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The FIVB rules state that:

(11.3.1) Contact with the net by a player is not a fault, unless it interferes with the play.

(11.4.4) A player interferes with the opponent’s play by (amongst others):

  • touching the top band of the net or the top 80 cm of the antenna during his/her action of playing the ball, or
  • taking support from the net simultaneously with playing the ball, or
  • creating an advantage over the opponent by touching the net, or
  • making actions which hinder an opponent’s legitimate attempt to play the ball.

The only criterion that is clear to me here is the one about touching the top band of the net. What exactly does it mean to interefere with the play or to get an advantage over the opponent?

Suppose the following sample situations:

  1. An attacker hits the ball and then, while landing back on the court, touches the middle part of the net (not the top band) with his body or with his hand.
  2. Same as before, but this time a blocker touches the net while landing back on the court.

It seems to me that in all these cases the player would get an advantage in comparison to situations in which they would not touch the net at all, because then they would have to play more carefully and less aggressively, resulting in a less effective hit.

What are the rules that one should follow to distinguish valid and invalid net contacts?

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Update: The below answer was valid at the time it was posted, however, the rules changed dramatically, and now any contact with the net by a player between the antennae, during the action of playing the ball, is a fault. (With explicit inclusion of the take-off and landing in the action of playing the ball.) Therefore, per the current rules, both sample situations are now faults.


These are perfect examples of cases where touching the net is not a fault. The current net-touch rules are constructed so that almost no inadvertent net touches are faults.

Simplifying it a bit, touching the net is a fault only when

  • while playing the ball, you touch the top band (or the top part of the antenna), or
  • you touch the net intentionally to gain an unfair advantage (like: pulling the net down to help your attacker, forcing the ball flying into the net on the other side of the court to rebound directly to the ground, etc.).

The FIVB Rules of the Game Volleyball Casebook, 2014 edition lists several examples (examples 3.13–3.22; pages 11–12), where it is made clear that:

  • Slightly touching the body of the net is not a fault.
  • When an attacker touches the band while faking an attack while the ball is on the other side of the court, it is not a fault (as this was not “during action of playing the ball”).
  • The same is true for blocking: When a blocker touches the band while trying to block a fake attack while the ball is on the other side of the court, it is not a fault. (But touching the band while trying to block the attacking player is a fault, no matter whether the blocker touched the ball or not.)

Also, I especially recommend watching teaching videos for referees available as a part of the FIVB Multimedia Teaching Material for Referees: First, click Net Rule Move in the left menu and watch the video. Then, navigate to rule 11 in the contents menu and click Jump to the videos to see a list of applicable video examples.

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Mormegil's answer was completely correct at the time it was posted; however, the FIVB Congress of November 2014 amended the rule such that any contact with the net is a fault (which is actually a reversion to the earlier rules).

This rule is likely to be applied to any competitions starting in 2015, although I believe national federations have a small amount of leeway in this.

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