Archive for April, 2018

April 21, 2018

Trial of 9 v 9 in four quarters of ten minutes each.


2018 National Hockey League ‘product test’ – ACTAS v NSWIS

This is video of three 40 minute 9 v 9 matches carried out as a trial (a “product test” – in marketing-speak) in Australia. I failed the challenge to watch it in one sitting, it took five well spaced sessions, and I also failed to endure the commentary, only turning it back on occasionally after the first painful ten minutes – and then quickly turning it off again. Far too much talk from the commentators about the score and the effects of a double score period and in which quarter a ‘power play’ (double score) was best conducted.

That terminology was irritating. Why call a period of the game, where any score counts double, a power play? A power play is a situation set up in play where one side has a numerical superiority – and to add to the confusion, we have already seen such power plays replacing penalty corners, in the Lanco 9’s, also in Australia. What’s wrong with calling a period of the match in which scores count double a ‘double score period’? That said why introduce double scoring at all when so much else is changed. It’s an unnecessary distraction from taking note of the way the game is being played because of the reduced numbers and a zone restriction.

I do not like the concept of doubling scores in a chosen quarter of a match (with each side choosing a different quarter). I don’t much like the idea of one point for a penalty corner goal and two for an open play goal (there are other ways to prevent the ‘manufacture’ of penalty corners). Nor do I like a one on one with the goalkeeper after scoring a goal, which if converted, would give a total of six points in a double play period (the initial field goal 4 plus the conversion 2) , that  left me cold. Too much like kicking someone when they are down (which used to be considered ‘beyond the pale’ but is now regarded as sensible behaviour).

And of course obstruction offences were completely ignored by the umpires throughout the match, we have come to expect that, but why (and how can anyone) introduce new game formats while ignoring existing Rules of Conduct of Play?


It was a requirement that each side kept two players at all times in the opposing half of the pitch and, a sensible idea, there was an additional  official to watch that the teams complied with this requirement. I have no idea what the penalty might be for a breach of this zone requirement, as there was no breach and the commentators, when explaining the Rules, didn’t say what the penalty was.

I think there are better zone restriction alternatives because one thing that was clear from the play was that the circles got very crowded – it was after all possible, even if very unlikely, for fifteen players to be in either circle at any one time, but twelve at a time was not uncommon. .

There was an FIH Mandatory Experiment back in 2004 (in the eleven-a-side game) in which teams were required to keep three players out of their own 23m area at all times. That got ‘watered down’ in the following year to that requirement being applied only during opposition free balls in the 23m area and corners (the old long corner) and was then discontinued, without there being any adoption of any zone requirement into Full Rule. There were no extra officials appointed to watch for compliance and the initial zone restriction must have been near impossible for a single umpire to properly oversee in his or her own part of the field. Having a zone restriction only during corners or when there was a free awarded within the 23m area was fussy and almost pointless, so discontinuation was no surprise.  

I nonetheless believe that zone restrictions are best applied to defenders rather than to attackers, if the idea is to open the game up and create more scoring opportunities. Provided there are flag officials to watch for compliance, it might be a better option to limit the number of defenders in the circle at any one time to three field-players and a goalkeeper. There could also be the introduction of a small goal-zone (marked out in the same way as the shooting circle but with a radius of 2m from each goal-post) which could be occupied only by a goalkeeper (and into which no attacker without the ball – or before the ball – could venture).

I like the idea of nine-a-side game, I think Horst Wein was right about the advantages of it, but it needs to be played in a different way than was generally displayed in this ‘product test’. Back passes should not be static plays but create the opportunity for forward runs from deep positions to receive a subsequent forward pass,  (there may have to be a short interim pass or double to and from a third player to allow time for the runner from a deep position to achieve an advanced position). There also needed to be a lot more ‘give and go’ and ‘wall-passing’ in the central channels and supporting runs for and with (alongside of) the player in possession of the ball.  There were players patiently makes passes from one side of the pitch to the other while gaps as wide as ‘barn doors’ opened up but remained unexploited in front of them. “Create a gap, put a body into it, give that body the ball”, works as well in midfield or even better, than it does in the opponents 23m area, there is generally more space and less cover. It is a good way to create the opportunity to outnumber defenders in their own circle while in possession of the ball. But it doesn’t just happen (at least not often) even if some players can do it intuitively (have appropriate game intelligence), it needs to be planned and practiced until all players involved in the various movements deployed, develop good game intelligence. A planned move involving four players needs all four players to be able to execute the move smoothly no matter what their starting position is in relation to the other three players.

The technical bits and pieces were disappointing. The camera positions, number of cameras and hockey experience of the camera-operators were below par. The two teams played in kit that was at times difficult to distinguish, and with numbers that even the commentators could not easily see. This made the viewing experience a tough one, especially over more than two hours of play – which was too much for screen viewing. The hockey played was frankly, not that interesting.…ten-minutes-each/

April 20, 2018

Why facts don’t change what we think and believe.

Confirmation bias and perseverance of opinion despite conflicting facts.

Changing opinion and practice an ineffective approach

I liked to believe that I was communicating with hockey participants when I wrote blog articles in which I explained how application of the Rules of Hockey was different from what was given in the FIH published Rules, and I also believed that by communicating this fact, change to much of what is now common practice could be brought about.

I was communicating, but not in a way that would put into effect the changes, I was able to demonstrate with facts, what changes needed to be made to align the practice with the Rules.

In fact pretty much the opposite has happened. Those who held views I demonstrated, by reference to the Rules (facts) and video (showing umpires doing the opposite) to be in error, became even more entrenched in their views and in their turn they attacked me, via social media, as an isolate with either outmoded or bizarrely advanced ideas (suggested rewrites) about the Rules to which the game should be played .

The effect of this was to isolate me, I was (am) called confrontational, argumentative, unyielding etc.etc. and I came to believe I am when writing, although, in ‘real life’, I am an easy going and sociable person. This attacking naturally caused me to become confrontational and argumentative in my writing (or more so) and thus, not a poor communicator (my messages are clear enough), but an ineffective one.

The reaction to anything I have written in the last few years has been, by enlarge, (I have a few supporters) to disregard it simply because I and not somebody else wrote it* – very few are taking any notice of the changes suggested, certainly not sufficient numbers to put them into effect.

* I vividly recall that Ric Charlesworth wrote an article, prior to the Athens Olympics (where he was coach to the Australian women’s team), on the raised flick shot at the goal, in which he asked for clarity from the FIH about dangerous play. It was widely acclaimed to be the writing of a brilliant innovative thinker and he got widespread support, there was even a Rule change, which lasted for a couple of years before fading away under ‘interpretation’. What he wrote was almost word for word (this was pointed out to me by someone who kindly sent me a copy of his article) what I had been writing on the same subject for several years before that.  All I got for my efforts was abuse.

Those who skim what I have written (they admit they do not properly read anything I write), disagree with it pretty much as a reflex or even in advance of skimming, without explanation (without offering any tangible reason for their disagreement) and without offering any argument against my proposals or in support of an alternative change. They have no ideas of their own to offer (even when they accept that some change is necessary): that is very frustrating.

The following article has given me an insight into what I have been doing wrong, but not what in practical terms to do about it

An article by Elizabeth Kolbert.

Elizabeth Kolbert has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1999. She won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction for the Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.

In 1975 , researchers at Stanford invited a group of undergraduates to take part in a study about suicide. They were presented With pairs of suicide notes. In each pair, one note had been composed by a random individual, the other by a person Who had subsequently taken his own life. The students were then asked to distinguish between the genuine notes and the fake ones.

Some students discovered that they had a genius for the task. Out of twenty-five pairs of notes, they correctly identified the real one twenty-four times.Others discovered that they Were hopeless. They identified the real note in only ten instances.

As is often the case With psychological studies, the Whole setup was a put-on.Though half the notes were indeed genuine—they’d been obtained from the Los Angeles County coroner’s oflice—the scores Were fictitious. The students Who’d been told they Were almost always right Were, on average, no more discerning than those Who had been told they Were mostly Wrong.

In the second phase of the study, the deception Was revealed. The students Were told that the real point of the experiment Was to gauge their responses to thinking they Were right or Wrong. (This, it turned out, Was also a deception.)

