A suggested rewrite of Rule 9.11

A suggested rewrite of a Rule of Hockey

Rule 9.11.

The current Rule

9.11 Field players must not stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their body.

It is not always an offence if the ball hits the foot, hand or body of a field player. The player only commits an offence if they gain an advantage or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way.

It is not an offence if the ball hits the hand holding the stick but would otherwise have hit the stick.

Action. Amendment.

Reason. The Rule is poorly written and incomplete, giving for example, no meaning or limit to the term ‘advantage’ in the exceptions – which are not clearly set out as exceptions to the Rule, they appear to be in conflict with the Rule.

The current Rule is not ‘working’, here is an example of typical application:-


The umpire disregarded the criterion for offence (intent by a field-player to use the body to stop, deflect or propel the ball or advantaged gained from doing so unintentionally) in other words ignored instructions given for the application of the Rule and ‘automatically’ (without further thought) awarded a penalty corner as the ball rolled off the pitch after hitting the defender: there was clearly neither intent nor advantaged gained by the defending team, they were in fact disadvantaged by this accidental contact but umpires and players are long trained to respectively carry out and to expect this incorrect reflex penalising of any ball-body contact (the weak excuses offered are consistency of decision and player expectation).

The following two clips show even clearer examples of no intent, no advantage gained. In the first clip the first and second penalty corners resulted in a shot that hit the outside of the defender’s foot, which was positioned outside the goal-post, before going out of play over the base-line. The second clip requires no further comment.




With the exception of the Rules concerning the penalty corner, this Rule has been amended more often than any other in the past thirty years (without any effect at all), so it should only necessary to choose from the parts of previous renditions that made sense and then add one clause (concerning goalkeepers), to devise a fair and workable Rule: getting it applied correctly will be another matter entirely but we should at least start with a non conflicting Rule and instruction for application.

I have avoided or removed mention of intention when making suggestion for the rewriting of other Rules because such intention is often difficult or impossible to discern (the main reason umpires used to avoid penalising the offence of forcing when it was extant, and still use to avoid penalising a lifted hit which is not a shot at the goal, is that they can’t see intent. In even the most blatant of incidents of undercutting or edge hitting used to raise the ball past a blocking opponent, intent to raise the ball escapes them or they “forget lifted” as instructed in the UMB.

Why the UMB gives us “forget lifted” when the first line of the Explanation of Application of Rule 9.9. is

A raised hit must be judged explicitly on whether or not it is raised intentionally.

is beyond my comprehension).


But in the case of a ball hitting an opponent, it has been hit at or raised into, an entirely different approach is used. Umpires declare that a player who has the ball played into his or her legs or feet has an obligation, a responsibility, to defend him or her self, and failure to do so is a lack of skill for which the player hit should be penalised. This bias against a player hit with the ball is pronounced and has no Rule support at all – au contraire- but intent is simply assumed from a failure to avoid. It is moreover usually assumed that a player who has been hit with the ball has gained an advantage for their team, even in circumstances where it should be obvious that the team of the player hit has been disadvantaged by the contact.

Intent to use the body to stop or deflect the ball must, if penalty is to be applied, be as clear as was demanded of the the intent to force contact when the forcing Rule was extant. Umpires should be looking for foot or body to ball rather than ball to body or foot. Advantage gained should be clear and substantial, that is undue and unfair (terms previously used in Rule guidance on the subject), not dubious or even intangible.

The Ball body contact Rule is deliberately written with a slant towards not penalising ball-body contact, that is towards not interrupting the game with penalty unless it is unfair not to do so, but it is currently being applied in the opposite way. The word ‘intentionally’ is for the above reasons necessary in Rule 9.11. It moreover makes no sense to remove the word ‘intentionally’ from the Rule when ‘intention’ is used in the Explanation of Application of it and ‘intention’ cannot be removed from the Explanation (or indeed the Rule) without fundamentally changing the way in which the FIH RC intended the game should be played

(The word ‘intentionally was removed from the ball-body contact Rule, but not the Explanation, when the Rules were rewritten and renumbered in 2004, which set up a conflict between the Rule Proper and the provided Explanation of Rule Application. This conflict, instead of being later corrected, was used by some to declare, on Internet hockey forums, the Explanation to be ‘notes’ or ‘advice’ and not the Rule; an absurd about face when compared with the way Explanation is used in other Rules.).

Useful comment and or suggestion is welcome.

9.11 Field players must not intentionally stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their body.

There is no offence committed if the ball simply hits the foot, hand or body of a field player, play should continue unless the player hit with the ball intended to use the body to stop or deflect the ball or is injured. Where there is injury caused by a ball contact and there is no intent to use the body by the player hit (or intent is not discernible) and there has been no forcing of contact or dangerous play by opponents, the game should be restarted with a bully.

Exception.1. Unless there is forcing of contact or prior dangerous play by opponents, for example a shot at the goal made in a dangerous way or the ball is illegally raised into the player hit, the umpire will properly penalise a player hit with the ball, even if the contact is entirely unintentional, if that ball contact directly prevents the ball going into the goal of the team of the player hit and thereby prevents the award of a goal. The penalty will be a penalty stroke.

With instances of unintentional ball-body contact by a player not in possession of the ball there are no other exceptions. If a player plays the ball into the legs or feet of an opponent and is disadvantaged because of that contact the umpire has no reason to intervene. The umpire’s only concern will be that the playing of the ball into a player does not injure, endanger or otherwise disadvantage that player. If a player intentionally raises the ball into the feet, legs or body of an opponent that player should be penalised with a personal penalty and the team of the player hit awarded a free ball. If a ball played along the ground is intentionally forced into the feet of a defender play should continue unless the defender is injured.

