Archive for December, 2015

December 31, 2015

Forcing, deletion of Rule.


More than ten years ago the following announcement was made in the Introduction of the 2011-13 Rules of Hockey under 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.

Both of the above statements, whatever the original intention of the FIH Rules Committee, turned out to be false. Also the above announcement did not appear in any rule-book after that of 2011-13 when being an ongoing change, it should have done. The result was that umpires who were not made aware of the conditions of this change post 2013 didn’t get educated/instructed beyond “The Forcing Rule is deleted”: they had (have ) no idea that the offence itself has not been deleted, any action of this sort should be dealt with.
The play by the ENG player in the video clip below did not contravene any “other Rules” because the ball was not raised, but it would (or should) have been penalised prior to the deletion of the stand alone forcing offence.
The deletion did cause an unintended but a fundamental change in umpire coaching and therefore practice. It then became standard practice to penalise the player hit with the ball rather than the player who had forced contact – an 180º turn – adopting the opposite extreme rather than the more rational “play on”.
The award of a penalty corner by the umpire was a failure of common sense or ‘brain fade’, the defender did not commit an offence and play should have been allowed to continue. It is not the case that if forcing ball-body contact by an opponent is not an offence then any ball-body contact is an offence by the player hit with the ball – and “any such action” (i.e. any forcing action) is anyway still an offence.

To penalise the player hit with the ball in circumstances similar to those seen in the video is to irrationally and illogically leap from one extreme to another. Only very rarely (I would like to say “never” and I think the Rule should state that) will there be any justification for penalty against a player hit with the ball when the contact has been (intentionally) forced by an opponent who was in possession of the ball – and clearly, to comply with the instruction given with Rule 9.9, if the ball is raised at all when forcing such contact, penalty must always be against the player who raised the ball into an opponent: that has not been changed, Rule 9.9 is still extant and the Explanation given with it has remained unchanged since 2004.
I must mention that the incident in the video below, where an attacking player in possession of the ball and goal-side of a defender, turned back and played the ball into the heels of that defender, occurred in a match played in the 2010 World Cup, a year before the deletion of the stand alone Rule called Forcing.

Penalising the player hit with the ball as a result of forcing – even though such forcing was clearly an illegal action – had, however, become common ‘umpiring practice’ before 2011. The deletion of the Forcing Rule, was a case of the prevailing ‘umpiring practice’, which was contrary to Rule, leading the FIH Rules Committee ‘by the nose’, a not unusual occurrence, but something that should never happen: umpiring practice should follow Rule, not the other way about.

No good reason was given for the deletion of the Forcing Rule. Umpires were apparently not enforcing it because they said they could not always determine an intention on the part of a PIP to force ball body contact onto an opponent.

There should have been no such difficulty in the incident shown in the video.

Players engaging in forcing actions anyway quickly stopped trying to disguise what they were doing. It was not long before commentators were calling forcing ball body contact a skill, and decrying the lack of skill of defenders who could not avoid being hit when a ball was forced into them from close range.

THE FORCING RULE SHOULD BE REINSTATED, calling an offence a skill is a fundamental change to the way in which hockey should be played and the FIH Rules Committee declared in 2011 that they had no intention of doing that.

Interpretation of the 2011 change.  

Any forcing action made (intentionally or otherwise, because intent is not mentioned in any of the “other Rules” referred to* – a welcome simplification) which directly caused an opponent to be unintentionally in breach of a Rule could (and presumably would) be penalised under other existing Rules.  

Rule breaches can be ‘dealt with’ in only two ways, by the award of penalty or by application of the Advantage Rule, so the above interpretation of “dealt with” can be considered to be reasonable.

*The other Rules that could be contravened by a forcing of ball-body contact are (1) Rule 9.8, the Rule concerning the dangerously played ball – legitimate evasive action, which defines a dangerously played ball, is however not limited to balls propelled at an opponent from within 5m (2)  Explanation of application given with Rule 9.9. “A flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5 metres is considered dangerous” (to which it is reasonable to add an intentionally or recklessly raised hit made towards an opponent) and (3) raised intentional deflections and also (4) Rules 13.3.k and 13.3.l, which respectively concern non-compliant and dangerous shots (which are specifically prohibited) made towards the goal during a penalty corner.

Here is an another example of an intentional forcing action (in 2016)  – forcing a ball-body contact from an opponent by (here deliberately) raising the ball into his legs from close range, in this case from within playing distance of the ball. Technically, because the ball was raised, this is deliberate dangerous play and (for a first offence) the award of a green card to the attacker for this cynical action would have been appropriate.

Instruction given with Rule 9.9. 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.

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. (Note there is no minimum height mentioned here)

Flicks and scoops are by definition raised.

