The number and positioning of match officials.


On 19th June 2018 on the website the following article was published.- see link:


JUNE 18, 2018, 10:21 A.M. (ET)
By Steve Horgan, USA Field Hockey’s Director of Umpiring

In our fast-paced world of instant communication, social media, internet speeds and cell phone video, the game of field hockey is also moving at warp speed. The game has become so fast with skills from the players never imagined before.That the umpiring mechanics on positioning must change just to keep up with it. With the addition of video review at the top FIH Levels and now domestically at the NCAA level, umpires will need to learn different angles and sight lines in order to have the best chance of getting the calls correct. Thus, eliminating the frequency of reviews or questioning by players in crucial situations mainly inside the circle.

The teachings from years ago had umpires taking a path of running down the “alley” and curving into the circle just ahead of the play as it comes toward them. The first change is that there is no more “alley” as the rules have basically eliminated that aspect of the game. The second change is the need for umpires to take a more direct path toward the circle as the play enters the 25-yard area. The past teaching also instructed umpires to “anticipate” the play, but did not actually give the guidance on how to do this. The new thinking on anticipation is based not only on the actions of the players, but also angles and sight lines to be created by umpires. After analysis of the video review process at the top level, it was determined that the number of video reviews and umpire misjudgments was directly due to umpires moving into a “hot spot,” or place to make a decision instead of being there comfortably to make that crucial decision. Even though this analysis was done with video review, it was determined that the same mistakes or misjudgments are made during games with no video review. When the video review or camera shows a decision, especially inside the circle, there have been way too many times that the umpire is not in the picture. Therefore, more than likely, they are not close enough or not at the right angle to make a clear judgement of the situation.

To make this new concept on umpire positioning work, there will be a number of “old school” ways of thinking that will need to change. First, the distance between umpires will increase as both will look more to protect their circle versus an over concentration on the midfield. The midfield cannot be lost in this concept. Umpires will be required to make some decisions from a little more distance than they are used to in the center of the field.

Second, with the speed of the game and the constant turnaround of play, umpires will need to stay in their circle longer before traveling up field behind the play. Instead of immediately heading out of the circle on an arc toward the sideline and up, a more direct straight path up field should be used, provided the space is open. If this space is occupied, then there is more of a chance of the ball returning inside the 25-yard area, which would mean more importance to stay closer to the circle than before. Going wide actually creates more distance from the play for umpires. So, a more direct path will actually keep the umpire closer to the play.

Third, as the play comes out from the opposite 25-yard area, umpires are being instructed to be about one-quarter of the field ahead. Thus, at or across the midfield line as the ball crosses the opposite 25-yard line and across the attacking 25-yard line as the ball crosses the midfield line. At USA Field Hockey, we have been teaching to stay ahead of the play as it comes toward you, knowing this may not always be possible. With this new concept there will be more consistency in being ahead and in the right position to make the crucial circle decisions.

Finally, the idea that the trail umpire “must” be down to the opposite 25-yard line area to “help” their partner is not going to fit this model. The trail umpire is primarily responsible for watching off the ball and can do so quite affectively from a little farther away, while protecting the coverage of their half of the field. No umpire is super human or fit enough to keep up with the ball or the way today’s players transition from defense to attack. Therefore, umpires will need a bigger headstart than ever before to be in their circle for the crucial decisions sooner.

With this innovative concept to umpiring, it will take some time for players, coaches and especially umpires to get used to.

Umpires will be looking to create new sight lines from more inside the field than normal and will have to be fitter and more aware of the player’s intentions to keep up with the speed of the game. This is not a concept of less movement or less need to be fit. Actually, if the umpire is in sync with the game and adhering to these concepts, it will create more movement, but less strenuous movement to achieve the goal of being in the right place, at the right time with less stress to make the correct decision.


I have a very different solution to suggest as I don’t feel that anything new or very useful is presented in the above article; much of it reminds me of the situation when off-side could occur only from the (sic) 23m line and that finished in 1997. I think the idea is full of ‘holes’, even contradictions, and we would still have large areas of the field, particularly those on the side of the pitch opposite the umpires and in mid-field, ‘controlled’ from distances of 50m or more (and never less than 30m when the ball is near the left sideline or the half-way line) – making the judgement of obstruction and of contact offences in these areas extremely difficult because of the need to judge the possibility of offence from viewpoints where the foreshortening of distances between players and between a player and the ball (causing opposite problems) is inevitable: these offences are already, in general, very poorly judged. The incident in the video below takes place on the umpire’s side of the pitch and within the 23m area, but even so, largely because of his positioning, he gets the decision completely wrong – possibly a case of umpiring by sound rather than by sight (although he may just have been unaware of the Obstruction Rule – that would not be unusual).

I don’t in any case believe that positioning an umpire close to the right-hand goal-post when play is in his or her circle to be efficient, especially in matches where there are video umpire facilities.That the FIH are trying to remedy the current deficiencies in umpire positioning and the mistakes that arise because of them is however, welcome. The video below shows examples of some of the problems which occur even when umpires are in the currently recommended positions well ahead of the play.

It is noteworthy that the disengaged umpire, positioned near the half-way line in the above video, made no signal in any of the incidents, when “too high – dangerous” signals would have been of assistance to the engaged umpire.

Current Rule

Rule 11 Conduct of play: umpires

Action Amendment

Reason. Two officials are insufficient for there to be an official reasonably close to action around the ball at all times

Current Rule

11.1 Two umpires control the match, apply the Rules and are the judges of fair play.

11.2. Each umpire has primary responsibility for decisions in one half of the field for the duration of the match.

11.3. Each umpire is responsible for decisions on free hits in the circle, penalty corners, penalty strokes and goals in one half of the field.


