Archive for February, 2018

February 26, 2018

A gap


A gap or a black hole into which all common sense disappears?

CANT.  noun

  1. 1.
    hypocritical and sanctimonious talk, typically of a moral, religious, or political nature.
  2. 2.
    language specific to a particular group or profession and regarded with disparagement.

The following statements appear to be cant – They are generally treated as such by both players and umpires.

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.

Emphasis is placed on safety. Everyone involved in the game must act with consideration for the safety of others.

Rule 9. Conduct of play : players
Players are expected to act responsibly at all times.

Rule 9.9. 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.

Rule 9.8. A ball is also considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by players.


The gap I am referring to is the one between these two Rule statements, which could and should be bridged.

Rule 9.9. 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.

Rule 9.8. A ball is also considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by players.

There is nothing at all (except in the penalty Corner Rules) stated about a hit that is raised towards another player who is within 5m (even though Rule 9.9. is about the intentionally raised hit) and although common sense should bridge this gap all too often it does not. The absence of reference to a raised hit in open play – unless it is clearly intentionally raised – allows idiots (those people without any common sense) to declare that it is not illegal to raise the ball with a hit into a close opponent – and they do declare it – often.

Oddly the only time a ball may legally be raised with a hit is when a player is shooting at the opponents goal from within their circle (precisely when a raised hit is most likely to be dangerous to opponents, who will of course be trying to defend the goal). Shooting at the goal is not the same thing as shooting at or through opponents who are positioned between the shooter and the goal – such action may be illegal i.e. contrary to Rule – but that fact has yet to be accepted by many players and umpires.

Two other missing criteria are necessary to make good sense and enable consistent application of the Rules concerning the endangerment of another player when the ball has been propelled towards that player – shot at goal or not. The first is a minimum height limit.

It is common practice to adopt “knee height or above” from the criteria for a legal first hit shot at the goal made during the taking of a penalty corner even though that conflicts with Rule 9.9 (re flicks and scoops) which gives no height criteria at all – so any such raising of the ball into another player should be considered illegal. However, the Umpire Manager’s Briefing for FIH umpire at Tournaments ambiguously and in conflict states:-


Low balls over defenders sticks in a controlled manner that hit half shin pad are not dangerous.

The UMB is produced by the FIH Umpiring Committee and I have been informed by the Secretary of the FIH Rules Committee that it is produced in liaison with the FIH RC. That seems to me to be a way of creating ‘Rule’ while circumventing the approval of the FIH Executive, which Rules must have, but I put that objection to one side for the moment.

The half-shin pad height advice has been in the UMB for a number of years. Why, if it is there with the approval of the FIH RC, has the FIH RC not incorporated it (in clear form) into the Rules of Hockey? Why do the Rules of Hockey make no reference at all to a hit raised towards another player – other than “causes legitimate evasive action” (which can be applied to a ball raised with any stroke), and also a ball raised to above 460mm from a first hit shot taken during a penalty corner ?

In what circumstances is evasive action legitimate? is another difficult question, which brings us to the second missing criteria, ball velocity (although there is a lot yet to be said about distances and height limits – 5m cannot be the only distance employed in judgement of ‘dangerous’ and nor can ‘knee height or above’ and ‘half-shin pad’ be the only height guidance provided). A height limit of sternum or elbow height for any ball propelled towards another player beyond 5m distance (a drag-flick during a penalty corner for example) is I think worth serious consideration.

Ball velocity is the only criterion for dangerous which requires an element of subjective judgement. Velocity can be determined objectively by comparing for example the ball velocity of a hit made with maximum power or the velocity a flick that will fall to ground before it has travelled 5m, but the umpire is still relying heavily on personal perception. Possibly the most useful subjective judgement umpires can make is to ask themselves “If that ball hit me would it hurt/injure/incapacitate me? If a player is obviously injured and/or incapacitated following being hit with a raised ball the question is mute. it is however an important question if the evasive action is successful – successful evasion of the ball by the player it has been raised at does not make an illegally (a dangerously) raised ball a safe one. Nor is a ball raised towards a player safe if that player is hit with it when he or she has had no opportunity to take evasive action.


In the first and third videos below evasive action is successfully taken (in the third video by the defender nearer to the ball at the time it was hit; the second defender, who was probably sight blocked by the first defender, was hit with the ball).



In the above incident the flicker propelled the ball high and directly at the first runner, the runner evaded the ball (there had therefore already been a dangerous play offence before the player on the goal-line was hit with the ball). Because the runner was sight-blocking the post-man had no time to find,track and play or evade the ball, he suffered a fractured skull and a perforated ear drum.(which the umpire could not immediately know, but serious injury was obvious)  A penalty stroke was awarded.

This ‘lining up’ and targeting of defending players was done deliberately, I have other videos of the same team and flicker using exactly the same tactic in other matches. Here is one with the same flicker:-


How does it work? If the first defender stops or deflects the ball away with his body another penalty corner is awarded, otherwise the second defender is either hit with the ball and a penalty stroke awarded or he manages to evade the ball and a goal is awarded. It does not enter the heads of umpires to penalise a shooter for dangerous play. “It was a shot at the goal” is the usual nonsensical response.



February 24, 2018

Reckless endangerment


I recently posted a video clip to a USA field-hockey discussion group within Facebook and netted what I though was an extinct idea, the ‘automatic’ penalty stroke if a defender within 5m of an attacker propelling a high (above knee height) raised ball, is hit with it, while in front of his or her own goal and prevents the ball going into the goal.

