Archive for July, 2018

July 31, 2018

Utterly wrong and absolutely right


Edited 4st Aug 2018.

The Hockey paper has published a longer second (and I think objectionable) opinion piece on the shootout decision by Michelle Joubert, that decided the match between Belgium and Spain at the Women’s World Cup. I have added it at the foot of this article with a comment.

The first article and my comment

By The Hockey Paper Rob Gilmour

Belgium’s Red Panthers were denied the chance of a World Cup quarter—final berth in controversial fashion as Spain advanced in a tense shoot out on Tuesday.

With the scores locked at 3—2 to Spain in sudden death, and after 12 shuttles, Louise Versavel had to score to keep Belgium in the game.

But with her back to goal in the D she was adjudged to have backed into Spanish goalkeeper Maria Ruiz by umpire Michelle Joubert and the game ended abruptly.

With no video referral forthcoming, Belgium remonstrated with Joubert leaving Spain, who achieved fourth in 2006, to celebrate wildly-

It did seem a particularly harsh decision given that the same obstruction ‘offence’ would generally be considered legal on the field during normal play.

However the FIH said in a statement to The Hockey Paper that video referral regulations do not allow the umpire to refer decisions of this nature, while “the footage shows the Belgium player backing into the Spain goalkeeper which is an obstruction-”

“Our world cup ends here, this is sport,” tweeted the Red Panthers account on social media.

The decision marred an othenwise drab play-off game after it had finished 0-0 at full-time_ Germany now play Spain in the last eight.


The umpire’s decision to penalise the BEL striker for obstruction was correct and I have to take issue with this mischievous and wildly inaccurate statement.

“It did seem a particularly harsh decision given that the same obstruction ‘offence’ would generally be considered legal on the field during normal play.”

It is never acceptable play, that is, within the Rules (legal) for a player in possession of the ball to move to impose her body between the ball and an opponent, to shield the ball with her body, and then to back into contact with that opponent. There are in fact three offences committed obstruction (Rule 9.12), physical contact (Rules 9.3) and impeding (9.4). but all of the described actions are specifically prohibited within the Explanation of Application of the Obstruction Rule. The fact that this combination of offences is frequently not penalised should be a scandal. It is ridiculous that when an umpire does penalise this combination correctly she is lambasted for it. The fault is with hockey coaches who encourage this sort of illegal play and have not instructed their teams in the Rules of the game – and of course with umpires who fail to penalise when they should do so and have created a false culture of ‘acceptance’ or even the impression that there has been a change made to the Rule or to the Interpretation of the Rule – a change that only the FIH Rules committee can make – and they have not done so..

I don’t understand why a video referral is considered not possible. “Did the attacker move to position herself between the goalkeeper and the ball?” is a question that is objective and the answer, which is observable, is a simple “Yes” or “No”. In the same way “Did the attacker back into the goalkeeper while shielding the ball from her?” and “Did the attacker make contact with the goalkeeper?” Are straightforward “Yes” or “No” questions. No subjective judgement is required to answer any of these questions: they could all be correctly answered simply by looking at video replay of the action.

The response from the FIH vis-a-vis subjectivity of decision concerning referral of the above incident is interesting with regard to questions concerning ball-body contact which the umpire has not seen – technically, if the FIH statement is true, a video umpire cannot accept such questions because a ball-body contact offence depends on two subjective criteria, intent or advantage gained. But I have never seen or heard of a ‘question’ like “They are asking for a penalty corner for a foot in the circle” rejected by a video umpire as an unsuitable or unacceptable question. Such ‘questions’ should of course be rejected.

By The Hockey Paper Rob Gilmour
 The second article

Not surprisingly, the first shoot out of the Vitality Women’s World Cup created the tournament’s first genuine controversy. With Louise Versavel needing to score to keep Belgium alive, the enormously experienced umpire Michelle Joubert, awarded a free hit against the Belgian attacker for obstruction on the Spanish goalkeeper. Spain are now in the semi-finals.

There has been plenty of conjecture as to whether the decision was correct. To me, there wasn’t enough for it to have crossed the ‘obstruction’ line but on the other hand, a far greater authority, the multiple Olympic and World Cup umpire Peter Wright, said on Twitter that the decision was spot on.

But whether the decision was right or wrong doesn’t really seem to be the issue. What seems far more relevant is why Michelle Joubert chose to blow the whistle and not wait until the play ended, one way or another.

By deciding to intervene before any shot or save was made, Joubert, for all her experience, put herself into the still precarious territory of being perceived as the match decider. Had the play been allowed to continue, the onus would have stayed on the players as well as allowing Joubert to stay true to a couple of age-old, but still important, umpiring principles.