Finally, the students Were asked to estimate how many suicide notes they had actually categorized correctly, and hoW many they thought an average student would get right. At this point, something curious happened. The students in the high-score group said that they thought they had, in fact, done quite well, significantly better than the average student, even though, as they’d just been told, they had zero grounds for believing this. Conversely, those Who’d been assigned to the loW-score group said that they thought they had done significantly worse than the average student—a conclusion that Was equally unfounded. “Once formed,” the researchers observed dryly, “impressions are remarkably perseverant.”

A few years later, a new set of Stanford students Was recruited for a related study. The students were handed packets of information about a pair of firefighters, Frank K. and George H. Frank’s bio noted that, among other things, he had a baby daughter and he liked to scuba dive. George had a small son and played golf. The packets also included the men’s responses on what the researchers called the Risky-Conservative Choice Test. According to one version of the packet, Frank was a successful firefighter who, on the test, almost always went with the safest option. In the other version, Frank also chose the safest option, but he was a lousy firefighter who’d been put “on report” by his supervisors several times. Once again, midway through the study, the students were informed that they’d been misled, and that the information they’d received was entirely fictitious. The students were then asked to describe their own beliefs. What sort of attitude toward risk did they think a successful firefighter would have? The students who’d received the first packet thought that he would avoid it. The students in the second group thought he’d embrace it.

Even after the evidence “for their beliefs has been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs,” the researchers noted. In this case,the failure was “particularly impressive,” since two data points would never have been enough information to generalize from.

The Stanford studies became famous. Coming from a group of academics in the nineteen-seventies, the contention that people can’t think straight was shocking. It isn’t any longer. Thousands of subsequent experiments have confirmed (and elaborated on) this finding. As everyone Who’s followed the research or even occasionally picked up a copy of Psychology Today knows,any graduate student with a clipboard can demonstrate that reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational. Rarely has this insight seemed more relevant than it does right now. Still, an essential puzzle remains: How did We come to be this way?

In a new book, “The Enigma of Reason” (Harvard), the cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber take a stab at answering this question. Mercier, who works at a French research institute in Lyon, and Sperber, now based at the Central European University, in Budapest, point out that reason is an evolved trait, like bipedalism or three-color vision. It emerged on the savannas of Africa, and has to be understood in that context.

Stripped of a lot of what might be called cognitive-science-ese, Mercier and Sperber’s argument runs, more or less, as follows: Humans’ biggest advantage over other species is our ability to cooperate. Cooperation is dificult to establish and almost as difficult to sustain. For any individual, freeloading is always the best course of action. Reason developed not to enable us to solve abstract, logical problems or even to help us draw conclusions from unfamiliar data; rather, it developed to resolve the problems posed by living in collaborative groups.

“Reason is an adaptation to the hypersocial niche humans have evolved for themselves,” Mercier and Sperber write. Habits of mind that seem weird or goofy or just plain dumb from an “intellectualist” point of View prove shrewd when seen from a social “interactionist” perspective.

Consider what’s become known as “confirmation bias,” the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them. Of the many forms of faulty thinking that have been identified, confirmation bias is among the best catalogued; it’s the subject of entire textbooks’ worth of experiments. One of the most famous of these was conducted, again, at Stanford. For this experiment, researchers rounded up a group of students who had opposing opinions about capital punishment. Half the students were in favor of it and thought that it deterred crime; the other half Were against it and thought that it had no effect on crime.

The students were asked to respond to two studies. One provided data in support of the deterrence argument, and the other provided data that called it into question. Both studies—you guessed it—were made up, and had been designed to present what were, objectively speaking, equally compelling statistics. The students who had originally supported capital punishment rated the pro-deterrence data highly credible and the anti-deterrence data unconvincing; the students who’d originally opposed capital punishment did the reverse. At the end of the experiment, the students were asked once again about their views. Those who’d started out pro-capital punishment were now even more in favor of it; those who’d opposed it were even more hostile.

If reason is designed to generate sound judgments, then it’s hard to conceive of a more serious design flaw than confirmation bias. Imagine, Mercier and Sperber suggest, a mouse that thinks the way we do. Such a mouse, “bent on confirming its belief that there are no cats around,” would soon be dinner. To the extent that confirmation bias leads people to dismiss evidence of new or underappreciated threats—the human equivalent of the cat around the corner—it’s a trait that should have been selected against. The fact that both we and it survive, Mercier and Sperber argue, proves that it must have some adaptive function, and that function, they maintain, is related to our “hypersociability.” Mercier and Sperber prefer the term “myside bias.” Humans, they point out, aren’t randomly credulous. Presented with someone else’s argument, we’re quite adept at spotting the weaknesses. Almost invariably, the positions we’re blind about are our own.

A recent experiment performed by Mercier and some European colleagues neatly demonstrates this asymmetry. Participants were asked to answer a series of simple reasoning problems. They were then asked to explain their responses,and were given a chance to modify them if they identified mistakes. The majority were satisfied with their original choices; fewer than fifteen per cent changed their minds in step two.

In step three, participants were shown one of the same problems, along with their answer and the answer of another participant, who’d come to a different conclusion. Once again, they were given the chance to change their responses. But a trick had been played: the answers presented to them as someone else’s were actually their own, and vice versa. About half the participants realized what was going on. Among the other half, suddenly people became a lot more critical. Nearly sixty per cent now rejected the responses that they’d earlier been satisfied with.

This lopsidedness, according to Mercier and Sperber, reflects the task that reason evolved to perform, which is to prevent us from getting screwed by the other members of our group. Living in small bands of hunter-gatherers, our ancestors were primarily concerned with their social standing, and with making sure that they weren’t the ones risking their lives on the hunt while others loafed around in the cave. There was little advantage in reasoning clearly, while much was to be gained from winning arguments.

Among the many, many issues our forebears didn’t worry about were the deterrent effects of capital punishment and the ideal attributes of a firefighter. Nor did they have to contend with fabricated studies, or fake news, or Twitter. It’s no wonder, then, that today reason often seems to fail us. As Mercier and Sperber write, “This is one of many cases in which the environment changed too quickly for natural selection to catch up.”

Steven Sloman, a professor at Brown, and Philip Fernbach, a professor at the University of Colorado, are also cognitive scientists. They, too, believe sociability is the key to how the human mind functions or, perhaps more pertinently, malfunctions. They begin their book, “The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone” (Riverhead), with a look at toilets.

Virtually everyone in the United States, and indeed throughout the developed world, is familiar with toilets. A typical flush toilet has a ceramic bowl filled with water. When the handle is depressed, or the button pushed, the water and everything that’s been deposited in it gets sucked into a pipe and from there into the sewage system. But how does this actually happen?

In a study conducted at Yale, graduate students were asked to rate their understanding of everyday devices, including toilets, zippers, and cylinder locks. They were then asked to write detailed, step-by-step explanations of how the devices work, and to rate their understanding again. Apparently, the effort revealed to the students their own ignorance, because their self-assessments dropped. (Toilets, it turns out, are more complicated than they appear.)

Sloman and Fernbach see this effect, which they call the “illusion of explanatory depth,” just about everywhere. People believe that they know way more than they actually do. What allows us to persist in this belief is other people. In the case of my toilet, someone else designed it so that I can operate it easily. This is something humans are very good at. We’ve been relying on one another’s expertise ever since we figured out how to hunt together, which was probably a key development in our evolutionary history. So well do we collaborate, Sloman and Fernbach argue, that we can hardly tell where our own understanding ends and others’ begins.

“One implication of the naturalness with which we divide cognitive labor,” they write, is that there’s “no sharp boundary between one person’s ideas and knowledge” and “those of other members” of the group.

This borderlessness, or, if you prefer, confusion, is also crucial to what we consider progress. As people invented new tools for new ways of living, they simultaneously created new realms of ignorance; if everyone had insisted on,say, mastering the principles of metalworking before picking up a knife, the Bronze Age wouldn’t have amounted to much. When it comes to new technologies, incomplete understanding is empowering.

Where it gets us into trouble, according to Sloman and Fernbach, is in the political domain. Its one thing for me to flush a toilet without knowing how it operates, and another for me to favor (or oppose) an immigration ban without knowing what I’m talking about. Sloman and Fernbach cite a survey conducted in 2014, not long after Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Respondents were asked how they thought the US. should react, and also whether they could identify Ukraine on a map. The farther off base they were about the geography, the more likely they were to favor military intervention.(Respondents were so unsure of Ukraine’s location that the median guess was wrong by eighteen hundred miles, roughly the distance from Kiev to Madrid.)