We had Keely Dunn (a Canadian FIH Umpire) proclaiming back in 2006 that a defender positioned on the goal-line caused danger and also that a player positioned behind their stick to stop the ball, took that position to ensure that if they missed the ball with the stick it would hit their body – and that, if it happened, was intentional use of the body to stop the ball. Dunn, a self proclaimed hockey mavern, is however better remembered for her equally bizarre inventions (dunnie fodder) about an aerial ball, which I will not repeat here.

Unbelievably inventions about a shot at goal got worse than that when the Russian FIH Umpire Elena Eskina declared during a 2010 World Cup match between Spain and China, that an ‘on-target’ shot at the goal could not be dangerous play. She kept repeating “It was a clear shot on goal” (The television commentator obviously got the same briefing. It is clearly from umpire briefings that this nonsense is being disseminated The Umpire Manager at this Tournament was Jan Hadfield)

She made a similar decision during the London Olympics in 2012 following a reckless shot by an attacker, but had an opposite view in the same match, when a goalkeeper raised the ball during a clearance from the goalmouth as an attacker went to her knees in front of her in an attempt to play at the ball (which I saw as reckless self-endangerment by the attacker) even though the goalkeeper played the ball away from the attacker and not at or across her a penalty corner was awarded against the goalkeeper’s team.



That was followed in 2016 by an inane decision from Christian Blash – that a raised hit shot that was going wide of the goal (and not at any player) was dangerous play – because it was hit wide of the goal (the ball was deflected into the goal by a defender who attempted to play at it with his stick when the ball was well above head height – previously (bewilderingly) a penalty corner offence, defenders were previously only permitted to play at a above shoulder height ball if it was ‘on target’). The goal, which should have been awarded, was disallowed. That, despite the fact that this decision contradicted what is given in Terminology in the rule-book about a shot at the goal, didn’t even cause the “can’t be dangerous” crowd to blink, they are used to accommodating extreme opposites in interpretation and even contradictions of what is given in the rule-book, as long as it is FIH Umpires who are applying them.

I see the action of the striker in the above clip as being both reckless and dangerous play. Reckless because it was made without consideration for the safety of the defender and also (or because it was) unnecessarily hit in the way that it was, the attacker had a number of alternative ways of scoring; he could have hit the ball along the ground or passed it to a team-mate positioned near to the right side goal-post for an easy tap-in. Dangerous because the ball was carelessly raised into the defender, who was within 5m and trying his best to avoid being hit with it – taking legitimate evasive action – see Rule 9.8

So what do the Rules of Hockey ‘say’ about a shot at the goal. Not much, what there is is contained in the Rules of the penalty corner – and it takes a bit of sifting to find it –  they are, despite all the clarification and simplification of the Rules since 1995, a masterpiece of obscurantism – the use of common sense and rational though is necessary to extend what is written in the Penalty Corner Rules  to cover open play situations.

13.3.k 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. (My inserts in parenthesis)

Nothing there about dangerous play, 13.3.k is about the criteria for the scoring a goal from a first hit shot. But, if the ball is raised to above 460mm the hit must be penalised – for what? Is it correct to assume it is for dangerous play? Maybe, maybe not, it could be for non-compliance with the criteria for a legal shot. The Explanation of Application to this Rule makes things clearer but not much clearer: danger is however mentioned, but not what it might be explained. There is however acknowledgement of the possibility that danger may be caused to opponents by a first hit shot made at the goal

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 (my bold) and provided it would drop of its own accord below 460 mm before crossing the line.

The Rule then moves on to deal with second and subsequent hit shots and also with flick or scoop shots.

13.3.l 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. (what ‘dangerous’ might be is not here revealed)

13.3.k deals with only the first hit shot, Rule 13.3.l deals with second and subsequent hit shots and any flick shot, including the first one, that is made at the goal, and it should be perfectly clear from what is written that any shot at the goal with any stroke may be considered to be dangerous play – why otherwise write “but this must not be dangerous“. If dangerous play was not a possibility there would be no need to admonish “but this must not be dangerous” 

What is not clear is what constitutes a dangerous shot, but obviously (I hope it is obvious) any shot that causes legitimate evasive action must be considered to be dangerous play. What ‘legitimate’ might be is another question. ‘legitimate’ is a subjective judgement; so ‘dangerous’ a subjective judgement is based on another subjective judgement for which the FIH Rules Committee have offered no criteria.

The Explanation of Application with 13.3.l  goes on:- A defender who is clearly running into the shot or into the taker without attempting to play the ball with their stick (my bold) must be penalised for dangerous play. (the part in bold is frequently overlooked and running towards a striker from within the goal or from just outside a goal-post – closing down in order to make a tackle attempt, that is legitimate defending – incorrectly considered to be dangerous play or self endangerment by a defender).

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 (this conflicts with the Explanation of Application provided with the open play Rule 9.9 which prohibits any raising of the ball towards an opponent who is within 5m – this clause was added to the Rule as an emergency measure  – an immediate or ‘knee jerk reaction’ – following the defending tactics at a penalty corner of the Korean team just prior to the 2004 Olympics – and we are now it seems stuck with it – even if it is an invitation to reckless propelling of the ball by an attacker during a penalty corner as a means of intimidation) 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. (my bold) (We now have clear objective criteria for a dangerous shot at the goal, something to work with)

This provides three objective criteria for a dangerously played ball (which have  been adopted by ‘umpiring practice’ into general open play) they are ‘raised at a player’, ‘within 5m’ and ‘above knee height’. There is no reason to suppose that what is considered a dangerous first (or subsequent) shot during a penalty corner should not be considered a dangerous shot during open play in a shooting circle – it’s not a great leap which defies logic to treat both in the same way, it is a logical step and common sense – it otherwise makes little sense to adopt ‘within 5 and above knee height‘ as a rule-of -thumb criteria for a ball propelled in a dangerous way at a player, in general open play, but these criteria are so adopted.

