October 13, 2021

“That’s the interpretation.”

Possibly the most important thing to realize when hockey umpires speak of ‘interpretation’ is that there is a principle of separation of powers in operation when it comes to drafting and approving Rule and Rule Interpretation (Explanation) in the game of hockey.

An umpire officiating on a pitch is no more able to make Rule or formulate interpretation than a judge in a Court of Law can make the Law for Parliament or a policeman can compose the Statutes he enforces. High Court Judges have in fact a great deal more discretion (Case Law) about the interpretation of words in Rules (Statutes) than a hockey umpire has information concerning the meaning of the words used in Hockey Rules and Explanations.

A hockey umpire should be interpreting player actions for compliance with the FIH published Rules, not ‘interpreting’ those Rules ‘on the fly’ in a match situation or prejudging situations which require subjective judgement (i.e. have to be witnessed before any decision may be made about them).

The FIH Rules Committee (FIH RC) cannot by itself enact a Rule of Hockey. The FIH RC composes draft Rule which it submits to the FIH Executive for approval and (if approved) the draft is then enacted and published by “the FIH”. If the draft is not approved it is not corrected by the FIH Executive and then published, because they alone also do not have the power to enact a Rule; it is sent back to the FIH RC (with comment) for redrafting and re-submission to the Executive. This separation of powers is supposed to ensure that no Committee and no individual committee member is able to go beyond their powers (but the ‘gains benefit saga of 2007 demonstrated that this aim is not always achieved – one might reasonably say that these days it is seldom achieved).

In this situation it may be appreciated that having individual Umpire Managers issuing Rules Interpretations and instructing umpires to act upon them (especially when the outcome is obviously contrary to a reasonable understanding of the FIH published Rules) is utterly wrong.

There is a framework of Rules of Interpretation used in the legal profession called the Rules of Statutory Interpretation. They are general rules used to try to decide what Parliament meant when drafting and then enacting a Statute by Act of Parliament. These Rules are sometimes called crude or dangerous (despite all the care that can be expected from High Court Judges when using them) but pointers can be taken from them when determining the meaning of the words used in the Rules and Explanations of Application of the Rules of Hockey – and why not when the alternative may be the personal opinion of someone with no legal training and whose native language is not the language the Rules of Hockey are published in (which takes us into the field of translation where different languages may not have words of exactly equivalent meaning) ?

A law book quote and a student essay.

“The rules of statutory interpretation] are rather crude labels for describing a complex mechanism, i.e. making sense of what someone else has written. The labels are still in common use, but they are dangerous. For a start, they use the word ‘rule’, and this gives the impression that if you follow a particular pattern you will not go wrong.”– Learning Legal Rules (7th edition) by James Holland and Julian Webb.

The following is an edited (the law cases used in support of the arguments have been removed for brevity) essay (not mine) on the views expressed in the above quotation.

Laws are created by Parliament; Judges interpret the laws using Statutory Interpretation. Draftsmen, when drawing up statutes endeavour to ensure they are clear and unambiguous; however, statutes can contain wording with uncertain meanings and with society’s progression, old statutes, though still applicable, may contain wording unused in present day. There may be other errors unnoticed by Parliament and statutes cannot cover every eventuality therefore; judges are required to interpret the meanings of statutes using the Rules of Statutory Interpretation. There are four Rules of Statutory Interpretation, these are the Literal Rule, the Golden Rule, the Mischief Rule and the Purposive Approach.

The Literal Rule requires courts to interpret statutes in their plain, literal and ordinary sense. The courts will not examine the intention of Parliament. This rule is used frequently as judges are not authorised to make laws and by following the statute to the letter judges cannot be accused of making law. This rule has positives, it does not question Parliament therefore upholds the law made even where it seems illogical, thus preserving the separation of powers. In limiting the role of the judge; verdicts are based on facts not opinion or prejudice. On the negative side, it creates loopholes where discrepancies in interpretation of the literal meaning occur, as it is ineffective in identifying limitations and complexities in English language. Occasionally use of this rule has defeated the original intention of parliament; The use of this rule can lead to injustice, weaken society’s confidence in the law and create precedents which require correction by Parliament. (Note. as an example in hockey we could consider the literal meaning of “attempting a tackle”, the absence of “preventing a tackle attempt”, and the use of Rule 9.13. to avoid applying Rule 9.12, which results in absurdity. It needs to be appreciated that the Rules of Hockey have been assembled ‘piecemeal’ over a period of about 170 years and some of them are still very badly written despite what we are told about constant revision and long term “simplification and clarification”. I regard the last rewrite of the entire rule-book in 2004 as an act of vandalism that has still not been recovered from – the ‘over haul’ in 1995/6 wasn’t any better. The FIH does not employ professional people with experience of drafting Rule for the game)

The Golden Rule, is used where the Literal Rule would result in an absurdity or an obnoxious result. The court investigates whether the statute wording conveys Parliament’s intention. The positives are that judgments are usually parallel with the legislator and errors in drafting are amended before awkward precedents are set, thus closing loopholes. Using common sense within law usually provides justice restoring public confidence in the legal system. It is problematic though as judges have power to interpret the statute as they wish, changing or adding to its meaning. It flouts the separation of powers.

The Mischief Rule, used to interpret gaps (ultra vires) Parliament intended to cover and apply a ruling that remedies the problem in ambiguous statutes. This rule allows for the adaption of statutes in a progressive society and closes loopholes. However, the judges have a law-making role infringing on the separation of powers and giving opportunity for a crime to be created after the event. Judges could make decisions based on their own opinions which could lead to injustice.

The Purposive Approach is implemented to ensure the law is effective as Parliament would have intended. In statutory interpretation courts rely on presumption, language, intrinsic and extrinsic aids. Presumptions are that common law has not been amended unless the Act shows intention to amend; Parliament cannot have retrospectively amended the law. In criminal cases Mens rea is necessary.

The rules of language are Ejusdem Generis, a list of words is followed by general words, which are limited to the same type of item as the specific words . Secondly, Expressio unius exclusio alterius the express mention of one thing excludes others; the Act applies only to items in the list. Finally Noscitur a sociis, a word is known by the company it keeps and must be looked at in the context of the Act.

Intrinsic aids are matters within an act itself which may make the meaning clearer. Finally extrinsic aids put an Act into context using case law, dictionaries from the time and historical setting. In consideration of the above quotation it is worth noting that the Law itself is a structure based upon rules, these rules are partly built upon social and moral rules.