Surveys on many other issues have yielded similarly dismaying results. “As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding,” Sloman and Fernbach Write. And here our dependence on other minds reinforces the problem. If your position on, say, the Affordable Care Act is baseless and I rely on it, then my opinion is also baseless. When I talk to Tom and he decides he agrees with me, his opinion is also baseless, but now that the three of us concur we feel that much more smug about our views. If we all now dismiss as unconvincing any information that contradicts our opinion, you get, well, the Trump Administration

“This is how a community of knowledge can become dangerous,” Sloman and Fernbach observe. The two have performed their own version of the toilet experiment, substituting public policy for household gadgets. In a study conducted in 2012, they asked people for their stance on questions like: Should there be a single-payer health-care system? Or merit-based pay for teachers? Participants Were asked to rate their positions depending on how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the proposals. Next, they were instructed to explain, in as much detail as they could, the impacts of implementing each one. Most people at this point ran into trouble. Asked once again to rate their views, they ratcheted down the intensity, so that they agreed or disagreed less vehemently.

Sloman and Fernbach see in this result a little candle for a dark World. If we or our friends or the pundits on CNN—spent less time pontificating and more trying to work through the implications of policy proposals, We’d realize how clueless we are and moderate our views. This, they write, “may be the only form of thinking that will shatter the illusion of explanatory depth and change people’s attitudes.”

One way to look at science is as a system that corrects for people’s natural inclinations. In a well-run laboratory, there’s no room for myside bias; the results have to be reproducible in other laboratories, by researchers who have no motive to confirm them. And this, it could be argued, is why the system has proved so successful. At any given moment, a field may be dominated by squabbles, but, in the end, the methodology prevails. Science moves forward, even as we remain stuck in place.

In “Denying to the Grave: Why We Ignore the Facts That Will Save Us” (Oxford), Jack Gorman, a psychiatrist, and his daughter, Sara Gorman, a public-health specialist, probe the gap between what science tells us and what we tell ourselves. Their concern is with those persistent beliefs which are not just demonstrably false but also potentially deadly, like the conviction that vaccines are hazardous. Of course, what’s hazardous is not being vaccinated; that’s why vaccines were created in the first place. “Immunization is one of the triumphs of modern medicine,” the Gormans note. But no matter how many scientific studies conclude that vaccines are safe, and that there’s no link between immunizations and autism, anti-vacinators remain unmoved. (They can now count on their side sort of. Donald Trump, who has said that, although he and his wife had their son, Barron, vaccinated, they refused to do so on the timetable recommended by pediatricians.)

The Gormans, too, argue that ways of thinking that now seem self-destructive must at some point have been adaptive. And they, too, dedicate many pages to confirmation bias, which, they claim, has a physiological component. They cite research suggesting that people experience genuine pleasure, a rush of dopamine when processing information that supports their beliefs. “It feels good to ‘stick to our guns’ even if we are wrong,” they observe.

The Gormans don’t just want to catalogue the ways we go wrong; they want to correct for them. There must be some way, they maintain, to convince people that vaccines are good for kids, and handguns are dangerous. (Another widespread but statistically insupportable belief they’d like to discredit is that owning a gun makes you safer.) But here they encounter the very problems they have enumerated. Providing people with accurate information doesn’t seem to help; they simply discount it. Appealing to their emotions may work better, but doing so is obviously antithetical to the goal of promoting sound science. “The challenge that remains,” they write toward the end of their book, “is to figure out how to address the tendencies that lead to false scientific belief”

“The Enigma of Reason,” “The Knowledge Illusion,” and “Denying to the Grave” Were all written before the November election. And yet they anticipate Kellyanne Conway and the rise of “alternative facts.” These days, it can feel as if the entire country has been given over to a vast psychological experiment being run either by no one or by Steve Bannon. Rational agents would be able to think their way to a solution. But, on this matter, the literature is not reassuring. ⋄

So now what do I do? Give up? That’s not my style but nor is brown-nosing. There cannot be however much advance towards change without net-working of some sort. But how? One problem is that I do not know of one other person who has suggested Rule changes to the main areas of Rule, Conduct of Play and Penalties, someone I could join with, someone who is unhappy with the way hockey is being officiated, who has said that and will continue to say that. This apparent contentment with the absurd is astonishing to me, that however seems to be the situation. But is it?…hink-and-believe/

April 16, 2018

The setting up of a conflict in Rule


The first incident shown in the video clip is from a match played in the 2010 World Cup, so not long after the self-pass had been introduced into mainstream hockey. The incident begins badly, with an absence of common sense and correct Rule application, and then gets worse.

The incident begins with an attempted aerial pass by an ARG player. The ball gets to a good height but falls far short of its intended target. It falls directly onto the position of the CHN #5  in free space, there isn’t an ARG player within 10m of her. She opts to control the ball as it nears the ground instead of taking it with a horizontally presented stick and makes a mess of doing that , so that she has to move her feet and turn her body as the ball bounces on the pitch and it then runs away from her as she plays it with her stick. An approaching ARG player (who could not have seen any ball-body contact from her direction of approach) puts her hand up in appeal and the umpire penalises the CHN player – presumably because she though there was a ball-body contact (she too could not have seen any such contact because the body of the CHN player was between her and the ball).

The view from the camera angle shows that there was in fact no ball-body contact by the CHN player. But even if there had been, in these circumstances there can be no justification whatsoever for penalty. There was obviously no intent to use the body to control the ball and no opponent could legally have approached to within 5m of the CHN player until she had the ball in control on the ground – so clearly there could be no disadvantage to opponents if the ball had glanced off her body on the way down to ground. Even if she had intentionally trapped the ball with her foot there would have been no reason to penalise that action, even though that would have been an offence.

Rule 12.1. is perfectly clear about this:

12 Penalties

12.1 Advantage: a penalty is awarded only when a player or
team has been disadvantaged by an opponent breaking the Rules.

(If only umpires took note of that Rule when there are inconsequential touches of ball to foot by a defender in his or her own circle).

And the subsequent events are possibly worse because there is a lack of clarity, specifically a lack of necessary instruction in Rule 13.2, which needed the application of commonsense to resolve fairly – but that necessary commonsense was absent. This is not the entire Rule but all the relevant clauses are presented. Can you spot the missing, and necessary, instruction or permission?


13.2 Free Hit

Procedures for taking a free hit, centre pass and putting the
ball back into play after it has been outside the field:

a the ball must be stationary

b opponents must be at least 5 metres from the ball

If an opponent is within 5 metres of the ball, they
must not interfere with the taking of the free hit or
must not play or attempt to play the ball. If this player
is not playing the ball, attempting to play the ball or
influencing play, the free hit need not be delayed.

c when a free hit is awarded to the attack within the
23 metres area, all players other than the player taking
the free hit must be at least 5 metres from the ball

h from a free hit awarded to the attack within the
23 metres area, the ball must not be played into the
circle until it has travelled at least 5 metres or has been
touched by a player of either team other than the player
taking the free hit.

What is missing is instruction, to the defender caught within 5m of a quickly taken self pass, on permitted subsequent actions. The FIH HRB just presented the above text to umpires and left it to them to sort out what a defender could or should do in these circumstances. This despite the self-pass having been used in the EHL in the previous two years. They must have been aware of the problems, Internet hockey forums were inundated with questions about 1) whether or not the defender had to get 5m from the ball before being allowed to play at it  2) the direction in which a defender could or should retreat 3) What constituted influencing. The answers (opinions without Rule backing) offered, conflicted and were therefore, overall of no help at all.

The lettering of the clauses of the current Rule 13 is different, but despite some very significant changes in umpiring interpretation of the taking of a self-pass since 2009 there is no change to the above Rule wording. Only when the newly introduced (enacted from May 2015) shadowing from within the circle is described is there any indication that a defender may engage and make a tackle only when the ball has been moved 5m by a self passer. 

At an attacking free hit awarded within 5 metres
of the circle, the ball cannot be played into the
circle until it has travelled at least 5 metres or it
has been touched by a defending player. On this
basis, defenders who are inside the circle within 5
metres of the free hit are therefore not interfering
with play and may also shadow around the inside
of the circle a player who takes a self-pass,
provided that they do not play or attempt to play the
ball or influence play until it has either travelled at
least 5 metres or alternatively been touched by a
defending player who can legitimately play the ball.

