Archive for February 26th, 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.