The initial response to my posting the above video clip with a comment about dangerous play, and part of the ‘discussion’ (expression of entrenched views) that followed, are set out below. My view is entrenched in the Rules of Hockey, POV, an umpire practicing in the UK, appears to be following what he sees senior umpires doing, particularly FIH Umpires, and to believe that they are not wrong about this sort of thing (because of the level they have reached and their umpiring experience) – If only it were true that the level of play an umpire is officiating at is an indication of the correctness of his or her decisions, but it is more likely that ‘pigs will fly’ – the higher the level the faster the game (for longer) and the more ‘pressure'(self inflicted anxiety) there will be

The exchange of views


This might open up a can of worms but from what I can see is that the shot was on target and unfortunately the defender was hit… any player who is in line with the ball and the goal mouth is always at risk of being hit and its in their best interest to the evasive action. Just like any player who stands on the goal line on penalty corners are at risk of getting hit and is their responsibility to move out of the way of the ball or risk getting hit and giving a penalty stroke away. it would have been a different call if it was going wide of the goal.


Martin Conlon
When an attacking opponent takes an illegal i.e. dangerous action – danger being defined as an action that causes legitimate evasive action – Rule 9.8 and also the responsibility of the attacker to behave in a responsible way and to consider the safety of other players (both Rules of hockey) have been breached. There is no counterpart in the Rules to suggest that a defending player is, when subjected to dangerous play by an opponent – in breach of any Rule if hit with the ball.
I should add that the defender was penalised because of an advantage gained for his team – he stopped the ball going into the goal – but that is irrelevant if there has been prior dangerous play by an opponent – which there obviously was.

I’m not sure if I’m missing something here but what was the dangerous play from the attacking team??

Martin Conlon
If you don’t see dangerous play when one player blasts the ball high into another player who is within 5m AND there is legitimate evasive action from the defending player (which defines dangerous play), then you are certainly missing something – knowledge of the Rules of Hockey.
You are not alone of course FIH Umpires have been trained to wilful blindness in this area just as they have been with obstruction.

A pedant might point out that the Explanation of Application given with Rule 9.9 (which is a rule about the intentionally raised hit) prohibits raising the ball into an opponent within 5m only with flicks and scoops, but common sense should allow an extension of this prohibition to include a recklessly made raised hits towards a player, especially one who is within 5m of the striker, and when the ball is raised above knee height, as it was; (I now add) besides legitimate evasive action make no reference to the type of stroke the ball is propelled with.

Are you talking about the player that got hit?? if so nothing wrong has been done by the attacking player he is well within his right to attack the goal at any high regardless of who is in front if the goal mouth. evasive action or not if it hits a defending player then unfortunately that is his bad luck that he didn’t move fast enough out of the way like I said before same rule applies when defending a penalty corner evasive action or not if it hits you anywhere on the body and you’re in the goalmouth then it’s an automatic penalty stroke. In both cases the defending player has prevented a legitimate goal from happening. (my bold here it was not in the original post)

Martin Conlon
You are wrong. I suggest you read a rule-book. On the first page you will find this unnumbered Rule:-
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. (my bold not in the original post)

Emphasis is placed on safety. Everyone involved in the game must act with consideration for the safety of others.
The Rule of Conduct of Play (Rule 9) is prefaced with this instruction:-
Players are expected to act responsibly at all times.
Then there is the prohibition I mentioned previously, contained within Rule 9.9, and the Penalty Corner Rules shed some much needed light on what should be considered to be a dangerous shot at the goal – which is missing from Rule concerning open play.

Martin I have read the rules and understand them perfectly well, I’m a qualified umpire grated not international standard but very much on this occasion in respect to dangerous play… would have to agree to disagree with you. if what you are saying is correct no one and I mean no one should raise a ball at the goal if a player is within the goalmouth if less than 5m away… you’ll find that this is never the case. Both umpires in this short video you have posted are very experienced and would no doubt know the rules better than you or I… not saying that they don’t make a mistake but even the umpire assessing the referral agreed with the decision of the umpire who gave the PS in the first place.

POV clearly does not understand the Rules concerning dangerous play he just believes he does. This failure is very common among umpires largely because they just follow what they see other more senior umpires doing. The senior umpires they follow have been umpiring in this way since they were novices because they too followed what more senior umpires were doing: this ‘cascade’ system is self perpetuating. No umpire actually properly reads the rule-book once they have qualified except to catch up on announced changes.





In answer to the point made in the last paragraph above .This (video above) might not be reckless play, the raising of the ball in the way that it was done was accidental, the result of a miss-hit; nonetheless the striker committed a dangerous play offence, propelling the ball from close range high into the defender. The umpire made an error of judgement in penalising the defender and the video umpire repeated that error by confirming her decision. It is possible the umpire did not see where the ball hit the defender, but the video umpire had no excuse for her incorrect recommendation. Yes umpires at this level do make mistakes and have their mistaken decisions approved by video umpires.


The restrictions contained in the Penalty Corner Rules are not missing ‘in practice’ because it is common umpiring practice to apply the objective criteria “above knee height” (from the penalty corner Rule 13.3.l) together with “within 5m” which is also in the Explanation of Application of Rule 9.9. (but see above example from the Rio Olympics). Rule 9.8 regarding legitimate evasive action applies to all propelling of the ball towards an opponent irrespective of the stroke used.