The early interpretation devised ‘on the hoof’ by umpires, was that a defender could not retreat in the direction the attacker wanted to go (which led to attackers taking a self-pass charging directly at the nearest defender ‘winning’ a series of free balls and eventually a penalty corner) and that a defender caught within 5m of the ball by a quickly taken self-pass had to get 5m from the ball before being allowed to contest for it (which also led to attackers running at defenders, who were forbidden to engage them) The direction of retreat ‘interpretation’ was changed (forgotten) within a year, but obliging defenders to get 5m from the ball before engagement was permitted lasted substantially longer than that in some locations before gradually fading away.

The CHN player in the above video was penalised with the award of a penalty corner to ARG because she did not at any time get 5m from the ball. The facts that the first attempt by the CHN player to tackle was made after she had retreated in front of the advancing ARG player at least 7 metres and that the ARG player had moved the ball about 10 metres when the CHN player made her successful tackle made no difference at all in this particular interpretation.

The CHN player requested video referral concerning the award of the penalty corner but was still upset about being penalised for a foot contact she (rightly) insisted did not occur, but the umpire informed her that there was nothing she could do about that because it was the other umpire’s decision (This was untrue, there was no reason the umpires could not have conferred to get things right and order a restart with a bully – Block must have known her colleague’s decision made no sense at all and was unfair. She could even, for the sake of fairness, have been correct about the taking of the self-pass by the ARG player: the ball was not made stationary before the self-pass was taken and it was not taken from within playing distance of the alleged offence – which gave the ARG player an unfair advantage – the CHN was denied the opportunity to move 5m from the ball before the self-pass was taken).

Unfortunately, I have lost the soundtrack to the video, but the umpire then ‘fed’ to the CHN player (who did not understand English very well) the question she should put to the video umpire, which was – “Was the CHN player (at any time) 5m from the ball?” The video umpire of course rejected the referral based on that question (as the umpire must have known she would) and confirmed the penalty corner.

The second incident in the above video clip shows an ESP player obstructing a NZ player (which was ignored) and the NZ player being penalised, presumably for making contact with his stick while trying to tackle. The ESP self-passer then charged the NZ player with the ball and deliberately played it into his feet (a Forcing offence at the time) The NZ player was penalised again, maybe because of his direction of retreat, maybe because he did not get 5m from the ball, maybe for the ball-foot contact. He didn’t know which or understand what was going on. Who could? He should not have been penalised at all.




The video clip above shows a self-pass incident in which the defender was penalised for “not 5m” but I think that under current interpretation the umpire would have seen no offence. The defender shadowed the self-passer for the last meter or so, but did not make any attempt to play at the ball until it had been moved 5m (was in the circle).  So everything is okay now. Right?  No, far from it. The Rule wording about what a defender caught within 5m of the ball when a self pass is taken, must or should do, has not changed since 2009 (i.e.there isn’t any) only the interpretation has (where have we seen that phrasing before? In the Obstruction Rule which has been interpreted out of existence.) there is still no clear written direction for the defending player to follow, unless shadowing from within the circle.

If the FIH Umpiring Committee and the FIH Rules Committee liaise and agree on the interpretations of the Rules, as they both declare they do, why do the Rules of Hockey not reflect the results of this liaison? Rule 13.2. was substantially amended in mid 2015 but none of the current interpretation of the permitted actions of a defender caught within 5m of the ball during a self-pass is included in that amendment. It is just ‘known’ to umpires.

I would like to see an early taken self-pass (a self pass taken before retreating defenders have been given any opportunity to retreat – never mind get 5m from the ball) treated as an advantage played (because that is what it is – there is no other reason to take a self-pass early but to gain an advantage from doing so) and for defenders in these circumstances to be permitted to engage the self-passer as soon as the ball is moved (the umpire need only ensure that defenders genuinely quickly retreat as soon as they are aware their team has been penalised, by penalising players who make no attempt to move away from the ball and/or the place of the offence when a free is awarded against them. This would be easier than judging whether or not various 5m restrictions had been observed by players from both teams. The introduction of a second whistle to restart play would be an aid to fair play).

From time to time we have been told via the Internet forums that “every umpire in the world” or “all FIH Umpires” are applying certain ‘interpretations’. Among them:-

A player positioned on the goal-line causes danger.

An ‘on target’ shot at the goal cannot be considered to be dangerous play.*

Defenders accept the risk they will be hit with the ball if they position between the goal and a shooting attacker.*

Aerial Rules do not apply to deflections.

Aerial Rules do not apply to shots at the goal.

Two* of those statements are partially true, but they are true only if the ball is not propelled towards a defender in a dangerous way: the others are false. All of them have been applied by umpires as if they are written into the Rules of Hockey, without any such thing ever having been written in the Rules. But how can we tell what the FIH Rules Committee and the FIH Umpiring Committee have agreed about concerning the interpretation of the Rules when they don’t tell us in writing in the rule-book? Are we to somehow absorb and know ‘interpretation’ by seeing ‘practice’? Cart before the horse. It is not sufficient that umpires know the Rules, it is a Rule that all participants are aware of and abide by the Rules. The FIH need to facilitate the required awareness.…conflict-in-rule/

April 14, 2018

Deflections and the falling ball



The Rule referred to by Simon Mason in commentary is Rule 9.10.

9.10 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.

He correctly states that ‘the 5m Rule’ is the only consideration (to determine the legitimacy of the goal). The umpire refers to the video umpire but his only question is “Was the ball played by the stick of the attacker”.

Does the Explanation of Rule application change anything in this scenario? i.e. was there a clear initial receiver and if so, who was it?

Clearly the goalkeeper is the initial receiver, at the time the ball was deflected upwards off the defending CAN player, the ENG player was considerably more than 5m from the place the ball fell and the goalkeeper was within 1m of it. Therefore there was an encroaching offence by the ENG player.

Note that the Rule says nothing at all about how a ball came to be falling, nothing about the way it was put up in the air. The Rule covers all falling balls no matter how they were put up and whether or not this was done deliberately or accidentally.

Why was the Rule ignored and a goal awarded? 

This encroaching offence below from AUS v BEL is like the incident in the above CAN v ENG match.

But I suggest that because of the swing at the ball by the AUS player in the above video, besides there being an encroaching offence there was also other dangerous play. So two deliberate offences – and a yellow card should have been given. (there were several similar incidents in this match).  The ENG player in the CAN v ENG match does not play at the ball in a way that could have endangered the goalkeeper – but that, because of the prior encroaching offence, is irrelevant.

The incident referred to above in support of the Rule did not occur in the circle – and it has to be conceded that a ball that is falling into the goalmouth after a deflection off a defender creates problems that a ball falling considerably more than 5m from the goal-line (outside a circle) is unlikely to cause.

No goalkeeper or any other defender can be reasonably expected to allow an attacker receiving the ball off a defensive deflection falling within 5m of the goal-line to receive and control the ball to ground without contest: it might be considered unreasonable to demand such compliance if the ball is falling anywhere within the circle. An attacker within 5m of the goal-line and under a falling ball is moreover extremely unlikely to attempt to control the ball to ground – a volley shot of some description is far more likely. For a Rule to demand that a defender allow 5m of space is unreasonable (perhaps even impossible) and grossly unfair in these circumstances and no Rule should be either unreasonable or unfair.

These situations should be resolved by penalizing a deflection that gives rise to a potentially dangerous situation rather than allowing a subsequent dangerous action to occur. There is support for this approach in the Interpretation given in the current UMB, which uses the phrase “potentially dangerous”. All that is needed is to change the wording of Rule 9.8. back from what it is now

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 penalty is awarded where the action causing the danger took place.

to what it was previously:- 9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which is likely to lead to dangerous play.

but it would be preferable to use both phrases

9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way that leads to or is likely to lead to dangerous play.

A deflection leading or likely to lead to dangerous play is then an offence and a free ball (or a penalty corner for a deflection within the circle – although a restart on the 23m line would be fairer) may be awarded.

The umpiring in the opening video is more erosion and an absence of common sense.  The umpire may not have been aware of the attacker’s position when the ball was raised if he was following the play directly in front of him. This is the first thing the video umpire should have looked at and it should have been the umpire’s first question. It was after all the first thing that occurred to the commentators and something both umpires needed to be certain about to make a sensible recommendation and decision. Where there is no video available, the trailing umpire, being in these situations in a position to see both the deflector and the attackers at the same time, should be consulted.

Stills from the video show that the ENG player was at least 10m from the goal at the time of the deflection and that he could not have been unaware that he would commit an encroaching offence.

The action sequence at the tail end of the video indicates that the umpire should have been more aware of the ENG player’s position. The ball was put up in front of the umpire’s position and slightly to his right, the same direction as the approaching attacker, but watching for two things (at different levels) at the same time when both are moving is never easy.

