Why do the rules bother with "match affecting" status for drive team members touching field elements after the match has started?

I understand why some rules require a ruling from the referee* on whether or not it affected the match, mostly because the robots are not perfectly under control at all times and a minor violation on the part of the robot doesn’t necessarily reflect wrong doing on the part of that team. Including it for the direct actions of the drive team seems unnecessary since they should have the required self control to not break the plane of the field or move field elements outside simply introducing purple cubes if they were issued them as a result of autonomous. Touching anything on the field outside of what is allowed in the rules should automatically DQ a team.

Hands out of the field. Drive Team Members may only touch the Team’s controls and Robot at
specified times during a Match as per . Drive Team Members are prohibited from making intentional contact with any Cubes, Field Element, or Robot during a Match, apart from the contact specified in

Minor violations of these rules that do not affect the Match will result in a warning. Match Affecting
offenses will result in a Disqualification. Teams that receive multiple warnings may also receive a
Disqualification at the Head Referee’s discretion.

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I’m particular about this: judges are the people who look at your logbook and score your interview. A referee is the person who makes sure the game is played properly. They are constantly confused, but it’s important to understand who makes the judgment calls to better understand the rules.

Other than the fact that maybe sixth graders competing in their first-ever competition VEX might not be as controlled as you think, there are situations where an automatic DQ shouldn’t be warrented. If I tripped on my shoelace from walking around in the alliance station, and I just happened to touch one of the cubes left on the field to break my fall, that should be an automatic DQ? Or what if I happen to load my match load, let go of the load, and then move the cube a couple inches after I let go? That should be an automatic DQ as well, according to your logic.

Other than that, the verbiage of the rule has been the same for the past five years, if not longer.


My favorite situation is when the drive team is leaning into the field with control tower cables in the field space - the opposing robot gets entangled with the cable and unplugs the cable - other team is upset demanding opposing alliance should be DQ for entangling and disconnecting them from tower. Referee points out it is their own actions that caused themselves to be disabled…


@GBHS_VEX_Member has it completely correct - if the rules state something, they should be enforced as such. I think this is something brought up in any thread that discusses a referee’s taking on a rule during a tournament, or just any rule in general.
Here’s a short replay of something a drive team did during a tournament.

Was this match affecting? Its not the most fair because you only get eight seconds of clip and nothing more than the rest of the match, but keep in mind this is what referees get to see. Did the intentional displacement of that green cube singlehandedly affect who won the match? Even if it was intentional, a lot of the time this stuff can happen and the modifying phrase ‘match affecting’ gives teams a deserving second chance from an accident.

I would warn the team at that time. If they go for that purple cube then there is cause for further scrutiny. If they won because of multiplier, then it can be considered match effecting.

Would need to see the whole match and field.

I teach 6th graders and I know that they don’t always have the best self control, but they should be taught to deal with those sorts things and losing by making a mistake is a great teaching tool.

I was about to agree with you on the falling into the field thing, but after thinking about it, yeah having your shoes untied or otherwise tripping yourself or your teammates onto the field should just DQ you from the match, it’s your responsibility to not be on the field or interfere with the field and doing so intentionally or not(watch the beginning of the movie Cool Runnings). Slightly adjusting your own match load that you are introducing without removing yourself from the play area(without breaking the plane of the field twice) should be fine.

Down further is a video of someone moving a green cube out of the way of the match load they introduced, under the rules as written as long as neither the match load or the green cube is match affecting then they walk away with a warning. I think that is fundamentally wrong as what they are trying to do whether they realise it or not is making it easier to get the purple cube i.e. cheating. As written this would only warrant a warning and I think that sort of behavior is below what should be expected of competitors and should warrant a DQ.

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Love that video. So mindless, like they have practiced going for the purple but never practiced with obstacles. Naturally they just moved it out of the way, just like on the practice field. Demonstrates the quality of their practice.

As a referee I would take note of the amount of points. If that purple wins them the game, they get DQ’d and their alliance partner is not penalized. If the purple does not win them the game, they get a stern talking to and an example made out of them. However no punishment.


I think stuff like this should be handled more leniently. Some teams may have forgot.
I know that in my second tourney of the season, I was literally yeeting the match preload into the field because I was so busy driving,I forgot I was breaking the rules.

Needless to say, I got a warning :smile:


I thought a situation like in that video would be an egregious violation after the placement of the match load if this where to happen unintentionally whilst putting down a match load that is when I think match effecting would come into play. Where you have to look at whether there ether cube if scored changes the winner.