Obstruction or not, a shot over the back-line or cleared by the goalkeeper, would have meant no decision to make. Relatively speaking we then wouldn’t have known the umpire was there. Had a goal been scored, the umpire, having sensed a possible obstruction, could have used her referral. At least she would have ensured that she only had to blow the whistle when she had to.

As it was, the play was cut short not for an obvious foot or back of the stick but for a subjective decision with both players still in the contest for the ball. Belgium, having used their own review, were then doubly frustrated that Joubert would not review the decision herself but, in her defence, that would have raised a new set of issues.

Not only was it reasonable for Joubert to be 100% confident in her decision but umpire reviews are not intended to be prompted by aggrieved teams who have used up their own referral. Unfortunately, though, this turned an already messy situation into a fully-blown controversy.

And it is this point that is far more important than whether Louise Varsavel was backing into the Spanish goalkeeper or not. With no extra time and double the number of knockout games, umpires need to be experts in understanding and managing shootouts.

To that end, surely they should be allowed to use all the resources they have available to help them reach their decisions. So rather than just using referrals in shootouts as it is used in normal time, maybe it makes more sense for the for the Video Umpire to go and grab a cup of tea and let the umpires to use the replays in shootouts for themselves?

How much better would it have been for everyone had Joubert been able to just signal for a possible breach, and then four seconds later as the play had finished, use one of the conveniently placed big screens, as referees do in Rugby Union, to review her decision, if it was still needed?

Referrals to the Video Umpire are great for situations where the speed or congestion of the play have made life difficult for the one umpire in their circle but the simple fact is that shootouts rarely throw up those type of problems.

Not only do hockey shoot outs have one umpire perfectly positioned to watch the two competing players right in front of them but unlike in normal play, the other umpire is standing just as far away on the other side of the circle. Surely those two people, with the added advantage of having been right next to the live action as it happened, are better placed to work out the right decision from exactly the same replays that the Video Umpire has access to?

Obstruction or not, the conclusion to the tournament’s first shoot out was untidy and unsatisfactory and in its current form, there’s nothing to say that the same sort of scenario won’t happen again.

Shoot outs are an exciting, competitive conclusion to matches but they will only be better than the lottery of penalty strokes if we increase the chances for the on-field umpires to make the right calls.

The Editor of the Hockey Paper does not seem to be able to accept that the right call was made. This correct decision was also made at exactly the right time, was immediately the offence occurred. Given that playing advantage was not an option (which he obviously does not understand – Advantage is not allowed to the player who is seen to commit an offence but to her opponent, if that is possible.), . There could have been no possible advantage to the Spanish goalkeeper in allowing play to continue (the only reason to delay a decision)

The other thing he has not been able to grasp, although it has been explained in the first article above (which I brought to his attention), is that obstruction was not in this case a subjective decision. When a player in possession of the ball backs into physical contact with an opponent, whether or not the opponent is at the time trying to play at the ball (the only subjective judgement that might be needed to be made during obstructive play) is irrelevant.

Obstruction is here (and usually) about the player in possession of the ball illegally preventing an opponent from attempting a legitimate tackle. Physical contact is in all cases where it occurs an additional offence that has nothing to do with whether or not an opponent is trying to play at the ball at the time of the offence. Whether or not there has been physical contact is not a subjective decision – when it occurs it is an objective fact – and it’s seen or it’s not seen by the match umpire.

Of course Peter Wright backs the decision Michelle Joubert made. We have one Olympic and World Cup level umpire backing the decision of another Olympic and World Cup Umpire (when he need not have done so) Rob Gilmour is not as far as I know a hockey umpire. 

Michelle Joubert was voted by her peers to be the best female umpire in the world in 2016. Is it the fact that the word ‘female’ is contained in that accolade that made the editor of The Hockey Paper forget that Michelle Joubert is also an Olympic and World Cup level umpire? That ought really get people annoyed. I’m not known for singing the praises of umpires (which is of course an understatement), I have even had caustic things to say about some of the decisions that Peter Wright has made, and I was critical of Michelle Joubert for a ‘brain fade’ on a high ball, in an incident during the same match, which I related in reply to the first article above, (no umpire is perfect as the late George Croft often remarked), but when an umpire is right she is right – Michelle Joubert was right to give the decision she did in the BEL v ESP shootout.

I make my criticisms of umpiring ‘practice’ when that ‘practice’ does not comply with the published Rules of Hockey, Mr Gilmore appears to believe (and he is not alone) that ‘accepted practice’ (no matter what it may be) should (or does) over-rule Rule, which in a shootout at least, would (does) lead to a player turning her back to a goalkeeper and, with impunity, barging her aside.

My hope is that many more umpires will now (following Joubert’s good example) deal with obstructive play correctly, and coaches and players will rethink the tactic of turning to position between a goalkeeper and the ball during a shootout – and other opponents at other times – especially when they then back into the playing reach of an opponent who is intent on playing at the ball (clearly obstruction) and even go so far as to make physical contact (an additional offence).