It is reasonable for Statutory Interpretation to be labeled “Rules”. Rules are utilised in many activities from games like hockey to the etiquette expected in a particular working environment. They are responsible for regulating and guiding a behaviour or action against which an action or behaviour may be assessed and judged. Rules set a standard. In general rules can be applied to cases without having to reassess the intrinsic worth of each case; this provides a consistent result and can be both predicted and stable.(Note. an approach which is a problem in a game like hockey where a particular individual action is supposed to be judged on subjective criteria). There is however the argument that as the law is expressed in language there are factors that will influence the interpretation and application of legal rules, however by having a set of rules to follow in the interpretation of the rules, it does not suggest rigidity in the result and it is possible for the result to be the “wrong” result. However, the rules of statutory interpretation are varied, it is not one set rule, and therefore the most effective rules should be applied in consideration of the case. Together the rules allow for contemplation and are the starting point to allow for the most effective action in upholding the law.

~~~~~~~~~~

That process seems so much more considerate than “Because I say so.”

Quote: -Craig Gribble from Umpire Mangers Briefing Video Rio Olympics 2016. – “ Of course a defender on the goal-line cannot expect the protection of the Rules because the goal-line is properly the domain of the goalie.

What Rule, I wonder, is that statement an interpretation of?

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October 12, 2021

Suggested rewrite of the Rules of Hockey – First Draft

Click download below to view pdf doc.

October 2, 2021

A player receiving the ball or a player in possession of the ball?

A ten minute read.
Somebody said to me not long ago that obstruction in hockey is a very complicated concept and is difficult to apply. I don’t think that is true, I believe it to be a very simple concept. The difficulty is in getting umpires to respond appropriately when they see it (they do see it) instead of pretending they don’t see it or that it didn’t happen. The execution of application isn’t anywhere near as easy as the theory of what constitutes the offence – and many umpires aren’t even coping with the latter.

Here is a simple and a very straightforward concept. You put something directly in the way of (on a path to the ball) therefore you obstruct a player moving on that path. Telling a player so obstructed that unless he (attempts to) go around the obstruction he isn’t obstructed, makes no sense at all. If he isn’t obstructed there is no need to go around. If to obstruct does not mean obstruction or obstruction does not mean to obstruct use another word/s.

Obstruction can (will) occur when a player, in possession of the ball or not, positions his body (or part of) or his stick, between an opponent and the ball, when the opponent is intent on playing at the ball (is moving to do so) and is prevented from playing directly at the ball by the blocking player when (but for this blocking/impeding/obstruction) the opponent would have been able to play immediately and directly at the ball.

Obstruction in a similar way is also the illegal prevention of a tackle attempt by ball shielding.The exception to the Obstruction Rule, the permit to receive the ball in a shielding position, without being considered immediately in breach of the Rule (the so called ‘New Interpretation’ introduced in 1993), does complicate things, but only because in 1994 the FIH RC amended the (sic) recently introduced explanation of what the receiving player should do once having received the ball (which had in the previous year been “must immediately move away or pass the ball away” and which defined the moment in time the change between being a receiver of the ball and a player in controlled possession of the ball had occurred).

The explanation was altered to read “having received the ball the receiver may move off in any direction – “except bodily into an opponent” – which told us nothing, as that statement was then neither prohibitive nor directive, and the instruction not to move bodily into an opponent, had anyway already been part of the Interpretation. The FIH HRB having considered comment received over the previous year about Rule interpretation once the ball had been received, had responded promptly, making matters worse, removing all other clear instruction.

If you think this is a rare occurrence think of the confusion that has been made of the once concise Free Hit (even the Rule name is wrong) Rules following the introduction of the Self Pass (which is now near useless when awarded in the opposing 23m area), or the impact on Rule 9.10 Falling ball, following the introduction of above shoulder play (itself far too ‘loose’ to be safe) We also have the brainless idea that all penalty following offence beneath a falling ball should be taken at the point the ball was falling, removing all deterrent from the action of raising the ball to fall into a contestable area.

We have since 1994 had years of ‘interpretation’ which insisted that even when holding the ball within the playing reach of the player intending to tackle, the ball holder can still move with it in a way that prolongs his shielding of the ball to an unlimited extent – even though he is no longer a player receiving the ball. So a receiving player is given special privilege which would not normally be granter to a player in possession of the ball who turned over it to block off an opponent as they approached that opponent (spin turn into opponent’s range) or as the opponent approached them.

Over the last ten years or so the distinction between the treatment of a receiving player and a turning player (as described) has blurred to the point where the two are indistinguishable in action. A player in possession of the ball is generally treated as a receiving player alone once (briefly) was. A receiving player is currently informed he is permitted to move off in any direction – which means exactly the same as may move off etc. but reads as if (suggests) that at one time he would not have been permitted to move off with the ball (the direct opposite of the true situation).

The Rule text itself does not help, the original (1993) Technical Interpretation occupied almost two pages of the rule-book and a part of that described (badly and inadequately) what a receiving player had to do when the ball was received. The application of the Obstruction Rule has been floundering ever since. The Rule Proper was not changed from the wording used prior to 1993 until 2004 (although there there were what were termed ‘housekeeping’ – order of word -changes made in 2001) The last amendment made was in 2009 (more on that below).

Prior to 1993 there was a reasonable consistency, excepting the few zealots who are always with us and have a ‘special take’ on some area of Rule, be it ball-body contact or the ball raised towards an opponent or propelled at the goal. Some of these zealots have occupied positions which allowed them to influence the coaching of umpires in their locality. I came across an instance near Frankfurt in 1968 while at a hockey festival. Umpires were penalising any turning about the ball even when there wasn’t another player within 10m. Players in teams from other parts of Germany assured me this peculiarity was entirely local, but beyond their control (their umpires simply followed along when umpiring home sides, so as not ‘rock the boat’ and perhaps cause their team to be unable to participate in the festival the following year. Bizarre, but I suppose it was eventually resolved. I didn’t meet the Umpire/Tournament Manager involved but he must have been a fearsome individual, everyone appeared very anxious not to upset him.

Obstruction wasn’t a problem pre-1993; it didn’t happen much among competent players (players avoided ‘giving’ obstruction) and on the odd occasion it did happen, it was dealt with. (I can’t recall ever having being penalised for obstruction in the many years when I was playing First or Second X1 club hockey and my memory is not poor.) Now obstruction is a near constant state of play when players are contesting for the ball or trying to maintain possession of it – and most (possibly all) of this obstruction is intentional (and certainly avoidable). The Rule wording concerning a receiving player now is :-A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction. Why only a stationary player – when that is not a complete true statement? There is nothing at all said about a receiving player once the ball has been received, but let us suppose we then move onto the second phase and we are presented with instructions for a player in possession of the ball- of which the second and third are as widely ignored as the fact that a ball body contact is not necessarily an offence.A player with the ball is 1) permitted to move off with it in any direction 2) except bodily into an opponent or 3) into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it. (my numbering)No matter for how long you have watched modern hockey matches, without having read that sentence in the rule-book (and many participants never look at a rule-book), you could have no idea that a player with the ball is supposed to comply with those directions. It’s hardly a long and comprehensive or difficult set of instructions, in fact I think it falls short of what should be given – it’s unclear. What, for example, does “move off” mean, does that mean move away to put and keep the ball beyond the playing reach of opponents ? It should do.


Moving into a position between an opponent and the ball (assuming the opponent is or is going to be by the time a turn is made within playing reach of the ball) or (in a similar way -but in a separate Rule clause – backing into; meaning backing with the ball or backing the ball, into the playing reach of an opponent while shielding it from him are obstructive actions. Turning to block off a rapidly approaching opponent and shielding the ball from him (without moving away as appropriate), falls into the same category of obstructive actions – these all depend on distance from the opponent at moment of ball shielding and the timing of movements.

There is nothing wrong with imposing the body between an opponent and the ball if the opposing player is and remains beyond playing reach of the ball while this is done. The situation changes when an opponent gets to within playing reach of the ball. Getting this right is easy enough for an agile and mobile umpire who maintains good position – and a nightmare for the umpire who adopts a place to stand on the pitch and does not move more than a few meters from it during the match. A player in possession of the ball who is aware of the position of the umpire will use that knowledge to his advantage whenever the opportunity arises. Umpires should note that a player will play them as readily as they will play an opponent.

Currently the idea is that shunting along a side-line or base-line at walking pace while ‘protecting’ the ball is ‘acceptable’; even just dribbling the ball back in the general direction of the ball holder’s base-line at ‘snails pace’ is fine. In fact in these situation obstruction isn’t considered at all by most of our current crop of FIH Umpires, the entire focus shifts to “an onus on a tackler” (which was deleted after 2003 – it is no longer in the rule-book, but is still trotted out as if an existing obligation on the tackler to position to make a tackle), although of course the ball holder may be turning/ obstructing as much, if not more than he initially was, to try to ensure that a tackle remains impossible, that does not seem to matter, even though it should be fundamental in application of the Obstruction Rule.

Recently I watched a First XI match at Regional level, which was I suppose about two league levels below the second rung of the National League. I estimate there to have been on average one obstruction offence per minute throughout the game – nearly every time a ball-holder was challenged for possession of the ball. Not once was any penalty awarded because of any of theses offences.

I have come across various written statements by umpires that perhaps explains this. Many umpires have declared (in Internet hockey forums for example), with apparent sincerity, that a stationary player in possession of the ball cannot obstruct or that a moving player in possession of the ball cannot obstruct or that a player who is moving the ball cannot obstruct or that a player who has his stick in contact with the ball cannot obstruct. Taken together there is no situation in which obstruction can occur, but these many individuals never seem to disagree with each other or even compare notes, but cannot leave their own “cannot obstruct” mantra. Where their various beliefs (which are read without comment by many others) come from I can only guess (from the reinforcing forum group to which they contribute? Their own bubble? There is no Rule backing for any of them as stand alone statements)

Many umpires I believe read the Rule (the one given in the FIH published rule-book – which is the only legitimate Rule) but are very hesitant about applying it properly because they have seldom seen another umpire do so – and no umpire coach or ‘watcher’ has ever suggested that they should apply it. The Obstruction Rule is simply being allowed to die, and the game is that worse for that.

The Rule does of course need rewriting, but without intensive umpire coaching that alone will probably not be sufficient to rescue it or the game. As the part pointed out above in bold text illustrates it is easy to ignore Rule amendments and carry on as before. That amendment, the last made to the Obstruction Rule, was added in 2009, but has yet to enter the Rule application practice of a great many umpires. The part after the word “except” – ” bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.”, has not entered their conscious thought. The only part of it that which surfaces is that a opponent must be attempting a tackle for the ball (never mind that a tackle attempt is being actively prevented – i.e. the fundamental point, that seems to be considered unimportant). All player coaching at the moment seems directed towards maintaining possession by obstructing an opponent who intends to tackle for the ball, and umpires are receiving no help whatsoever to counter this trend – they are in fact encouraged to ignore those players who protest when they are obstructed or tell them they did not make a tackle attempt or were not in a position to make a tackle attempt. “More tea Alice?”



















September 27, 2021

Face masks and dangerous play.

A few days ago a question was posted to the Facebook Hockey Rules Discussion Group about the permitted wearing of face-masks:-

Had an umpire penalise a defender for running out of D with ball wearing face mask after she picked the ball at a short corner. I thought it was the 25 she could run to with mask on

My comment (which presents both sides of the dangerous play question.)

That defenders are permitted to wear face-masks (and additional protection) during the taking of a penalty corner is a tacit acknowledgement by the FIH RC that the penalty corner presents a potentially dangerous situation for defenders.

The Rule concerning face-masks:-

Field players -are permitted to wear a smooth preferably transparent or single coloured face mask or metal grill face mask, which follows the contours of the face, when defending a penalty corner or penalty stroke for the duration of that penalty corner or penalty stroke including the immediate taking of a free hit awarded after a penalty corner when passing the ball to another player; the primary objective of wearing a face mask to defend a penalty corner is safety; wearing of face masks which are consistent with the underlying spirit of this guidance should be allowed;

– are not permitted, when wearing face masks, to conduct themselves in a manner which is dangerous to other players by taking advantage of the protective equipment they wear;– are not permitted to wear protective headgear (face mask or other protective head covering) in any other circumstances.


That is the current Rule as far as I am able to discover. Nothing there about taking a face mask off as soon as possible or allowing a player in possession of the ball to move with it to the 23m line, although both were I think part of previous Rule.


I think this “– are not permitted to wear protective headgear (face mask or other protective head covering) in any other circumstances” severely limits what a defender, wearing a face-mask and in possession of the ball, may do, but it is not explicit about what such a defender may or may not do.


I doubt it includes dribbling the ball as far as the 23m line.


A defender wearing a face-mask is dealt with in a heavy handed way (for safety reasons) compared with the limitations placed on a player taking a shot with a drag-flick or deflecting the ball high towards the goal from close range during a penalty corner – such shooters are told they must not play the ball dangerously, but what does that mean? I can’t recall ever seeing a drag-flick penalised as dangerous play (although doubtless many do endanger opponents). The received ‘wisdom’ which is referred to as THE interpretation (From who?), is that defenders should not position themselves where they could be endangered – which is an illogical inversion of Rule.


The Rules 13.3.l and 13.3.m clearly state that during a penalty corner, a shot may not be made in a dangerous way (in a way that endangers an opponent – i.e. puts him at risk of injury). Common sense suggests that these instructions – see Rule 9.8 and Rule 9.9 – apply to any shot taken at the goal in any phase of play.


There is nothing at all to be found in the Rules concerning the positioning of a defender when defending his own goal. But Umpire Managers (and the Royal Dutch Hockey Board) have taken it upon themselves to declare that a defender positioned on the goal-line cannot expect the protection of the Rules. Umpires should of course ignore that bizarre and dangerous statement. That statement can be heard on the video made as Umpire Briefing for the Rio Olympics, but another version of it was heard during match commentary at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The idiots are nothing if not persistent, but anybody can play that game.



September 22, 2021

707. Ball raised towards an opponent within 5m with a flick or scoop.

According to what is given with the Explanation of Application of Rule 9.9 if a ball is raised towards an opponent within 5m with a flick or scoop that is to be considered dangerous play. If such a flick or scoop is played towards an opponent intentionally that should also be considered to be a forcing offence (forcing offences being penalised under other Rules).

The video shows three incidents in which a ball was raised with a flick into the legs of an opponent, in the second and third of these incidents it looks as if the player in possession of the ball intended to hit the legs of the defender in front of him, but intention is not necessary for there to be a breach of the Rule clause explained in Rule 9.9 as dangerous play.There is one example of a ball dangerously scooped towards an opponent; causing that opponent to take legitimate evasive action. All these offences by ball-holders were ignored by the umpires. In all cases of a flick raised into and hitting a defender who was within his circle, a penalty corner was incorrectly awarded.

I take ‘with a large pinch of salt’ statements that umpires at this level are always working hard to be the best they can be, because they are not the best they could be. A competent umpire knows how and when to apply the FIH published Rules of Hockey.

Whether they are not at their best is because of ‘the nerves’ caused by an important match on a big occasion (they don’t get bigger than the last two matches of an Olympic Games) or because they are umpiring according to their habits (accepted practice / briefings) I cannot determine.

September 20, 2021

Raising the ball towards an opponent.

Two incidents are shown in the video clip below. In both the ball was raised at high velocity towards an opponent with a hit. The first one was high enough to hurt the opponent but the second not, even thought it was hit at the defender from well within 5m of his position, he appears to have been fortunate and protected by his shin pads.

The first raised hit incident was penalised although the ball was hit from beyond 5m of the defender, in the second the player who was hit was penalised even though well within 5m of the striker.

These two incidents point up some peculiarities in the Rules concerning a dangerously played ball. Technically (in other words according to a strict reading of the text of the Rules of Hockey) the only offence the hitters could be said to have contravened in either incident was intentionally raising the ball with a hit stroke (and that is an action that is subject to an umpire’s opinionwhich is skewed by the “Forget lifted -Think danger” advice given in the UMB).

The fact that the ball hit and injured (endangered) an opponent in the first incident is, according to the Rules, irrelevant. In the second incident if the umpire did not consider the ball to have been raised intentionally with the hit stroke – and he clearly didn’t because he penalised the defender – the fact that the ball was raised with a hard hit, rather than flicked or scooped, could be considered reason to call that propelling of the ball towards an opponent, legitimate, because raising the ball with a hit stroke is not specifically prohibited in the relevant Rule (9.9), while flicks and scoops are.

The Rules concerning raising the ball towards (at) an opponent are not written in a rational way. The umpire who officiated the first incident possibly penalised the striker because the ball had been raised high at the defender, but there was no reason in Rule for him to do so. No player beyond 5m of a striker is offered protection from a ball raised at him in open play from any stroke at any height.

The Penalty Corner Rules state that no shot at goal may be made in a dangerous way but offers no criteria to define dangerous from beyond 5m (aside from legitimate evasive action which is almost universally ignored beyond 5m., even though there is no reason at all why it should be). Umpires usually put this Rule quirk to one side and penalise hits that are raised into opponents from fairly close range. The umpire of the second incident chose to penalise the player hit with the ball even though it was propelled from within 5m of him – possibly because he thought the defender had gained an advantage from the ball contact. The penalising of ball body contact is often in these circumstances irrational too.

September 1, 2021

How misinformation is spread

There is nothing in the Rules of Hockey to support the notion that an on target shot at the goal cannot be dangerous play.

There is nothing in the Rules of Hockey pertaining to open play that supports the idea that a dangerously raised ball must be raised to above knee level.
(A first hit shot made during a penalty corner must not be raised to above knee level, but that is not a dangerous play Rule, it is a condition that must be met for a hit shot from which a goal may be scored, which incidentally keeps play safer than it might otherwise be).

Oddly umpires normally penalise as dangerous a ball that is raised into an opponent within 5m; this has become accepted practice even though Rule 9.9 expressly prohibits only the raising of the ball into an opponent within 5m with a flick or scoop stroke. An exception to this sensible practice has been made for the on-target shot at the goal – and this exception is applied even when the ball is raised into a close opponent with a flick or scoop.

Since 2018 further misinformation has appeared which is closely allied with the notion that an on-target shot at the goal cannot be dangerous play. This is the idea that during a penalty corner legitimate evasive action does not apply in the case of a defender positioned on the goal-line. This idea is contrary to Rules 13.3.l and 13.3.m, which are about the making of a shot at goal during a penalty corner, and to Rule 9.8 which states, without exception, that a ball that is played at an opponent in a way that causes legitimate evasive action (evasion of the ball to avoid injury) IS dangerous play.

There is no height limit mentioned in either Rule 9.8 or Rule 9.9 and no distance limitation for LEA mentioned in Rule 9.8. (The advice to umpires included in the UMB, that a ball raised to below half shin-pad height is not dangerous, in not included in the Rules of Hockey – so it isn’t a Rule of hockey).

I find myself in an awkward position to justify. I approve of umpires including hits and deflections that are raised into close opponents within the meaning of dangerous play, even though there is no Rule support for this practice. I disapprove of umpires casting aside the relevant dangerously played ball Rules when a shot is on target and causes a defender to take evasive action.

On page 2 of the rule-book players are instructed to play with consideration for the safety of other players, this is a very broad and vague Rule, but it is a Rule (even if unnumbered and not included in the Conduct of Play Rule – Rule 9. Conduct of play, is prefaced with the instruction that players are required to play responsibly). Hitting the ball at maximum velocity into the legs of an opponent who is within 5m (here within 3m), is obviously not playing responsibly or with consideration for the safety of that opponent.

It is inconvenient for attackers that they are instructed not to endanger opponents because that requires that they develop skills beyond just hitting the ball as hard as possible towards a close opponent, but hockey is supposed to be a game of skill, not brute force.

On balance I think it better that umpires do not invent Rule (which they call Interpretation), and where there needs to be sensible adjustment (as in the case of a hit or deflection raised towards an opponent within 5m), the FIH Rules Committee become alert enough to recognize it and make suitable Rule amendment to correct what is (or should be) obviously an inane current Rule.

The fact that there is no height limit (aside from above knee height towards an out-runner within 5m during a penalty corner) to describe any endangerment, be it from a hit or drag-flick or scoop, should be a scandal, but the FIH has been so inept and participants so apathetic (“Not our business” “Can’t be bothered”) that this situation has continued for decades, despite an apparently frantically busy Rule Authority “simplifying and clarifying” the rule-book during this entire period.

In fact any attempt to address the issue of the dangerously played ball (or the Obstruction Rule) has been vigorously rejected by the umpires who are or have been the moderators of the four Internet hockey forums that I have been ejected from (I report with pride that I have been ejected/banned twice for raising the problem of the non-application of the Obstruction Rule and twice for comment about the dangerously played ball – my speed record is a ban for life by the Australian HA after I made one post, but their hockey forum was discontinued within a month, they didn’t really want ‘outsiders’ questioning their assertions.

The assertion in question on that occasion was made by an FIH Umpire and was that a player hit with the ball in front of the goal should always be penalised with a penalty stroke – part of the notion that a shot at goal cannot be considered to be dangerous play.That record might be thought to be something to do with my peculiarly aggressive writing style (an opinion that was voiced), but anybody who attempts to discuss either of these subjects in a rational way on an Internet hockey forum will be greeted with yawns (of feigned boredom) or dismay and the topic thread they opened to make their comment very quickly closed down.

I invite anyone to try it and experience the wall of resistance to such discussions that exists. Meanwhile the FIH RC continues to pretend to welcome comments and suggestions for Rule improvements from anyone who cares to make them.

A Comment received

Salisu JabboI I think the umpires are applying the rule the way they see see it. Where in the rule does it say every shot at goal is dangerous. If the umpires are inventing it, how. I are agreed with you that some shot at goal are dangerous, especially when it causes evasive action or from close proximity.

Reply

Anyone who declares that an on target shot at the goal CANNOT be dangerous play (which is what has repeatedly been declared since Beijing in 2008) is profoundly ignorant i.e. they may never have seen a hockey match.

If after seeing a number of hockey matches umpires are prepared to make that statement, they are incredibly stupid and dangerous and should not be permitted to umpire any hockey match. How somebody that stupid becomes an umpire is a matter that is worthy of close attention.

That experienced international level umpires, many of whom are responsible for coaching other umpires, could support the ‘cannot be dangerous’ statement is beyond comprehension. But in the Rules of Hockey umpires are given no instruction at all regarding ball height when a ball is raised towards an opponent in open play (bar the inane not dangerous below half-shin pad height, from the UMB) and only limited instruction in this regard (knee height) when a ball is raised towards an opponent within 5m during a penalty corner (they are simply told in Rule that a shot at goal must not be made in a dangerous way during a penalty corner -Rules 13.3.l and 13.3.m).

No advise at all is offered about ball velocity, none is offered about identifying ‘legitimate evasive action’ and there is no instruction whatsoever (more than twenty years after the drag-flick was introduced) about a ball raised towards an opponent from more than 5m.

You ask “Where in the rule does it say every shot at goal is dangerous?” when you could more reasonably have asked “Where in the rule does it say that a shot made at goal may be dangerous (and say how or why)?” or “Where in Rule is a dangerous shot at the goal described (the criteria laid out)?”

Against that background umpires are supposed to interpret and apply Rule. What Rule wording are they supposed to be interpreting? Answer:- None; they are supposed to be interpreting player actions for compliance with certain and well understood Rules (which do not exist).

The umpires I have (many times) seen award a goal or a penalty stroke when a ball has been raised as a shot at goal high (at head, neck, or chest) into a defender from considerably less then 5m are, presumably, ‘interpreting’ Rule (whatever that means) or following Briefing instructions (more likely), but they are not applying any FIH published Rule rationally or correctly. If they were they would be able to quote it. They cannot quote a Rule to support the idea that an on target shot at the goal cannot be considered dangerous play, so instead they present a baseless (contrary to Common Law) argument about “acceptance of risk.” on the part of defenders. The risk from any action which is contrary to a Rule of a game (a shot at goal must not be made in a dangerous way – Rule 13.3.m.), cannot legally be said to be an accepted risk.


Any raising of the ball towards an opponent within 5m should be considered to be dangerous play, but as mentioned above, the FIH Rules Committee have made a mess of the relevant Rule (9.9) by including only flick and scoop strokes in it, and also by not mentioning ball height or velocity (both of which relate to the propensity of a ball to injure anyone hit with it, and could give good reason for an attempt at evasive action).

Causing legitimate evasive action (an entirely subjective judgement) remains in many instances the sole criterion for a dangerously played ball, which is itself a subjective judgement, but umpires who act as if a shot at the goal cannot be considered to be dangerous play (here supposedly following the insistence of the FIH that there be an emphasis on player safety) ignore evasive action, in favour of the objective “at the goal”. They have no reasonable defence for adopting this practice.

August 1, 2021

Contact tackle and interpretation.

Here we have an example of player’s knowledge and understanding of Rule having come from an unauthorized source – possibly a coach repeating the Rule or Rule Interpretation that were extant when the said coach was a player.

Who for instance knows this Rule Interpretation? :-“A reverse-side tackle or one from behind the player with the ball is not permitted if there is any body or stick contact between the players concerned before the ball is played by the tackler.”

That is usually truncated to “tackling from behind is not permitted”

I have seen videos produced in the last five years in which that statement has been included in an explanation of the Rules of Hockey.

The second part is usually stated “Body or stick contact between a tackler and a player in possession of the ball must not occur before the ball is played by the tackler” and then that is ‘interpreted’ to mean that once the ball is played by the tackler contact between the two players concerned is permitted.

The ARG defenders here obviously believe this to be the case, but they are badly misinformed – and that caused them to make a pointless request for video referral.

The Rule Interpretation stated at the start of this post was deleted from the Rules of Hockey in 2004 when the whole of what was Appendix B Rules Interpretations was removed.

The current Tackling Rule is 9.13.

9.13 Players must not tackle unless in a position to play the ball without body contact.

Reckless play, such as sliding tackles and other overly physical challenges by field players, which take an opponent to ground and which have the potential to cause injury should attract appropriate match and personal penalties.