An example of umpire ‘brain fade’ he allowed the encroaching offence, which he must have seen, to fade from consciousness because he focused instead on whether or not the ball had touched the stick of the attacker – which in the circumstances was irrelevant – that the ball was contested for at all was an offence, in fact it was an offence for the attacker to have moved to be within 5m of the goalkeeper.

I am again reminded that when the Offside Rule was finally deleted in 1997 the Rules committee, then Hockey Rules Board, undertook to put in place measures to constrain the behaviour of attackers in front of the goal. Neither the HRB or the renamed FIH Rules Committee have done anything of the sort. Clarity about dealing with a deflection falling into the goalmouth would be one step in the right direction. The nonsense, (the personal opinion of an FIH Umpire, which was spread via an Internet hockey forum) that a deflection cannot be treated as a falling ball under the terms of Rule 9.10., needs ‘kicking into touch’ once and for all, because it can be and it should be.


April 9, 2018

Rewrite of the Free Hit Rules



The article is set out in three parts. 1. Highlighting of areas slated for revision or deletion 2. Suggested change to the Free Hit Rule. 3. Additional comment.

1.The parts of the Rule slated for deletion or amendment (de-cluttering and clarification) are highlighted in red.

Because of these clauses:-

The ball is moved using a hit, push, flick or scoop

the ball may be raised immediately using a push, flick  or scoop but must not be raised intentionally using a hit.

….where, for obvious reason, “the ball” is used in the Rule in place of “the Free Hit”. We otherwise could get the silly constructions – A Free Hit may be raised with any stroke except a hit or A Free Hit is moved using a hit, push, flick or scoop. – in this suggestion where the term “Free Hit” is currently used in the Rule it will be replaced with “Free Ball” because a Free Ball can be moved with any stroke and the raised ball contradiction is avoided.

13.1. Location of a free hit:
a a free hit is taken close to where the offence occurred

‘Close to’ means within playing distance of where the offence occurred and with no significant advantage gained.(AMEND)

The location from which a free hit is taken must be more precise inside the 23 metres area.(AMEND)

b a free hit awarded to the defence within 15 metres of the back-line is taken up to 15 metres from the back-line in line with the location of the offence, parallel to the side-line (this has already been amended, 2019, to allow the restart to be taken from anywhere within the circle if a free ball is awarded for offence by the attacking team in the circle)

13.2. Procedures for taking a free hit, centre pass and putting the ball back into play after it has been outside the field:

All parts of this Rule apply as appropriate to a centre pass and putting the ball back into play after it has been outside the field.

a the ball must be stationary
b opponents must be at least 5 metres from the ball
If an opponent is within 5 metres of the ball, they must not interfere with the taking of the or must not play or attempt to play the ball. If this player is not playing the ball, attempting to play the ball or influencing play, the free hit need not be delayed.

when a free hit is awarded to the attack within the 23 metres area, all players other than the player taking the free hit must be at least 5 metres from the ball, except as specifically indicated below for attacking free hits awarded within 5 metres of the circle (DELETE)

the ball is moved using a hit, push, flick or scoop

the ball may be raised immediately using a push, flick or
scoop but must not be raised intentionally using a hit

from a free hit awarded to the attack within the 23 metres area, the ball must not be played into the circle until it has travelled at least 5 metres, not necessarily in a single direction, or has been touched by a player of
the defending team (DELETE)

If the player taking the free hit continues to play the ball (ie no defending (AMEND) player has yet touched it) :

– that player may play the ball any number of times, but the ball must travel at least 5 metres, before that player plays the ball into the circle by hitting or pushing the ball again. (DELETE)


– after a defending player has touched the ball, it can be played into the circle by any other player including the player who took the free hit.

At an attacking free hit awarded within 5 metres of the circle, the ball cannot be played into the circle until it has travelled at least 5 metres or it has been touched by a defending player. On this basis, defenders who are inside the circle within 5 metres of the free hit are therefore not interfering

with play and may also shadow around the inside of the circle a player who takes a self-pass,provided that they do not play or attempt to play the
ball or influence play until it has either travelled at least 5 metres or alternatively been touched by a defending player who can legitimately play the ball.

Players inside or outside the circle who were 5 metres or more from the point of the free hit< at its award are not allowed to move to and then remain in a stationary position within 5 metres of the ball as the free hit is taken. (DELETE)

Other than as indicated above, any playing of the ball, attempting to play the ball or interference by a defender or an attacker(DELETE) who was not 5 metres from the ball, should be penalised accordingly.

Following a time stoppage after the award of an attacking free hit inside the 23 metres area, upon the re-start all players other than the player taking the free hit must be at least 5 metres from the ball. (DELETE)

It is permitted to play the ball high above the attacking circle so that it lands outside the circle subject to Rules related to dangerous play and that the ball is not legitimately playable inside or above the circle by another player during its flight. (AMEND)

2. Suggestion for amendment of Rule 13.1 and 13.2.

13.1. Location of a free ball:
a a free ball is taken close to where the offence occurred

‘Close to’ means within two metres of where the offence occurred and with no significant advantage gained.

The location from which a free ball awarded to the attacking team is taken must be more precise (within half a metre of the offence) inside the 23 metres area.

b a free ball awarded to the defence within 15 metres of the back-line is taken up to 15 metres from the back-line, parallel to the side-line, and in line with the location of the offence.

13.2. Procedures for taking a free ball, centre pass and putting the
ball back into play after it has been outside the field:

All parts of this Rule apply as appropriate to a free ball, centre pass and putting the ball back into play after it has been outside the field.

a the ball must be stationary
b opponents must be at least 5 metres from the ball or quickly attempting to get to be 5m from the ball.

It is elsewhere suggested that the umpire should signal with a second whistle immediately the ball is stationary and within two meters (outside the 23m area, 0.5 meters inside the 23m area) of the place of the offence, to indicate play may be restarted.

If an opponent is within 5 metres of the ball, they must not interfere with the taking of the free ball or must not play or attempt to play at the ball. If this close defending player is not playing the ball, attempting to play the ball or influencing play, the free ball need not be delayed.

a free ball may be moved using a hit, push, flick or scoop

a free ball may be raised immediately using a push, flick or scoop but must not be raised using a hit

If the player taking the free ball continues to play the ball (i.e. no other player has yet touched it) that player may play the ball any number of times and move with the ball without limit in distance or direction, as if dribbling in normal open play: this playing action from a free ball is called a self-pass.

If a player takes a self-pass  (moves the ball from its stationary position) before opponents have been given the opportunity to retreat the required 5m (and opponents are at the time properly attempting to so retreat) that is to be regarded as an advantage played and opponents may cease retreating and immediately attempt to tackle for the ball – that is, normal play immediately resumes.

Going ‘inactive’ that is standing still (perhaps with the stick raised) when a quickly taken self-pass is employed, is not retreating or attempting to retreat and should be discouraged by the umpire (a reset of the free ball and a verbal warning in the first instance). A defender close to the ball who makes no attempt to retreat when a free ball is awarded but instead interferes with play (attempts to play at the ball or prevent the taker playing at the ball) should be further penalised with a personal penalty and, if within his or her own 23m area, a penalty corner

Any playing of the ball, attempting to play the ball or interference by a defender who was not 5 metres from the ball or attempting to get 5 metres from the ball before a free ball is taken, should, subject as always to the Advantage Rule, be penalised accordingly.

A Free Ball awarded for an offence committed between the hash circle and the shooting circle must be taken from a position next to but outside the hash circle line and opposite to where the offence was committed.

It is permitted to play the ball high with a flick or a scoop or a lob, above the attacking circle so that it lands outside the circle, subject to Rules related to dangerous play.

4. Additional comment.

The clauses concerning the direct playing of the ball into the circle have been deleted because they were introduced as a safety measure but oddly, without a counter-part in open play or during a penalty corner. It was suggested at the time the amendment was made that a free ball could be played from a (sic) free ball in a planned way into the circle with the intention of setting up a deflection towards the goal and that this practice was potentially dangerous.

This restriction does not make much sense because prohibiting the playing of a free ball from within the opponent’s 23m area directly into their circle impedes the flow of the game and significantly reduces the advantage of being awarded a free ball in this area.