I take back my incorrect statement.

Here is the replay to the match (jump to 4:37:47, infraction takes place at 4:38:43)
Although I don’t believe the tournament replay has sound, the cube being displaced certainly does not go unnoticed by the arm belonging to a referee on the right side of the screen.
That team failed to score any more cubes after that violation, so it is safe to say that was not match affecting in any way, and they won the match as well. Going back to OP’s original question, would it have been fair to disqualify a match they would have won just because of a slight mishap?

I guess it depends on your point of view. In general I think rules should be as clear cut and black and white as possible. The way the rules are written it allows teams to cheat and as long as the cheating is unnecessary or they end up not needing the cheating to win they walk away with a win. Intentional actions which break a rule should almost always result in a DQ regardless of how the match turns out. A team that isn’t disciplined enough to not break those sorts of rules shouldn’t be winning matches or tournaments.

Hmm, well, that was our event and thus my responsibility. Unfortunately I did not see this particular incident and I didn’t know anything about it until I saw this video. I do not believe anyone brought this to the attention of myself or the EP, and I don’t know if the refs saw it and/or what discussion they may have had on it.

That said - clearly this is not “match affecting” (the rules are crystal clear - match affecting means specifically it changes who wins the match, which did not happen here). SG4 is also clear that minor violations (which are defined as not match affecting) will receive a warning. So, the rule violation is clear and the consequence is clear - the team should receive a warning. However, this was obviously a pretty blatant (even if minor) violation. Hopefully the team was warned firmly. If I saw that happen again with such an intentional action then I would have supported a decision to DQ the team.

To offer some more general insight after having been in this program from the start and having spent a great deal of time with GDC members and having been privy to many discussions on topics like this with them: basically, the GDC, VEX, and RECF want to give teams every chance to be successful and have fun that they can. GDC members have said to me many times that whenever possible they want to give teams a chance to make mistakes and learn from them. The “match affecting” rule is in the spirit of that - if a team does something that is wrong but it doesn’t really matter, then just warn them. If it matters (i.e. caused them to win the match), then you have to DQ them (because otherwise it’s unfair to the other teams). But if it didn’t matter, then just give them a warning which is almost always sufficient to prevent repeat occurrences.

RECF and VEX have stressed this at many of the EP Summits - they specially tell EPs that the job of event staff is to do everything they can reasonably to make sure teams get to play and have a good time. This means things like waiting an extra 30 seconds if a team is late to their match but you see them coming (though maybe not if they’ve already been late the last 5 matches). This might even mean letting a brand new team with a basic push-bot (i.e. no real chance of winning the event) who is 1 millimeter over the size limit play anyway at an early season event with a strong warning that they won’t be allowed to at later events unless they fix it. DQing someone who probably mindlessly flipped a cube that had no impact on the match at all doesn’t really do anything except discourage that team. A stern warning from the head ref is, in my experience, almost always sufficient to ensure that the team pays more attention next time.

The rules, at least as they apply to this video, are very clear. The action did not affect the outcome of the match thus the action only deserves a warning. A rule was broken, yes. The prescribed consequence of breaking that rule was a warning. Repeated offenses would have resulted in a DQ. I guess you could call it “cheating”, but the cheating was caught and (presumably) punished as called for in the rules. You say that the rules allow teams to cheat as long as it is unnecessary - the rules don’t allow this - they assign a punishment for this kind of “cheating”, it just doesn’t happen to be very severe. I highly doubt anyone would intentionally cheat thinking “Well, as long as it doesn’t cause me to win I can get away with it” because what would be the point? If they do win because of the cheating they’re DQed. If they don’t win, well they didn’t win anyway so did the cheating really help them?

The rules do not say “intentional actions result in a DQ”, they say “match affecting actions result in a DQ”. You may not like this rule, but the GDC structured the rules this way on purpose. In fact, I think a long time ago the rules used to talk about intentional actions (rather than match affecting) for determining whether to DQ, and the common complaint back then was “how does a ref determine if something is intentional” (like entanglement or driving into a protected zone, etc). Determining match affecting is generally easier than determining intent, which is one reason I think it was changed.


Don’t get me wrong I understand the rules as written, I just don’t like how they are written. Intent in the actions of a robot are always going to be murky because the control isn’t absolute in the same way it is with a person. There isn’t any doubt in that video that he intended to move the green block, the first touch as he’s placing the purple block is incidental, but it wasn’t a brush with the back of his hand that we are talking about, he actively moved it out of the way to make room for his robot.