So body or stick contact between tackler and ball-holder is not permitted in any circumstance.

When I first saw this incident on video I was astonished that the umpire did not award a penalty stroke and a yellow card.

I don’t like the framing of the current Tackling Rule because of the influence it has on obstructive play – where potential tacklers are actively prevented from playing at the ball when within playing reach of it and where they could have done so if the ball had not been shielded from them.

There is a lack of balance and fairness between the applications of the two Rules. Rule 9.12 hardly being applied at all, and 9.13 applied even when the only thing the player attempting to tackle has done is to shadow the ball-holder. Both Rules need to be properly rewritten.



May 31, 2021

When is a Rule not a Rule.

There does not appear to be the slightest interest in holding the FIH Rules Committee to promises made when amendments were made to the Rules of Hockey by the FIH RC or its forerunner the FIH Hockey Rules Board. There may be some head scratching about that comment because these incidents have occurred at well spaced (but reducing) intervals over decades. However the effects of them are still seen and felt today.

The first I’ll mention is the deletion of the Offside Rule in 1997.
At the time the FIH RC wrote in the rule-book that following this deletion constrains would be placed on the actions of attackers close to the goal. Clearly the idea of ‘goal-hanging’ attackers shooting at goal at point blank range and without height restriction is a disturbing one. So what constrains did the FIH RC introduce? Answer, None. In fact 1997 is now so long ago that no-one raised an eyebrow when the Rules were amended in 2015 to allow attackers to shoot at goal when the ball was still above shoulder height (as long as this was done safely, ha ha), and the tennis smash style shots that are now frequently made are commended as skillful. Players changing in on a goal-keeper, before a drag-flick is made as a first shot during a penalty corner, in order to hit any rebound into the goal or to deflect from close range, a ball passed towards the goal, high into the net, are also a common sight. It’s not difficult to devise reasonable Rule to deal with all of these problems but no attempt has been made to do so. These obvious problems (dangers) aren’t even acknowledged to exist.

In 2002 there was an announcement made in the rule-book that an upcoming comprehensive rewrite of the Rules of Hockey would be complete, in that it would contain all the briefing notes previously set out elsewhere separately as advice and instruction to umpires officiating at international Tournaments, so other Rules documents would become unnecessary. But what had happened in 2004 when the promised rewrite was completed? All Advice to Umpires and Technical Interpretations, previously in separate sections at the back of the rule-book, were deleted. The rule-book, far from being a comprehensive Rules document, which included Umpire Briefing and perhaps also relevant playing parts of Tournament Regulations, became a skeleton of its former content and the Umpire Managers Briefing for Umpires at International Tournaments (the UMB) took on a new life, instead of being discontinued (as it still should be).

The UMB went on to conflict with and contradict the Rules of Hockey in some areas. For example Rule 9.9 concerning the intentionally raised hit was scuppered by the inane mantra ‘forget lifted – think danger‘ with the result that hits intentionally raised into the opponent’s circle are often not penalised even thought prior to 2004 any raising the ball into the opponent’s circle with any stroke had been expressly prohibited. This was one of the first constraints on attackers which was removed in a way that was contrary to the undertaking given in 1997.

The UMB also announced, contrary to what was given in the Explanation of Rule 9.9 that balls raised to below half shin-pad height are not dangerous – which is as daft as the recent change to the dangerous play Rule which declares that only opponents can be subjected to a dangerous play offence. It does not take much imagination to envisage scenarios (player fallen to ground for example) where a hit into them raised only about 8″ could be extremely dangerous, and one has only to mention the name Sam Ward to recall how easy it is for a player to inadvertently injure a team-mate.

In 2007 we had a Rules farce that ran in the other direction. The FIH RC deleted a Rule clause and individuals within other FIH Committees, notably Peter von Reth, the Chairman of the FIH Umpiring Committee, refused to accept the deletion, despite the FIH RC being the sole appointed Rule authority, as the FIH Executive had reaffirmed in a Executive Circular in 2002.

So from Feb 2007 when an ‘official Explanation of Rule 9.11’ (which was nothing of the sort) was posted on the FIH website, until May 2015, “or gains benefit” was applied as if it was still part of Rule 9.11. The restoration of the clause to the rule-book, as advantage gained, did not occur until January of 2016.

We then had in 2011 the bizarre situation where the Forcing Rule was deleted, but the offence was not, because the reason given for the deletion was “because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules” but umpires immediately stopped penalising forcing offences (to the great detriment of the game). The deletion of the ‘gains benefit’ clause was ignored and the clause continued to be applied as Rule even though there was no mention of it in a rule-book for a period of nine years, the penalising of forcing offences ceased in 2011 and there has been no further mention of this offence, despite it still being an offence, in a rule-book since then..

The ‘gains benefit’ clause should not have been deleted because that removed appropriate penalty for the direct prevention of a goal with an accidental ball-body(foot/leg) contact, but it certainly needed to be amended and reinforced, because standard umpire coaching at the time (which I was on the receiving end of) was that any ball-body contact would gain a benefit for the team of the player hit with the ball, an obvious nonsense which no umpire should have accepted as proper direction because it turned one of the two criteria for a ball-body contact offence ‘on its head’.

No one who can remember how hockey was played prior to 1993 when what was called a New Interpretation of obstruction was introduced (which was nothing of the sort, it was an Exception to the Rule, which applied only to a player in the act of receiving and controlling the ball; the criteria for the offence, the illegal prevention of a legitimate tackle for the ball, remained and remains exactly as it always has been), can be comfortable watching the way hockey is now played. Here again the long practice of umpires interpreting in their own way (or to instruction given by Umpire Managers) caused them to completely ignore the extension of a clause in the Rule Explanation of Rule 9.12, added in 2009, which prohibited a player who had received and controlled the ball, from moving to position between an opponent and the ball – which should of course include moving to maintain an existing ball shielding position and backing or leading the ball with the body into the playing reach of a defender (advice which was ‘lost’ in the vandalism which was called the rewrite of 2004).

The above is an brief account of some of the odd things which have happened. But I have not mentioned the important subject of dangerous play and the inexcusable introduction during the Beijing Olympics of the idea that an on target shot at the goal could not be considered to be dangerous play (again the 1997 constraints on attackers upended) That surfaced again from an umpire during the 2010 World Cup, and was present, in slightly altered form, in the Briefing video for the Rio Olympics, so the idea has not yet been discarded despite its absurdity.

One of the strangest things to have happened in the last few years is the issue of a letter from the Royal Dutch Hockey Board to umpires in the Netherlands, in 2018, instructing them that legitimate evasive action (the causing of which defines a dangerously played ball) does not apply to defenders defending the goal during a penalty corner. Strange because this National Board does not have the authority to issue such an instruction, but stranger still, because although aware that this has happened (I know they were informed in November of 2018) the FIH Rules Committee and the FIH Executive have done nothing at all to correct this situation.

The application of the Rules to which the game of hockey is supposed to be played is a mess, and the apathy of ‘the hockey community’ and ‘the hockey family’ (and their and the FIH Rules Committee’s apparent powerlessness to control Umpire Managers) are ensuring that it stays that way.

May 20, 2021

What is the criterion for a dangerously played ball?

“Rule 9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.”

Explanation”

A ball is also considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by opponents.”


Despite the FIH Rules Committee having stated in the rule-book that the Rules of Hockey apply to all participants and officials at all levels (worldwide). The Royal Dutch Hockey Board have instructed umpires in the Netherlands that legitimate evasive action does not apply to defenders during a penalty corner, effectively meaning that any raised shot at goal from beyond 5m of a defender cannot be considered to be dangerous play, even if it is made directly at a defender who is forced to evasion.


Whether or not the KNHB would consider a player who has been hit on the head with the ball and seriously injured from such a raised shot, to have been endangered, is unknown. But no doubt if such a thing were to happen they would deny any responsibility for an injury resulting from their permitting/encouraging shooting of this sort, however they would probably need the services of immoral and capable lawyers.


The FIH RC and the FIH Executive who are well aware of the illegal instruction the KNHB have issued, and who have done nothing to ensure that it is withdrawn, would also be culpable for any injury that resulted from this negligence.


Given that the FIH are at present £500,000 ‘in the red’ it would be wise of them to take action to ensure that a legal action against them claiming damages due to injury, is a remote rather than a strong possibility due to the very large number of penalty corners that are awarded every year.

May 8, 2021

Referral restrictions

Another area of hockey that is in need of reform.

The task of the video umpire is to advise and make recommendation to the match umpire so that the match umpire (who remains responsible for all decisions made) is able to make a fair decision. Clearly that did not happen here.


It probably would have happened if video referral was not restricted to decisions leading to the award of a goal or a penalty corner, and the match umpire him or her self was able to leave the pitch to review replay of questionable incidents. (the third umpire could be utilised to supervise players while this was happening).

This should not be difficult to arrange. What is required is a pitch-side trailer and technicians to find and order the relevant ‘footage’ as the umpire is making his/her way pitch-side to view it. (Such trailers could be equipped to be towed different venues).

The current ‘hanging around’ of the match umpire while a third party makes a decision (which according to Tournament Regulations he/she should not be making) is unsatisfactory.

May 4, 2021

Forcing ball-body contact

Rules of Hockey 2011. Ten years of negligence.

“RULES CHANGES
The changes in this edition of the Rules essentially seek to simplify
the game without altering its fundamental characteristics.
The Rule which used to say that “players must not force an opponent
into offending unintentionally” is deleted because any action of this
sort can be dealt with under other Rules.”

So the forcing of ball-body contact (being one of the actions of this sort) remained an offence to be ‘”dealt with” under other Rules. (Offences can be dealt with either by allowing advantage to the player hit with the ball – the player offended against – or by penalising the player responsible for the forcing action, there are no other options).

But 2011 was the last year in which there was any mention at all of the offence of forcing in a rule-book., so many current umpires have no idea (they are certainly not told by their coaches) that forcing ball-body contact is an offence.

This cannot be an oversight by the FIH, it looks like deliberate negligence. Now why would they do that? More penalty corners, more goals, more ‘excitement and spectacle’. That’s pathetic when they are supposed to be promoting and protecting skillful play.

May 4, 2021

Having received the ball…

Both the Rule and the Rule interpretation used at one time to give instruction about what a player who had received the ball should do once it was within his control.

Now we have :-
“A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction .”….
(the parts of the Rule that are recalled by umpires and how application of the Obstruction Rule is coached).

But then that second sentence continues:-
“except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it”.
(Umpires also recall that a player who claims to be obstructed must be attempting to play at the ball – but they don’t in general know what a tackle attempt looks like or that the prevention of a tackle attempt is also obstruction)

“A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction).”

The part in parenthesis (this is third party or shadow obstruction) is taken to mean that this clause applies only to third party obstruction, but if it was amended (as Rule 9.8. was amended) with the substitution of “this may also be” for “is” a more accurate description of the Rule is reached without in any way changing the interpretation of it.

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this may also be third party or shadow obstruction)

In the video the player in white (Poland) correctly protests to the umpire that there has been an obstruction by the Indian player in possession of the ball – the umpire shrugs and smirks, and play continues from the sideline.

May 2, 2021

Defining ‘Dangerous’

I have been trying for some years now to get the FIH RC to introduced another criteria for a dangerously played ball. It being “any ball that is propelled at above sternum height and within the shoulder width of a player and at a velocity that could cause injury to anyone hit with such a ball should considered to be dangerous play”.

At present there is no objective criteria for a dangerously raised ball if the player the ball is raised at is more than 5m from the player raising the ball. There is only the subjective ‘legitimate evasive action’ which – as can be seen in the video – is simply ignored.

In fact the Dutch Hockey Board have even instructed umpires in the Netherlands that legitimate evasive action does not apply to defenders on the goal-line during a penalty corner. (An illegal instruction because no National Association has the authority to amend Rule in any way without the prior approval of the FIH Executive – and this approval has not been given).

There are Facebook hockey Rules discussion group posts on this topic here:-


https://www.facebook.com/groups/424559554644848/permalink/1193643771069752/?comment_id=1193846917716104&reply_comment_id=1193963144371148&notif_id=1619992828389395&ref=notif&notif_t=group_comment_mention

April 27, 2021

The New Normal

Rules of Hockey

An umpire coaching video popped up on my Facebook Timeline a few days ago and this was inserted at the beginning of it.

There is nothing in the Rules of Hockey which supports either of those statements. The passer’s responsibility for the consequences of his passing action does not end the moment he has raised the ball above and beyond near opponents, and the second statement could be a contradiction of the second clause of Rule 9.8 Dangerously Played ball which reads:-

9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.
A ball is also considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by opponents.
The penalty is awarded where the action causing the danger took place.


(Note from where danger was caused which is NOT necessarily from where it occurred)

To state – as the text does – that the lifter of a ball will NEVER be penalised for the action of lofting the ball to fall onto/into a crowded space (and therefore a space occupied by players of opposing teams who might compete for the falling ball) when and where that action took place, is bizarre and utterly wrong.

When a player chooses to loft the ball with a scoop so that it will land on the position of a team-mate who is closely marked by an opponent, the passer has chosen to carry out an action that is potentially dangerous, because that opponent and the passer’s team-mate may choose to complete for the ball as it falls.

Rule 9.10 stipulates that in these circumstances the same team player must allow the opposing player to receive and control the ball. If he does not, but instead contests for the ball he has committed a dangerous play offence contrary to Rule 9.10, and the lifter of the ball (the passer) has committed an offence contrary to Rule 9.8.

A Free ball obviously cannot be awarded in two different places simultaneously so clearly the first offence (the lifting of the ball into a contested area) as the first offence, must be penalised first (with a Free ball or a penalty corner as appropriate (if for example, the ball was lofted from within the passer’s own 23m area, a penalty corner for a deliberate offence in that area). The second offence, (contesting for the falling ball) is a breaking down of play with deliberate dangerous play and should result in at least a Green Card for the offender. This would be both correct (Rule compliant) and fair.

When should a Free ball be awarded at the point the ball was landing? When and only when the same team player was in free space or made a lateral run to create space to receive a ball lofted to land wide of his position or more than 5m short of his position (if he is closely marked) or alternatively beyond his position AND an opponent who was 5m or more from the intended receiver at the time the ball was raised closed to within 5m of the intended receiver while the ball was in the air and/or before it had been controlled on the ground by the receiver (this intended receiver is in these circumstances i.e when in free space or moving into free space, as the overhead pass is made, referred to as the initial receiver).

What should happen if the ball is lofted to fall onto a position where two or more opposing players might contest for it? The intended receiver (the player of the same team as the passer) should allow an opposing player to receive the ball and play it into his control on the ground. An opponent must not interfere with or influence the play of the receiver while the ball is being so received.

Has there been an offence by the player who lofted the pass when his team-mate closes on an opposing initial receiver from beyond 5m? No, the situation was safe at the time the ball was raised. The sole offender in these circumstances is the team -mate who encroaches on the opponent.

Rule 9.8 stipulates offence when the overhead pass leads to actual dangerous play. A withdrawing action from the intended receiver (that allows the opponents to receive and control the ball on the ground) therefore nullifies the potentially dangerous play of the passer. Even if it was considered that there was an offence by the passer in these circumstances it would be unnecessary to impose penalty because opponents would not be disadvantaged by his reckless passing action, play should continue with advantage to the opposing team. However a word of caution from the umpire to the passer would not be amiss when potentially dangerous play like this occurs, even when danger is averted by third party action.

P.S. There is no launch pad for a pass (just as there is no “Covid roadmap”)

October 20, 2020

Coaching players to obstruct an opponent.

Rules of Hockey 2019

Responsibility and Liability

Participants in hockey must be aware of the Rules of Hockey and of other information in this publication.
They are expected to perform according to the Rules.

The Rules of Hockey apply to all hockey players and officials.

9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

Players obstruct if they:

      back into an opponent

      shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part oi their body

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

Note. The exception is important. Moving bodily into an opponent and moving to position between an opponent and the ball (and within the opponent’s playing reach) are separate and distinct examples of an obstructive action. It is not necessary that there be body to body contact or stick contact for an obstruction offence to occur.

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing.

Note This may also be shadow or third party obstruction. The Explanation goes on to read “this is shadow or third party obstruction”, possibly giving the impression that these actions are not or may not be the simple obstruction of a player by an opponent in possession of the ball, to prevent a tackle attempt. Inserting “May also be” removes this ambiguity.

October 6, 2020

Change

An article from the Hindustan Times published in the fieldhockey.com website on 4th June 2019.

‘Focus on limiting changes to hockey,’ says FIH’s CEO Thierry Weil

Change is the only constant in international hockey, a sport that sees such frequent tinkering in its rules and tournament formats that even its ardent fans find it hard to keep up.

B Shrikant

Change is the only constant in international hockey, a sport that sees such frequent tinkering in its rules and tournament formats that even its ardent fans find it hard to keep up.

For example, the qualifying programme for the Olympic Games has been changed four times in the last three decades.

In the Olympics, the host country, five continental champions and six qualifiers make the 12-team field, and though the continental championships remain intact, the qualifying event has been changed regularly—a single tournament gave way to three events of eight teams each (till 2012), which was replaced by the Hockey World League, which in turn gave way to the Pro League and FIH (international hockey federation) Series (Open and Finals).

The Pro League currently involves eight top teams playing each other on home and away basis while the other competition involves a series of FIH Series Open events followed by three 8-team Finals.

However, even as eight teams—India, Japan, South Africa, Poland, Russia, Uzbekistan, USA and Mexico—get ready for the second event in the FIH Series Finals in Bhubaneswar, which will be held from June 6-15, comes the news that the event will be discontinued from next year.

Similarly, the FIH has dumped the Champions Trophy, and reworked rules nearly every year as the game has metamorphosed from a match of two halves to one involving four quarters of 15 minutes each.

So, why does the FIH introduce so many changes, unlike sports like football and tennis, whose basic structure has remained the same?

Hindustan Times put this question to Thierry Weil, FIH’s chief executive officer and he agreed that there have been too many changes.

As far as the FIH Series is concerned, Weil blamed financial burdens for scrapping the tournament.

“The FIH Series involves teams that are not in the Pro League, provide them a chance to qualify for the Olympics,” he said. But participating in these events is a big financial burden on these teams. Also, we found out that there was a conflict with the activities of the continental federations which were also conducting similar tournaments. I agree that changes have come too frequently but many of them were necessary, like ‘no offside’ because it was not conducive to the fast-pace of hockey. When I took over as CEO (in April 2018), I have asked them to limit these changes. My focus has been on standardising the calendar and evolving the Pro League,” Weil said.

Meanwhile, the game will continue to see some big changes in the next few years.

Pro League 2 in the offing

The FIH is planning to launch a second division of Pro League, tentatively named Pro League 2, which will involve teams ranked between 9 to 20 and introduce promotions and relegations.

“It’s one of the ideas we are working on,” Weil said. “Recently, we have introduced a two-year home and away system which will reduce by half the travel in the current format.”

The FIH is likely to roll out the second division from next year.

Big investments

Weil said the FIH has made significant investments in introducing a new ranking system from January 2020, and a new synthetic turf which reduces dependence on water. The roll out of a new match-based ranking system will also promote bilateral series involving top teams.

“Each match will become important as it will involve some points. All matches recognised by FIH will contribute towards the ranking of the team,” he said.

Introduction of a new turf before 2024 is the most ambitious project that FIH has taken up, as water scarcity is a growing reality that impedes the widespread adoption of the current astroturf, especially in countries like India.

“Currently we are in investment mode and have made big investments in the rankings system, new turf and promotion of Pro League,” Weil said.

The title of this newspaper article is misleading; the “Rules” written about are not the Rules of Hockey or FIH Tournament Regulations,  (the latter concern  the way in which players may compete in matches in an FIH Tournament.). Whether or nor a match is played in two halfs or four quarters does not much effect the way in which players play – but may make the game more high paced or ‘frantic’.

Whatever the current perception, the FIH Executive does not approve several changes to the Rules every year – they are very conservative and always have been.
In the first of these areas, the Rules of Hockey, huge change is needed to rectify the mistakes made in the past twenty or so years and to improve the way in which the game is played and officiated.

What is likely to happen is that the “no change” mantra, which is advocated above, will conflate changes to the way teams qualify for the Olympic Games and World Cups, with change to the Rules of Hockey (what is drafted by the Rules Committee and published as the Rules of Hockey by the FIH). As usual the FIH are not communicating clearly and neither is the newspaper reporter.

Thierry Weil was not talking primarily about the Rules of Hockey but about the Regulations concerning League and Tournament formats and the means of qualification to World Level events, as well as about economics and water shortage concerns and standards for pitch surfaces, Technical Specifications such as these are not at all the same thing as “the Rules” as commonly understood.

If there is concern about the frequency of past changes to the Rules of Hockey this can be addressed by discarding from ‘practice’ those changes which the FIH Rules Committee have not actually made and dissuading umpires (and Umpire Managers) from imposing their own personal interpretations as if Rules.

The invention that an on target shot at the goal could not be considered to be dangerous play, springs to mind. A stationary player cannot obstruct, is another. A third:- Aerial Rules (whatever they might be) do not apply to either shots at the goal or to deflections. The list of what will not be found in any rule-book but is applied as if it can be, goes on and on and the FIH Executive just look the other way even though they must know they have NOT approved these ‘Rules’. See

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/09/21/unauthorized-rul…-the-netherlands/

July 30, 2020

The strange world of the dangerously played ball.

Rules of Hockey
Raising the ball towards an opponent.

A dangerously played ball call is more likely to be made against a defender than against an attacker.

I had previously though that the last mention from an umpire of the nonsense about a shot at goal being impossible to consider dangerous play was uttered during the China v Spain match in the Women’s 2010 World Cup. But here we are in the Semi-Final of the Men’s World Cup England v Netherlands in 2014 – and it is trotted out again. Was it one of the commentators who declared it was a shot at goal so could not be dangerous? The video umpire appears to go along with that view

The commentators also get wrong the matter of knee height and dangerous play (which applies only to a ball raised at an out-running defender during a penalty corner). The height restriction on a first hit shot during a penalty corner is about compliance with the limit for a goal to be scored, not about dangerous play.

If that edge hit was not intended as a shot at the goal, it should have been penalised as an intentionally raised hit, but the intent of the shooter would have required mind reading – what looks to me to be a miss-hit was assumed to be a shot at the goal because it was clearly not a pass across the face of goal (which could not have been legally raised with a hit stroke) .

This incident here was anyway clearly a ball raised into an opponent within 5m and therefore dangerous play, by the attacker – not a complicated concept – but one which is obviously not understood by officials at FIH level. Words apparently have a different meaning at that level.

I had to laugh when I heard the commentators talking of the history of the game. Some knowledge of Rule history might given them an understanding of the state of the current Rules and how bizarre the application of the Rules has become in some important areas.

Thank goodness that anything that happened eight years ago, and was invented twelve years ago in an umpire briefing, is now considered pre-history and can (as it should) be discarded. Easy to do, it has never been mentioned in any official document as a Rule – because it isn’t

The notion that a ball raised towards an opponent within 5m (who is not an out-runner at a penalty corner) has to be at knee high or above to be considered dangerous play is erroneous.

The applicable clauses for open play are contained in the Explanation of Application of Rule 9.9. It’s not entirely clear but I don’t think knee height applies to any propelling of the ball towards an opponent after the initial shot has been taken during a penalty corner.

There is no reference to height in the Explanation to Rule 9.9., any raising of the ball towards an opponent within 5m may therefore be considered to be a dangerous play offence.

The UMB contradicts the Rule in this regard (using half-shin pad height) so the advice in the UMB – which is not Rule – should be disregarded.

Again, the mistaken idea that a ball raised towards an opponent within 5m has to be above knee height to be dangerous play. Nothing else explains the difference in the decisions made in these two incidents.

The video referral for the first incident was for a dangerous shot on goal, which I hope those who believe there is no such thing will take note of.

The second incident raised an interesting question. What does an umpire do if both teams simultaneously request video referral citing different offences? I suppose, following Tournament Regulations, if the requests are made in the correct way and within 20 seconds of the incident which is being referred, the umpire must advance both questions to the video umpire. Players possibly believe that such simultaneous requests are not allowed, but it is only a video referral about a decision from a prior video referral that is not permitted. I see no reason that both sides should not ask for referral for different offences at the same time, even if they are committed within the scope of a single action. In this case two very different questions, 1)Was the ball raised into the defender dangerous play?  2) Did the defender commit a ball-body contact offence ?

You don’t ask, you don’t get.
Maybe the Dutch players know the Rules better than the English players do. But again A dangerously played ball call is more likely to be made against a defender than against an attacker and the injustices that goalkeepers have to put up with in this regard haven’t been touched upon in the above selection of incidents from International level matches in important tournaments (World Cup and Olympic Games).

June 3, 2020

Pass or shot?

The Rules of Hockey.

A tactic to circumvent safety Rules that creates a ‘murky Rule area’ if the pass to the attacking in-runner is also towards the goal.

This requires that an amendment be made to the Rules so that a first hit, push or flick towards the goal during a penalty corner, which is intercepted/deflected by another attacker, is always regarded as a pass and not as a shot at the goal – and therefore a shot at goal made after such interception is always limited in height in the same way as a first hit shot would be, no matter how it is subsequently propelled towards the goal.

Its not unusual to see head high deflections made from within 5m of the goal-line and this should not be considered safe practice – simply because it is not.

There are two Rule contraventions by the attacking side in this video. What are they?

First, the attacking in-runner breaks into the circle before the ball is ‘inserted’; That should have caused the umpire to stop play immediately and reset the corner (punishments for defenders who break early are more severe – a player gets sent beyond the half-line and the corner is reset without him)

Secondly, the ball is deflected up into a defender’s groin from close range (within 2m) injuring him. That is a dangerous play offence. The ball may not be raised at an opponent at all from within 5m. (Too big a distance, but that is what is given in the Rule – intentional deflections are not mentioned in the Rule but common sense dictates they be included as a means of propelling the ball towards an opponent in a dangerous way)

