Suggested rewrite of Rule 9.10. Falling ball.


A suggested rewrite of a Rule of Hockey

The current Rule 9.10. Falling ball.

Players must not approach within 5 metres of an opponent receiving a falling raised ball until it has been received, controlled and is on the ground.

The initial receiver has a right to the ball. If it is not clear which player is the initial receiver, the player of the team which raised the ball must allow the opponent to receive it.

(a player in the landing spot prior to any opponent or in that position as the ball is raised is called the initial receiver)

Action. Amend the Rule and write the other half of it, the making of an aerial pass.

Reasons. The Rule has not been amended since the time the most common reason a ball would be falling from above head height onto the positions of closely grouped opposing players was an accidental deflection off a player’s stick or foot or off a goalkeeper’s protective equipment (still a common occurrence).

Now the more usual reason a ball may be falling from considerable height is because a scoop pass, commonly known as an aerial pass, has been made. Aerial passes made over 60m are now made frequently in the men’s game and aerial passes in excess of 40m are common in the women’s game. But the control of the scoop or aerial pass is weaker now, when the aerial pass is much stronger and much more frequently used, than it has been at any time in the last thirty years.

It is assumed in Rule guidance that the maker of an aerial pass will make a pass to a player of his or her own team who is in clear space (is by definition an initial receiver) or make a pass into clear space for a team-mate to chase. (Previous guidance that a scoop pass should not be made to a team-mate at a time when there was an opponent already within 5m (yards) of his or her position, which deterred the making of scoop passes to fall onto a contested position, because that action would be immediately penalised as dangerous play, has long since disappeared).

One reason a foul by the player raising the ball to fall into a contested area, is not often considered in the current application of the Rule is a consequence of the past assumption that passes will not be made into contested areas. The other reason is a recent transfer of obligation (by ‘interpretation’ not Rule) to the team-mate of the player making an unsafe pass – a requirement, which is not in the Rule (but can be put into it) to retreat if within 5m of an opponent who is positioned where the ball will fall as the ball is raised or is clearly the player already at or the first player to arrive at the landing point and is therefore the initial receiver.

That Rule application arises via ‘practice’ and ‘interpretation’ is the main reason there is confusion around the correct application of Rule 9.10 – anybody (any umpire) it seems can produce an ‘interpretation’ and via the Internet, declare it to be the Rule. Declarations, which are unsupported by Rule, such as “Aerial Rules do not apply to a deflection” or “Aerial Rules do not apply to a shot at the goal” (both of which have been made repeatedly) are not only false they are unhelpful, ‘a spanner in the works’ for those who are trying to understand the correct application of the Rule.

The making of an unsafe aerial pass and bouncing the ball on the stick while running with it into the playing reach of an opponent, are the two major elements ofplay leading to dangerous playthe second part of the Dangerously Play Rule. The bouncing of the ball on the stick has been dealt with in the suggested rewrite of Rule 9.9.

The safety requirements of the present Rulenot approach within 5 metres…until it has been received, controlled and is on the groundare too severe. 5m is a considerable distance to give to an opponent on a hockey pitch, and so the requirements are generally ignored or ‘interpreted’ in a bizarre way. Ignoring the conditions of the Rule is of course a cause of dangerous play occurring more frequently than it should because such ignoring means there is little or no penalty imposed: no deterrent. Players used to such ‘practice’ from umpires do not expect to be penalised for an encroaching offence and even come to view closing on an opponent receiving an aerial pass as a legitimate action.

It is suggested that instead of ‘control to ground’ before an opponent can even approach to within 5m, approach to within 3m of the ball is permitted immediately the opponent has played the ball with the stick (but not before that point) and the ball may be contested for once the receiver has played it twice with the stick or has moved the ball a distance of two meters.


These proposals are not ‘cast in iron’, useful comment or alternative suggestions are welcome.

The ball is generally assumed to be falling from considerably above head height although there has never been anything in the Rules to suggest or confirm that assumption (but there could be) it could however just still be falling ‘in the air’ i.e. be off the ground.

Players must not approach within 3 metres of an opponent receiving a falling raised ball until it has been played by the receiving player.

The term ‘falling ball will refer to a ball that is falling after having been raised to above head height. The ball may be raised and become a ball falling either as a result of a deliberately made pass or accidentally as the result of a deflection off the stick or body of a player. The rule as it concerns receiving and encroaching is to be applied in the same way in both situations. But, obviously, a falling ball which arises as the result of an accidental deflection cannot be penalised as the intentional making of an unsafe pass – a pass deliberately made to fall onto/into an area occupied by opposing players, which is per se a dangerous play offence – that is play leading to or likely to lead to dangerous play.

The initial receiver has a right to the ball. If it is not clear which player is the initial receiver, the player of the team which raised the ball must allow the opponent to receive it by retreating to be at least three meters from the receiver until he or she has played the ball. The ball may then be contested for when the receiver has played it a second time with the stick or moved the ball two meters.

If the ball is scooped or lobbed to fall onto the positions of close opposing players and the team-mate of the passer does not retreat or even contests for the falling ball, then both the passer and the contesting player will have committed an offence. The contesting team-mate an encroaching offence and dangerous play – usually dangerous use of the stick. Penalty, for play leading to (or potentially leading to) dangerous play, should be awarded against the player who raised the ball, to be taken at the place the ball was raised – and the same team player who illegally contested for the ball, should be awarded a personal penalty.

If the ball is lofted to fall onto the positions of opposing players and the team-mate of the passer does retreat as required the passer has committed an offence (play leading or likely to lead to dangerous play) but, as opponents have not been unfairly disadvantaged by it (despite the gain of ground) and can play on, there will be no reason to penalise that offence. No penalty: this is in compliance with the Advantage Rule

If the ball is lofted to fall to an opponent who is in clear space at the time the ball is raised and subsequently a player of the same team as the passer encroaches to within three meters of the receiver before the ball has been played, then only the encroaching player has committed an offence. Penalty at the place the ball was falling. Free ball against the team for the encroaching offence and a personal penalty to the encroaching player as well if the ball was also illegally contested for.

Most of he following clauses are contained in the suggested rewrite of Rule 9.9. but, in line with the FIH declared emphasis on the safety of players, are repeated for emphasis in this suggestion. To avoid any ambiguity some of the following clauses state the same prohibitions given in other clauses in a different way.

The ball may not be played into the opponent’s circle with a raised hit that propels the ball beyond the immediate control (playing reach) of the hitter. A raised hit is a hit ball that is not traveling along the ground.

The raising of the ball directly into the opponents circle with any sort of flick stoke will be penalised if the ball crosses the circle line at above elbow height.

No player may play or attempt to play at a ball in the opponent’s circle while it is above shoulder height.

A ball that bounces into the circle and rises to above shoulder height must be allowed to fall below shoulder height before it may be played at by an attacking player.

A player in the opponent’s circle may not in any circumstances approach to within 3m of a defender playing an above shoulder height ball until the ball has been played twice by the stick of the defender or been moved a minimum of 2 metres. For example: Following up on a high drag flick shot at a penalty corner and attempting to play at a rebound from a defender while the ball is still above shoulder height will be considered a deliberate dangerous play offence.


When the ball is in the air at any height, particularly in the shooting circles and when it is possible it will be contested for by opposing players, that is a potentially dangerous situation and umpires need to watch for and penalise careless or reckless play (particularly shots at the goal or high velocity clearances) that endanger another player.…-10-falling-ball/



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