starting handicap, or
  2. Their finish mark from the previous season.

The aim was to create a simpler and more predictable schedule that could accommodate:

  • athletes who have received bonus lifts and stopped competing,
  • athletes who received bonus lifts but continued to race,
  • athletes who did not receive a bonus lift at all,
  • finals run in slower performances due to weather and/or track conditions.

The VAL Regulations and Handicap Guidelines are documents representing rulesets that are designed to change over time so as to reflect the needs and priorities of the League as determined by officials, athletes, trainers and clubs. If you have feedback, suggestions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to raise them with your VAL Committee members.