I think it reasonably follows that if a shot at the goal is raised with a hit in open play and is then intercepted or deflected by a second attacker and propelled towards the goal, the initial action must be regarded as a pass and therefore an illegally raised hit.

This would fit with the promise made by the HRB back in 1997 when the Off-side Rule was deleted, that for the safety of players, constraints would be placed on the actions of attackers when close to the goal – a promise that has been forgotten for a long time.

 

 

 

May 22, 2020

The invisible offence.

Does the attacker commit an offence before he shoots?

The wording of 9.12 Rule Proper,  and a restructuring of the Explanation, to present it as a prohibition rather than as an exception to what is permitted (the current format which may be confusing), may help you to decide

The statement in the UMB is rather odd. I have never seen a movement that was not active i.e. an action, but the meaning is clear if it is understood that it is the prevention of playing the ball by an opposing tackler that is meant by “movement to prevent the playing of the ball” These people are not good with syntax. A fatal flaw when explaining Rules.

I think that Few will even bother to look at the above video even though it runs for only 64 seconds, because it is obvious what the subject matter is,

Obstruction? “Boring”, “Not interested” , “Not that again”

Together with the dangerously played ball (same reactions), dangerous use of the stick and physical contact, the Obstruction Rule is among the most important of the Rules that have been enacted.

It is as fundamental to the way in which hockey should be played as the Rules concerning physical contact are. Yet there is even less interest in getting it understood and applied correctly than there is in instituting sane control of a ball raised high at another player (which appears to be near zero). There is outright refusal in some quarters to discuss either action, obstruction or a dangerously played ball. One has only to watch a hockey match for a few minutes to see the consequences of that.

But.
“When you make people believe they are thinking they will love you, when you actually make them think they will hate you”. Don Marquis

That is generally true.

May 13, 2020

The invention of ‘Rules’

Here are two more examples of ‘interpretation’ contradicting Rule or the provided Explanation of application:-


March 24, 2020

Contrast in application following Rule change

Rules of Hockey.

The permit to play the ball at above shoulder height opened a flood-gate of other Rule abuse because the only restriction was (is)  that players should not play or play at the ball in a dangerous way – and a dangerous way is left to the judgement of umpires, who have already been advised to “forget lifted” when the ball is raised with a hit. That they are also told to “think danger” (what’s danger?) (but not advised to consider disadvantage to opponents following an illegal action) is something of a joke.

The hit raised into the circle by the BEL attacker was a foul (it was clearly intentionally raised), as was the contest for the falling ball by the second BEL player who was not in a position to be the initial receiver at the time the ball was raised (the goalkeeper was).

In the next incident shown in the clip the attacker passes and raises the ball across the face of the goal with a reverse edge hit – that is not a shot at the goal – so an illegal hit.

The promise made by the Hockey Rules Board in 1997, when the Offside Rule was finally deleted, that measures would be put in place to restrain the actions of attackers when close to the goal was completely forgotten – in fact reversed.

I have five suggestions for Rule change to reduce incidents of a dangerously played ball.

The interception of a shot at goal by a player of the shooter’s team will convert what was a shot into a pass – and if raised too high with a hit (during a penalty corner) an illegally raised hit. This also means that if the intercepting player shoots at the goal, the first hit restriction applies (and deflections in such circumstances must be treated as hits). The hard low hit or push at goal during a penalty corner which is deflected by a second attacker high into the goal, usually from within 5m is a circumvention of dangerous play Rules and is clearly too dangerous to defenders to be allowed to continue without control.

2) Playing at the ball at above shoulder height when in the opponent’s circle to be prohibited.

3) A height limit (120cms / 4′ / sternum height) on any ball propelled towards an opposing player from beyond 5m (especially in a competitive situation) at high velocity (a velocity that could injury a player hit).

4) The absurdity of contesting for a falling ball being considered dangerous play when contesting for a rising ball (played at in the same way and at the same height) is seldom considered dangerous play (or even play leading to dangerous play) to be changed.

5) Raising the ball into the circle with a hit prohibited except in the case of a dink hit by a dribbler evading an opponent when the dribbler retains immediate possession of the ball.

Then we continue to allow players to play at the ball at above shoulder height (outside the opponent’s circle) because appropriate restrains are in place.

The above list may not be complete, it may be necessary to curtail flicks and scoops being raised high into the opposing circle, but that possibility needs further thought – maybe a height limit?

Edit. The list above is not complete I overlooked my suggested replacement for the Rule prohibiting an intentionally raised hit, that is not a shot at the goal taken from within the opponents circle:-

6) In addition to the height limit on a ball raised towards an opposing player, an absolute height limit (of shoulder height) on any ball raise with a hit – even into clear space. This is not tied to the concept of a dangerously played ball, it’s simply a height limit to prevent the long chip or clip hits, common in the 1980’s that the prohibition on the intentionally raised hit was supposed to eliminate. Those clip and chip hits have now been replaced with reverse edge hits used to ‘clear’ the ball over the heads of opponents. On occasion, as we have seen recently with the broken jaw of a Malaysian International player, a miss-hit ‘clearance’ can result in serious injury.

I have not planned the writing of this article very well because I find I need to add a seventh suggestion, again one I have made many times before:-


7) When a Self-pass is taken quickly – that is before opponents have been given sufficient opportunity to retreat to get to be 5m from the ball, and they are trying to so retreat – normal play will resume as soon as the taker moves the ball from its stationary position (see article on Second Whistle to ensure a stationary ball) This does away with a raft of 5m restrictions and exceptions. It also renders unnecessary the prohibition on playing a free ball, awarded in the opponent’s 23m, being played directly into the opponent’s circle.  The only two 5m requirements necessary are 1) that opponents get to be 5m from the place a free ball is awarded as rapidly as is reasonably possible and 2) the placement for a free ball, when a defender’s offence occurs between the shooting circle and the hash circle, will be just outside the hash circle opposite to where the offence occurred. (This is the only 5m requirement put in place since 2009 that the FIH Rules Committee have – for an unknown reason – deleted, but it was the only one enacted in 2009 that made good sense).

The taking of a Self-Pass before opponents have been given opportunity to comply with the 5m distancing requirement will be seen as the playing of advantage (Why else but to gain advantage would a player taking a free ball take it before opponents had complied with Rule requirements?) Defenders who do not attempt to retreat and who then interfere with the play of the taker should be carded (I would like to see restored as a taker’s option the Upto10 in these circumstances, but as an Upto25 with no restriction on the direction of the Upto25m as this would render obsolete the idea of a ‘safe’ place to deliberately give away a free ball.) The free could be taken anywhere within 25m of the place of the offence.

March 5, 2020

Limiting drag flicks

Drag flicks. From an article on Field Hockey.com
“Guise-Brown has been training his PC skills since he was a young boy growing up on the grounds of the school where his father taught in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, with the hockey pitch as his back garden. As a teenager and at university he used to flick for an hour a day most days.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the South African international is not in favour of suggestions by our readers that the height of drag flicks should be limited in line with regulations on hits at penalty corners. “I’d be a little bit upset if they did away with it,” said Guise-Brown. “I mean it is quite dangerous the whole nature of it but there’s lots of precautions that are taken.” “
.
,
I would be very surprised if an expert drag-flicker, who had devoted much of his training to perfecting this shot was in favour of the FIH doing away with it – but there has been no suggestion of them doing so, even if this expert is prepared to admit that “the nature of it is quite dangerous” (a fine bit of understatement) But then he went on to say that there are lots of precautions that are taken.
Are there? I can’t think of a single one other than not raising the ball at or above knee height into an out-running opponent within 5m, which is a watered down version (a contradiction) of what is contained in Explanation of Application of Rule 9.9. which does not have a minimum height limit for a raised flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5m.
There has not been, as far as I am aware, any call made from any National Association to limit the height of the drag flick to the same height as the first hit shot during a penalty corner – 460mm.  On the contrary the Royal Dutch Hockey Board have declared that legitimate evasive action does not apply to defenders on the goal-line during a penalty corner. An illegal declaration and instruction to umpires, that I am still waiting to see the FIH demand they withdraw
My suggestion (which I have been hammering on about for at least ten years) is a “dangerous” height of above 120cms, that is 1200mm or 4′ (for senior men), a height well above what a ‘logging’ keeper can cover and still a difficult height for a defender to stop the ball. I don’t want a similar height limit as is imposed on the first hit shot because I do not want to see a return of the ‘logging’ goalkeeper and the ‘packing’ of the goal-line behind the goalkeeper.
My suggestion is not an easy option for defenders and it does not prevent dangerous deflections (no height limit will), but it does afford the defender opportunity to evade a direct shot at his position, made at above sternum height without being penalised with a goal for doing so, and gives attackers (and umpires) a clear upper limit for “dangerous” for any ball propelled at high velocity at an opponent from any distance beyond 5m.
My suggestions do not stop there. I want a ban on all raising of the ball with a hit to above shoulder height, to replace the (supposed) ban on the intentionally raised hit *(excepting a shot on goal from within the opponents circle). And a ban on the raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit (excepting a dribbling player who makes a dink hit into the circle while evading opponents and while so doing retains possession of the ball). And (belt and braces) a ban on any playing at or of the ball at above shoulder height in the opponent’s circle.
I think there could be general support for these measures (how can we find out if the proposals are not put up for the consideration of National Associations by the FIH)
I am not impressed that a news article has been written airing the views of a leading exponent of the drag-flick as if he could possibly have been in favour of limiting the stroke in some way – of course he isn’t.
Should face-masks be obligatory during a penalty corner?
I think not, why not full helmets and throat protectors? Because aside from the always unpredictable deflection (a reason for optional facemasks) there is no good reason shots should be permitted to be made towards defenders at head or throat height. Shots not made at defenders do not need to be height limited – above or wide of is fine – those made at defenders must be height limited.
Contrary to popular belief among attacking players, it is not an offence for a defender to position between a shooter and the goal to defend the goal. Where else could a defender position to defend the goal?

The mess that has been made of the receiving of an aerial ball and encroachment offences is another area of concern, but I leave that to one side for now.

* As they say “the goal is there to be shot at and is seven feet high” – (so that players are not endangered by the possibility of hitting their heads on it). It is interesting to note that in the far more robustly physical sport of ice-hockey the cross bar (which is heavily padded, as are the players) is about 4′ off the ice. Ice hockey players are sensible enough not to want slap hits being made (at 100mph+) at/past the heads of defenders – field hockey players apparently accept the risk of serious and long term injury for the sake of spectacular and exciting matches – or are those risks imposed on them?

February 27, 2020

World Hockey misses the point.

Apparently common sense has to be the result of professionally collected data about injuries, and comment about potential danger has to be from “credible” sources (see article) to be accepted.

I have been suggesting for years a height limit on any ball propelled towards another player from beyond 5m, (there being Rule in place to cover the ball raised towards an opponent within 5m – even if that is poorly applied at present) as a means of determining that a ball is dangerously played.

Incidents of dangerous play cannot be determined simply by counting the number of injuries that result, because legitimate evasive action is already supposed to define a dangerously played ball (but in practice doesn’t).

What actually happens is quite different If an ‘on target’ high shot at the goal is successfully evaded a goal award is the usual outcome. If a player attempting to evade such a ball is hit with it then a penalty stroke award is considered normal. In other words attackers are not penalised for playing the ball in a dangerous way at an opponent but rewarded for doing so and therefore encouraged to do so.

There is no deterrent whatsoever against raising the ball at throat or head height towards a defender when shooting at the goal from beyond 5m. It does not matter which stroke is used, be it a drag-flick or an edge-hit.

It follows that defenders are being forced to defend against shots in competitive matches that they would always evade in practice situations (because of the high risk of injury). The choice, if it can be called that, is to risk injury by attempting to stop a high ball propelled at the throat or head or to ‘give away’ a goal. Players (shortsightedly) often ‘sacrifice’ themselves for the team, and the team (and the club) are then without their services while they recover from injury (often for many weeks).

A sternum level high limit (120cms or 4′) would allow defenders to evade the very dangerously played high ball without giving away a goal and would also greatly reduce the risk of severe (life threatening) injury which is the potential result of permitting above sternum height shots to be made towards opposing defenders. Crucially attackers would then stop making such shots, just as they stopped ‘roofing’ the first hit shot made during a penalty corner after the introduction of the backboard height limit on such shots.

There is no need to height limit any shot that is not made towards (at) another player, so shots made at above head height or wide of opponents, at what would otherwise be considered a dangerous height, would not be effected by the proposed height limit, just as balls raised above knee height with a flick within 5m of outrunning opponents during a penalty corner are not considered dangerously played if they are not directed towards an outrunning opponent (they are penalised as non-compliant, not dangerous and a goal may not be scored with a non-compliant shot).

A120cm height limit is easy and cheap to mark on a goal by stretching an elasticated tape from one post to another around the back of the goal. This is also easy to adjust for women’s hockey or for juniors where lower heights (110cms and 100cms respectively) may be considered more suitable.

http://fieldhockey.com/index.php/comments/50068-world-hockey-aim-to-tackle-reverse-hit-dangers

England Hockey also misses the point.

http://fieldhockey.com/index.php/comments/50139-hockey-clubs-need-to-report-all-injuries-and-concussion
http://fieldhockey.com/index.php/comments/50138-leading-hockey-coach-backs-reverse-stick-debate-at-junior-level

It is of course necessary to track injuries and record how they are caused, but injuries are only a very small part of the complete “dangerously played ball” scenario.

Injuries arise because the dangerously played ball is not well Ruled for and the Rules we have are not well applied. I have a video clip of a player, while trying to stop the ball with their sticks, being hit on the collar bone with drag-flick shots and being penalised with a penalty stroke, and another of a shot, taken from within 5m, deflecting into the goal off a defenders collar bone into the goal, while he was trying to evade the ball, and a goal being awarded – this should not be happening.

The so called ‘gladiator effect’ is not more likely to encourage defenders in competitive matches to try stop the ball with the stick rather than duck, they are already doing that. It is in my view more likely to encourage attackers to believe that they need not concern themselves with injury to ‘protected’ opponents, and worse, for umpires to accept that view.

We already have attackers shooting at the goal when there are defenders positioned between them and the goal as if defenders so positioned in John Gawley’s words (2001 Umpire Coaching document entitled The Lifted Ball) aggregated to themselves to position of goalkeeper without the privileges (legal use of body) afforded to goalkeepers. He suggested that such defenders could be shot at as if they were fully protected goalkeepers (an aberration in an otherwise fairly sensible set of recommendations concerning the lifted ball). That attitude can never be accepted – not if incidents of injury are a concern and we seek to reduce or even eliminate them.

February 23, 2020

Silly Rule and confusing yellow card.

Correction edit added

The draconian enforcement of one of the silliest conventions in the Rule book. Excellent play by the defender penalised as if a crime. Fortunately it occurred in a match in which the Netherlands team were missing on most cylinders when in front of the goal, and they missed yet again from the penalty corner.- a good save by the ARG keeper.

I have noticed that of late umpires have been more inclined to award a penalty corner following a tackle from which a defender sends the ball – often apparently inadvertently – out of play over the base-line. In this same match this umpire’s colleague awarded a penalty corner following such a tackle. His characterization, to the player involved, of the tackle stroke used, as a long sweep at the ball, was wildly inaccurate. I wonder have Umpire Managers told umpires to be more strict about applying this very silly and unnecessary Rule.

Making defending as difficult as possible is becoming ridiculous. Defenders near their base-lines already have to contend with players shunting into them while shielding the ball and opponents trying to play the ball into their feet. They are likely when shunted into, to be penalised for a contact tackle and when the ball is forced into their feet, in both instances with a penalty corner.

The defender is more and more restricted while attackers seems to have no restrictions at all imposed. Even raising the ball into a defender is viewed as the defender’s fault – he shouldn’t be there. The most difficult and necessary part of the game is being made near impossible, that is not going to improve the skill levels of attackers or make the game more interesting for spectators.

CORRECTION

I got this completely wrong, the card was not for the knock off the base-line but it would seem (I am not certain) for a much earlier contact tackle attempt near the half-way line by the ARG No.5. But there was no advantage signal given and the umpire did not communicate clearly why he had stopped the game or quickly explain why he had issued the card. Things were done out of proper sequence and communication was poor.

My comment concerning the unjustness of a penalty corner award for a defender (intentionally ?? ) playing the ball off the pitch during a tackle are unaltered.

February 5, 2020

A silk purse from a sow’s ear.

Rules of Hockey

9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

It is necessary when trying to communicate the meaning of statements made in Rules clauses or Explanation clauses not to assume any prior knowledge of the game by the intended listener/reader and an absence of deductive reasoning. No conditions or circumstances not specifically mentioned in any Rule statement can to be assumed. Everything the Rule maker needs the participants to know to comply with a Rule must be fully explained.It is also almost a certainty that people who have not ever read a rule book will have very fixed ideas about what the Rules state and what they do not, and it will be extraordinarily difficult to get them to change their opinions because they will have formed their opinions by listening to and/or watching people they respect and trust.

When the Obstruction Rule is read together with the provided Explanation of Application of Rule it quickly becomes apparent that the normal principles of comprehensive explanation are not adhered to. Much is left unexplained and much is assumed to be common knowledge. The current Rules and Explanations are a sow’s ear with nearly everyone of them being ‘interpreted’ into a multitude of personal ‘silk purses’, of value only to their inventors.

Explanation of Application Rule 9.12.
Players obstruct if they:-

back into an opponent.

It is possibly acceptable for a Rule (the words of the Rule Proper) to be unclear when considered in isolation, the terms used may not have been previously explained, but the Rule should become very clear when the Explanation of Application clauses are read because all such clauses should be written in an unambiguous way. For example, the word ‘obstruct’ in the Rule Proper is undefined, but a reading of the Explanation clauses should make it very clear what actions ‘to obstruct’ include  – but this is not clear.

I’ll demonstrate with what may seem to be the reasonably clear Explanation clause above:

Players obstruct if they back into an opponent.

which is in fact unclear and applied in a wide variety of ways or not applied at all. Is the opponent assumed to be in possession of the ball at the time and shielding it from an opponent while backing into that opponent? Reasonable assumptions perhaps, but possession of the ball is there only an assumption, it is not specified in the clause. The clause could refer only to off the ball play such as ‘third party’ obstruction.

What does ‘back in’ mean? The American umpire coach Cris Maloney asserts that it means to back into physical contact with an opponent, and that ‘backing in’ that is only backing towards an opponent is not an offence, no matter how close the players get, unless physical contact is made. To support this approach he points out, in analogy, that a car that backs into another car hits that car – otherwise it has not backed into that car.

I disagree with his view of backing in and take the view that a player who moves backwards taking the ball into the playing reach of an opposing player, while at the same time shielding the ball from that player (the tackler) to prevent a tackle attempt, obstructs that opponent immediately he or she brings the ball within the playing reach of the tackler. Why?  Because players may be obstructed once they are within playing reach of the ball when they are attempting to carry out a tackle. I answer the analogy of the backing car by pointing out that a car that backs into a garage or into a parking bay is not backed up until it hits something (a back wall or a fence) and is in the garage or parking bay in the same way a backing player (or a player leading the ball while shunting sideways towards an opponent) is within the playing reach of an opponent (often causing the opponent to back off to avoid physical contact, in which case a tackle attempt may become an impossibility).

Unfortunately the phrase “attempting to play the ball” which comprises much of the Rule Proper, is nowhere explained and it is necessary to construct circumstances in which a tackle attempt may be made, and also where one cannot be made and to know the reasons why in each case.This is not as easy as it might appear, but it is easier to describe situations in which a tackle attempt cannot be made (or is prevented) than it is to describe a legitimate tackle attempt. If you don’t believe that try it and see if you can come up with a ‘watertight’ definition that will fit all circumstances.

The word legitimate has several meanings and is used in a different ways in different Rules E.g. ‘legitimate evasive action’ and ‘legitimate tackle’ do not use the word ‘legitimate’ in the same way. A legitimate tackle is a tackle made in a legal way i.e without a foul (usually avoiding making physical contact with stick or body) But how? Legitimate evasive action is evasion that is necessary to avoid injury and is genuine for that reason. Evasive action cannot reasonably be considered to be illegal even when it is unnecessary or even an attempt to con an umpire.

It is often possible to look at prior wording to Rule or Explanation or to amendments added to Rule or Explanations at a later date (with obstruction the amendments were made in 1993, 1995, 2001, 2004 and 2009, with 1995 and 2004 being years in which major rule-book rewrites were undertaken) to get a better sense of what the HRB /FIH RC intended. Fortunately in the case of this particular clause there is a 2009 amendment that provides clarity. I will come back to that because it also includes part of the next “a player obstructs” statement.

– Players obstruct if they shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

A shield and shielding is often thought of something to protect the body from another object moving towards it. An umbrella for example is generally used to shield a person from rain. The other form of shielding is the use of the body itself to protect something or some one from attack or to prevent loss of possession of the thing shielded. It is more generally, but not exclusively, used in this latter sense in the Obstruction Rule and it is considered an illegal action if it prevents an opponent, who would otherwise be able to play immediately and directly at the ball, from doing so.

In 2002 the rule-book (and the UMB) contained advice to umpires to “watch for players who stand still and shield the ball when under pressure” Again a lot of assumptions, but that advice clearly informed umpires that a stationary player who was shielding the ball to prevent a tackle attempt by an opponent, was as guilty of obstruction as one who moved to impose his or her body between an opponent and the ball (I’ll come back to deletions).

But what is a legitimate tackle? Here legitimate appears to mean ‘legal’ or ‘Rule compliant’ i.e. not illegal. An illegal tackle, according to 9.13. is one that is made from a position where physical contact is (inevitable/unavoidable). Sliding tackles are often like this. There is of course a world of difference between a front-on or side-on sliding tackle at an open ball and a tackle attempt from the sort of positions that a ball holder puts a tackler in when moving to shield the ball from the tackler. That is moving his or her body (or the ball) to maintain positions where the ball is body shielded from the player intent on tackling for it, these latter actions are obstructive and an offence.

Here is the 2009 improved version of ‘Players obstruct  if they back into opponents combined with players obstruct if they move to shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.


A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent. (contact offence).
or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it. (ball shielding).

If the part about what a player with the ball is allowed to do is omitted (because it is unnecessary) we get, with a slight change of syntax, a clearer picture of what is prohibited.

A player with the ball is not permitted to move bodily into an opponent

or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

The second  part of that clause (after the first use of the word opponent) is the 2009 amendment, which has been practically ignored since it was published.

It could be improved “A player with the ball is not permitted to move into bodily contact with an opponent…. etc”. If body to body contact is prohibited, which is the case, that should be clearly stated even if it is duplication of the physical contact Rule.

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction). Improved by (this may also be third party or shadow obstruction)because it is also the prevent of possession of the ball just as the prevention of a tackle attempt may be.

When the wording of Rules gives an umpires ‘ sow’s ear’s to work with no amount of ‘interpretation’ improves matters, personal ‘interpretations’ generally make things far worse (because they vary between umpires) and they are not permitted anyway. The proper course of action is to lobby the FIH RC for amendment to the wording. An effective lobby group has to be in agreement about what changes it wants of course, and there’s the rub. 

The 2009 amendment is an improvement on what was there previously (after 2004) except that the advice on the situation of the stationary player under pressure was ‘lost’ in the 2004 rewrite and there is still no explanation of what action constitutes a tackle attempt (is it not demonstration by a tackler that there is intent to make a tackle?), and no mention, outside the advice in the UMB, of the illegal prevention of a tackle attempt  (which is basically what an obstruction offence by a player in possession of the ball is). So we get situations such as those in the shootout in the video below, where an attacker moves to position between a close opponent and the ball with impunity (apparently with immunity from the Obstruction Rule) preventing that player (the goalkeeper) from playing at the ball when he would otherwise have been able to do so – the ball being within his reach. The goalkeeper cannot “go around” the ball-holder (previous daft and unfair advice circa 1993, which was deleted in 2004) as that would just present an empty goal to a ball holder who would turn away to the other side from any attempt to go around him (an obvious flaw in the instruction that was not obvious to the person who drafted it  – and from there is was apparently just ‘rubber stamped’ without serious consideration being given to the effect it could have on the playing of the game). The deletion of this ‘go around demand’  was made with good reason but participants are still babbling on about an ‘onus’ on a tackler to go around (to get unobstructed) who declare, quite absurdly, they tacklers are not obtructed unless they take this action because they are not in a position to tackle for the ball  (because they are obstructed). The same people don’t consider that there is an onus on a player in possession of the ball not to obstruct opponents who are trying to play at it, but of course there is, otherwise there would be no Obstruction Rule. Oddly the ‘onus’ crowd don’t point to any of the other conditions that disappeared in 2004, because i assume, most of them were directed at the player in possession of the ball and not the opposing tackler. Not all of them disappeared, but it is difficult to explain why those that did were deleted.The third and fourth clause listed below are now common in play and many participants insist they are not obstructive actions. When- as they will  – they point out these clauses are deleted I can reply “So is the onus on a tackler to go around an opponent when obstructed, to reposition to make a tackle, and obstruction is still the prevention of a tackle attempt by means of ball shielding”

Umpires should be aware of players who are in possession of the ball who:
• back into an opponent;
• turn and try to push past an opponent; (barging)
• shield the ball with body, leg or stick and stand still when under pressure;
• drag the ball near their back foot when moving down the side-line or along the back-line;
• shield the ball with the stick to prevent a legitimate tackle

As difficult as the Obstruction Rule makes it to play the game (demanding movement skills) or worse, to learn to play it – and as unpopular as it may be with players in possession of the ball – without an Obstruction Rule, a non-contact game which hockey is, (there’s a surprise for some) becomes a farce. Which is why, when combined with the failure to penalise forcing offences, hockey has become a farce.

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February 1, 2020

Umpire Briefing

My clip (the second one below)  is a small part of the FIH video issued in 2017 after the Rio Olympics.

I watched the FIH Umpire Briefing video, featuring the Umpire Managers, prior to the 2016 Olympics (much of which is repeated in the 2017 version)

and was not surprised that the umpiring in Rio, taken as a whole, was poorer than any I had seen in any FIH Tournament prior to that date. What is hoped for and intended does not automatically become common practice.