Lets take a foot race as an example of why these rules are ridiculous as written: Let say you have a race in which 2 people have to run 100m as fast as possible. They aren’t allowed to move off the blocks until they are given the signal to do so. Runner A leaves the blocks 1 second before the signal and runs the race beating Runner B by 2 seconds. Runner A was clearly faster than Runner B, and would have won regardless of leaving the blocks early. According to international racing rules Runner A would be disqualified, as they should be, because the discipline of not leaving the blocks early is integral to racing and false starts should be punished harshly because they are cheating even if they don’t affect the outcome of the race. Even in earlier racing rules they would get a single warning before a DQ, but also be forced to rerun the race. If they were using analogous rules to what VRC currently has, Runner A would win the race period possibly moving on to a higher level of competition.

Having rules written like this only benefits people who unintentionally break rules and people who intentionally break rules, and neither group should win a match against a team that loses honestly and without violating a rule. Yes that means sometimes rarely a team with the best robot will be DQ because they made a silly mistake on the field. I’m ok with that even if it means our team loses, I’m a lot less ok with a loss to a team that couldn’t follow basic rules even if they had a great robot.

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I feel as if a lot of people try to compare the rules of high school sports to competitive robotics (anyone familiar with the referee video replay discussions that occurred here on the forums will know).
At a track competition, you run your event/race versus a few others. All your training goes into that one time you run the event.
Robotics tournaments are in no way similar, you build, program, test, practice for an entire day of matches, eliminations and qualifications. You don’t go to a robotics tournament to play one match and then leave. The rule giving leniency for incidental actions like the one previously referenced makes sense in this context, there’s more matches for that team to play and therefore it’s not as important that they get punished so heavily. They still don’t get away with doing this, the warnings system is put in place so repeat or not serious offenses will be addressed properly.
And as @Dave_Flowerday said, there’s more reasons not to inflict teams with a DQ for actions that don’t necessarily have an impact on the match.

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I think you are setting the bar way too low for what should be expected of robotics students.

There are lots of sports that are all day events like VRC and don’t fool around with this sort of nonsense leniency at the detriment of those sticking to the rules. If you run the 100m you’ll have to run it multiple times in several heats before the finals. Track, Swimming and Wrestling meets for example last all day and require multiple matches with cumulative effects like VRC, but if you false start intentional or not, they are going to make you reswim the race or DQ you. And if you DQ as the fastest swimmer that spent months and years practicing for that race then you get back up dust yourself off, learn and move on. The same should be expected of robotics students.

I’ve done various sports, and I’ve done various robotics competitions and claiming that they are so vastly different that they shouldn’t be compared is silly. A single L isn’t going to remove the robotics team from the competition unless they were already close to the edge or in finals and at that point it should be an L even more so because there should be 0 questions about who rightfully won a match after the fact.

Since sports seems to be a hot button comparison for some, JPL hosts an invention competition for HS and MS which like the VRC goals vary from year to year. The design has to be automated and I’ve seen teams including teams I know personally get DQ for touching the device just once in a way that would not affect the results.

Gray areas in rules invite manipulation and are a detriment to competition. It should be the goal of the rules to ensure that teams that engage in behavior outside of the rules are always eliminated so as to encourage teams not to engage in that behavior ever and to leave no doubt as to who earned the championship title. I doubt I will change anyone’s mind at this point, but I hope rules in the future will ditch this in favor of black and white rules which don’t benefit teams that break rules even accidentally.

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I believe the match affecting is for some of the above stated reasons ie letting newer teams not get shutdown for an actual mistake. It is up to the refs at the event to see and enforce intentional rule breaking. It is worded to give leeway yes but it is up to the refs to properly enforce whether the leeway should be given.
Let me give an example
Vex flags vs regular legal plastic
inspector A wants to fail our inspection since the flags can still be purchased and possibly count as a game element
Inspector B sees the point inspector A makes and realizes that it is not going to change the outcome of the matches since the team has measured how much flag is legal
Should inspector A just fail them or should they be warned to change plexi for a later comp to eliminate that potential DQ?
As I have been able to tell that’s why match affecting is in there. So people can improve

Tldr Match affecting is so people can improve and refs have the responsibility to make sure teams don’t game match affecting