It is also is perfectly possible to plan to play (hit) the ball into the circle from predetermined positions in open play and to set up deflected shots at the goal by this means –  and this possibility has not been considered to be potentially dangerous to opponents – it is allowed.  In fact if a free ball is passed to another close same team player (presently beyond 5m) within the 23m area (which is easy) there is nothing to prevent that player immediately hitting the ball with maximum power directly into the circle to enable such a deflection and this also can be done in a planned way. The currently often employed tactic of deflecting from close range a pass or a ball propelled towards the goal during a penalty corner, high into the goal also make a nonsense of the restriction placed on a free ball awarded within the opponent’s 23m area for safety reasons.

 This prohibition has given rise to some very complicated 5m restrictions, especially around the taking and defending of a self-pass close to the opponent’s circle. The prohibition also made the corner unworkable – of no or little benefit to the side awarded it – and led to many attempts to ‘manufacture’ offences – self-passers from a corner charging into defenders with the aim of ‘winning’ a penalty corner. The corner had eventually to be replaced with a restart for the attackers on the 23m line (the restart on the 23m line is a big improvement on the original corner but that was simply fortuitous and we got this improvement via a curious route).

What makes far more sense than the existing restriction is to prohibit the raising of the ball with a hit into the opponent’s circle in any phase of play – irrespective of intention to raise the ball – so we dispense with the subjective ‘intentionally’ and replace it with ‘raised into the circle’, an objective criterion (the ball is or is not raised off the ground, a fact based judgement – more detail about this proposal is given in the article concerning the rewrite of Rule 9.9 the intentionally raised hit). 

Rule 9.9. should prohibit the intentional raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle already, but does not because umpires have been instructed to ‘forget’ that the ball has been raised (despite intentionally raising of the ball with a hit being specifically mentioned as an offence and there being the possibility of disadvantage to opponents) and consider only if a raised ball is actually dangerous to opponents. The determination of “dangerous” depends on the causing of legitimate evasive action from an opponent (a subjective judgement), but such evasive action is presently being ignored if the ball is propelled from beyond 5m of the evading player, even though ‘legitimate evasive action’ is not distance limited. (There therefore needs to be amendment to Rule 9.8. to provide objective criteria for a dangerously played ball when the ball is propelled towards an opponent from more than 5m – say up to 15m from an opponent: this is long overdue). These amendments to Rule 9.9 and 9.8 have already been suggested in other articles.

The reintroduction of moving the ball to outside the hash-line when a free ball is awarded for an offence committed between the shooting circle and the hash circle, is necessary because the removal of the requirement that same team players be five metres from a free ball when it is taken, would mean that a free ball awarded close to the shooting circle would probably be a greater advantage than the award of a penalty corner.

The last clause of the current Rule gives ‘a nod’ towards the idea of prohibiting the intentional raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with strokes other than a hit but it applies only during the taking of a free ball and does not in fact cover the raising of the ball into the circle, but over it with a scoop, and so it is an insufficient and a rather odd addition to the Rule.


Despite the huge problems with Rules 13.1. and 13.2 the FIH have made only two ‘housekeeping’ amendments for 2019 onward. They have gone back to allowing a defending team to take a free ball, awarded against opponents for an offence in the circle, from anywhere in the circle (as remained the case in indoor hockey). This will assist with game flow and allow the team awarded a circle free ball to counter attack quickly, but compared with the ‘choking’ of a free ball awarded to the attacking team in the opponent’s 23m area it is an insignificant change, one that will hardly be noticed.

There is also a change to the allowed positioning of a defender already within the circle who is also at the time the free is awarded to opponents within 5m of the place of the offence. As this entire clutter is here slated for removal I will not elaborate further on this additional permitted shadowing complication. I hope we will soon be able to forget all about it.

Links. Second whistle.

Rewrite of Rule 9.9.

Rewrite of Rule 9.8.

Additional link Goal Zone…ewrite-rule-9-14/

April 6, 2018

Stick and Stick Diagram


I started to lobby for a stick diagram to be included in the published Rules of Hockey in 1990 and in the year 2000 the FIH Hockey Rules Board responded with this (scanned from the 2000 Rule-book) :-


which infuriated me. I kept complaining about this shoddy drawing  but got nowhere, because the FIH did not want to be seen to be endorsing the product of a single brand (as if, when elements within the FIH were doing all that they could to get it banned) until I suggested (half joking) that reversing the direction of the bends would show the ‘permitted deviation’ without illustrating any available hockey stick – and the FIH HRB did exactly that in 2004 (next diagram below). These two diagrams have remained the Stick Diagrams for fifteen years despite repeated promises, from 2005 onward, that they would be “looked at”(which means nothing) at a future date.

The current Stick Diagrams.

Stick Diagrams

A Suggested rewrite of a Rule of Hockey

The part of the Stick Rule concerning dimension as it was written in 1990 and as it last appeared correctly in the Rules of Hockey in 2003.

The Stick

4.4 Dimension and weight.

a. the length of the extended open curved end of the stick in the direction of the positive X axis is 100mm maximum (shown by the line D)

b. the stick may deviate from the line(s) A and/or A1 by a maximum of 20mm (shown by the lines B and B1 respectively)

c. inclusive of any additional coverings used, the stick shall pass through a ring having an interior diameter of 51mm

d. the total weight shall not exceed 737 grammes.

The current description of permitted protrusions to the edges of the handle.

2.4. It is permitted for the handle to be bent or curved to protrude beyond the line A once only to the limiting line B at maximum or but not also to be bent or curved to protrude beyond the line A1 once only to the limiting line B1 at maximum.

I have no idea why the change was made, I believe it to have been a mistake in transcription, made in 2004, when all technical specifications concerning equipment were removed from the Rules of Hockey and published in a separate booklet. Technical specifications for equipment were returned to the Rules of Hockey in 2006 and the mistake has been repeated in all rule books published since then. My repeatedly writing to the FIH HRB to have this corrected got nowhere.

The current Stick Diagrams.

The current diagrams makes a very good job of concealing the configuration and dimensions of the edge protrusions that they are supposed to be illustrating. The bends shown on the diagram on the left go in the opposite direction to the way the bends on my design go because the FIH did not want to be seen to be endorsing any particular brand while illustrating the scope of the permitted bends. The diagram on the right is taken from one I submitted to the FIH HRB but dotted lines, which I included to show the overlap of the two heads illustrated (a sample maximum possible set-back head and a conventional hook) were not included, so the difference between the conventional and the extreme permitted is not as clear as it could be. (The ZigZag Ambi, at about half the measurement that is permitted, is not close to the possible extreme configuration – and useful perhaps only in a goalkeeping stick – see the last diagram below).


A replacement diagram of the face side of the stick with the corrected Rule text set out within it and with an illustrated explanation of the permitted combinations of bends or protrusions to edges of the stick handle. This diagram has been in the possession of the FIH HRB/ Rules Committee for more than ten years.

Stick Diagram with text

Permitted stick bow dimensions and diagram.

Bow of Stick copy

I have not even seen a bow measuring device, only a diagram of one and I don’t know of anyone who owns one, so it is difficult to comment about it, other than to say it seems to be a very complicated shape to carry out a simple task that could be done with a cylinder or tube with an OD of 25mm. The only other equipment needed is a flat surface (an ironing board would provide a suitable flat surface pitch-side, such tables are easily portable and quick to set up), a short ruler or set square and a tape measure.

When the former Secretary of the FIH Rules Committee, Roger Webb, asked for my opinion concerning degree and position of stick bow, I suggested 25mm as a maximum and, foreseeing the possibility of what came to be known as the ‘low bow’ and the safety issue with accidentally raised hits, that the position of maximum bow should be no more than 200mm from the mid-point of the length of the stick and preferably within 150mm.

The bow that was then permitted was 50mm and there was initially no restriction placed on the position of maximum bow. When maximum bow was, very quickly, reduced to 25mm, the low-bow stick appeared (and was heavily promoted as a drag-flick stick). The 25mm low-bow presented the face of the stick to the ball at about the same angle as a stick with a 50mm bow at the mid-point did – so then the position of maximum bow on the stick was regulated, it is now to be a minimum of 200mm up the handle from the base of the stick-head, which puts it at between 325mm and 350mm from the mid-point of the length of a stick, depending on the length of the stick: almost twice what I suggested, but there is at least some regulation.

I later suggested that as the modern composite stick does not have a splice joining handle to head and even in wooden sticks this is an economic measure rather than a necessity, that the distinction between head and handle should be on a line level with the maximum permitted upturn to the toe of the head, 100mm from the ground or the base of the head of the stick – and not, as previously, at the end of the V of the splice. That suggestion was immediately accepted.


