Archive for February 24th, 2018

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.