The above instruction given with Rule 9.9. is what remains of another Rule Players shall not raise the ball at another player. which was ‘deleted’ (in fact transferred, with the addition of a 5m limiting distance, to become part of the explanation of application of Rule 9.9.) in 2004  (in much the same way as the once separate offence of forcing was transferred to “other Rules” in 2011). I might be partly responsible for that, as well as writing to the Secretary of the FIH Rules Committee about this I was causing ructions on Internet hockey forums prior to 2004 by pointing out that drag-flick shots made towards defenders during a penalty corner were illegal and players who were defending the goal and were hit with the ball, especially when trying to avoid being hit, should never be penalised with a penalty stroke, but that the shooter ought to be penalised and carded if the offence was repeated. I had some interesting exchanges about that with individuals who, judging from their use of foul language, might have been ‘frothing from the mouth’ in anger. I had to remind some individuals several times that I didn’t write the Rule, I was just pointing out that it existed and it was generally being ignored (in much the same way as the current instruction with Rule 9.9 is widely ignored) 

Neither the present Rule 9.9. or the deleted 2003 Rule 13.1.3 d, (sic) mentions height or velocity; the only differences between them (other than the very significant addition of a 5m limit which has been ‘interpreted’ by some to mean a ball cannot be dangerously raised at a player from more than 5m – an obvious nonsense because there is no distance limit placed on legitimate evasive action) is that this instruction is now Guidance or Explanation of Rule application, rather than Rule Proper.

To the text of the current Rule 9.9. Explanation of application “within 5 meters” andis considered dangerous” was added, and “towards  replacedat, none of these amendments significantly changes the way in which contravening play at close range should be dealt with and “IS considered dangerous” (my bold) removes any uncertainty and should prevent failure to penalise because of a subjective interpretation of danger or the absence of evasive action.

Umpires may also feel obliged (even though it is not part of the Rules of Hockey) to follow the UMB advice, which declares that a ball that has been raised over an opponent’s stick in a controlled way and hits that opponent below half shin pad height (20cms?) is not dangerous – and play can just continue (the UMB does not recommend penalising a player so hit with the ball), but there is no reason at all to suppose that any ball raised into an opponent at above half shin pad height should not be penalised, especially if the player is hit with the ball or otherwise disadvantaged in any way (and what exactly does “in a controlled way” mean. Can it mean at low velocity? Probably not, but it obviously means ‘not recklessly’).

So why is it current umpiring practice to make directly opposite decisions to the those the Rules of Hockey instruct should be made? It is not a skill or even legitimate play, to raise the ball from close range at or into another player’s legs or body, it is a foul.

In my view the failure to properly penalise forcing offences and properly apply the Obstruction Rule has ruined the game (not, is going to ruin the game).

Some examples.

Above. “Raised above knee height” is not the relevant criteria “raised towards” is. But the umpire awarded a penalty corner over the protests of the NED players, even though the ball was raised into the NED defender at above knee height (which has become the criteria for dangerous in ‘accepted practice’) and the AUS player then charged into the NED defender to prevent him from controlling the ball (I have seen the latter part of this action included in a video showing examples of obstruction – which is dishonest and absurd)

Above. Another ‘raise into charge and barge’ Penalty corner awarded.

Above. An absence of Rule knowledge displayed by the match umpire, the video umpire and the expert commentators. Raising the ball with a flick towards an opponent within 5m is an offence.

Above. Another cynical deliberate raising of the ball into an opponent at above knee height, a penalty corner was awarded.
he ‘standard’ tactic (and penalty award) when a defender attempts to reach for the ball with the stick. This has to be removed from the game; in these circumstances play should just continue.

Multiple dangerous ‘raise into charge and barge’ offences by the ESP team followed by  ridiculous video umpire advice on the taking of a self-pass (a second whistle to restart play following the award of a free ball would be helpfulon this occasion the commentators were correct, the self pass had been taken before the defender moved to within 5m of the ball – the ball had been made stationary and then moved).

Obviously, raising the ball at a player and then charging into physical contact with that player should not be allowed or accepted in hockey because such actions are specifically forbidden by two Rules, but there is apparently no limit to what may become ‘accepted practice’. We have only to look at current umpire coaching to see that ‘accepted practice’ in the application of the Obstruction Rule, as in the application of the ball-body contact Rule, bears little relation to the wording of the Rule, indeed the ‘interpretation’ of both Rules is often at the extreme opposite to what it should be. Deliberate physical contact frequently accompanies the forcing of ball-body contact, without penalty, as frequently as intentional physical contact accompanies obstruction (backing in) without penalty – that is far far too often – given that it should not be happening at all.


The offence of forcing covered a great deal more than forcing ball-body contact; it included the forcing of self defense from dangerous play and it also encompassed the ‘manufacturing’ of obstruction and the forcing of physical contact. The Rule was not as narrow as only the forcing of ball-body contact, even if that was the most frequent breach of it. The other elements should still be part of the Rules of Hockey.

I would have no difficulty finding dozens of video examples of a player in possession of the ball leading and shielding the ball and while so doing so, forcing physical contact with an opponent – and, as with the ball-body contact Rule examples above, penalty will often be awarded against the opposing defending player who has been barged into while trying to play at the ball.

Here are more than forty examples:-

Who is responsible for creating this mess?

The forcing of ball-body contact is often combined with barging to deny an opponent towards whom the ball has been propelled opportunity to play it. In nearly all of these incidents the ball is raised into the opponent from within two metres and incredibly, in the overwhelming majority of cases it is the ball-body contact that is penalised – even the fairer, but still incorrect,  ‘play on’ is a rare decision

Here are some examples of forcing combined with other offences:-

And here we have examples of forcing that is not an offence by either player but always results in the player who was hit with the ball being penalised, which is contrary to what is given in Rule 9.11.


As we can see forcing offences are often combined with obstruction and/or physical contact offences. Is anyone not convinced of the need to change the current approach to ball body contact? I hope not.