Concerning the Stick Diagram illustrating permitted protrusions to the edges of the stick – replacement as described above,

Concerning Bow (not rake, rake is a bend to the heel edge of the stick, not the face of the stick) – none, it is now too late, manufactures would need to be given several years notice of a more severe restriction.


The overlay on the suggested diagram is a representation of the configuration of the ZigZag Ambi. The protrusions to the edge sides of the Ambi are about half the width of what is permitted.

In setting the maximum permitted protrusions 20mm was added to the width permitted by the limiting diameter of the FIH Stick Ring, to allow for goalkeeping sticks already in existence at the time which had an edge protrusion of about that much just below the handle grip (it being considered unacceptable to outlaw sticks which had been on the market for some years at the time).

The head of the stick, the part below the line C-C is not limited along the X axis and can therefore protrude considerably more than 20mm on the heel side as well as the toe side, but such a protrusion would be a handicap rather than of benefit in a stick intended for use by a field player. The set-back of the Ambi is determined by the degree of set-back possible before adjustment needs to made for it by a player when a push stroke is played. An extreme set-back (maximum permitted) tends to snag on the ground during a push stroke and must be adjusted for.

The slightly set back head achieved a better head shape for ball control than the previous ultra tight heel bend could achieve and also, with the use of lamination and the incorporation of a kink to the shaft above the toe upturn, overcame the problems of bending wood – which, when the stick was designed, in 1985 (and until 1992), was the only material that a stick head could be made with. The kink in the shaft also improve stopping on both the forehand and reverse sides by dramatically increasing the area presented above the ball on the forehand side and the horizontal area presented to the ball on the reverse side, without having to put the left hand to ground. This latter advantage improve player balance when receiving and also increased the ability to scan play while receiving the ball in this position. The fact that it was no longer necessary to put the head of the receiver at the knee level of opponents when making a horizontal reverse stop also improved player safety.

Player safety was considered a negative marketing point in the 1990’s (and still is not worth mentioning), what sells hockey sticks is the promise of generating more power through the ball so that it travels at greater velocity. That hitting a ball at great velocity is mostly a matter of technique and has little to do with the make-up of the stick, beyond a certain point, is seldom considered.

The configuration shown is circa 1987. Later versions (developed after 2006, but not marketed) had a more extended toe (90mm). The goalkeeper sticks (Save and Reach, first produced in 1990 and 1992 respectively) always had a toe up-turned to the 100mm maximum permitted.

I have recently made other modification to the top of the handle, which I have not published. I very much doubt that this handle modification will be marketed but I still enjoy designing things and trying to improve the using of what we have.

Below an earlier, simpler version, of a suggested stick diagram.

April 5, 2018

Raising the ball into the circle.


Raising the ball into the circle.

The potential for danger of the ball raised into the circle has long been recognised, probably for almost as long as hockey has been played in the modern era. Prior to the introduction of the ban on the intentionally raised hit in the late 1980’s (except when taking a shot at the opponent’s goal from within their circle), it had been for many years illegal to raise the ball into the opponent’s circle. There were over time several variations of this Rule and it also went through the extremes, but it was never prior to the current version an offence only if done intentionally or only if danger actually occurred – the long established prohibition of raising the ball directly into the circle with a hit was a simple Rule that was easy for players to understand and observe and for umpires to apply, but for some unknown reason (it reduced spectacular play or ‘excitement’ ? ) it could not be left alone :-

1) There was a long-standing prohibition on raising the ball into the circle with a hit.

2) then (usually for single year each time) a free-for-all on deletion of that Rule (or another).

3) then a very hedged reintroduction of prohibition of any raising of the ball into the circle, which was complicated (there were exceptions) and therefore the Rule was very badly applied – usually too strictly (it was not as daft or made as complicated as the present ban on playing a ball directly into the opponent’s circle from a free awarded in their 23m area, but the exceptions were often ignored and the same absurdity was present)

4) finally (I have reduced the number of steps because some changes were just a recycle or a ‘see-saw’ of a previous version) the present situation where the ball should not be intentionally raised into the circle with a hit (because all intentionally raised hits outside the opposing circle are prohibited, but there is nothing at all said in the Rules of Hockey about flicks and scoops into the opposing circle nor about raised deflections – although there is a mess of Rule about the receiving/contesting for a ball put up in the air by any of these means).

The problem with the present Rule is wilful blindness to intention within ‘umpire practice’, ‘enshrined’ in the UMB with the phrase “forget lifted – think danger“, which also ‘forgets’ that opponents in the circle may be disadvantaged by an illegally raised hit from outside the circle, even when they are not endangered by it – and that is precisely why attacking players raise the ball into the circle and why it should be penalised.

(generally the ball is raised with a slap hit, although edge hits – both (an illegal ‘hard’) fore and reverse edge hits are employed – as well the full power forehand top-spin ‘banana’ hits which were once popular with penalty corner strikers. We (umpires) now have only “forget lifted” to remember – to also “think danger” would be to be able to keep in mind two possibly conflicting thoughts and still be able to behave rationally).

The video clip below is of a hit being made into the circle and what resulted from it. This incident demonstrates that it does not matter what the Rules are if they are not applied. Have a look at the video and see if you agree with the final outcome, which was the recommendation of the award of a penalty corner, after a video referral by the defending side, questioning the initial penalty corner award, was rejected. I have no idea what the question put to the video umpire was, but there are several grounds upon which a properly framed referral should have been upheld.

One. The ball was raised intentionally with a hit in the area outside the opponent’s circle. Rule 9.9. prohibits this action.

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.

It is also an offence to raise the ball unintentionally from a hit, including a free hit, anywhere on the field if it is raised in a dangerous way. Technically the ball was not raised dangerously by the attacker – there was no opponent within 5m and evasive action was not necessary and was not attempted by the first defender. But clearly self-defence from a raised ball, that could have injured him, was forced on the third defender (after a deflection from a second defender, who was clearly disadvantaged by the illegally raised ball) and it would be reasonable to consider such raising of the ball as play (by the striker) resulting in (leading to) dangerous play.

Let us suppose the umpire though the ball may have been raised accidentally.

Two. The ball was hit hard with the fore-hand edge of the stick, a prohibited action.

9.6 Players must not hit the ball hard on the forehand with the edge of the stick.

Let us suppose the umpires did not see the edge hit and thought a slap-hit with the face of the stick had been used.

In addition: Being hit with the ball is not necessarily an offence by the player hit (which is ‘dealt with’ by the following Rule and the (now conflicting) Explanation of application)

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

The player (who stops or deflects the ball with the body) only commits an offence if they gain an advantage or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way.

Clearly the player who was hit with the ball did not position with the intention of using his body to stop the deflected ball. But was there an advantage gained because the ball was stopped by the body of this defender? To decide that it is necessary to determine where the ball would most likely have gone if it had not hit the third defender.

What seems probable from the video evidence is that it would have deflected into the possession of a fourth defender.

The less likely alternatives are that it would have run loose and have been contested for by players from both teams or that (unlikely) it would have gone off the pitch over the base-line for a 23m ball to the attackers, before any player could take possession of it.

My conclusion is that two umpires (match umpire and video umpire), appointed to this tournament, being among the best available in the world, would not miss that a ball was propelled by either an intentionally raised hit or the illegal use of a forehand edge-hit, but they might have overlooked the first and ignored the latter criterion and instead have focused on dangerous raising of the ball, following forget lifted – think danger. But in ‘forgetting’ lifted they also (in this instance) overlooked that opponents had been unfairly disadvantaged by two concurrent deliberate offences

The two criteria for a ball-body contact offence are routinely ignored, so it is not necessary to offer an explanation for that happening in this particular instance. But there is no reason (other than penalising the prior illegal raising of the ball ) why either umpire – but especially the video umpire – should not have considered where the ball would have gone if it had not hit a defender – and then decided that there was no advantage gained by the defending team.


The solution to the initial problem, the ball raised (deliberately or otherwise) into the circle is not very difficult to work out, but of course any replacement Rule must be properly observed.

The following four suggested amendments would need to be enacted together.

The first step is to remove the prohibition of the lifted hit in the area outside the opponent’s circle (Delete the present Rule 9.9 and suitably amend Rule 9.8).