In this short clip (below) the men’s umpire manager Craig Gribble, begins by pointing out that a shot on goal that endangers players from both sides is dangerous play (that has now been changed, a same team player cannot now be endangered, a Rule amendment which Sam Ward might have a few words to say about) and additional video adds that a shot wide of the goal that endangers defenders is also dangerous play – so far so good.

He then goes on to say “Of course a defender choosing to stand on the line and occupying an area which is in fact properly the goalie domain could not expect the same degree of protection“” That is a nonsense which he then links with a true statement to the effect that if a defender on the line is struck with the ball (and prevents a goal) then a penalty stroke COULD be the correct decision (unfair advantage gained).

Why “Of course” No explanation is offered. Why would a defender in any position, including on the goal-line, not be as protected by Rule as any other player defending anywhere on the pitch would be? I suggest he offered no explanation because he could not do so. His statement is pure invention which unfortunately has become a meme of umpiring – I wonder how that happened?

This kind of “Of course” thinking is so ‘fuzzy’ and vague, and contrary to the supposed emphasis on player safety that is obvious that this high level umpiring official does not understand what is meant by the term “a dangerously played ball”. A dangerously played ball s not something that is created by the player endangered by it, but a dangerous action an endangered player responds to.

Yes a defender struck with the ball who prevents a goal being scored can be penalised with a penalty stroke, provided the shot is not made in a dangerous way i.e. in a way that endangers any defender or causes him or her to take or try to take, legitimate evasive action (evasion to avoid injury) – as demonstrated in the initial part of the clip.

There is no Rule declaring the goal-line to be the exclusive domain of the goalkeeper and no Rule forbidding a defender to defend the goal from a position on the goal-line. That might be the case in some circumstances if a Goal Zone was introduced, but no such thing has happened.

The principle of acceptance of risk is often trotted out at this juncture by those who advocate penalising defenders for defending, but it needs to be realized that in no sport (or any other area) does this principle apply if a Rule of the game has been breached (or a relevant Law or Regulation contravened) in the course of endangering or injuring the person who it is claimed accepted risk.

Acceptance of risk is acceptance of the risk of injury or actual injury due to an accidental action or what is termed “an Act of God”, something beyond human control. One player propelling the ball in a reckless and dangerous but intentional way towards another is not an accidental action or something beyond human control, so endangerment or injury from this kind of thing is not an acceptable risk, it’s an opposition offence, a foul.

It is of course extremely worrying that this FIH Official charged with Umpire Briefing at the highest level seems to believe that defenders have no right to defend on the goal-line and little? (but anyway an undefined) degree of protection from opponents who propel the ball at them in what would in other circumstances (for example not a shot at the goal) always be considered a dangerous way.

He comes close to saying that a shot at the goal against defenders on the goal-line cannot be considered to be dangerous play. If he believes that then he should not be assessing the performance of umpires during FIH Tournaments or be influencing their umpiring, because those views are not Rule compliant. How on earth did he get appointed to the position of Umpire Manager? Are the views of those considered for such appointments not discovered during interview? Who appointed him? Could it have been the FIH Umpiring Committee?

The Penalty Corner Rules 13.3. l and 13.3.m between them make clear that no shot at the goal should be made in a dangerous way. If a shot against penalty corner defenders (who are frequently positioned on the goal-line) could not be considered dangerous play, then there would be no need for Rule 13.3.m. it would comprise redundant and meaningless statements : perhaps it does.

There is no reason to suppose that actions that are considered dangerous propelling of the ball during a penalty corner should not also be considered dangerous in open play.

Roger Webb (formerly Secretary of the FIH Rules Committee) pointed out to me some years ago that the backboard height limit, where the ball has to cross the goal-line from a first hit shot for a goal to be scored, is part of the conditions for the scoring of a goal, it is not part of the dangerously played ball Rules (strange as that might seem because a ball hit into an out-runner, who is within 5m, at above knee height, will be considered to be dangerous play), so effectively a dangerously played ball is dangerous in much the same way during open play as it is during a penalty corner – and that is as it should be.

A dangerously played ball is however not exactly the same during a penalty corner as it is in open play due to the shenanigans of the South Korean out-runners during penalty corners in a pre-Olympic Tournament match against Pakistan in 2004. As a knee jerk reaction change to Rule the FIH RC decided that it would henceforth be mandatory that an out-runner, even within 5m, hit below the knee with a first shot would be penalised with another penalty corner. This is an aberration and a contradiction of what is considered dangerous propelling of the ball in open play – where there is no minimum height mentioned . In open play raising the ball towards an opponent with 5m is a prohibited action (although only scoops and flicks are mentioned, common sense and safety demands the inclusion of raised hits). Therefore the dangerously played ball Rule is more severe in open play than it is during a first shot at goal during a penalty corner – second and subsequent hit shots and and all shots using other strokes during a penalty corner, are (in the absence of any other instruction), subject to the same Rules that apply in open play.

The lack of height control of the drag flick compared with a first hit stroke is confusing because 13.3.m states in effect that no flick or scoop may be made in a dangerous way at any time during a penalty corner – so not even as a first shot that is raised with a flick into an opponent within 5m at below knee height ???  One for the wordsmiths to sort out.

Rule 13.3.l regulates the first hit shot. Rule 13.3.m regulates all shots made with all other strokes and also with subsequent hit shots. (any hit shot made after a first hit shot). Participants are expected to know the Rules and to play to them, but also to gloss over these strange ambiguities, ignore them and pretend that they do not exist.

 

January 28, 2020

The case of the impossible video refferral

VIDEO UMPIRE conduct and requirements are given in Appendix 17 of the FIH Tournament Regulations.

TEAM REFERRAL PROCESS

5.1  The Video Umpire calls for as many replays from any camera angle as necessary to reach a decision.

5.2  Within the shortest time frame possible, the Video Umpire provides his / her advice and recommendation:

-‘Goal’

-‘No Goal’

-‘Penalty Stroke’

-‘No Penalty Stroke’

-‘Penalty Corner’

-‘No Penalty Corner’

-‘Shoot-out to be re-taken’

-‘No shoot-out re-take’

-‘No Advice Possible’

-plus advice on any observed breach of the Rules.

5.3  If a breach of the Rules is observed and advised to the Match Umpire, it is then for the Match Umpire to take into account the breach in reaching his / her final decision.

5.4  Implications for the retention or loss of team referral rights:

a   in the event that the referral is upheld the referring team retains its right of referral;

b   in the event of ‘No Advice Possible’ (if the video footage is inconclusive, including through not having the correct replays available, the ball never being in shot in the replays, the footage being of insufficient quality to permit a decision or technical problems with the referral equipment), the referring team retains its right of referral;

c   if there is no clear reason to change the Match Umpire’s original decision, the referring team loses its right of referral.

5.5  A team referral that has been already been adjudicated upon may not be the subject of a subsequent referral by the opposing team.

FOR UMPIRE AND TEAM REFERRALS

6.1 The final decision, including any matter of interpretation, (my bold) remains with the Match Umpire and not the Video Umpire.

 Whether or not an action was carried out intentionally, and whether or not an (unfair) advantage was gained because of any referred action that occurred, are matters of interpretation i.e. are subjective judgements, therefore intention and advantaged gained are judgements beyond the remit of a video umpire.

It follows that whether or not a ball-body(foot) contact is an offence is a judgement beyond the remit of a video umpire because a ball-body(foot) contact is an offence only when made intentionally or only if advantage is gained by the team of the player who was hit with the ball (or both simultaneously).
Here the umpire only informs the video umpire that there is a claim from the BEL team of a foot contact in the circle by an AUS player, the umpire himself has not seen such a contact. The video umpire then makes a decision and tells the umpire what it is. Both of these exchanges are contrary to the regulations concerning conduct of a video referral. Given the information she was told the video umpire could only refer the umpire to the prior barge by the BEL player (an objective fact), she was not permitted to make a judgement concerning advantage gained i.e. declare whether or not there had been an offence because of the ball-leg contact because that was an interpretation. (the contact was obviously unintentional and likely caused because the AUS player was being barged into at the time he was trying to play the ball with his stick, so intent was not an issue, but the video umpire made her decision solely on the grounds that there had been a ball-leg contact by an AUS player and not on either of the criteria for offence and nor was she permitted to do so – so she could not make a rational decision and should have said no decision was possible in this regard).

For those who are at present ‘steaming out their ears’ I must point out I did not write Rule 9.11 Conduct of Play or the FIH Tournament Regulations, they are what they are. But I invite alternative interpretations of the wording given in the Rule, and/or the Tournament regulations as they apply to video referrals. I would be happy to know that this is not in fact the mess of contradiction it seems to be.
Be that as it may, there was a blunder made here, the barge by the BEL player should have been penalised and a 15m free awarded to the AUS team; instead the very important first goal of the match was conceded from the awarded penalty corner by the Australians.

6.2 All other decisions remain with the Match Umpires.

6.3 Substitutions may not take place during the stoppage of play for a video referral; substitution may take place on the resumption of play subject to the Rules of Hockey.

I belatedly add that I would like to see a system instituted where during a video referral the match umpire joined the video umpire (set up in a pitch-side trailer close by – transportable video facilities would in any case be useful) after receiving the team question, and the reserve umpire took up player supervision on pitch while the match umpire was thus engaged. The video umpire could begin locating the recorded incident while the match umpire was making his way to the trailer and then the two of them could discuss the relevant incident in private. This I feel would be a better use of the time of officials than the match umpire standing around waiting for a necessarily restricted announcement from the video umpire. It has the advantage that the match umpire has (usually) already seen the incident in real time and live scale and is then either confirming or rejecting his or her initial impressions – and there could then be no question about who is making the final decision or who has the authority to do so.

There were two other video referrals in this match and both followed a similar pattern, with the video umpire wrongly being asked to make judgements and decisions about player intentions

I have been advocating for some years that the offence of back-sticks be abolished. I also think the Belgium player did the safe thing here, another more cynical player might have jabbed the ball forward into the Australian player who had fallen to ground.

Here is another example of Rule and Regulation being ignored:-

 

 

January 17, 2020

Height limits

Head injuries from reverse edge hit ‘clearances’ should not be happening. What the articles (links below) do not state, but should have, is that intentionally raising the ball with a hit in such circumstances is a foul even if the raised ball is not dangerous to anyone. Obviously a raised hit ‘clearance’ disadvantages the opposing team and that alone is sufficient for penalty (a penalty corner if in the defended 23m area).

Defenders can of course point to the unfairness of such hits being permitted ‘through’ them at the goal, and defenders actually being penalised if their evasive action is not successful (and often penalised with a goal if it is successful). We need height limits when a ball is raised towards another player even from substantially beyond 5m.(up to 15m?) Certainly no player should be permitted to raise the ball at high velocity towards the throat or head of another player in any circumstances.

Umpires are of course ignoring the Rule and following the UMB advice (and it is only advice, not Rule) to “forget lifted – think danger” but thinking about danger after it has occurred is too late.

Players must be prevented (deterred) from indulging in reckless play and causing injury to other players. Players are already instructed to play responsibly and to play with consideration for the safety of others, but obviously many are not doing so. In such cases umpires must act responsibly and officiate with consideration for the safety of players, and they need Rules drafted to enable them to do this correctly.

http://fieldhockey.com/…/49275-kieran-govers-takes-it-to-so…

.http://fieldhockey.com/…/49274-a-knockout-blow-for-unikl-s-…

January 2, 2020

The letter of the Law.

A ball raised towards (at) an opponent within 5m is dangerous play. Why? Because a Rule Explanation clause (Rule 9.9) states that it is. No minimum height is given and no minimum velocity is given. A very severe Rule, probably far too severe but that is the Rule.

The attacker in the first incident should have been penalised for (intentionally) raising the ball into the legs of the defender (but intention is not required for there to be a dangerous play offence; it is for a forcing offence). Yes, a forcing offence.

Unfortunately, due to sloppiness from the FIH RC, their 2011 Rule Change announcement that the Forcing Rule was deleted “because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules” (a very odd reason for deleting a Rule and regrettably not the true one, which was that umpires were simply not applying it, claiming to be unable to see intent to force and preferring to penalise the easy to see and objective, ball body contact even when it did not meet the criteria for offence) was not included in subsequent rule-books as it should have been. Most umpires are now ignorant of this condition on the deletion.

It is not permitted for an umpire to ‘interpret’ what is clearly stated in Rule to be dangerous play as not dangerous simply because it does not look dangerous (especially when he should have been considering intention to take the action taken). Conversely it is not permitted for an umpire to ‘interpret’ a Rule compliant action as dangerous play. In this case a ball raised high above an opponent (when that opponent is more than 5m away) this action is not dangerous play because there is no Rule (other than raising the ball over the circle) that states it is or can be dangerous play.

Unless the penalty corner in the second incident was awarded for something not clearly seen in the video (perhaps a kick at the ball in the goalmouth) there was no reason to have awarded it.

It may seem counter intuitive to say that a ball raised about 20cms is dangerous play and one raised 2.5 meters is not, but the critical thing in an endangerment decision is whether or not the ball was raised and propelled towards or into an opposing player.

The scoop shown in the video below should have been penalised as dangerous play.

Comment received on You Tube.

Crux 11
Ehm, the rule interpretation you refer to, is for a scoop or a flick. Not for not for small lifts where the ball is below knei height. Actually, there is no height restriction for regular play of a ball to be dangerous, this is the umpires interpretation.

Crux 11
Let me state it like this. Except for the drag flick during pc there is no height restriction whatsoever. This is the umpires interpretation. However, if a ball is soft and on the shin protector, barely anyone will see that as a dangerous ball.

My reply (withdrawing nothing stated above)
I have heard that assertion before. One umpire informed me the Rule 9.9 clause applied only to flicks or scoops made towards an opponent at head height. But there is no Rule support for that assertion or for what you have called umpires’ interpretation (knee height), which contradicts what you also write “Actually, there is no height restriction for regular play of a ball to be dangerous” which is true.

Umpires are not permitted to invent interpretation from nothing, in fact they are not permitted to invent interpretations at all. The ‘knee height or above’ limit applies only during the taking of a penalty corner first hit shot and when the ball is propelled with any stroke towards an out-runner within 5m.
Here is the relevant part of the wording for open play:-.

Players are permitted to raise the ball with a flick or scoop provided it is not dangerous. A flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5 metres is considered dangerous.

(That could be improved by replacing “a flick or scoop” with “any stroke raised” and by adjusting the syntax accordingly)

There is no scope for ‘interpretation’ concerning ball height in the current wording, it is absolute, the ball must not be raised towards an opponent within 5m. (a prohibition which is far too severe as it mentions neither height or velocity, but that is not an excuse for umpires to ignore it – if umpires applied it as they should, it would probably be a very short time before the FIH RC amended it.)

It is worth noting here that up until 2004 any raising of the ball towards another player was prohibited. That prohibition not only made no reference to height or velocity it made no mention of distance either.
The development of the drag-flick together with umpires routinely ignoring what was Rule 13.3.1.d led to the FIH RC, contrary to their own emphasis on the safety of players, deleting this ridiculously severe Rule and transferring it to Rule 9.9. (why not Rule 9.8 ?) as Explanation, with the addition of a 5m distance limit.

Calls for the introduction of more height limits, for example sternum height, to describe a dangerously played ball from greater distances, which would have been a better course of action, have been studiously ignored by the FIH for more than thirty years.

We now have umpires who (want to) believe a ball raised at an  opponent from more than 5m cannot be considered dangerous play, even though legitimate evasive action is not distance limited, and others who (want to) believe that an on target shot at the goal cannot in any circumstances be considered to be dangerous play. They refer to these strange beliefs as interpretations – but interpretations of what?

I believe that including raised hits and intentionally raised deflections within the Explanation of Rule 9.9. to be acceptable (which is an interpretation not provided by the FIH RC, who are the only entity permitted to provide Rule Interpretation, so it could be dismissed out of hand) I give two reasons for my opinion.
1) The clause in is a Rule about intentionally raised hits.
2) It would be absurd to exclude raised hits and deflections but include flicks or scoops of similar velocity – common sense.

One might argue that penalising for a ball raised only about 20cms is not sensible, but this was in my view, an intentional forcing offence that should have been penalised under Rule 9.9 and therefore height (and velocity) were irrelevant.

 “because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules”

One FIH Umpire argued (in an Internet hockey forum) in 2011 that “dealt with” did not mean penalise but I do not accept her argument (that no action should be taken against the forcing player in any instance of forcing), because an umpire can only legitimately deal with a breach of Rule (that is an offence) in one of three ways 1) Where possible, allow advantage to the opposing team.  2) Allow play to continue if opponents are not disadvantaged by the offence. 3) Penalise the offender. (note the order of umpire response and that allowing advantage is NOT the same thing as just allowing play to continue)

I also found her argument that the player hit with the ball should be penalised “for a lack of skill” an affront, considering the criteria for a ball body contact offence given in Rule 9.11. and the lack of skill demonstrated by players who use easy forcing tactics to ‘win’ penalty, instead of stick-work to elude and beat opponents.

https://martinzigzag.com/2020/01/02/the-letter-of-the-law/

December 15, 2019

The receiving exception restructuring

A fundamental change to the way hockey is played was initiated in 1993 with the introduction of what was termed a new interpretation of obstruction.. What was introduced was not in fact a new interpretation of the actions that constituted an obstruction offence, the existing criteria for the offence did not change in any way, but the creation of an exception to the Rule.

Thereafter a player receiving and controlling the ball from any direction,including from the direction of his own defence, could no longer be guilty of an obstruction offence, provided that player, having received and controlled the ball moved away (from opponents) with it.

Although the explanation of the ‘interpretation’ occupied a page and a half of the rule-book the nature and purpose of this moving away was left vague. Because of this vagueness from day one umpires had difficulty in applying the revised version of the Rule and a wide variety of ‘personal interpretations’ appeared in umpiring practice.

Now the lengthy explanation has been reduced to a single sentence which declares only that a stationery (???) receiver may be facing in any direction.

Moving away and the restrictions on moving into and positioning between an opponent and the ball, were revised in 2009 (the last revision made to the Rule) but the restrictions contained in that 2009 revision are all but ignored. Umpires appear to be ignorant of them.

This (below) is an article on a suggested restructuring of what is in fact a Rule exception, made in the hope that a revised layout will be read,understood and acted upon by both players and umpires.

The receiving exception to the Obstruction Rule and restructuring of the Rule.
The Current Rule.

Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

Players obstruct if they:

back into an opponent

physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent

shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction). This also applies if an attacker runs across or blocks defenders (including the goalkeeper) when a penalty corner is being taken.

A RESTRUCTURING OF THE WORDING WITH ADDITIONS

Players must not obstruct an opponent to prevent that opponent playing at the ball.

Exception: A player is permitted to face and receive the ball from any direction without being penalised for obstruction even if, while in the process of receiving and controlling the ball, he or she is shielding the ball and preventing an opponent who is attempting to tackle from playing directly at it. The exception ceases the moment the receiver has controlled possession of the ball on the ground and is able to move off with it. (It is therefore advisable for a receiver to make a move towards the ball when receiving, to create the time and space to move off with the ball in a desired direction or pass it away, once it has been controlled) End of exception.

A player with the ball is not permitted to move bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it. That means that player who leads the ball with the body into the playing reach of an opponent while backing towards or sidestepping towards that opponent will be obstructing that opponent.

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (an action of this kind may also be third party obstruction).

Third party obstruction is the obstructing of an opponent by body blocking, to prevent that opponent intercepting the ball or making a challenge for the ball in the possession another member of the same team as the obstructing player, when that opponent would otherwise have intercepted the ball or would have been able to make a tackle attempt against the player in possession of the ball.

The above additional wording to explain third party and the restructuring of the wording of the Rule covers all player movement situations. It is necessary to add to it instruction concerning a stationary player in possession of the ball. This last appeared in Advice to Umpires in the rule-book in 2002 – additional explanation is given in parenthesis.
Umpires should watch for (that means discourage with penalty) a player who stands still and shields the ball (to prevent opponents’ tackle attempts) when under pressure. A receiver of the ball in a ball shielding position cannot therefore stand still and continue to shield the ball from opponents once it has been controlled)

So what should a receiver of the ball do when the ball has been received and controlled?

Prior to the changes made in September 1993 a closely marked player could not face towards his or her own base-line and receive the ball without being in an obstructive position, and if the umpire thought that the receiver was positioned in a way that blocked the path of the tackler to the ball the receiver would be penalised for obstruction, often before or just as the ball reached him. An attempt to tackle was frequently demonstrated by the tackler barging into the back of the receiving player and being rewarded for this foul because obstruction was seen as the prior offence.

So at that time we were at the opposite extreme to what we have now. This kind of flip has happened so often that it has become almost standard practice for Rule interpretation to move from one extreme to an opposite extreme. (for example, prior to 2004 there was a Rule prohibiting a player from raising the ball towards other players – no minimum height limit, no distance limit, no mention of velocity. In effect a drag-flick shot raised high at a defender on the goal-line during a penalty corner was illegal – although never penalised as such – even though a first hit shot was always penalised if raised significantlyabove 460mm (so that it would not fall to below 460mm before it crossed the goal-line). In contrast, by 2008 there were declarations being made that a raised on target shot at the goal could not be considered dangerous play, and by 2010 umpires were treating this statement as if it were a Rule. There was no common sense in any of these extreme positions.

Prior to 1993 a marked player who wanted to receive a pass from the direction of his or her own goal was obliged to make a sudden and well timed short run (perhaps only two or three steps) towards the ball as the ball was passed to create the time and space to receive the ball before a marker could close down and tackle. Skilled players could turn on the ball as it was received and evade the charging tackler, like a matador eluding a charging bull. Defenders who were alert to this tactic did not commit to a charge tackle for the ball and the skilled receiver was comfortably able to turn to be facing his opponent in control of the ball. A skilled receiver welcomed a charging defender, he or she only had to move the ball a few inches to one side or the other and the tackler was beaten by his or her own impetus.

The problem was that receiving in close marked situations was a difficult skill and a fit and determined marker could ensure that a player who was not highly skilled never got possession of the ball. That made the game very hard to learn to play (near impossible in the more crowded indoor game) and novice players often gave up and took to the easier soccer (in which ball shielding is considered a skill – we are heading that way in hockey), instead of developing the required open-ball play skills (dribbling and passing).

The exception to the Rule had two great advantages, it protected receivers from rough play and it encouraged the (essential) development of back-passing and the tactics that flowed from that.

But it also led to the static receiver. The player who just stopped the ball without having first thought about what needed to be done once the ball was in controlled possession, thereby committing an offence by not moving off as they should (although not in fact instructed by Rule to move off – they are instead permitted to move off – a statement that is neither directive or prohibitive). Receivers should sensibly still be moving towards a pass as or just after it is made, and know where their first touch of the ball is going to deflect the ball to, so the next movement flows from that first stick/ball contact.

The initial wording of the exception was “having received the ball the receiver must move away in any direction exceptetc”, which is the opposite of what a competent receiver would do – movement naturally comes first, not just as as a secondary and separate action after the ball is received – i.e. stopped. This is still the case. A receiver of a pass should not be stationary in close marking situations and should know in which direction his or her first touch of the ball is going move the ball. The ball is then kept moving to evade opponents. It is on that premise that I base my opinion on what the Rule should demand of a receiving player.

The initial “must move away” wording did not work because a receiving player who had stopped the ball dead needed then to work out what to do next and markers had ample time to close up behind them and make it difficult to turn with the ball. Receivers when in possession of the ball could not as easily run away from a marker from a standing start, and as they were then no longer receiving players but obstructing players, it was not difficult for tacklers to ‘run them down’ and force an obstruction from behind. Umpires didn’t know how to cope with this situation so they either penalised for obstruction as they had previously or they did not penalise at all. Not penalising at all became the standard response, even if the player in possession slowed to a walk or a jog to entice a tackle attempt on one side or the other so that he or she could easily spin away to the other side, or even if the player in possession feinted with the body and ball, moving the ball across the feet from one side to the other and back again, or even if the ball-holder slowly weaved from side to side with the ball, these tactics again used to entice the tacklers to attempt to go around the ball-holder and in effect beat themselves.

The HRB addressed this situation by making a disastrous mistake. In 1995 they changed the wording of the Interpretation to “having received the ball the receiver may move away in any direction except.etc”.

What does “may” in this context instruct a player to do or prohibit a player from doing? Answer, nothing at all. The current “is permitted to move off” does exactly the same nothing.

The situation which had developed and the response to it became entrenched ‘practice’. Why? Because it was very easy for umpires, no judgements concerning timing and distance to determine obstruction were required and a tackler could be penalised if the ball-holder was touched in any way – giving the team in possession of the ball another huge advantage.

A player who has received the ball in shielding position is not currently obliged to do anything to change that position. He or she it can be claimed is not moving to position between the ball and an opponent, they are already in such a position (even if they are shielding the ball to prevent a tackle attempt, a prohibited action “Players shall not shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body”. It will always be claimed that there was no legitimate tackle – poor wording defeating the intent of the Rule. shall not shield the ball to prevent a legitimate tackle makes more sense.

At the same time (2004) the previous instruction in Advice to Umpires to “watch for players who stand still and shield the ball when under pressure” disappeared from both the rule-book and the UMB, as all previous Rules Interpretations and Advice to Umpires in the rule-book were deleted during what was called “a rewrite for simplification and clarification”. Brilliant. In effect the Obstruction Rule has almost been unofficially deleted, it is at the very least contradictory.

The actions a marked player who has just received the ball when not facing generally towards the opponent’s base-line should not engage in are easy to list.

1) Stationary ball shielding with or without moving the ball.

2) Not moving away but feinting with the ball and or body from side to side while maintaining a shielding position.

3) Moving away with the ball only slowly at no more than walking or jogging speed.

4) Dribbling away at jog speed while weaving from side to side. (not genuinely attempting to move the ball away beyond the playing reach of a tackler but keeping the body imposed between the ball and a close opponent. – 3 & 4).