FIH Umpires have become used to devising their own ‘rules’ in practice, i.e. leading the FIH Rules Committee ‘by the nose’. This particular invention –  (application of common sense) within 5m and above knee height – is not all bad, it does at least provide objective criteria for dangerous play – which are ignored only when there is a dangerous shot at the goal (that is, illogically, in the only situation where it is legal to raise the ball with a hit ) but it also conflicts with what is provided with Rule 9.9 together with what is adopted from Rule 13.3.l because these Rules taken together prohibit any raising of the ball towards an opponent who is within 5m.  “It is legal to raise the ball with a hit when taking a shot at the goal” does not mean, applying simple logic, that such a raised shot is always safely raised; this must be so when it is never ‘safe’ to raise the ball towards an opponent who is within 5m. That action is, by Rule, always to be considered dangerous play – the Rule make no exception to “is dangerous” just because a shot at the goal is being made.

The Rules concerning the dangerously played ball are a mess,” a can of worms”, and there is obviously conflict between what is seen as dangerous play in general open play outside the circles and what is considered dangerous play (or more accurately commonly not considered so) when a raised shot is taken at the goal – there is no good reason for this conflict, it just exists (has been ‘developed’ in practice). There is no doubt at all that had a similar incident to the one seen in this video occurred in a mid-field area, that ball raising action (even if done with a flick) would (or should) be penalised and almost everyone, perhaps even POV, would expect that to be the umpire’s decision.

When it is considered that any intentional raising of the ball with a hit is an offence except (bizarrely) when the ball is being propelled towards the opponent’s goal from within their circle, anyone could be forgiven for thinking – given that there is supposed to be an emphasis on player safety – that the Rules of Hockey have not been drafted by rational people (because that is exactly when a high velocity raised ball is the most likely to be dangerously raised at other players. The circle, when a shot at the goal is being taken is usually crowded with players) and it can be no surprise that even the sane parts of the Rule, the criteria for ‘dangerous’, are being applied irrationally or not applied at all in the shooting circles when a shot at the goal is made.

These off-target shots at the goal are typical examples; the second one with obstruction thrown in for good measure.



The part of argument POV made that I highlighted in bold  – he is well within his right to attack the goal at any high regardless of who is in front if the goal mouth. evasive action or not if it hits a defending player then unfortunately that is his bad luck that he didn’t move fast enough out of the way – is an illustration of this irrationality and of the weakness of the Rules and various other instructions and statements made in the rule-book when compared with interpretation (understanding), common practice and habit. No player has a right to endanger another player ever, but especially not when causing endangerment is easily avoided. To do it deliberately or recklessly has to be a cardable offence. That an umpire should make the statement POV made is almost incredible – almost because it is quite common for umpires, even very high level umpires, to make such statements.

That the statement in the previous paragraph that POV made is incorrect is obvious from a reading of the Rules and it is worrying that he is a qualified umpire and allowed to put into practice this approach to endangerment from a raised ball.

There is an analogy here with learner drivers and the driving test. Learner drivers quickly forget the Highway Code and probably could not pass on it a few months after passing their driving test, and of course their driving is not compliant with test standards for very long either. The analogy falls because drivers can be disqualified for dangerous driving, but umpires are not disqualified for being a danger to players in the matches they officiate.They do however leave themselves open to legal action when making public statements of the kind made above, if a player is injured in a match they are officiating. It could be demonstrated that an attacking player did not take the care he or she should have because they were given the impression by a particular umpire that it is perfectly okay to raise the ball at a close opponent, (sic) because if the opponent is hit with the ball and injured “it is the opponent’s fault for being in the way“, even when there are other easier shooting options available to the attacker. Any reasonable person would see that to be a nonsense.

The late Peter Savage, a hockey journalist and himself a former FIH Umpire, once wrote when referring to the promotion of umpires to FIH level These days they appear to give a badge to anyone who can stand up and blow a whistle without actually choking on it”  Below FIH level it seems that the shortage of umpires is so acute that the standard for qualification isn’t as high as that.

I’m not sure if I’m missing something here but what was the dangerous play from the attacking team??

POV is not, and he says he is not, a FIH Umpire but FIH Umpires do have the same kind of blind spots or ‘brain fade’ – although because of the ‘recommended’ (coached) positioning of the umpire my criticism of this penalty corner decision by that umpire is not entirely fair (but the prior offence by the attacking team should have been penalised and an umpire is responsible for his own positioning). 

The video below is composed from one that was previously presented on (they have all now been deleted) by the FIH Umping Committee under the heading ball off the ground 3. The Interpretation provided with the video is as follows:

The IND player crosses the ball into the circle. The ball is lifted, but is not dangerous to either of the ARG defenders. The ARG goalkeeper tries to kick the ball clear, but unintentionally lifts it dangerously past his own defender towards the IND forward. A penalty corner is awarded to IND.

This ‘interpretation’ is not only inaccurate in its description of the action:-  (the ball was raised intentionally from outside the circle into and across the circle to the disadvantage of the defenders) – an offence which should have been penalised. The ball was not raised dangerously by the goalkeeper either towards his own defender or towards the IND player (evasive action was not necessary by either player – i.e. evasion was not legitimate – “when it causes legitimate evasive action” along with “raised towards a player within 5m” defines a dangerously played ball)  –  the interpretation given with the video runs contrary to the Rules of Hockey which state:-

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.

(not only whether or not it is raised dangerously, an illegally (intentionally) raised hit is an offence even when it is not also dangerous to opponents).

I have no doubt that the ball was raised intentionally into the circle with that hit.

and also

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 players.

The umpire made an understandable mistake but there is no possible excuse for these errors to be repeated and endorsed in an umpire coaching video and there was no excuse for the video umpire confirming the decision of the match umpire.