Intention to use the body to stop or deflect the ball should be judged in as objective a manner as possible. Intentional contact will, for example, be generally foot to ball rather than ball to foot. A player who is moving along the flight path of the ball (an out-runner during a penalty corner for example), rather than laterally into the flight path of it after it has been propelled, has not demonstrated an intent to use the body to stop or deflect the ball. A player who moves laterally into the flight path of the ball while attempting to use the stick to play the ball and is hit, has not intentionally used the body to stop or deflect the ball. That there was an intent to use the body must be clear and certain before a player hit with the ball may be penalised for use of body.

Exception 2. Should player in possession of the ball make body contact – usually foot or leg contact – with the ball and that player or a member of that player’s team retains or regains possession of the ball and the team are then able to continue their attack, that may be considered an unfair advantage and a free ball awarded to the defending team at the place the contact occurred or, if that was in the opponent’s circle, a 15m ball should be awarded. The emphasis is moved from requiring a defender who is ‘attacked’ with the ball to have the skill to defend his or her feet (often an impossibility if the defender is at the time attempting a tackle for the ball), to requiring a player in possession of the ball to have the skill to not lose control of it with the stick and make contact with it with part of their body; that is seen as a fairer requirement.


Goalkeepers are not permitted to pick the ball up – raise the ball off the ground – by gripping it in any way, nor are they permitted to hold the ball to the ground in any way except with the stick (but without thereby preventing an opponent from playing at the ball), by for example, lying on it or by trapping and holding it under a kicker to prevent an opponent from playing at the ball. These latter ball-body contact actions will be considered obstructive play and penalised as such.

The above Rule proposals and the penalties suggested are slightly different (okay, hugely different) to much of what will be seen in current practice (generally the ‘automatic’ penalising of all ball-body contact, especially by defenders in the circles), but I believe that they are fair and in keeping with a stick and ball game which is supposed to be played in a skillful way. The offence of forcing should not of course have been ‘deleted’ in its entirety (breaches supposedly to be “dealt with” under other Rules) in 2011. The statement that forcing would be “dealt with under other Rules” was one that was quickly forgotten or only ever a pretense. The note that was put in the Preface of the Rules of Hockey in 2011 regarding what was to follow from the deletion of forcing should still be part of Advice to Umpires in current editions of the rule-book and should not have been discontinued, as it was in 2013. It is still extant because the reason Forcing was deleted as a separate offence is still extant. The disappearance of the following (unfortunately constructed) advice meant (because the Forcing Rule was no longer in the rule-book) that no forced ball-body contact, no matter how caused, would be penalised, but that was clearly not the original intention.

“The Rule which used to say that “players must not force an opponent into offending unintentionally” is deleted because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules”.

Why umpires often ignore the below instruction concerning dangerous play, which is given in the Explanation of Rule 9.9. is a mystery – but they do.

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.

Someone once told me in a comment to my web- blog that the above instruction applied only to scoops and flicks that raised the ball towards an opponent at head height, but I can find nothing in the Rules of Hockey to support that assertion.

Sports that developed as club games in the same era as field-hockey did – hurling, shinty, lacrosse, ice-hockey – have always permitted the use of the feet or other parts of the body, to stop, deflect or propel the ball or puck. Field-hockey also initially permitted this. I listened to older members of Blackheath Hockey Club (my first club) when I was a youngster, recounting the skill of trapping the ball under the foot within the opponent’s circle and then hitting a shot at the goal during the taking of a penalty corner. (The subject came up when stopping the ball with the hand during a penalty corner was introduced). Trapping the ball under the sole of a boot or trapping it with the instep during play was perfectly acceptable under the Rules of Hockey in the 1930’s.

What was not permitted by that time was to propel the ball by kicking it or pushing it with the boot. I don’t know the year in which it was decided that any ball-body contact that gained an advantage should be considered an offence and playing the ball was something that field-players could legally do only with the stick. Whenever it was, the idea was to promote stick-ball skills and discourage the lack of them. But, as is so often the case, the good idea has been taken to a ridiculous extreme and become an absurdity (in the same way as facilitating the receiving of the ball without the receiver giving obstruction has resulted in the near disappearance of the Obstruction Rule).

The forcing of ball-foot or leg contact or otherwise raising the ball at an opponent, now often covers a lack of ability (skill) to elude an opponent by fair means. (The needless introduction of a mandatory penalty corner, if an out-runner at a penalty corner is hit on or below the knee with the first shot taken, was the low-point of this absurdity – but it has got lower since then – it was possibly the seed of the obviously incorrect idea that an on target shot at the goal could not be dangerous).

Accidental and especially forced ball-body (foot) contact is not per se an offence by the player hit with the ball. It is possible to state with certitude that for fairness an intentionally forced ball-body contact should never be considered an offence by the player hit with the ball, no matter what the outcome in terms of advantage. An unavoidable ball-body contact is usually due to forcing or reckless or dangerous play by opponents or a combination of these.

An advantage, as can be seen in the video clips above, is not always gained by a player when hit with the ball – if an advantage always resulted there would be no need for the current Rule Explanation to state The player only commits an offence if they gain an advantage..

Apart from the two exceptions mentioned in the re-write suggestion, players should just get on with the game following any unintended ball-body contact and umpires should encourage play to continue uninterrupted by unnecessary (and clearly unfair) penalty.



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