5) Shunting (continuous sidestepping in one direction or another or even alternately in two opposing directions) while ball shielding.

6) Leading the ball with a the leg, hip or shoulder into the playing reach of a tackler.

7) Backing into the playing reach of a tackler

These are all things receiving players routinely do after having gained controlled possession of the ball, usually without penalty.

The excuses for not penalising for obstruction are generally. 1) The opponent did not make a tackle attempt or 2) The opponent was not in a position to make a tackle attempt (even when the opponent is within playing reach of the ball and in a balanced position from which a tackle attempt could have been made if the path to the ball had not been blocked by the opponent in possession).

Theses two excuses disregard that the actions of the ball-holder are almost always deliberately carried out with the intention of preventing a tackle attempt or preventing a tackler ever reaching a position from which he or she can play directly at the ball and also, importantly, in situations where, if an obstructive action had not taken place, opponents would have been able to play directly at the ball from the positions they had adopted. We get the conundrum where a player intent on tackling for the ball is considered not to be obstructed because he or she is so obstructed a legal (non-contact) tackle is made impossible.

The above list is too long and clumsy to include in a Rule (most people struggle to remember more than three items in a read list unless a determined effort is make to learn them) so phasing for a clause, either directive or prohibitive or both, has to be found that encompasses and prohibits all of these ball shielding tactics.

For example:-

A closely marked receiver of the ball who is facing in a direction other than towards the opponent’s goal-line must when receiving the ball, immediately, play the ball away at speed sufficient to put and keep it beyond the playing reach of any opponent, or immediately pass the ball away.

Alternatively the receiver may, in the same manner, play the ball away to create the time and space to turn over or with the ball to face opponents without at any time after the initial ball-stick contact shielding the ball with body or stick in a way that prevents an opponent from attempting to play directly at the ball.

The above actions are fairly simple to carry out if movement is made by a receiver towards the ball as he or she is receiving it. They are more difficult if the receiver remains stationary and stops the ball dead before moving off with it or passing it away. Good technique in moving and receiving will help the speed of the game and game flow. Correct application of the Obstruction Rule would (contrary to popular belief) speed up the game and enhance game flow – not least by making impossible the tactic of holding the ball in corner or against a base or side-line.

December 4, 2019

Change, intention and perceptions

There is a persistent perception among umpires that it is part of their task to interpret the wording of the Rules for meaning and intent and then apply the Rules according to their personal interpretations (or the personal interpretations of an Umpire Manager or Umpire Coach given in a tournament briefing). But this perception is contrary to what has been circulated to National Associations from the FIH Executive – so long ago now that the current Executive Members will have forgotten that they (their predecessors) ever did it, even if they were at one time aware of the relevant documents. According to this document even the publication of a written UMB should have been discontinued.

From an FIH Executive Report 2001-2002 .

FIH Highlights Hockey Rules Board

Introduction
In line with our overall aims, the last two years have,on the one hand, been a period of transition for the Hockey Rules Board (HRB) – while on the other it has been a period of relative consolidation. The transition has focused on incorporation of research and development of the rules within the active remit of the HRB rather than in a separate but linked Rules Advisory Panel, which has now been disbanded.


The Rules Advisory Panel, as might be expected, became a pressure group and advocated many changes that the HRB did not adopt, much to the chagrin of the Advisory Panel. It was not mere coincidence that the disbanding of the Rules Advisory Panel coincided with the announcement that only the FIH HRB had the authority to introduce or amend Rule or Rule interpretation.

At the same time, the rules themselves have been through a period of consolidation rather than significant change. But this does not mean that the HRB has not been active, as the following report will testify.

Rules Changes

One change, which has been significant, at least as measured by the range of views about it, is allowing the edge of the stick to be used to play the ball. This change was introduced as a mandatory experiment in 1999and was continuously reviewed. Views about it ranged from a welcome for an action which gave players more options and which in particular could be used for exciting shots at goal, to concern that it might lead to danger or could damage sticks. Making a decision involved a delicate and careful balance of these issues,with the HRB deciding that the experiment should run for a third year but that, with effect from 2002, the change would be incorporated as a formal rule.

I had by 2002 been advocating for some years, the abolition of the back-sticks Rule. Usually to a chorus of abuse from hockey forum contributors who made ribald comments comparing my suggestion to ice hockey and saying that stick-work would disappear. I still believe the abolition of back-sticks would have been a wiser move than the introduction of edge hitting (with a back-sticks Rule still in place).

I have posted a picture of an Internet hockey forum post below; in the same topic thread contributors write of edge hitting being snuck in via the back door – an amazing attitude considering it had a three year Mandatory Experiment. What I think they mean is that edge hitting was imposed, despite widespread protest, which was just ignored. But the upending of this 2001 change (below) in 2011, apparently had full approval despite much objection to the deletion of the stand alone Forcing Rule. I certainly objected to it because it was obvious where it would lead (which it has)

Another change, which deserves comment, was the introduction in 2001 of a rule, which explicitly makes manufacturing a foul an offence. This reflects an ongoing concern by the HRB to protect skill and encourage attractive hockey by reducing negative and destructive actions.

The forgiving phrase “finding a foot” is the term currently used for what is now, by television commentators, called a skill, rather than cheating and a foul, which it still is (another forgotten part of Rule history). Forcing is now supposed to be “dealt with under other Rules” but the FIH Rules Committee have overlooked their own announcement ever since it was made, and most umpires are completely unaware of it, which is of course no surprise. It was unreasonable to make an announcement in a 2011 rule-book and then not bother to include it in subsequent rule-books, unless of course there was another formal deletion, but that never happened. There was an initial transfer to “other Rules” in 2011, and nothing has been published by the FIH RC in a rule-book or elsewhere on the matter since then – not even note of what the “other Rules” might be.

The first forgotten Rule promise I came across when researching past Rules, related to the final deletion of Off-side in 1997 (a huge advantage gifted to attackers with no compensation at all offered to the defending team). At the time the HRB wrote that measures would be put in place to constrain the actions of attackers close to the goal (to protect defenders). They then promptly ‘forgot’ about that undertaking. In fact they have since removed the few safeguards that were in place in 1997.

Forbidding players to play or play at an above shoulder height ball when in the opponent’s circle and the introduction of a *Goal Zone could go some way towards fulfilling the now distant obligation of the Rules Committee to honour their word in this area.

: https://martinzigzag.com/2018/03/30/suggested-introd…ewrite-rule-9-14/

The 2008 forum post pictured below refers to the removal of the “old system of Obstruction” which was a very strange phrasing. But then in 2009 a clause extension which considerably strengthen the existing interpretation, by prohibiting a player in possession of the ball moving to position between the ball and an opponent who was attempting to play at it, was introduced. It was the last amendment made to the Obstruction Rule, and it remains part of the current Rule. It made no difference at all to the strange idea that a previous ‘system’ had been removed when it had in fact been reinforced. Umpires behaved and still behave as if the Obstruction Rule had been -as one put it – “deconstructed years ago”.

One of the major problems of personal ‘interpretations’ is that they tend to confirm beliefs that are already held, no matter what the wording of them may be, confirmation bias just ignores the meaning of words or attempts to find a way around them. There is no recognition of cognitive dissidence.

A study of the history of the ball-body contact Rule makes that clear, even when (in 1992) the criteria for an ball body contact offence was deliberate use of the body to stop or deflect the ball AND advantage gained, umpires blithely continued to penalise just because a ball body contact was made, exactly as they usually do now even when there is neither clear intent seen (contact is obviously accidental or even deliberately (and unavoidably) forced by an opponent) or any tangible advantaged gained because of such a contact.

The ‘system’ of interpretation of the Obstruction Rule which was put in place in a time beyond living memory, was not altered by the 1993 receiving exception (the so called ‘new interpretation’, which was nothing of the sort, the criteria for obstruction outside of the receiving situation did not change at all) or changed by any of several word alterations (called ‘housekeeping’) prior to 2009 (the last prior to the 2004 Rules of Hockey rewrite, in 2001), or by the 2009 clause expansion. The criteria for obstruction remained exactly as they always were. Shielding the ball to prevent an opponent (who would otherwise have been able to do so) from attempting to play directly the ball, is now and has been for many decades an offence. But several contributors to the forum were content with the declaration that the Obstruction Rule was (in their view correctly) no longer applied – no one disagreed.

I was in 2009 banned from this forum for persistently pointing out the text of the Rules to Keely Dunn and her followers, who did not think Rule wording relevant to umpiring practice. They wrote with scorn of “the black and white of the written Rules” which they thought of as a straight-jacket and of ‘grey areas’ that require personal interpretation (ignoring that most Rule breach is perfectly clear). I agree that the writing of the Rules could be much improved, but no suggested improvement ever came from these people, just their own very varied umpiring ‘practice’, which they regarded as being as good in each case (no matter how different) as an official replacement of Rule. The notion, for example, that a high deflection which was falling onto a contested position or a lob shot at the goal, could NOT be treated as a falling a ball, (i.e. Rule 9.10 did not apply), were Dunn inventions which she insisted were correct interpretation. She used her status as an FIH Umpire and a declaration of universal support and consensus among umpires concerning her views, to bully anyone who dared to disagree with her.

There has been no improvement in application of the Obstruction Rule in the intervening ten or more years, quite the contrary. If some of the body blocking actions that are now routinely carried out by ball holders appeared in the early 1990’s the FIH might have stepped in to prevent the total collapse of the Rule and runaway ‘interpretation’ – but maybe not. The late George Croft the former Hon.Sec. of the HRB wrote, in some desperation I think, in the preface of the 1998 Rules of Hockey “Despite what some people think there still is an Obstruction Rule”. The destruction of this Rule has taken place over a long period with the destroyers getting more brazen year on year.

Here is a typical 2019 example of non-application of Rule and the type of play that it has encouraged. The attacker breaches every one of the obstructive play clauses and the defender does not even realize that the attacker has fouled him. The comments made below the video by an individual umpire give a good insight into the current attitude to Rule interpretation and application among certain umpiring groups.

November 20, 2019

The lifted ball coaching document.

Rules of Hockey.

A contentious umpire coaching document from 2001

By John Gawley. 2001 Level 3 Umpire Coach.

This document is no different than much of what is produced by Umpire Coaches these days, as anyone who gave close attention to the videos and ‘Interpretations’ produced by the FIH Umpiring Committee as umpire coaching on the Dartfish web-site, (now taken down) will be able to testify.

There are high level umpire coaches like Jan Hadfield who can still be seen on You Tube video advising umpires to throw their rule-books away, and declaring the FIH Rules Committee to be packed with political appointees who have never played hockey and know nothing about it. Gawley did not belong to that tribe he was an Establishment figure.

The document refers to the Rules, where they are included, as they were in 2001 and those familiar with the current Rules will notice that a significant number of changes have been made since. I first reviewed this document about ten years ago but little nothing has been done to improve the officiating of the dangerously played ball since then.

 

John Gawley died in early 2018

Original text in blue.

ANALYSIS.

No player should ever be put into a position of self-defence against a ball put into the air at any height, be it 15 or 50 centimetres. A player having to face a ball approaching in the air should have a clear view of the full flight of that ball and also have time either to move out of its way, or to play or attempt to play it in a legitimate and safe manner.

While it is true that no player should be forced to defend himself to avoid injury due to a ball propelling action by an opponent, the above lofty opening statement about player safety is almost meaningless without reference to distance from the ball and ball velocity, while the upper limit given (50cms, frequently referred to as knee height) is mentioned only in the Penalty Corner Rule as the height below which a ball propelled towards an outrunning defender will not be considered dangerous and the out-runner will be penalised (this is of course an absurd Rule, but as it contains the only height criterion related to dangerous play, knee height, this has been adopted ‘in practice’ for use in open play to determine a dangerously played ball within 5m of an opponent.) Gawley started his paper with this ambiguity concerning danger, then an invention of his own about a player having full sight of an approaching ball (usually an impossibility for an umpire to determine) and then an apparent contradiction of existing Rule and regarding evasive action

So far as Goalkeepers are concerned, they deliberately put themselves “into the firing line” but are equipped to do so. Nevertheless, even they can be forced into self-protection rather than protection of their goal by dangerously-raised balls.

A contentious statement with no explanation or justification offered. Hitting the ball into a goal-keeper who is prone on the ground has long been seen as an unacceptable practice, but a standing and fully equipped goalkeeper is supposed to be able to cope with any ball raised towards him from any distance and at any velocity. Defenders protected with only gloves, an extra box and a face-mast are another matter entirely, and obviously in open play even theses extra protections will be absent. We will come back to this matter later.

INTENTIONAL LIFT-

Lift at an Opponent If the ball is intentionally put into the air at an opponent at any height anywhere on the pitch in contravention of Rule 13.1.1 f: (“Players shall not play the ball dangerously or in such a way as to be likely to lead to dangerous play”) and Rule 13.1.3b (“Players shall not intentionally raise the ball so that it lands directly in the circle”) the player who raises the ball is in breach of the Rule. Furthermore, the shot may be dangerous or likely to lead to danger.Such a shot may legitimately be defended by the hand in accordance with Rule13.1.2 a. (“Players shall not stop or catch the ball with the hand. There is nothing to prevent players using their hands to protect themselves from dangerously-raised balls.”) That statement stands despite the fact that Rule13.1.3 a (“Players shall not intentionally raise the ball from a hit except for a shot at goal”.) permits a shot at goal to be made at any height. A raised shot has to be made at goal, not deliberately at a defender standing either in goal or between the goal and the striker.-

Gawley there quotes a number of Rules some of which no longer exist (I have greyed all amended or deleted Rule below) and one (raising the ball into the circle) which seems to be of no direct relevance unless the ball is played in a dangerous way .

13.1.2 Use of body, hands, feet by players other than goal-

keepers

a. stop or catch the ball with the hand

There is nothing to prevent players using their

hands to protect themselves from dangerously

raised balls.

b. intentionally stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry

the ball with any part of their bodies

It is not automatically an offence if the ball hits the foot or

body of a player.

Players should not be penalised when the
ball is played into them. It is only an offence if the ball hits the

foot or body of a player and that player:

• moved intentionally into the path of the ball, or

• made no effort to avoid being hit, or

• was positioned with the clear intention to stop the ball

with the foot or body or

• gains benefit.

Removed 2007 restored 2015)

c. use the foot or leg to support the stick in a tackle.

d. intentionally enter their opponents’ goal or stand on their

opponents’ goal-line

e. intentionally run behind either goal

 

13.1.3 Raised ball
Players shall not:-

a. intentionally raise the ball from a hit except for a shot at goal

b. intentionally raise the ball so that it lands directly in the circle

Not every ball entering the circle off the ground is forbidden.A ball which bounces into or lands in the circle after a short distance must be judged solely on the intent or danger.

A ball raised over a player’s stick or body when on the ground, even in the circle, must be judged solely on danger.

c. approach within 5 metres of a player receiving a falling raised ball until it has been played and is on the ground

d. raise the ball at another player.

Bewilderingly, Gawley left out the two most relevant Rules extant at the time.

A player shall not raise the ball at another player

and the Rule regarding ball body contact. but more on that latter Rule later

I made myself unpopular on Internet hockey forums from the late 1990’s onward, as the (sic) recently introduced drag flick began to dominate the type of first shot taken during a penalty corner, by pointing out the existence of  Rule 13.1.3.d, which was obviously being ignored when a shooter raised a flick, at upwards of 100kph, towards the head of a defender on the goal-line. (Very spectacular and entertaining). The Rule was unconditional and there were no exceptions to it. After 2003 this Rule disappeared (I cynically suppose in the interests of player safety) and bizarrely resurfaced as Explanation to Rule 9.9. (the intentionally raised hit) but specifically mentioned flicks and scoops (not hits or deflections) and with a 5m limit added to it. One of the oddities of the present Rules is that raising the ball to any height towards an opponent, who is within 5m, with a flick or a scoop, is a foul, but doing so with a hit or deflection is not specifically prohibited (it is to be hoped that the common sense, so often called for in the UMB, is applied here, but the UMB also contradicts the absence of a minimum height in the Rule, giving instead – “below half-shin pad height is not considered dangerous”).

Tackling Lift

There is nothing in the Rules to prevent any player in possession of the ball from lifting it over the stick of an opponent to resist a tackle, be it in the outfield, in the circle, or entering the circle, provided that the condition of Rule 13.1.3 b (“Players shall not intentionally raise the ball so that it lands directly in the circle.”) is met. The last point is important: where the ball is lifted in such a manner over an opponent’s stick and enters the circle while still in the air, there is NO offence.-

The above paragraph is no longer relevant unless the ball is hit and I can’t see that it had much relevance at the time it was written. Using “resist a tackle” instead of ‘evade a tackle’ is to me a strange choice of wording.

Tactical Lift

When a ball is deliberately raised in a legitimate manner anywhere on the pitch the umpire should decide upon its merits as advised in the Rules Interpretations of the Rule Book. This form of play is used for tactical purposes, often to reverse the opposing defence. In general, it is fair to say that players who raise the ball in this manner, usually by scooping, consciously try to avoid danger to anyone in the flight path of the ball. The umpire is therefore seeking reasons why such a raised ball SHOULD be penalised. A player receiving a dropping ball should be given time and space in which safely to do so without real or threatened interference from an opponent. (Rule 13.1.3 c “Players shall not approach within 5 metres of a player receiving a falling aerial ball until it has been played and is on the ground.”) Note that the ball, having been intentionally lifted in this way, may not fall into the circle.

A strange paragraph, but one reason a scoop pass could have been penalised is if it was played in a way that was likely to lead to dangerous play, for example, lofted to fall on a contested position . The “likely to lead to” wording is, I think, superior to the present “leads to” but a revised Rule could and probably should contain both descriptions i.e. “leads or is likely to lead to dangerous play”.

ACCIDENTAL LIFT

On the other hand, the ball is often raised accidentally, usually by a stick interfering with the flight of the ball, rather than by any deliberate attempt to play it. In such circumstances, the ball is likely to fly upwards in an unpredictable trajectory, thus being both dangerous in itself and likely to cause danger. A ball hit some 15 cm in the air into a crowded circle is an example. The Umpire, therefore, is likely to be seeking reasons why this raised ball should NOT be penalised but should wait to determine whether this actual danger.

(typo?)

The above paragraph has some strange statements in it. An accidental deflection that causes the ball to fly up will generally result from an attempt to play at it by a player. A ball hit into a crowded circle is not generally the result of an accidental hit but it may be unintentionally raised.

The UBM now contradicts what is given in the Rules regarding an intentionally raised hit (forget lifted – think danger, wrongly ignoring any disadvantage so caused) and as it is often impossible to know if such low raised hits (or sometimes even high ones) are raised accidentally or not, it would be simpler and fairer and safer, to prohibit any raising of the ball into the circle with a hit (A Rule which I believe was last extant in the 1960’s. I have recollection of playing under such a Rule in my school days) .

Interpretation.

No matter where on the field the ball is raised, and no matter what the circumstances of the lift, the umpire must always judge whether a player has been genuinely endangered in any of the ways described. Umpires should be on their guard against players who simulate ducking out of the way of raised balls simply to try to “con” them into thinking that such a ball is dangerous. Similarly, umpires should not be misled by defenders, often in goal, who allow themselves to be hit by the ball so as to be able to claim that the shot was dangerous.The same standards of judgement must be applied wherever and whenever the ball is raised.

The above statements are a ‘can of worms’. A ball which has been raised at or above a particular height towards a player who is within a particular distance, at a velocity that could injure that player if he was hit with it, must be considered to be dangerous play. But we don’t have such criteria in place so we are left with umpires guessing about ‘ducking cons’ or defenders deliberately putting themselves bodily in the way of the ball. Gawley’s words above were a ‘green light’ for umpires to penalise any defender who was hit with a raised  ball (despite the existing Rules) and no-one could argue with the subjective opinion of an umpire no matter how crazy or contrary to Rule it might appear.

It is therefore important that umpires recognise, and agree before each game according to the level and playing conditions of that game, what is the likely distance inside which those particular players are likely to have to defend their own persons instead of playing the ball properly. Other factors need to be considered for raised shots at goal, however:-

No, that is wrong, umpires should not be altering Rule criteria before each game.

Here below Gawley repeats some of his earlier assertions but also contradicts himself. It is a very complicated and contentious section.

RAISED SHOTS AT GOAL IN OPEN PLAY.

The goal is there to be shot at. The goalkeeper is well-protected and has no grounds for protest about high shots at goal.


Which contradicts his earlier statement about endangering goalkeepers

So far as any other defenders are concerned, if they stand in the goal to defend high shots, they must accept the penalty if the ball hits them contrary to Rule 13.1.2 b (“Players shall not intentionally stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their bodies.”).

That appears to assert that any defender in the goal who is hit with a high ball can be considered to have used his body intentionally to stop the ball. That makes things very easy for umpires (and difficult and dangerous for defenders), umpires can ignore the Rules concerning a dangerously played ball or raised hit and there is no need for any subjective judgement about the intent of the defender, the objective “Did the ball hit the defender on the body?”  is good enough. So much for the emphasis on the safety of players and consideration for the safety of other players and playing responsibly.

They can be said, perhaps, to have arrogated to themselves the duty of goalkeeper without having goalkeeper’s privileges. High shots include hits, flicks and scoops.

The above statement gives credence to the ‘acceptance of risk’ meme and even to the “Asking for it” attitude. It’s nonsense of course. A game must be played to its Rules and the Rules enforced. No player can be obliged to accept risk of injury when opponents do not comply with the published Rules, and umpires who do not enforce the dangerous play Rules should be suspended and coached.

The fact that there are no objective criteria to describe a dangerously played ball propelled from beyond 5m of a defender is a disgrace.  Legitimate evasive action, a subjective judgement, has obviously been completely undermined. Gawley does not even mention its existence in the Rules

He then reverses himself and suggests different ‘dangerous’ distances apparently based on skill levels contradicting the FIH statement that all hockey is (must be) played to the same Rules.

Having said this, it must nevertheless be remembered that no player should ever be put to the necessity of self-defence, and that includes goalkeepers.

Does that not include evasive action? Below he jumps from goalkeepers to defending players but it is not clear at what point he has done so.

Although properly protected, goalkeepers can still be injured by balls projected at them from so short a range and in such a manner that they are unable to adopt a naturally protective posture. In high level games, with physically fit, young, skilled players, it is possible that the minimum safe distance for a rising shot is about than 3 metres. In less skilled games, that distance will probably be not less than 9 metres and could be more. In all cases, the distances may increase dependent on other circumstances, not least whether the players defending the goal have a clear view of the whole flight of the ball from the moment that it is first propelled upwards.

Umpires cannot arbitrarily change ‘dangerous’ distances before a particular match without consulting with the Captains and Coaches of the competing teams and giving good reason for their suggestion. The clear view idea while ideal, is in practice unworkable because an umpire can have no idea in normal circumstances (obvious deliberate sight blocking aside) what a individual player can see or not see in any particular situation.

Judgement of what is dangerous must necessarily be subjective.

That is not a true statement, there are many situations where objective criteria can easily be applied. We have had for example an objective criterion, to determine the accepted height of a first hit shot at the goal during a penalty corner, since the 1980’s. There is no good reason there cannot be an upper height limit on any ball propelled at high velocity an opponent from distances beyond 5m. I have for some years been proposing that this height could be sternum height. There was a lot of early resistance to this suggestion because the height of a shot at goal is not (and should not be it was said) limited. But these days the majority of drag flicks seem to be kept low and scoring rates have increased, not declined, so that objection should have gone away.

Perhaps the soundest advice for the umpire is to consider that any raised ball is dangerous unless proved otherwise.

Better that it is considered that any raised ball may be potentially dangerous. (requires judgement) because it is certainly not the case that all raising of the ball is dangerous play. Currently an umpire will not consider a raised ball dangerous (or potentially dangerous) unless it actually endangers an opposing player – pretty much the opposite to what Gawley suggested. The exception seems to be rebounds u off defenders in the circle, which are ‘automaticaly’ penalised with a penalty corner (when previously a bully on the 23m line would have been awarded)

In general, it is probably fair to say that a rising ball that would not be permitted on the grounds of safety in the outfield should not be permitted, for the same reasons, in the circle, whether for a shot at goal or, indeed, for clearing a shot at goal – a goalkeeper’s kick, for example. The exception is that the intentionally raised hit is permitted in the circle for a shot at goal; otherwise the same parameters apply.

Any raising of the ball towards other players or when contesting for the ball with other players is potentially dangerous. A task of the umpires is not to allow potentially dangerous play become actually dangerous. This is generally managed by good whistle timing, rather than inaction and seeing how things turn out.

Note, however, that this advice is concerned mainly with high shots in OPEN PLAY. In these circumstances, there are usually few players in the circle and,as often as not, the shot is made in a one-on-one situation. During Penalty Corners, where numbers of players are required by the Rules to operate within the circle, other considerations apply, all concerned primarily with Safety.

The Offside Rule was deleted in 1997. I can see no grounds for Gawley’s assertion that the circles would be generally less congested in open play than they would be during a penalty corner after this date. It’s true that the circle is always congested during a penalty corner and when counter attacking tactics are used, there are occasions when the opposing circle will not be congested, but to apply the dangerous play Rules differently in open play and the penalty corner simply on the grounds of possible or probable circle congestion is unjustified.

Summary

During open play, rising shots at goal are permitted provided the defending players have time to defend the goal rather than themselves. No player should EVER be permitted to raise the ball, anywhere on the pitch, that is dangerous to other players.

Agreed.

The following is probably the most bizarre statement I have read in a coaching document, but I have often seen it trotted by the “Asking for it” bunch, but without the final four words unless they were endangered.

If defenders other than goalkeepers dressed in protective clothing or helmeted “kicking backs” (who have goalkeepers’ privileges in the circle), elect to defend their goal, then a shot that would have been permitted against a fully-equipped goalkeeper should be permitted against them. And if they stop or play the ball with their bodies or sticks above their shoulders, they should be penalised unless they were endangered.

This problem will go away as the position of Player with Goalkeeping Privileges has now (2019) been discontinued. I am of the opinion that teams should be compelled to field a fully equipped goalkeeper – as they once were. The problem of attackers treating any player defending the goal as if they were a fully equipped goalkeeper – and umpires allowing them do do so – persists however. Some participants seem to regard any defence of the goal as an offence rather than what it is – a necessary and difficult skill. A skill that hockey would be a lot poorer without.