There are two offences shown in the video both committed by IND players. The first was the intentional raising of the ball with a hit across the circle from outside the circle, an action which was illegal and disadvantaged the defending team – so an offence, which I repeat, should have been penalised (and umpire positioning does not here excuse the failure to penalise). The second was the reckless and dangerous hit into the back of a member his own team by the IND #5. The award of a penalty corner was unjustifiable because the defending goalkeeper did not endanger anyone with his kick to clear the ball from the goalmouth. The recommendation from the video umpire was absurd.

From the ‘recommended position’, the umpire could have had no idea of the flight path of the ball or how close it actually was to the players in front of the goalkeeper. He had no choice but to react as he did to the false evasion. The ‘recommended position’ is a ‘crock’ and there is a need for more on-pitch officials.

February 21, 2018

What FIH Umpires are doing

Two or three offences 1) Shielding the ball from one opponent to prevent him or her playing directly at it (a foul) and also 2) making physical contact while obstructing 3) deliberately lifting the ball into another opposing player (a cardable offence, because raising the ball into a close opponent is a foul contrary to Explanation of application of Rule 9.9 even when done unintentionally). But the obstruction offences and the dangerous play offences are both ignored and penalty here in each case awarded against the player hit with the ball (or even supposed to have been hit with the ball).

This is not good enough to earn approval for advancement from novice to Level One qualification following a watching by an umpire coach – never mind officiate at a World Level hockey event.

So what is going on and why would anyone follow such practice?

February 14, 2018

A silly question


The silly or ‘trick’ question is one that I heard in my school days. I think it was first widely spread from the book ‘Hockey Umpiring’ by the renowned Indian FIH Umpire Gian Singh, which was published in 1958.

“A shot is taken at the goal by an attacker from inside the circle. As a result the cork of the ball passes between the goal-posts, under the crossbar and over the goal-line, whereas the leather cover passes over the base-line outside the goalposts. What should the umpire award?”

There were later variations on this theme with the ball splitting into two halves along the seam (common with the Victor ‘plastic’ ball) or shattering into two or more large pieces (when poorly composed ‘PVC’ balls were used). Obviously a goal cannot be awarded when this happens because the ball has not completely crossed the goal-line. A different slant on the usual understanding of ‘completely’, which normally referred to the ball (as a unit) entirely crossing the complete width of a goal-line and not being in contact with or overhanging part of the goal-line.

A different but equally old ‘silly question’, one which has a very obviously wrong answer other than “Goal” (and not “Penalty corner”), is-

What should the decision be if the ball touches the foot of a defender when the ball is hit wide of the goal by an attacker and then continues on out of play before any intervention by any other player is possible?

In these circumstances there can be no advantage gained by the defending team because if the ball-foot contact had not occurred the ball would have gone out of play, resulting in a 15m to defending the team. And if the ball-foot contact was unintended, there is no justification at all for the award of a penalty corner. Currently of course, following the discontinuation of the corner (previously known as the long corner), in these circumstances, a free ball restart to the attacking team should be awarded on the 23m line opposite to the place the ball went out of play…..

…….unless the on-pitch official happens to be an FIH Umpire.



The first penalty corner shown awarded in the video clip is awarded correctly, because a defender, albeit accidentally, raised the ball towards a close opponent (within 5m) and hit him with the ball – technically a dangerous play offence  (but not with current umpiring practice – see the play from another tournament – if the ball is deliberately lifted into a defender in the circle by an attacker).

There is an apparent bias against defenders who make ball-body contact in their own circle, even if the contact is illegally forced by an opponent – see video below – because it seems this leads to ‘spectacular hockey’ – i.e. penalty corners (drag-flicks) – and generally to more goals being scored.


The second and third penalty corners in the initial video follow the scenario of the second ‘silly question’ above. The shot from the second penalty corner, improbably, hitting the foot of the defender in exactly the same way as the shot from the first penalty corner did. The umpire did not feel a need to consult again to award a third penalty corner, he made a consistent, but incorrect, decision about a ball-foot contact and penalised the defender for a second time.

There were a total of five penalty corners awarded in close sequence at this time during the match, only one of which (the first) can be said with certainty to have been awarded correctly. Three were clearly incorrectly awarded (two glanced off the foot of a defender, with the foot that was hit positioned wide of the goal and close to – almost on – the base-line and the ball continued out of play; one was awarded as the result of an intentionally forced ball-foot contact by an opponent).

This is not an unusual ratio of correct to incorrect in the awarding of penalty corners; that’s a 60% – 80% error rate. Most error arises from penalising ball-foot contact which has been deliberately forced by an opponent – instead of allowing play to continue or, if the ball was raised, instead of penalising the player who did the forcing  – or arises from penalising unintentional contact when there is no advantage gained by the team of the player hit with the ball as happened when the second and third penalty corners seen in the video were awarded.

Here is an example of a similar mistake by an umpire (and a player) made in open play during an EHL match. Umpires have trained players (by previous decision making) to expect this kind of decision and to regard it as normal practice and correct umpiring, i.e. in compliance with Rule  – when it is not.


The decision making methods of the top level umpires are cascaded to those at the lower levels – few appear to have read a rule-book and none are seen to regularly comply with the wording of the published Rule and its Explanation of Application. Some even argue (on an Internet hockey forum) that the explanation/instruction provided by the FIH Rules Committee in regard to the application of Rule 9.11 is not the Rule Proper but merely advice or notes and can therefore be disregarded.