The second, to institute an absolute height limit (of shoulder height ?) on any hit ball in the area outside the opponent’s circle (not dangerous play related, dangerous play being a separate issue with other ball height limits imposed). That ‘deals’ with the long high clip or chip hit (similar to the modern long scoop) the initial ban on the intentionally raised hit was supposed to deal with; it also deals with the extraordinary number of times there is an ‘accidental’ raising of the ball, to considerable height, with an edge-hit made in the area outside the opponent’s circle.

Now we have a ‘clean slate’.

The third, prohibit any raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit. (this means a hit away from the control of the hitter and excludes low ‘dink’ hits made by a player dribbling with the ball who retains possession of the ball)

And finally, a (belt and braces) prohibition on playing or playing at the ball when it is above shoulder height within the opponent’s circle. (I have already already covered this recommendation in the suggested rewrite of the Rule concerning the playing of the ball at above shoulder height Rule 9.7).

So what happens when the ball is deflected and raised above the limit height into the opponent’s circle – accidentally or otherwise? A free-ball, to be taken from the point the ball was raised, should be awarded.

It’s perfectly possible to instead prohibit scoops or high deflections into the area inside the hash circle, if that would be considered to lead to safer and/or fairer outcomes – if the ball lands and then rebounds high off the pitch for example. It would also be providential as it would give the hash circle a function (It hasn’t had one since the requirement that a free ball awarded within 5m of the circle should be taken from outside the hash line was deleted – a backward step and a silly deletion because it led to the current permit for defenders to shadow the ball from within the circle when a free-ball is take from within the hash circle, without being, at any time, 5m from the taking of a free ball (but same team players are required to be 5m from the ball) – the introduction of unnecessary and difficult complications to the Rule requirements.

The restoration of prohibition of the raising the ball (especially high) into the circle and a prohibition on playing at the ball when it is above shoulder height inside the opponent’s circle, is the very least that should be offered by way of ‘compensation’ and safeguarding (the promised but forgotten Rule to constrain the actions of attackers) following the deletion of off-side in 1997 – which gave a huge new advantage to the attacking side.

The above video is of an example of play which is more akin to hurling than it is to hockey; there are at least three breaches of the Rules of Hockey by the attacking side. But this was a spectacular goal and so of course it was awarded. Umpires appear to believe they have a duty to ensure spectators are entertained even at the cost of fair play, observance of the Rules of the game and the consideration of player safety – that is at the cost of their most important responsibilities.

April 5, 2018

Suggested rewrite of Rule 9.7 above shoulder playing of the ball


A suggested rewrite of a Rule of Hockey

The current Rule 9.7

Players may stop, receive and deflect or play the ball in a controlled manner in any part of the field when the ball is at any height including above the shoulder unless this is dangerous or leads to danger.

Action. Rewrite.

Reason. The Rule tries to be both directive (but weakly so)Players may“, and prohibitive,unless this is dangerous or leads to danger”, which is expressed as an exception, but without specifying what the dangers may be or suggesting how they may be avoided (rather than penalised after the event).

The previous Rule prohibited any playing of the ball at above shoulder height and the only exception, defending an on target shot at the goal, was extremely limited and hedged with penalty. For example, if a defender even attempted to play at an above shoulder height shot that was going wide of the goal the award of a penalty corner was mandatory (that was accepted because it punished defending – defending prevents the scoring of goals and therefore spoils the game and is considered offensive – fairness had nothing to do with it !!??).

Okay playing the ball at above shoulder height is now permitted, the focus of the Rule should now be on what is still not permitted and/or what will be considered to be dangerous play. The above Rule is far too loose, there is no defined or definable restriction at all. (Dangerous is not definable because legitimate evasive action, the main (and only) criterion, is not defined)


or play the ballis far too wide and unrestricted a term and asking for play with the stick in control or with a controlled stroke at the ball does not improve it (the result could still be a ball propelled in a way that endangers another player). What I think should be done is to determine what the intercepting or receiving player should be trying to do and what he or she should be prohibited from doing. A start can be made by asking “Why was the Rule changed?” Once that is established, it is possible to provide limits to prevent players going way beyond what was intended to be facilitated. I can insert videos here to show exactly why the change was needed.


The German player seen in the video brought a ball, that had bounced up high off the ground following an aerial pass, quickly and safely directly to ground and into his own control. There was no possibility of his endangering anyone by these actions. Technically the umpire was correct there was a breach of Rule and had play been allowed to continue the Australian team would most certainly have been disadvantaged – very possibly by the scoring of a goal, but the annoyance of the attacker is understandable.

And there we have it – safely directly to ground and into his (or her) own control, without endangering anyone. The Australian player below endangered no one and did not disadvantage opponents but was punished with a yellow card.

Now a Rule needs to be framed around these concepts. It can be seen at once that there is no need at all for facility for the receiving player to hit or deflect the ball away from his or her own control (actions that the term ‘play’ includes) and that those actions can be excluded by prohibition or by limiting them to the taking of the ball into the control or run path of the receiving player. Players were not asking for anything more than that.

The suggested Rule wording

A player who is receiving a falling ball and who plays the ball when it is above shoulder height, must bring the ball down to ground and/or into his or her own control, safely.

A ball that is above shoulder height must not be hit, hit at or deflected away from the receiver beyond what is necessary to put it into his or her own run-path – that is to where it may be chased and collected immediately and cannot endanger or be directly contested for by opponents before it is rolling along the ground.

The making of passes to other players by hitting or deflecting away a ball when it is still above shoulder height is prohibited.

Intentional raising of the ball with a hit is separately prohibited by Rule 9.9.and this Rule applies even when the ball is already in the air.

Any playing of a ball that is above shoulder height is prohibited to a player who is in the opponent’s circle – as a result the taking of an above shoulder shot at the goal is also prohibited.

I suppose in the incident below, from the 2012 Olympics (so when any attempt to play the ball at above shoulder height by any player except a defender defending the goal, was illegal), the umpire attempted to allow ‘advantage’ when the ball went up off the goalkeeper. But allowing ‘advantage’ (even when appropriate, which was not the case in this example as the potential for subsequent dangerous play was obvious) should not permit the allowed play-on to ignore other Rules. Again it does not matter what the Rules are if they are not applied or incorrectly applied. It is amazing that the umpire did not notice attempts by more than one GB player to hit the ball when it was above shoulder height and also missed dangerous use of the stick which forced opponents to take evasive action to avoid being hit in the face with a stick.


A properly framed Rule would recommend the award of a free to the attack on the 23m line when there was such a deflection up off the goalkeeper’s protective equipment or another defender’s stick. Before the era of awarding a penalty corner for any accidental incident involving defenders – such as the accidental trapping of the ball in a goalkeeper’s equipment – this kind of incident was dealt with in a much fairer way, the award of a bully 5yds from the circle edge, but this was presumably not considered to be exciting or spectacular enough for modern tastes: fairness rather than severe penalty has long been forgotten. The GB team were awarded a goal instead of being penalised for the several incidents of dangerous play they were guilty of.

The oft made assertion, that high level players have the skill and levelheadedness not to behave in a dangerous way when under a falling ball that could be contested for, is an obvious nonsense. There is no shortage of video clips showing examples of dangerous contesting for a falling ball by players in international level matches – or of umpires failing to take appropriate action to deter or prevent such play.

The action in the video from a match played at a time when above shoulder playing of the ball was prohibited (unless defending an on target shot at the goal). The ball was deflected high into the PAK circle off the stick of a PAK defender and was falling to an ENG player in space, when a PAK player closed on the ENG player from beyond 5m of his position and attempted to play at the ball with his stick above his head. The ENG player put under this pressure was obliged to play at the ball (shoot at the goal) immediately. Initially a goal was awarded but the PAK team asked for video referral citing above shoulder playing of the ball by the ENG player. The video umpire’s recommendation was to cancel the goal award.

If the ENG player did hit the ball at above shoulder height a goal could not have been awarded, but what was the correct and fair decision? Certainly not a 15m to the PAK team; there were two offences by a PAK player prior to the taking of the shot by the ENG player. A penalty stroke and a yellow card for the PAK defender could have been recommended but earlier intervention by the match umpire would have prevented the dangerous play (What would be fair and correct, a free ball from where the deflection occurred or a penalty corner for play leading to a potentially dangerous situation? The Rule is unclear about penalty and needs revision).

Allowing the playing of the ball at above shoulder height has not improved this sort of situation, under current Rule there would still be a deflection leading to a potentially dangerous situation and an encroaching offence by the PAK defender.…ying-of-the-ball/