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 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.

Now a Rule needs to be framed around those 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 level-headedness 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 match 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/

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