This is not ‘cast in iron’ other suggestions are welcome.


11.1. An umpire and four flag-officials control a match and ensure that it is played fairly and according to the Rules of Hockey.

The umpire positions and moves in the area between the two shooting circles.

11.2. The umpire has primary responsibility for all decisions.

11.3. Each flag official is responsible for bringing to the umpire’s attention (flagging) a) breaches of Rule b) confirmation of or dissent about any decision made and c) any other matter which may require intervention.

Each flag official is responsible for patrolling one quarter of the playing field and will move in an arc between the near goalpost and the halfway line in that quarter, depending on which team is attacking and on the positioning of the other flag-official on that side of the field. There should generally be achieved at least a three-point view of play on the ball and all play should be viewed from close range by at least one official.

This suggestion is not feasible for application in the majority of club hockey matches simply because there are already insufficient ‘bodies’ available for more than two officials. But at the higher levels, where there exists competition for appointment, it is feasible. The position of flag official could be a useful introduction to high level umpiring or a position an umpire coach mentoring other match officials could occupy. There is however a possible alternative, the introduction of a third umpire running the area between the circles; with two umpires, the central umpire and one other, always confirming for each other the award of a goal or a penalty corner; this could also be an interim step in the introduction of five pitch officials. Too many? Have you counted the number of officials around the court in a top level tennis match – each with far less difficult tasks?


The Tournament Regulations for video referral also require a radical overhaul – see comment with video.




There is too, I believe, need for the introduction of a second whistle to restart the game after it has been stopped to award penalty. I re-present below an article with videos that I wrote some time ago with that suggestion.

A suggested rewrite of a Rule of Hockey

The current Rule 1.4.d

use all the available tools for control

Action. Amendment. Addition The introduction of a second whistle to restart play when play has been stopped to award penalty.

Reason. Clarification. Improvement of control.


The headings below could be greatly expanded for umpire coaching purposes but the primary purpose here is to propose the introduction of a ‘second whistle’ so I will focus on that proposal and the reasons for it.

Rule 1.4.d. Know how to use all the available control techniques (tools).

Positioning     Presence     Body Language     Timing     Whistle     Signals     Voice     Cards

Second whistle.

When a free-ball or other penalty is awarded, play will recommence with a second whistle signal, the first whistle signal having been made to interrupt play and signal penalty. The second whistle signal will be given immediately the umpire is satisfied that the ball is stationary and in the correct position.

The giving of the second whistle signal will not be delayed because players of the team the free is awarded against have not retreated or are not retreating to attempt to get 5m from the ball. If there is such failure to comply with the Rule requirements from the team the free has been awarded against, further umpire intervention and more severe penalty may be required.

Whenever there is a free ball awarded the team about to take it will (as at present) be required to start with the ball in the correct (an acceptable) position and to make the ball stationary. Players sometimes try to gain an unfair advantage by not complying with one or other or neither of these requirements (see videos below). It is far easier and quicker to ensure compliance before such contravention occurs than to stop play and to reset or reverse a free-ball or re-start. One way to do this (not previously attempted) is to make it impossible to continue play until there is compliance.

The utterly absurd allowing of raising the ball by the ESP player into a BEL opponent and then charging into that opponent as he tried to play the ball (two offences) was obviously not properly seen by either umpire (positioning point above) The ridiculous decision by the video umpire (the commentators got it right in a shorter time), supports the introduction of a second whistle as the decision probably hinged on when (following what action) the self-pass was deemed to have been taken.

At present the umpire blows the whistle to signal intervention to award penalty and gives an hand-arm signal to indicate in which direction a free ball has been awarded. Only if the ball is not made stationary or is not placed reasonably close to where it should have been placed when the free is taken will the umpire need to take further action. But sometimes necessary further action, because of non-compliance is not taken, when it should be.

This video, below, is an example of a situation where obliging an umpire to ensure there was Rule compliance and then – and only then – blowing the whistle for a second time to permit play to recommence could have ensured fair play.

The positioning of the ball for what was supposed to have been a 15m ball and the number of touches made before the restart was considered taken are both matters for concern in the following incident. (The umpire then compounded this sloppiness by awarding a free ball to the Spanish side, penalising the ball-body contact of the New Zealand player, instead of, as he should have, awarding a free to the New Zealand team because of the dangerous play of the Spanish player.).

Example. of the ball not being stopped at all when a free-ball (at 15m) was awarded for an infringement within the circle.

In the following incident there was no attempt to make the ball stationary before the self-pass was taken and a team-mate of the taker was not 5m from the ball (a requirement in the 23m area) – defenders were given no opportunity to get 5m from the ball.

The umpire below fails to enforce compliance to the Free Hit Rules, in effect manufacturing the conditions for the penalty corner he then awarded.

Below. The player taking the awarded free below does not allow the defender to retreat from the ball – immediately charging directly into him and then deliberately playing the ball into his feet. (at the time there were some very strange ‘interpretation’ about direction of retreat being applied – and such forcing of contact was an offence)

Below. Play at frantic speed, with neither side attempting to comply to 5m requirements – which caused a break-down in play much longer than a properly taken free ball would have done.

Below. Not retreating the full 5m can be employed as a means to delay play and pack the defence when a free ball is awarded – perhaps an objection to the introduction of a second whistle – but the use of a second whistle ensures opponents are 5m away and the umpire has clear indication when compliance is not taking place and may, where appropriate, upgrade the penalty or award a personal penalty.


In the above and many more similar incidents, some of which would have required telepathy for the players to immediately know in which direction they should be moving, a second whistle would do much to ensure fair play. There is some appalling unpenalised play in the following video. Play that demonstrates the ineffectiveness of distant umpires and poor control of the taking of penalties.…-match-officials/


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