>RAISED SHOTS AT GOAL AT PENALTY CORNERS AND FROM CORNERS- Players in the Circle The Penalty Corner demands a maximum of 5 defenders behind their back or goal-line and places no limit on the number of attackers round the circle, though in practice the attackers usually number six or seven. There can thus be twelve or so players in the circle during the conduct of a Penalty Corner. For a Corner,and for other forms of Hit-in and Free Hit to the attackers where there has been a delay in play so as to allow players to gather in and near the circle, there is no limit to the numbers of players who may be in the circle. Eighteen players were counted on one occasion.Hits to the attack from the area of corner flags (corners, hits-in & free hits) are rightfully taken in open play, They are considered here with the Penalty Corner as likely to cause crowding within the circle.It can thus be seen that any ball raised into or within the circle in such circumstances has a great potential for danger. Such crowding underlines the need for umpires to judge whether players in the flight path of a raised ball have time properly to react to it. This is not to say that all raised balls in the circle are dangerous, nor that balls raised unintentionally into the circle are necessarily dangerous, but merely to indicate the potential for danger and hence the need for acute awareness and observation by the umpire.-

…..and also correct application of the Rules.

Penalty Corner

The defenders (including the Goalkeeper) are prohibited from deliberately raising the ball from a hit within the circle, or indeed outside it – Rule13.1.3 a applies. The attackers, however, MAY deliberately raise the ball from a hit or other type of shot in the circle, but only for a shot at goal – not for a hit across the circle, for example. The one caveat to this permission is that the FIRST hit at goal at a Penalty Corner must comply with Rule 15.2 l (“If the first shot at goal is a hit, the ball must cross the goal-line at a height of not more than 460mm (the height of the backboard) for a goal to be scored, unless it touches the stick or body of a defender.“) Generally, the ball that is raised in the circle has a possible element of danger. But remember that any player may raise the ball over the stick of an opponent to resist a tackle. Once the first hit at goal in a Penalty Corner has been made, all subsequent hits may be at any height consonant with safety, as already described.

As already described” I missed that description because it is not in the paper.

However, still with the Penalty Corner, any other stroke to raise the ball may be made at any time, with no limit being placed on the height of the ball at any part of its flight. The only caveat on these forms of shot – usually scoops or flicks -is that of safety. And let us remember that the Penalty Corner Rule -specifically those sections applying to the first hit and the need first to stop the ball on the ground – ceases to apply if the ball goes beyond 5metres from the circle before re-entering it (Rule 15.2 (“If the ball travels more than 5metres from the circle, the penalty corner rules no longer apply”).-

The Scooped Ball

The ball that is flicked or scooped from near the inside edge of the circle so that it goes high over all heads and falls so that it will enter the goal just below the crossbar is not very likely to be dangerous when falling; the player(s) in the goal-mouth will see the ball raised, will see it during its flight, and will have time to decide how to defend the falling ball. They therefore have no excuse for playing the ball with their sticks whilst it is above their shoulders, for hitting the ball away in a dangerous manner, nor for using any part of their body to stop the ball. Only if the flick or scoop is at very short range, or if there are players in the line of sight between striker and goal, might the striker be penalised, and then usually only if the ball is still rising or if it is so low throughout its flight as to be obscured, for the receiver, by other players.

I have never seen a low flick penalised as dangerous because its path was obscured by other players. Gawley mentions sight blocking several times in this paper, but aside from third party obstruction, when such sight blocking might occur, it has never been part of the Rules of Hockey.

Umpires should remember that the same conditions for dealing with a dropping ball apply for shots at goal as elsewhere on the pitch i.e. the player receiving the ball must be given time and space (5metres) in which to receive it safely.-

Agreed.

Having accepted the caveats noted above for the Penalty Corner, let us broaden thought to embrace the crowded circle. The same considerations previously mentioned still apply, i.e. the goal is there to be shot at, and defenders who arrogate to themselves the duty of goalkeeper must accept the penalty if they prevent a goal other than legitimately with their sticks.

The above ‘arrogation’ statement, along with the assertion that defenders who are defending the goal when hit with the ball, have used their bodies to stop the ball intentionally. Have removed all rationality in many umpires who have read and accepted them.

But, given the crowding already discussed, it is even more important that players defending any raised ball, regardless of its height, should have a clear view of the ball’s trajectory and have time either to remove themselves from its path or to play or try to play the ball legitimately.

Removing themselves from the path of the ball (to avoid injury) is legitimate evasive action. Rule 13.11 f extant when the paper was written gives:-

Players shall not play the ball dangerously or in such a way as to be likely to lead to dangerous play      

(which is better than the present version)

A ball is dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by players.

Gawley then repeats his warning about defenders using their body to stop or deflect the ball.

If they do not have such time, the ball raised at them must be considered dangerous and penalised immediately. But umpires should be on their guard against players who deliberately allow themselves to be hit by the ball so as to be able to claim that the lift was dangerous.

Which course of action is Gawley advocating there?

It is the rising ball that is most likely to cause most danger, either because it can strike a player’s body, where its energy is likely to be absorbed, or because it can touch part of a stick and fly off unpredictably, with no loss of energy, to hit another player.

When the circle is crowded, such as at Penalty Corners and for hits from near the corner flag areas, there is a high potential for danger from any raised ball. Umpires must be alert to the risks involved but should not over-react merely because the ball is in the air or the body of a defender in the goal is struck by the ball. They should instead consider whether players have the necessary time and distance to avoid physical contact with the raised ball in favour of playing or attempting to play it legitimately, and not flinch from applying the appropriate penalty if avoiding action could have been taken.

Again a U-turn ignoring the possibility of legitimate evasive action.

The necessity for the first HIT at goal at a Penalty Corner not to cross the goal-line at a height greater than 460mm should also be borne in mind (this no longer applies, now the hit will be penalised immediately if it is raised above 460mm – or should be)/span>d.

A rambling and confusing document with two Summaries. I have no idea how Gawley expected umpires to officiate after having read his advice, but the slant – because of repetition – seems to be towards penalising defenders who had been hit with a raised ball (especially when the raised ball is a shot at the goal) even when they have attempted to take evasive action.

The current coaching of umpires is no better, if anything Gawley set the current trend of ambiguity, obscurantism and outright contradiction of Rule, but I don’t think he meant to do so.

October 19, 2019

Extraordinary

https://martinzigzag.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/questions-from-a-new-umpire.pdf

The above link to the above extraordinary Internet hockey forum thread from 2014 appeared on my Word Press stats page on Friday 18th October 2019. It is headed with the following statement (coloured text), which appears to come from ritualhockey .com

Initial post 28th April 2014 leading to an extraordinary statement from Gingerbread on the 30th. Extraordinary because it is true — there is no generally observed Rule about a dangerously played ball.

“The problem is you can never have a ‘’catch-all’’ guide to “danger / no danger on the line” when there is nothing to support it in any written rule, interpretation or edict – you have to look at practice and advice from your peers and player expectation or your local organisation”

What is even more extraordinary is that not only is this situation accepted it appears to have been deliberately set up, despite the clearly stated rules, principles and aims published by the FIH Executive Board, with regard to the Rules of Hockey and to player safety.

The opening post on the topic thread from a contributor with the tag Pharoah was as follows:-

Higuys

I’ve decided to get my Level 1 Badge here in Qld so I can get a bit more confidence in umpiring. I have a few questions which I was hoping the more experienced umpires on this forum could answer – I have read the rules but wanted to ask anyway so please ‘be gentle’.

Questions/clarifications:

1. within the 23m line, balls cannot be hit directly into the circle unless they go Sm. However free hits outside the 23m line (ie. even just 20cm past the 23m line) can be hit directly into the circle right? (I see this happen all the time where attackers are hesitant to shoot directly into the circle from just past the 23m line)

2. You CAN raise the ball into the D, as long as its not dangerous right?

3. A shot at goal (hit) that is rising and ends up in the top right/left comer of the goal should be disallowed right? This is diff to a raised/flicked ball.

4. Hockey sometimes moves at terrific speed, esp within the D – what do you do if (heaven forbid) you are unsighted and there is a foul which stops the game?

5. An attacker has had a shot on goal and the goalie has dived on the ball to stop it…is obviously trying to get up but the ball is being pushed below him by everyone fighting for the ball — PC right? He is unintentionally obstructing the ball plus to avoid injury I think.

Thanks all – if I have any more niggling questions, I’ll post them here for advice, etc.

Two of Pharoah’s statements surprised me. The first was that he has read the Rules, because the first four of his five questions can be answered by obtaining a common sense understanding of the published FIH Rules of Hockey by reading them, and the second, that he was apparently umpiring competitive matches without having previously obtained his Level One Badge. That is a safety issue.

But before looking in more detail at Pharoah’s questions, a look at what Gingerbread wrote:-

“The problem is you can never have a ‘’catch-all’’ guide to “danger / no danger on the line” when there is nothing to support it in any written rule, interpretation or edict – you have to look at practice and advice from your peers and player expectation or your local organisation”

Is this true? “you can never have a ‘’catch-all’’ guide to “danger / no danger on the line” That is not entirely true because the Royal Dutch Hockey Federation have issued an edict via letter to umpires in the Netherlands instructing them that legitimate evasive action does not apply to defenders on the goal-line during a penalty corner.

Koninklijke Nederlandse Hockey Bond

https://www.knhb.nl/

AGREEMENTS CLUB SAFETY ARRANGEMENTS (FIELD) SEASON 2018 - 2019 

AFSPRAKEN CLUBSCHEIDSRECHTERS (VELD) SEIZOEN 2018 – 2019

Wees Alert!

– Ook een schot op doel kan gevaarlijk zijn. Het schot op doel is gevaarlijk wanneer spelers een terecht ontwijkende beweging maken (dit geldt niet voor de lijnstopper bij een strafcorner-situatie);

Obviously inaccurately translated by Google Translate below, but the message is clear enough for comprehension.

— A shot on target can also be dangerous-

The shot on target is dangerous when players make a rightly evasive move
(this does not apply to the line stopper in a penalty corner situation).

Naturally this instruction has ‘evolved’ or has been ‘developed’ and is often also applied in open play, and there is now a situation where the bizarre and utterly wrong “An on target shot at goal cannot be considered to be dangerous play” which was invented during the 2008 Beijing Olympics (but has never been an FIH approved Rule), seems to have again become the norm in Dutch hockey (and elsewhere too).
I wrote to the FIH about this edict in May 2019 and was informed that the KNHB did not have the approval of the FIH and Executive or of the FIH Hockey Rules Committee to issue it and that they, the FIH, would look into the matter. The FIH should reprimand the KNHB and instruct them to withdraw this evasive action edict, which is of course illegal, but as far as I can see from watching Dutch League Hockey, the FIH have not done so. The KNHB web-site is naturally written in Dutch, which I cannot read, so it is difficult for me to check if the edict has been withdrawn. Maybe a Dutch reader, perhaps an umpire, can help me out?

The machinations of the KNHB aside, what is the Rule situation regarding a dangerously played ball, particularly in regard to a shot at the goal?
There are in fact two Rule ‘catch-alls’ to guide ‘dangerous’ decisions. one can be found in the Explanation of Application given with Rule 9.9. the Rule concerning the intentionally raised hit.

Players are permitted to raise the ball with a flick or scoop provided it is not dangerous. A flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5 metres is considered dangerous.

That’s a severe Rule, it prohibits all raising of the ball towards an opponent within 5m with a flick or scoop, there is no mention of height or velocity. The Rule does not mention raised hits (and is therefore badly written) but as the clause is contained in the Explanation of Application of the Rule concerning an intentionally raised hit, it seems common sense to include in the prohibition hits and intentional deflections which raise the ball towards opponents who are within 5m. Not to do so would be absurd.

The second guide is ‘legitimate evasive action’. A ball played in a way that causes an opponent to take legitimate evasive action is dangerous. There is no distance limitation on legitimate evasive action, but it requires a subjective judgement from an umpire. Was the evasion legitimate? So it is necessary to ask “What does ‘legitimate’ mean?” Trying to avoid being hit with the ball can never be considered to be an illegal action so we can dispense with legitimate meaning legal (as it does in other Rules such as the Obstruction Rule). The next most obvious choice of meaning is ‘genuine’ i.e. not false or acted. So a genuine fear that he will be injured if hit with the ball indicates legitimate evasive action in any particular incident of a ball raised towards an player by an opponent. How does an umpire gauge the genuine fear of injury in a player when the ball is raised at that player? Well, in the absence of other objective criteria, height and ball velocity might give an umpire a clue.

Do umpires make these judgements? Generally no. They usually follow quite bizarre umpiring practice and weird player expectation along the lines of “Asking for it” or “acceptance of risk” from defenders. Some see defensive positioning as evidence of an intent to use the body to stop the ball. The acceptance of risk argument has even been used by FIH Officials but is it obviously a nonsense. No player in any sport can be obliged to accept any risks created by the deliberate illegal (contrary to Rule) actions of opponents, acceptance of risk from a legal standpoint can only be applied to accidental actions. Propelling the ball with a flick at high velocity towards the head of a defender on the post during a penalty corner, especially in high level games where a high level of skill may be expected from all the participants, cannot be assumed to be accidental, especially when it happens so often and so consistently.

There is, however, no guidance on height or velocity in rule 9.8 or 9.9, it has however become common practice to ‘borrow’ “within 5m and at knee height or abovefrom the Rule concerning a first hit shot at the goal during a penalty corner, but this is often ignored in open play.

Despite their being no distance limit on LEA the majority of umpires would not I think consider any raised ball dangerous to a player if it was raised at him from more than 5m, even if it was at his chest height or head height. Many umpires, as was demonstrated in Beijing and later, will not penalise an attacker who raises the ball high towards the goal even if it hits a defender within 5m of their position. Some won’t penalise any ball raised towards an opponent in the opponent’s circle when they would probably do so if a similar ball was raised at an opponent outside his circle. ‘Interpretation’ is random and a mess based entirely on personal opinion i.e. how the umpires feels about it at the time or alternatively (and worse) what he or she has seen other umpires doing i.e. there is no judgement of the specific facts at all. This is laziness.

There are clearly insufficient safeguards in place for reasonable player safety and there is an urgent need for addition guidance about a ball propelled towards a player at high velocity from significantly beyond 5m – up to 15m – arriving at the defending player above a particular height – say sternum or elbow height – in other words reasonable objective criteria.

At present defenders are being obliged to attempt to play at high shots raised directly at them because successful evasion simply leads to the award of a goal, and unsuccessful evasion, not only usually leads to injury but to the award of a penalty stroke. That is the opposite to the supposed emphasis on safety which the FIH espouses, and which all participants (including umpires) are obliged to comply with. It is also contrary to the consideration for the safety of other players which all players are required to demonstrate in appropriate circumstances (most participants consider this requirement to be something that need not be taken seriously, a joke from the FIH who are seen to be just ‘covering their backs’).

Let’s take a look at the questions Pharoah put to the forum.

1) A free ball awarded inside the opponents 23m area cannot be played directly into their circle. That is the (very silly) Rule. I would like to see it deleted along with the raft of 5m restrictions on the free ball (especially when taken as a self-pass) currently in place.

2. You CAN raise the ball into the D, as long as its not dangerous right?

No, that is incorrect. The ball may not be raised into the circle with a hit if the ball has been raised intentionally. None of those who addressed this question on the forum mentioned the appropriate Rule 9.9. An intentional ball raising hit action must be penalised if it is dangerous in itself or leads to dangerous play or if it disadvantages opponents. The advice in the UMB “forget lifted – think danger”, which is too simplistic and which contradicts the Rule, should be withdrawn.

Other than dangerous or leading to danger there is no restriction on raising the ball into the opponents circle with a flick or scoop. That needs to be revisited in view of the facility granted to players to play at the ball at above shoulder height – which also needs reconsideration. I think that players should be prohibited from playing or playing at a ball at above shoulder height when in the opposition’s  circle.

3. A shot at goal (hit) that is rising and ends up in the top right/left comer of the goal should be disallowed right?

No, not unless it has endangered an opponent during its flight.

4. An FIH Technical Delegate and an FIH Umpire made a joke and a tongue in cheek (I hope) reply to this.
What do you do if (heaven forbid) you are unsighted and there is a foul which stops the game?

Another contributor answered correctly, that the umpires should consult, and if fault cannot be established, there must be a bully restart.

5. An attacker has had a shot on goal and the goalie has dived on the ball to stop it…is obviously trying to get up but the ball is being pushed below him by everyone fighting for the ball — PC right?

Not necessarily. If the goalkeeper has not obstructed an opponent before moving off the ball, the opponent/s trying to play it ‘through’ him while he is on the ground could be considered to be committing both a physical contact offence and an impeding offence. This was the only question of the five that received properly considered reply from any contributor to the forum.

The most extraordinary statement from Gingerbread was this, his second one:- ….when there is nothing to support it in any written rule, interpretation or edict – you have to look at practice and advice from your peers and player expectation or your local organisation”

“It” appears to be an opinion or a feeling by an umpire that an an action is dangerous, so where does that feeling come from if not from information gleaned from a reading of the Rules? I find it impossible to think of a dangerously played ball situation (other than the falling ball) where the ball has not been propelled directly at or into an opposing player and those situations are covered by the two ‘catch-alls’ mentioned above, imperfectly to be sure, but sufficiently for an umpire with common sense to take personal responsibility and make a Rule based decision. What we see far too often in hockey matches is umpires who base their decisions not on an understanding of what is given in the Rules of Hockey, but on common umpiring practice and advice from peers and player expectation or local umpiring organisations. Of the three only the local Umpiring Association is worthy of further consideration because their advice should come from experienced umpires and be based solely on the Rules of Hockey.

BUT I was once told by the secretary of a local umpiring association that he did not want me to umpire according to what was given in the rule-book (I was applying the ball-body contact Rule as it was written in the rule-book at the time) but to do what other umpires were doing. He had already ‘hung himself’ with his opening sentence, so I replied to him that I would have no problem doing what other umpires were doing as long as they applied the Rules as published by the FIH. That presented him with a ‘chicken and egg situation’ which he did not appreciate. But as far as I was concerned it was the other umpires who needed to change their ways.

The match shown below is one played during the 2016 Rio Olympics between Belgium and New Zealand. I would not suggest to any umpire that they follow the umpiring seen in it. Sadly it is very easy to find blunders of similar magnitude relating to nearly all the Rules of Conduct of Play during the Rio Olympics (I don’t recall a player throwing an object at another player or an umpire, or a back-sticks offence that was poorly umpired, but every other Rule was undermined with invention or neglect on several occasions in the matches during the Tournament)

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8OP4Vmo5sQ4&w=800&h=450]

.

This sort of decision making is the norm in ball-body contact incidents. The Rule has become a farce designed to produced goals by increasing the number of penalty corners awarded (often without any justification at all).

Player expectation is created by their coaches and prior umpiring decisions, and umpiring decisions (umpires say) are then influenced by player expectation, eventually it is team coaches and players who will be deciding (the latter by their behaviour) which of the Rules will be observed and which not: that cannot be accepted. There is an example of this sort of thing in a previous post (in which I make suggestion for an amended Ball-body contact Rule)

https://martinzigzag.com/2019/06/20/ball-body-contac…hould-be-amended/ ‎

where someone commented that not awarding a penalty corner following a ball contact forced onto the leg of a defender in the circle would infuriate the attackers – yes it might, but that’s just too bad, it’s the only way to change the expectations of players who do not know the Rules. Changing the habits of umpires is a much more difficult problem.

I have been attacked in the comments section below by someone who believes I was wrong to apply the Rules as they were published at the time and says that I ruined the enjoyment of the game for the players.

 I advocate a rewrite of most of the Rules and the making of amendments to others, but I have never invented Rules while umpiring or applied those that no longer existed, sadly most umpires do both of these things.

September 29, 2019

Simplification and Clarification

Rules of Hockey.

Simplification and Clarification.

Open any rule book published in the last thirty years and you are likely to find in the Introduction or Preface a statement that the FIH HRB/ Rules Committee is always seeking to simplify and clarify the Rules or an announcement that it has done so within that publication. This is announced as a if a good thing, something to be desired but the result of this work may well be the very opposite.

By 1992 we had an Obstruction Rule which had not been altered in decades

A player shall not obstruct by running between an opponent and the ball nor interpose himself or his stick as an obstruction.

Technical Interpretations – a section in the back of the rule-book, gave:-
Body Obstruction and Interference (Rule 12) A player may not place any part of his body or stick between an opponent and the ball. Such actions are called obstruction and may also be referred to as screening the ball or blocking. Obstruction can only happen when: (a) an opponent is trying to play the ball (b) an opponent is in a position to play the ball without interfering with the legitimate actions of the player with the ball (c) the ball is within playing distance or could be played if no obstruction had taken place.

I would simplify that to:- An obstruction offence by a player in possession of the ball will occur when the ball is within the playing distance of a tackler who is demonstrating an intent to tackle for the ball, and the ball could be played at by the tackler, if not shielded by the body or stick of the ball holder, to prevent this action.

It is not necessary to mention physical interfere by a tackler as this breaches Rule 9.3. And an attempt to play at the ball legally may be made impossible by a moving or stationary shielding action by the ball holder. A Rule should not impose or demand an impossibility. i.e. demand that an attempt be made to play at the ball when that has been made impossible by the actions of the opponent in possession of it.

The offence is the illegal prevention of a legal tackle for the ball by an opponent and the criterion should reflect that.

In 1993 the Rule Proper was the same but there was an enormous ‘new interpretation’, occupying one and a half pages, presented in Technical Interpretations in the back of the rule-book. As I have written previously, this “new interpretation” was not in fact a new interpretation, the criterion for an obstruction offence remained exactly as they had been in the previous years. What was introduced was an Exception to the Rule; the Rule was no longer to apply during the time an opponent, (who could be facing in any direction, including towards his or her own base-line) was in the act of receiving and controlling the ball – and only during that time.

I present here only one sentence from this ‘New Interpretation’

Having collected the ball, the receiver must move away in any direction (except, of course, bodily into the tackler) (my bold)

In 1995 the the wording of the Rule was expanded but nothing new was added. The use of the words “to prevent an attempt”. would have been better than “from attempting” (and that is still the case)

Obstruction. Players shall not obstruct an opponent from attempting to play the ball by :
• moving or interposing themselves or their sticks
• shielding the ball with their sticks or any part of their bodies
• physically interfering with the sticks or bodies of opponents.

And there was a one word alteration to the ‘New Interpretation’.

(Having received it) the player with the ball may move off with the ball in any direction (except bodily into the tackler). (my bold)

It is impossible to describe that change as either a simplification or a clarification. It changed an instruction to take a certain action – to move away (from opponents?) (presumably with the ball) – to wording that provided no instruction or prohibition, except prohibiting moving bodily into a tackler, an action already prohibited under Rule 9.3. It was (and remains in later form) an obscurantism.

Within three years of publishing the ‘new interpretation’ the late George Croft, then Hon. Sec. of the Hockey Rules Board, felt obliged to point out to players and umpires in the Preface of the 1998 Rules of Hockey that there still was, despite what some might think, an Obstruction Rule. A similar comment would not be out of place in the current rule-book.

In 2002 the following was included as clarification in the Advice to Umpires section of the rule-book and was also presented in the first of the published Umpire Managers Briefing for Umpires at FIH Tournaments (the UMB).

Umpires should be aware of players who are in possession of the ball who:
• back into an opponent;
• turn and try to push past an opponent;
• shield the ball with body, leg or stick and stand still when under pressure;
• drag the ball near their back foot when moving down the side-line or along the back-line;
• shield the ball with the stick to prevent a legitimate tackle.

All of which had become standard tactics at the time. The prohibition on ball dragging (shunting, crabbing) now needs expansion and the inclusion of these actions (and others) away from the side-lines and base-lines. But instead, in 2004 following a reformatting of the rule-book, using a different page size, the entire Technical Interpretations and Advice to Umpires sections were deleted. An act of vandalism referred to as a simplification. The following then became the entire Rule and Explanation.

Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.
Players obstruct if they:
– back into an opponent
– physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent
– shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent.

“may move off” was replaced by the equally vacuous “is permitted to move off with it” which was only an improvement because it stipulated moving off with the ball (immediately passing the ball away had always been an alternative option)

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction). This also applies if an attacker runs across or blocks defenders (including the goalkeeper) when a penalty corner is being taken.

The last clause confusingly mixed a player blocking or interposing while tackling for the ball, with the entirely different offence of Third Party Obstruction.The clause is badly set out and should separate these different types of obstruction into two paragraphs.

The pages of the ‘new interpretation’ were reduced to a single short sentence, the bizarre:- A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction. (instructions to a moving player were abandoned for obvious reason i.e. in practice they were exactly the same as the instructions to stationary players and should never have been presented as if there was a difference between them. It’s bizarre because no explanation for it is offered, and it led very quickly to the idea that a stationary player in possession of the ball could not obstruct an opponent – hence the development of the practice of ‘holding’ the ball in a corner of the pitch or up against a side-line or even a base-line – which in saner times would have been penalised with a penalty stroke if done by a defender in his or her own circle).

In 2009 The clause which begins “A player with the ball is permitted…” was extended to include moving to position between an opponent who was trying to play at the ball and the ball (this addition to the Rule Explanation is largely ignored in current umpiring practice). My previous comment about preventing an opponent playing at the ball also applies to this extension

2009
9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

Players obstruct if they :
– back into an opponent
– physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent
– shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it. (my bold)

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction). This also applies if an attacker runs across or blocks defenders (including the goalkeeper or player with goalkeeping privileges) when a penalty corner is being taken.

The above Rule, which is current, is one of the reasons I do not want to see a Rule change moratorium. It needs restoration. Useful clauses that have been removed, what they are they should be obvious, need to be returned and further clarified.

Similar work needs to be done on the Ball Body Contact Rule (including the Forcing Rule), the Dangerously Played Ball Rule, the Raised Hit Rule, the Ball in the Air Rule (including the playing of the ball at above shoulder height and Use of Stick Rule), the Free Hit Rule, the Umpiring Rules and the replacement of the Penalty Corner, among others.

September 22, 2019

Obstruction Basics 3 The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Rules of Hockey.

Obstruction.

Twists and turns good spin turning. Spatial awareness, timing, early wide movement away from opponents.

or


Turning into, shunting across, blocking.
Physical contact.
Boring, near static play. Which do you prefer?

 

Proper application of the Rule makes the difference.

September 19, 2019

Obstruction Basics Part Two

Rules of Hockey.

Responsibility and Liability. Turning into physical contact. Turning to shield and then shunt (crab). Running past the ball to shield it. Blocking off by stepping over the ball and turning.