I am unconvinced by such argument because the same people take an entirely different approach to the Explanation of Application provided with other Rules (and even to some long deleted Interpretation), and also because I do not accept that the FIH Rules Committee produced the Rule Explanations provided in the rule-book with the expectation or acceptance that some of them would be ignored or countermanded by Umpire Coaches or Umpire Managers or Tournament Directors – or by umpire coaching/briefing produced and published by the FIH Umpiring Committee.

The FIH Rules Committee, with the approval of the FIH Executive, is the sole Hockey Rules authority and cannot be overruled by any other individual (not even by one or more of its own Members) or by any other FIH body (committee). The FIH Executive went to the trouble of reminding all National Associations of that fact in a FIH Circular in 2001 – another reminder appears to be required.



February 10, 2018

Attempting to play the ball


Attempting to play the ball.

There were at one time two videos about obstruction presented by the FIH Umpiring Committee via which referred to an attempt to play at the ball.

The Interpretation given on the Dartfish website of the above incident was as follows:-
The ARG attacker enters the 23 metres area and just before she reaches the edge of the circle plays a pass which is intended for her team mate. The GER defender tries to intercept the pass, but the ball deflects off her stick. The GER defender regains control of the ball. The second ARG attacker tries to claim that she is being obstructed. The Umpire allows play to continue, because at no point did the second ARG attacker ever legitimately attempt to play the ball.

The GER player who blocks the ARG player who is trying to move towards the ball clearly commits three offences 1) physical contact 2) Interference 3) Third-party Obstruction and whoever wrote the above interpretation, supporting the decision made by the match umpire, lacks not only Rule knowledge but common sense. There was no attempt by the ARG player to play at the ball because she was illegally prevented from getting to within playing distance of the ball when trying to do so.

The interpretation provided on the website with the next video was:-
The GER team try and pass the ball out of defence. The GER player receives the ball and initially moves it out of the playing distance of the ARG player. When the GER player turns with the ball, the ARG player is not actively trying to tackle or play the ball, so there is no obstruction. When the GER player plays the ball over the stick of the ARG player, it runs out of her playing distance for an ARG side-line ball. The contact between the two players’ sticks is accidental and does not affect play.

There is a substantial chunk of the action missing from the actions described in the provided interpretation which can be seen in the video. I have embedded comment in my remake of the video and included slow-mo of the relevant action.

Both of the above interpretations, which declare no tackle attempt was made, are absurd, taking no account of the prevention of a tackle attempt or the illegal thwarting of a tackle attempt as it was in progress (initially, in the second video, by stepping over the stick of the player attempting to tackle as she was reaching for the ball and bodily blocking her path to it). Both interpretations support the decisions made by the match umpires: what a surprise !!

My previous objections to the inclusion of these two videos (and many others) presented as umpire coaching go back to the launch date of FIH Umpire Committee sponsored coaching on the Dartfish website – a potentially great coaching tool was being mismanaged and wasted by those responsible for producing the interpretations, mainly because they ‘bend over backwards’ to support decisions made by match umpires no matter, as in the two examples above, how mistaken they were.

All the FIH Umpire Coaching videos at one time presented on the Dartfish website have been taken down. So many were flawed or simply wrong in their ‘Interpretation of the action’ that I am relieved that this step was taken

Cris Maloney refers in his coaching session (see link below) to “What FIH Umpires are doing” as justification for the interpretation he is coaching. Here is an example of what they are doing.



This umpire allows the NED defender to ‘crab’ along the base-line and to move into the playing reach of the GER forward while  – deliberately – shielding the ball from her opponent and thereby preventing an attempt by that opponent to make a legitimate tackle.The GER player would immediately have been able to play directly at the ball if the NED player had not shielded it from her in the way that she did.

(moving along a line in this way was an action which umpires were advised to watch for (penalise) up until 2003, when it was deleted from Advice to Umpires without comment. This instruction needs to be restored to the Explanation of application of the Obstruction Rule – along with 2) turning into and pushing past, and 3) standing still and shielding the ball when under pressure – the latter also seen in the video – described ‘watch for’ actions which were deleted at the same time as shielding the ball while moving along a line was).

The umpire does not penalise until a second GER forward attempts to tackle for the ball and is also obstructed in the same way while the first one continues to be obstructed. The penalty awarded was a penalty corner and not as it should have been, because there was nothing accidental about this obstruction, a penalty stroke. The obstructing player obviously had no idea she was committing an offence. Why not?

Common sense should have told this umpire that a deliberate obstruction offence was occurring ‘right under her nose’ long before she did intervene.

(Incidentally the earlier breakdown tackle near the centre of the circle looks like an offence that should have been penalised with a penalty stroke)


This following example is worse, the umpire awards the offending NED player (who commits three offences) a free ball.

Cris Maloney ( would doubtless have seen the first action by the NED defender after he got possession of the ball as backing into, because there was physical contact, but the FIH Umpire concerned did not. Why not? Will Cris Maloney eventually follow what this umpire, and others, are doing?

On the above evidence, basing Rule application on a clear understanding of the written Rule, obtained by using literal interpretation of the wording, is more likely to produce sensible decisions than copying what other umpires are doing, no matter what level they may have reached, because it is often impossible to know why they are doing what they do – and the “Why?” or “Why not?” is important.

I doubt that the umpire who made the above decision could explain why he did not penalised the NED player for obstruction and/or physical contact, the offences could hardly have been clearer and the written descriptions of them in the Explanation of application of Rule 9.12 are clear enough to be fit for purpose if common sense is also employed.


I hope no other umpires will follow these examples.


February 10, 2018

A peculiar interpretation


Cris Maloney is a well known, enthusiastic, and well liked umpire coach in the USA. He has produced a number of videos and written three books on the playing and umpiring of field-hockey. He has also been involved with Steven Horgan (the Pan American representative Member of the FIH Rules Committee since 2017) in the production of the USA Field Hockey Rules Briefing videos since 2012 – so he should know what he is talking about (even though there has not been a single mention of the Obstruction Rule – the subject of this article – in the USA Briefings for as far back as I have been able to track them: so no mention since at least 2012). It is therefore something of a surprise to discover that he has concocted a bizarre interpretation of part the wording of the Explanation of application of the Obstruction Rule (that turns the Obstruction Rule ‘on its head’) and which he presented in a pre-2017 season coaching session at Eastern. The video clip below is a small segment of that session.

Like the ‘curate’s egg’ what is said is not all bad, the opening statements he makes in the video, about the possibility of obstructing when moving the ball or moving with the ball, are accurate (but see video below for a different interpretation which was previously ‘fashionable’), but he very quickly departed from the rule-book and referred to an offence called ‘Misconduct’ which was deleted decades ago, and also refers to tackle prevention, which is not specifically mentioned in the Obstruction Rule – although instruction about the prevention of a tackle – “if  the opponent could otherwise have played at the ball” – was at one time included in Advice to Umpires in the back of the rule-book and should still be included in the Rule or Explanation of application, but isn’t. Strangely ball shielding when an opponent is within playing distance of the ball and clearly intent on playing at the ball – making a tackle for the ball – is no longer seen (interpreted) as the prevention of a tackle attempt. (That said “attempting to tackle” is presently very poorly defined and absurdly interpreted – see separate article

He then, after describing backing in as a contact offence, asks a player to back into him in demonstration, and declares when she does as she is asked, that she is not backing into him (but backing up), as he retreats behind her, because she does not make contact with him. When he stops retreating and the player does back into physical contact, he then declares that she is backing in and therefore obstructing him. The flaw in this reasoning should be obvious as the player with the ball simply continued with exactly the same action – but he did not.

The question that needs to be addressed is “Does ‘back in’ mean backing into physical contact?” Without additional information it is not possible to determine that because the term is ambiguous. Certainly (as Cris Maloney pointed out) someone who backs into another car hits that car. But, someone who backs into a parking bay or a garage does not normally keep going until they hit something – the terms used are the same and both interpretations can be correct, meaning clearly depends on the context in which the term is used. It is therefore necessary to go to the published Rule to see if there is other wording within the Explanation of application to support the contact interpretation or to make it doubtful or to contradict it.

There are other criteria described and I will set them out without setting out the entire Explanation of application, Third Party etc. 

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

Players obstruct if they :

– back into an opponent

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.

The last clause needs breaking down to highlight its component parts.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent which can be accurately transcribed into the previously used prohibitive form: – A player with the ball is not permitted to move bodily into an opponent. and  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. transcribes to become A player with the ball is not permitted to move into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.


A player with the ball is not permitted to:-

  • back into an opponent
  • move bodily into an opponent
  • move to position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

I believe the separate listing of ‘back into’ and ‘move bodily into’ call for different interpretations of the two terms.

Because a player may be obstructed once that player is within playing distance of the ball, ‘back into’ can reasonably be interpreted to mean ‘back into the playing reach of an opponent’ and not only or just, back into contact. The separate ‘Move bodily into an opponent’, which is otherwise unnecessary, is then justified as a different action from ‘back into’.

Why then is another action described separately ‘move to position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it’. listed ? Is this not unnecessary duplication? No, one reason is because it is possible to turn (move) into a position between an approaching opponent and the ball without backing towards that opponent and a second, important one, is that if a ball holder is moving into an opponent while shielding the ball – which is likely if there is ‘backing in’ or ‘moving bodily into an opponent’ – it is not necessary for the opponent to be attempting to play at the ball at the time for there to be an obstruction offence; this requirement is omitted from the first two criteria listed in the Explanation to the Rule. That is a reasonable interpretation because if a player is forced to back away from a moving ball holder to avoid physical contact or has been barged into by the body of the ball holder, an attempt to play at the ball may have been made unfairly difficult or impossible (prevented) by either of these actions.

I assert that there are sufficient other terms and reasonable alternative interpretation to discard the idea that ‘back into an opponent‘ must mean back into physical contact with that opponent. Backing into physical contact is an offence, but so is backing into the playing reach of an opponent, while shielding the ball but without making physical contact, because this contravenes two other clauses of the Explanation of application 1) shielding the ball  2) moving to position between an opponent and the ball. (both actions separately or together preventing a tackle attempt) 

A difficulty with interpretation might disappear if the Explanation of application was clarified to read –  back into the playing reach of an opponent. but I think it better to expand the clause to include all leading of the ball into the playing reach of an opponent while shielding the ball from that opponent to prevent direct playing at the ball: this would include the common ‘crabbing’ actions – leading the ball with shoulder and/or hip and with a leg. So:- A player obstructs if leading the ball with any part of the body into the playing reach of an opponent, while shielding the ball to prevent that opponent playing directly at it.

Cris Maloney also presented some very strange ideas in the coaching session (shown in the video below) which appear to be based on this clause from the Explanation of application:- A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction. They are strange because that clause refers only to a player who is in the act of receiving and controlling the ball. A player in possession who is therefore not in the act of receiving and controlling the ball is subject to a player shall not shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body and must, when in possession of the ball but not in the act of receiving and controlling it, take account of the positioning of opponents to avoid an obstruction offence, i.e such a player is not always permitted to be facing in any direction. The shielding clause applies whether a player who is shielding the ball from an opponent is stationary or is moving at the time. That is something Cris Malone mentioned but did not expand upon when he referred, at the beginning of the first video clip above, to players who were moving the ball or moving with the ball.