September 18, 2019

Did you get that.

Rules of Hockey.

Attackers Free Hit in the 23m area.

Not one of my videos. This well presented coaching is an indication of the state of the game when no though is given to the consequences of Rule changes.

https://youtu.be/nm08bW8XkR0

There is no Rule requirement that when a free ball is taken just outside the hash circle all defenders must move clear of the direct run path to the circle of a player taking a self-pass. This appears to have been an ‘interpretation’ of influencing invented by umpires (probably originating from an umpire manager) so it had no authority whatsoever. I use the past tense because this ‘interpretation’ has not been applied as far as I can tell for at least two years, having been allowed to fade away into the mist from which it came.

The prohibition on playing the ball directly into the opponent’s circle from a free ball awarded in the opponent’s 23m area is one of the worst impositions by the FIH Rules Committee in many years (exceeded in ‘daft’ only by the contradictory, and now withdrawn, ‘own goal’ Rule, which encouraged attackers to blast the ball as hard as they could into the circles in open play – How’s that for consistency of approach to potentially dangerous play, especially when coupled with “forget lifted” in regard to the raised hit?).

The silly ‘spin offs’ from the misnamed Free Hit Rule, a number of different 5m restrictions imposed on attackers and defenders, are clogging and slowing the game in critical areas of the pitch – and making umpiring more difficult.

An early taken self-pass, one that is one taken before defenders, who ARE retreating, have been given opportunity to get 5m from the ball, should be treated as a advantage played (in any area of the pitch)and normal play should resume as soon a the ball has been moved by the taker. An early taken self-pass is reasonably viewed as an advantaged played, why else would a taker, given the choice, take a self pass early (taken when opponents have not fully complied with Rule) but to gain an advantage by doing so?

I would also like to see a second whistle sound used (the first to stop play and indicate penalty) the second whistle to be sounded the moment the ball is stationary and the umpire is satisfied with the positioning of it, to restart. (That should encourage the side awarded a free ball to comply as rapidly as possible with both of these free ball requirements – which they frequently don’t do at all.)

(Note Free Ball not Free Hit – because “a free hit can be raised with any stroke except a hit” is an obvious nonsense – somewhat similar to calling a 23m restart a long corner.)

There are a great many people who say that they are fed up with Rule changes and want no more, they now want a Rule change moratorium. I say “Sure let’s have that, just as soon as the mess of the game that has been made because of Rule changes going back to 1995 has been put right.” In other words “No way, not a chance.”

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September 18, 2019

Obstruction Basics Part One

Rules of Hockey.
Obstruction.
Positioning between; backing in; moving bodily into; third party; behind the play – not onside of ball.

My apologies for the ‘blurred’ sound. I need a better microphone and also to eliminate background hum from my computer.

There were very few videos about obstruction presented by the FIH Umpiring Committe as umpire coaching via the Dartfish sports website. I present three of them here, and having seen them viewers will understand why the entire umpire video coaching production (which is littered with blunders) has now been taken down.

I start off the video with an example of umpire coaching about obstruction by a prominent umpire coach in the USA. I have asked him to replace it with correct coaching (but he will not because he says he is showing what FIH umpires are doing – cart before the horse – presenting what FIH Umpires are doing is, unfortunately, often to perpetuate error). The commentary and conclusions should have been the opposite to those presented in description of the action.

The action shown from the NZ v SA match was not presented in connection with obstruction, but with tackles and allowing advantage, that however was also inaccurately done.

September 16, 2019

Behind the play – not on-side of opponent

Rules of Hockey

Description of circumstances in which an opponent is not his or her own goal side of the ball or the player in possession of the ball and is trying to tackle. Such a tackler cannot be obstructed by the body of the player in possession of the ball (stick obstruction and fending off the opponent’s stick with a leg or arm/hand remain a possibility)

 

September 14, 2019

Not an offence – by who

Rules of Hockey

A look at related Rule and the forcing of ball contact in the last ten years or so. About thirty random examples from hundreds I have on video.
Watch the skill with which top players deliberately break the Rules and the aplomb with which top umpires allow them to do so.

September 13, 2019

Video referrals One.

Rules of Hockey

Ball body contact and encroaching mistakes.

Some very strange ‘interpretation’ of the ball body contact Rule , advantage and the Advantage Rule.

September 10, 2019

Learning from Mistakes.

Rules of Hockey.

After several years of producing incident clips from hockey matches I have seen the same umpires makes the same mistakes repeatedly. There is no evidence they know they are making mistakes, no acknowledgement of them, and certainly no learning so as not to repeat them time and time again.

I blame the FIH Rules Committee for inadequate Rules and the FIH Umpiring Committee for poor umpire coaching.

September 6, 2019

Guide Tape Dangerously Played Ball

Rules of Hockey.

Prior to 2004, the year when the stand alone Rule prohibiting the raising of a ball at another player was deleted (it was transferred to Rule 9.9. as Explanation and a 5m limit added to it – opening the way for the uncontrolled drag-flick shot, generally made as a first shot during a penalty corner). I used to write frequently to hockey forums to point out that the drag-flick shots then made, especially when made high towards opponents, were illegal.

I used to point to the absurdity of a severely height restricted first hit shot during a penalty corner and the lack of any height control at all over a drag flick, which could be made at the same or a greater velocity, than an undercut or edge hit, when any raising of the ball towards an opponent was prohibited. The Rule was simply ignored. The deletion of the Rule may well have been made in response to my pointing out it was not being enforced and that there did not exist any emphasis on player safety.

Now (and for at least the last ten years) I have suggested a height limit approach to both the raised hit made outside the opponent’s circle (even into open space – shoulder height) and a ball raised at an opponent (with any stroke or deflection – sternum height) from beyond 5m, even as a shot at the goal, as an additional means of applying both Rule 9.8.(dangerously played ball) and 9.9 (the intentionally raised hit). I have also suggested the restoration of the prohibition on raising the ball into the opponent’s circle with any hit, but all these suggestions are ignored.

There continues to be no evidence of concern for player safety, in fact quite the opposite, attempt has been made to remove legitimate evasive action as a reason to penalise for dangerous play. This is seen as progressive rather than stupid.

August 22, 2019

Dangerously played ball.

Rules of Hockey.

9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.

A ball is also considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by opponents.
The penalty is awarded where the action causing the danger took place.

9.9 Players must not intentionally raise the ball from a hit except for a shot at goal.

A raised hit must be judged explicitly on whether or not it is raised intentionally. It is not an offence to raise the ball unintentionally from a hit, including a free hit, anywhere on the field unless it is dangerous. If the ball is raised over an opponent’s stick or body on the ground, even within the circle, it is permitted unless judged to be dangerous.

The above paragraph is about raised hits, the following one is about flicks and scoops (which are by definition raised)

Players are permitted to raise the ball with a flick or scoop provided it is not dangerous. A flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5 metres is considered dangerous. If an opponent is clearly running into the shot or into the attacker without attempting to play the ball with their stick, they should be penalised for dangerous play.

I assume, following the advice of the UMB, applying common sense to the application of the Rules, the combination of the above two clauses, that a hit that is raised towards an opponent within 5m must also be considered to be dangerous play. Why would this not be the case when raised hits generally exceed the velocity of flicks and scoops? The paragraph does state that a raised hit may be considered dangerous.

The mention of a shot in the above clause is strange as in general play a ball could be raised at an opponent from anywhere on a pitch, it looks as if that phrasing was just ‘copy- pasted’ directly from the Penalty Corner Rule, which is careless drafting.

Most of the remaining Rules about a ball that has been dangerously raised with a hit or flick are contained in the Penalty Corner Rules. What is missing is the playing of the ball in a way, usually a scoop, that will result in a falling ball, a circumstance that may lead to dangerous play or be in itself dangerous if a scoop is made at an opponent. I am not going to comment further on a scoop or aerial pass in this article because I want to focus on an anomaly in the Rules concerning flicks and hits towards opponents.

Penalty Corner

3.3 l if the first shot at goal is a hit (as opposed to a push,flick or scoop), the ball must cross the goal-line, or be on a path which would have resulted in it crossing the goal-line, at a height of not more than 460 mm (the height of the backboard) before any deflection, for a goal to be scored.

The requirements of this Rule apply even if the ball touches the stick or body of a defender before the first shot at goal.

If the first shot at goal is a hit and the ball is, or will be, too high crossing the goal-line it must be penalised even if the ball is subsequently deflected off the stick or body of another player.

The ball may be higher than 460 mm during its flight before it crosses the goal-line provided there is no danger and provided it would drop of its own accord below 460 mm before crossing the line.

m for second and subsequent hits at the goal and for flicks, deflections and scoops, it is permitted to raise the ball to any height but this must not be dangerous.

A defender who is clearly running into the shot or into the taker without attempting to play the ball with their stick must be penalised for dangerous play.

I have head match commentators and others state that it is a dangerous play offence for a defender to close on a striker during a penalty corner especially if the defender runs from within the goal. That is utter nonsense. Any defender who intentionally runs into the ball or the body of an opponent commits an offence, but a defender who closes on an opponent with the intention of playing at the ball with his stick is not committing an offence. If an outrunning and closing defender is hit with the ball that is a separate matter and then the Rule as published must be applied. It is wrong to conflate outrunning with getting hit with the ball. When a defender is hit with the ball that is frequently the fault of the player who propelled the ball.

Otherwise, if a defender is within five metres of the first shot at goal during the taking of a penalty corner and is struck by the ball below the knee, another penalty corner must be awarded or is struck on or above the knee in a normal stance,the shot is judged to be dangerous and a free hit must be awarded to the defending team

Readers may have noticed some anomalies in and between the above Rules.
1) The Rule governing the first hit shot at goal during a penalty corner is far more severe than the Rule governing any other shot taken at any time during a match. There is a height limit of 460mm which applies whether or not another player is actually endangered with the ball. A ball raised above 460mm will be penalised – for what penalised is not made clear, it seems to be just for failure to comply with the Rule.

2) On the other hand a hit shot which is raised below 460mm into an outrunning defender during a penalty corner, even if that runner is within 5m, will result in the award of another penalty corner. This directly conflicts with the Explanation of rule Application given in Rule 9.9 concerning the raising of the ball towards another player. The Penalty Corner Rule it seems overrules the open play Rule. However:-

3) Although there is no mention of knee height in the general open play Rules it has become common practice to regard any ball raised towards an opponent in open play as not dangerous if it is not raised to knee height or above. So Penalty Corner Rule is being applied outside of the penalty corner and is again considered the superior Rule – that has to be wrong. We have added to this the advice to umpires in the UMB which states that a ball raised into an opponent at below half shin-pad height is not dangerous – also a contradiction of Rule 9.9. Which, because it take no account at all of the circumstances in which such a ball might be played, is a dangerous nonsense.

4) The height restriction on a first hit shot during a penalty corner extends to and beyond the goal-line. The height restriction on a flick (drag-flick) extends to 5m; beyond that distance a flick shot can be judged dangerous only if it causes legitimate evasive action. But many umpires are of the opinion that evasive action taken by a player who is more than 5m from the ball cannot be legitimate because such players should easily be able to evade the ball (evading a ball that is travelling in excess of 100kmh is not at all easy). Legitimate evasive action is evading the ball to avoid being hit with it (and defines a dangerously played ball) so suggesting easy evasion as a reason for not penalising the raising of the ball at a player does not make sense especially when legitimate evasive action is not distance limited. The problem is of course that “legitimate” is not defined and is therefore a subjective judgement.

5) There is no mention of ball velocity in the Rules and no other objective criteria beyond knee height and 5m. There should be. It should be considered dangerous play to propel the ball at high velocity at another player at sternum height or above, from any distance. High velocity could be considered as a velocity that could cause injury to a player if hit with the ball at the height it was raised. The umpire can ask himself “If that hit me at that height would it injure me?”

6) The Penalty Corner Rule states:- for second and subsequent hits at the goal and for flicks, deflections and scoops, it is permitted to raise the ball to any height but this must not be dangerous. That of course means that no flick or scoop shot should be made at the goal in a way that endangers another player. Hits are only separated into second and subsequent because the first hit shot is dealt with separately in the preceding Rule clause. Do we ever see drag-flick shots endanger or injure defenders? Hell yes, and the umpire then, contrary to Rule, penalise the defender.

7) The tactic of hitting or pushing the ball along the ground towards the goal during a penalty corner, an action which is indistinguishable from a shot, and then deflecting that ‘shot’ in a planned way, high into the goal from close range is another circumvention (the first being the drag flick) of the intent of the restrictions on the first shot at goal made during a penalty corner. I have seen defenders who have been hit with such a close range deflection penalised with a penalty stroke even though they had no chance at all of avoiding being hit with the ball deflected high into their body. A way need to be found of curtailing this development which is often far more dangerous to defenders than raising the ball to above knee height at an out-running defender who is within 5m.

The following video shows an example of what I consider to be a dangerously played ball. I have received comment via YouTube that the award of the penalty corner was correct because a defender can be seen to place his hand on the attacker. That is true, but that action, although an offence did not disadvantage the attacker in any way, and should have been ignored following Rule 12.1.  I hope my critic, who thinks I have a very awkward view of the Rules, is not an umpire but I suspect he is.

I have a collection of video clips, there are dozens of them, where an attacker has made what I believe to be a dangerous hit or flick into or towards a defender and a goal or a penalty has been awarded against the defender. I have only one example in which an umpire penalised a dangerous shot which hit a defender. The bias against defending is very pronounced.

August 19, 2019

Spin turn coaching and Rule

Rules of Hockey

The meaning and order of words.

The above video which contains two examples of online coaching of the spin turn to elude an opponent, one by a brilliant international player and the other by two youngsters. They are the same, and wrong in two vital aspects. Firstly no account is taken of a realistic tackle for the ball and secondly, the Obstruction Rule, which should determine how a spin turn is coached once the basic footwork is established, is completely ignored. In other words there is no advanced coaching, it does not go beyond the inactive dummy stage – so that is what is generally seen in hockey matches.

The Rule is not well written. I will here explain why I make that statement.

Firstly,clauses are incompletely or poorly worded.

Players obstruct if they back into an opponent.

Does that mean back towards an opponent (into the playing reach of an opponent) without making contact) or backing into physical contact? The following clause gives a clue.

Players obstruct if they physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent.

Backing into physical contact is physically interfering with the body of an opponent and there seems no reason to repeat the prohibition, ergo the first clause is not about making physical contact. But it could be claimed (and is) that this is a subjective interpretation of the wording and the matter is still not clear. So backing with the ball, taking the ball into the playing reach of an opponent could be legitimate except it is difficult to see how that could be done without shielding the ball from the opponent to prevent a tackle attempt, which is illegal. That brings me to the next problem clause.

Players obstruct if they shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

Under the heading Obstruction in the UMB umpires are advised to ask themselves the question “Is there movement to prevent a tackle attempt?” and then obviously to take action according to the answer to that question The shielding clause given with the Rule Explanation is not clearly about the prevention of a tackle attempt, when it should be. I think it needs to be reworded to replace “from” with “to prevent”:-

Players obstruct if they shield the ball to prevent a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

I believe that follows the intent of the FIH RC when they drafted this ball shielding clause.

The 2004 and 2009 amendments, (the first a rewrite of the Rule and the deletion of all the previous Rule Interpretation previously contained in an Interpretations section in the back of the rule-book), were not properly integrated with previous clauses, so we are taken back to the subject of moving bodily into and/or moving to position between an opponent and the ball when that opponent is attempting to play at the ball.

This is the result of the 2009 amendment (the part from the word ‘or’ onward was added). The first part reinforces that moving bodily into an opponent – physical contact – is not permitted. ‘Backing into’, which is separately listed, can therefore reasonably be seen as a different action i.e. moving into an opponent’s playing reach without making physical contact. The contact Rule clause is otherwise unnecessarily repeated three times in this Rule alone.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

That at first sight looks reasonably clear but there is an ambiguity that those who think the Obstruction Rule should be deleted (and such people certainly exist) take advantage of to misapply the Rule or not apply it at all. I highlight the problem below:-

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent

OR

into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

Put like that the clause is not clear, it can be interpreted in several ways because there is separation of “except into a position between the ball and an opponent” when there should not be.

The 2009 amendment was simply an extension of the adjoining clause using the word “or”. It is possible to add ‘alternatively’ to get “or alternatively” but the meaning and clarity is not much changed. It is also possible to use “or differently” “or similarly” Which is best? Would a separate clause be the best option to avoid the ambiguous “or”? I believe so. Therefore I suggest, using the negative form previously employed in the Rules as well as change to the wording which does not alter the meaning or intent of the Rule:-

A player with the ball is not permitted to move with it in any way, that will cause (result in) physical contact with an opponent.

A player with the ball is not permitted to move into a position which places any part of his body between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play at it (clearly demonstrating an intent to play at the ball).

Are clear Rule clauses too blunt for liberal tastes?

The remaining Rule clause is about an opponent running to position between a player and the ball and about the blocking off of that player from the ball. This is incorrectly described as ‘third party obstruction’ (as if it was could only mean third party obstruction). The description is incorrect because such obstructive actions can be the simple obstruction of one player by another, who has moved to position between the ball and an opposing player who would otherwise have been able to play at the ball, but it may instead be third party obstruction, where the obstructed player need not be within playing distance of the ball at the time of the blocking off (by the third party) in order to be obstructed. These quite distinct actions require separate clauses and ‘third party obstruction’ needs an adequate separate description.

In the above incident the GER No.10 is clearly preventing an ARG player approaching a GER team-mate in order to challenge her for the ball. Obviously a third party obstruction. But not according to the coaching provided with the video by the FIH Umpiring Committee who give a quite difference interpretation to this incident in a coaching video presented via Dartfish.com.According to that there was no obstruction because there was no attempt made to play at the ball.

I suspect the interpretation, given within the video (pause the video to read it) was devised to follow the decision made by the match umpire (unfortunately a common occurrence), which was to allow play to continue, instead of awarding the appropriate penalty corner (or penalty stroke) and personal penalty.

August 18, 2019

Spin turn coaching

Rules of Hockey

This coaching video is on the right track, moving to position between an opponent and the ball is an obstruction offence. But I take issue with the action given as correct. The player with the ball turns to position between her opponent and the ball after she has moved to within the defender’s playing reach – this too is obstruction – the positioning of the leg of the ball holder prevents the defender from attempting a legal tackle when she would otherwise have been able to do so and obstruction can be made with any part of the body, it need not be a full body block.

The turning movement needs to be started before coming within the playing reach of a player intent on tackling, unless the tackler can be eliminated by his or her own angle of approach and momentum. This is rarely possible when the tackler has adopted a defensive stance and is watching the ball closely.

The turn should be used to achieve a more lateral movement, rather than a predominantly forward movement into the reach of the defender, so that the ball is put and then kept beyond the playing reach of the opponent who is being eluded.

The example given as correct play is not obstruction only because the ‘tackler’ in this case is just acting as a dummy and is not actually attempting to play at the ball. There can be no obstruction offence unless it is forced by a tackle attempt. (forced not ‘manufactured’). In a competitive match the two players would probably have collided in some way and that should be seen as the fault of the spinning player unless the tackler just uses a barge rather than trying to play at the ball with the stick.

August 17, 2019

Unqualified umpire.

Rules of Hockey

The original video link does not work (I have no idea why) so I have substituted another, later,           example of wilful blindness from a match official. This one at international level.

It’s unusual to see an unqualified umpire officiate a top level domestic league match (some readers might disagree with that statement) but this one really is a stand out ignoramus.

He ignored obstructions that breached every described obstructive action in the Explanation given with the Obstruction Rule, including backing into physical contact.
Then he ignored the deliberate raising of the ball into a close opponent and rounded of this charade by immediately awarding a penalty corner against the team of the player hit with the ball, despite the ball having rebounded off the defender and back into the possession of the attacker (so the defender could not possibly have gained an advantage from the forced contact). As the contact was clearly not intended by the defender (he tried to avoid being hit) and the attacker was not disadvantaged there was no offence by the defender to penalise, and even if there had been an offence by the defender (intent to use his leg to stop the ball for example), there would have been no reason, following Rule 12.1. Advantage, to penalise.

The march was played in 2018. I have no idea who the “umpire” is or which clubs the competing teams were playing for. But it is obviously past time the FIH produced some accurate Rules coaching videos for umpires and players – that is videos very different from the deeply flawed initial efforts which for some years were published via Dartfish.com by individuals appointed by the FIH Umpiring Committee.

August 14, 2019

“This is Obstruction” Coaching video 2004

Rules of Hockey

At end of the 2003 season Hockey Australia produced an umpire coaching video on obstruction which I have incorporated into the above video. There can be no doubt that the second incident shown included both obstruction and physical contact offences by the player in possession of the ball, but the first incident, featuring an ARG player in possession showed play that has never been considered obstructive.

It is true that umpires have generally been more inclined to ‘see’ obstruction when the ball is carried to the left of the body, but regardless of which side of the body the ball is carried, if it is kept to the front of the feet it is highly unlikely there can be an obstruction offence.

Moreover, body obstruction of an opponent who is behind the play (i.e. is not her own goal-side of the ball and the player in possession of the ball), is an impossibility, no matter how close to the ball that player may be.

It is still possible in such circumstances for a ball holder to be guilty of obstruction if an attempt by a tackler to play at the ball with her stick is fended off by the stick of the ball holder or by her leg or hand/arm to prevent contact with the ball which would otherwise have occurred, but a ball holder having her body positioned between an opponent, who has been by-passed, and the ball, cannot be guilty only because of that positioning, of an obstruction offence. Clearly the coach did not understand the Obstruction Rule. I wonder what he would have made of this current approach to blocking and ball shielding to prevent a tackle by an opponent? Bewilderment? Probably.

Going back to the first video above, had the player in possession been running towards her own goal she would have been obliged to keep the ball beyond the playing reach of any closing tackler, but she was moving towards her opponent’s goal and even if she did pull the ball back (which she did not) that action would not have been an obstruction.

The tightening up of the Obstruction Rule with the addition of “(sic) A player shall not move…. into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.” which occurred in 2009, was a “too little too late” attempt by the FIH Rules Committee to prevent the type of play, common by then, seen by the BEL player in the final action of the first video above. As can be seen in the video this addition, which reinforced what was already in the Rule, was completely ignored by umpires. In fact in these circumstances umpire are far more likely to penalise the tackler for attempting a tackle from a position where it it is not possible to play at the ball without making physical contact – a position which the ball holder has deliberately ‘engineered’ with just such an outcome in mind.

Amazingly defenders will sometimes hold the ball against their own base-line in the circle and then attempt to shunt sideways along the line and out of the circle while shielding the ball from opponents with stick, leg and body to prevent a legitimate tackle, without being penalised with a penalty stroke, which would be the correct decision in such circumstances, there being nothing accidental about such actions.

obs 9a

Here is some interesting coaching from 2014. The coach is instructing player to place the ball behind their left shoulder when carrying the ball to their left hand side in order to use the body to protect the ball. He is in other words coaching them to breach the Obstruction Rule. I wonder did he know that?

August 10, 2019

Use of Stick Rules should be amended.

Rules of Hockey

Players shall not:
13.1.1 Use of stick and playing equipment
a. play the ball intentionally with the back of the stick
b. take part in or interfere with the game unless they have their stick in their hand
c. play the ball above shoulder height with any part of the stick
d. lift their sticks over the heads of players
e. raise their sticks in a manner that is dangerous, intimidating or hampering to other players when approaching, attempting to play or playing the ball
f. play the ball dangerously or in such a way as to be likely to lead to dangerous play
A ball is dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by players.
g. hit, hook, charge, kick, shove, trip, strike at or personally handle other players or their sticks or clothing
h. throw any object or piece of playing equipment on to the field, at the ball, at another player, or at an umpire.
13.1.2 Use of body, hands, feet by players other than goal- keepers
a. stop or catch the ball with the hand
There is nothing to prevent players using their hands to protect themselves from dangerously raised balls.
b. intentionally stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their bodies

It is not automatically an offence if the ball hits the foot or body of a player. Players should not be penalised when the ball is played into them. It is only an offence if the ball hits the foot or body of a player and that player:
• moved intentionally into the path of the ball, or
• made no effort to avoid being hit, or
• was positioned with the clear intention to stop the ball with the foot or body or
• gains benefit.
c. use the foot or leg to support the stick in a tackle.
d. intentionally enter their opponents’ goal or stand on their opponents’ goal-line
e. intentionally run behind either goal

13.1.3 Raised ball
a. intentionally raise the ball from a hit except for a shot at goal
b. intentionally raise the ball so that it lands directly in the circle
Not every ball entering the circle off the ground is forbidden.
A ball which bounces into or lands in the circle after a short distance must be judged solely on the intent or danger.
A ball raised over a player’s stick or body when on the ground, even in the circle, must be judged solely on danger.

c. approach within 5 metres of a player receiving a falling raised ball until it has been played and is on the ground.

d. raise the ball at another player.

The above were the Rules concerning stick use and certain other potentially dangerous actions until 2004. There was an emphasis on player safety within them. That emphasis is now almost entirely missing. Note how many of the above Rules have been deleted or amended in a way that weakened them.

I would like to see a prohibition on the raising any part of the stick above shoulder height by a player in possession of the ball when an opposing player is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play at it and a similar prohibition when two or more players are competing for a loose ball.

The Rules concerning the playing, particularly the raising, of the ball towards another player should be restored (the Explanation given with the current Rule 9.9. already prohibits this action but it is apparently (but not really there being no limit put on legitimate evasive action) contained within a 5m limit, and this clause is anyway widely ignored.)

Raising the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit, irrespective of intention, should be a prohibited action and raising the ball into the opponent’s circle with any other stroke or even an accidental deflection should be height limited (elbow height ??)