In fact the only times, other than when in the act of receiving and controlling the ball (receiving is not ‘in possession’) , a player in possession need not be concerned about the positioning of opponents vis a vis the possibility of obstruction, are when there is no opponent within playing distance of the ball or no opponent rapidly approaching who will be within playing reach of the ball before it can be put into an open position or when the ball holder and the ball are the opponent’s goal side of any opponent, (which includes any opponent who is within playing distance of the ball). An opponent who is ‘behind the play’ as described (behind – not own goal-side of – both the player in possession and the ball) cannot, no matter how close he or she may be to the ball, be bodily obstructed by a player in possession of the ball (but obstruction of a tackler’s stick, by ‘protecting’ the ball or fending off with stick or leg or hand/arm, is still a possibility).

Whether or not a player in possession of the ball is in “a legal position” or is “still in a legal position” when an opponent is attempting to make a tackle does depend on how they respond/position when a tackle attempt is made. The correct response when the group were asked “Is she still in a legal position” as a tackle attempt was demonstrated to be blocked by the body of the ball-holder was “NO”: Cris Maloney should have been explaining why it was “NO”. The “Yes” reply was an example of ignoring cognitive dissidence (between Rule wording and action) that is wilful blindness.

The Obstruction Rule is intended to put pressure on a player in possession of the ball to encourage movement with the ball (dribbling and stick-work) and movement of the ball (passing) – and to discourage physical contact, illegal ball shielding and static ‘play’: it by these means promotes game flow and all aspects of skillful play. ‘Diluting’ the criteria for obstruction does the opposite: it ‘dumbs down’ the game so that very little skill is needed to keep possession of the ball. The result is that many players, who are coached to shield the ball whenever possible and do so ‘automatically’ in contested situations, do not develop necessary stick-work and footwork skills or passing skills to properly (legally) play the game.

There is not much backing in taking place during the boring action shown in the video below, so what is seen complies with Cris Maloney’s view of “not obstruction”  – but not with what is written in the Rules of Hockey Rule 9.12.- besides it not being Rule compliant, could anyone want hockey to be played like this?


The answer to that last question is possibly “Yes”. Now nearly everyone plays hockey like this because this, despite Rule 9.12, is the way it is umpired. (which is the justification Cris Maloney has offered to me for his coaching of obstruction) Are umpires umpiring as ‘everybody’ wants them to or only as umpires want to? In the following video there are many clips showing players shielding the ball while leading it into an opponent in a way that obliges that opponent to give way to avoid physical contact or moving into body contact (sideways or backwards) while ball shielding or alternatively, going over the ball and barging into an opponent. Only the last two incidents were penalised for obstruction, the first of them the reversal, after video referral, of a silly penalty stroke decision made by the match umpire, and the second, after a long delay, when a second player was deliberately obstructed in the same way as the first one continued to be deliberately obstructed – and even then the penalty awarded was a penalty corner and not, as it should have been, a penalty stroke.


What Cris Maloney is currently coaching is at least two steps ‘behind’ what is now permitted, contrary to the Obstruction Rule, by FIH Umpires. To rescue the game we need to go back three or four ‘development’ steps, to where ball shielding to prevent an opponent playing at the ball, when he or she would otherwise have been able to do so, was considered an obstruction offence, and opponents were eluded or ‘beaten’ by passing and stick-work skills rather than, commonly, by barging and body blocking.

We are no longer trying to understand the wording used in the Obstruction Rule; we are trying to understand the umpiring which is supposed to be based on the provided wording, but clearly is not. What the above umpiring is based on is a mystery.

February 9, 2018

Two wrongs do not make a right.


This is from the Indoor World Cup in its concluding stages.

The only thing of interest in the first fifteen minutes of this match, which was otherwise about as fascinating as watching paint dry, was a blunder by an umpire who does not understand the ball body contact Rule. He immediately blew the whistle following a ball-foot contact without waiting (less than one second) to see if there was an offence, which in this instance, because the contact was obviously unintended, could be the case only if the AUS team gained an advantage from it.

The ball, following the deflection off the AUS player’s foot, went directly to a GER player who put it into the goal, but no goal could be awarded because the umpire had already intervened by blowing the whistle and incorrectly signaling for a penalty corner – incorrectly because there was no offence by an AUS player – because there was no advantage gained by the AUS team – advantage went to the GER team – so the Advantage Rule should have been applied..

How should he have restarted the game when there was no offence and it was the fault of neither team that he blundered? Should the GER team have been ‘compensated’ for his blunder by being awarded a penalty corner? No of course not, no more than the AUS team should have been penalised with a penalty corner for a ball-foot contact that was not an offence. The umpire tried to ‘make up’ for the blunder (or though he was doing the correct thing), by continuing with the penalty corner award instead of correcting it. To be correct he had no choice but to order a bully restart, no matter how embarrassed he may have been by his mistake.

Am I being too critical? No, I don’t think so: this was a tournament to determine which team was to be the champion of the world – world level Rule knowledge and self control by umpires must be expected at such events, not novice level blunders – and blowing the whistle the instant a ball-foot contact is seen is a novice level blunder.

It almost goes without saying at present that throughout the match both umpires appeared to be unaware of the existence of the Obstruction Rule.

Those who disagree with me about this incorrect award of a penalty corner in these circumstances should bear in mind that I did not write the ball body contact Rule or the Explanation of application provided with it – the FIH Rules Committee did so of course – but I have read it and I understand what I have read, these people could do the same: two wrongs do not make a right.