July 29, 2018

If only….only if.


Rule 9.11 Ball-body contact and the related advice from the 2017 Umpire Manager’s Briefing in shouting size with colour highlights.

The above Rule is very simple and the Explanation about how it is to be applied is reasonably straightforward, ‘reasonable’ depending on what is interpreted to be an advantage. So why is the application of Rule 9.11 so abysmally badly carried out in practice?

I think it indicative of the attitude taken to the Rules of Hockey by the Umpiring Committee that the text in the Rules is said, in the UMB, to reinforce the existing interpretation – instead of, as it should, declaring that the interpretation follows the text of the Rule and Explanation. Rules are not intended to reinforce interpretations that have arisen via umpire practice, umpires are supposed to be applying the Rules of Hockey, not making them, and the Explanation of application must, if there is to be consistency, be regarded as instruction, not just as advice or recommendation. But at least it is clearly stated in the UMB that the player only commits an offence if they gain advantage. Is that clear or does it in fact ‘plant’ the words “the player only commits an offence“? The above Rule Explanation, if it is read at all, appears to be ‘skimmed’ and applied as follows.

It is always an offence if the ball hits the foot of a field player. The player commits an offence if they stop the ball with their body.

The UMB leaves out the criterion of intentional ball-body contact, as well it might even if that should not have been left out, intentional ball-body (ball-foot) contact occurs about once in a thousand instances of such contact, if that. The gaining of an advantage following a ball body contact occurs in possibly 50% of instances but probably far less than that as the player is usually occupied trying to avoid being hit with the ball and if the player is hit the ball can rebound in any direction. Which team benefits is generally similar to the result of a coin toss, but it may be neither team, the ball might just run loose so that it can be evenly contested for. But a player who has been hit with the ball is penalised for ball-body contact in at least 95% of instances.

If, as seems to be the case, umpire coaches are striving to “take the whistle out of the game”, penalising ball-body contact only when it ought to be penalised would be an excellent way to achieve that aim.

Here (video below) is an example of an umpire, during the 2017 Women’s European Cup Final, BEL v NED,  accepting a video referral from the NED team claiming a ball-foot contact. I suppose that, because the match umpire obviously could not make these judgements, not having seen the incident, intent to make contact or advantage gained from doing so would have to have been left to the judgement of the video umpire, even though video umpires are not supposed to make these subjective judgements (see Tournament Regs. Appendix 15) – but only to make recommendation to the match umpire based on what is seen – which seems to me to be a contradiction which places both the match umpire and the video umpire in an impossible position: but on we go.



The BEL goalkeeper deflects the ball with her stick onto the foot of a defender positioned very close to her. This was an unintentional contact by the BEL defender, she could not avoid being hit. The ball then deflects away from the hit defender, was missed by a NED attacker – who immediately ran to the umpire to request a video referral – the ball then continues into the possession of another NED attacker without a BEL player being able to gain possession of it. The NED player then in possession passed the ball to a team-mate and an attack on the BEL  goal proceeded, but was halted by the umpire who had stopped time for the video referral. Naturally the video umpire confirmed there was a ball-foot contact and a penalty corner was ‘automatically’ awarded.

(What would have happened if the NED team had played the ball into the BEL goal before time was stopped, but while one of their number was occupying the attention of the umpire with a video referral request?)

Why didn’t the video umpire see and report that the BEL team had gained no advantage from the ball leg contact of one of its defenders. It is in any case unlikely that a team will gain an advantage following the disadvantage of having their goalkeeper play the ball into the body/legs of one of her own team. A gain of advantage became an impossibility when the ball then deflected off that defender into the possession of a member of the opposing NED team and the NED team were then able to play on and make an attack on the BEL goal. That the NED player closest to the defender failed to intercept the ball is irrelevant, the NED team gained an advantage so the BEL team could not have done so – therefore no offence occurred. I can see that from the play and I trust that anybody looking at the incident with an impartial eye would also. The answer to my question is I believe, that it is likely that this trained video umpire did not bother to look beyond the fact that ball contact with the leg of a BEL defender had occurred. Penalty just flowed, automatically and incorrectly, from the fact of ball-leg contact

What happened in this incident is pretty much the standard ignoring of the Explanation of Application given with Rule 9.11. thereby ignoring the criteria for a ball body contact offence to have occurred. The BEL team gained no advantage from the contact, on the contrary, if the ball-foot contact had not occurred the ball deflected by the goalkeeper would I believe have run to another BEL player further away from her and not into the possession of the NED player it was deflected towards off the BEL defender. That could have been ascertained in less than three seconds following the contact.

The umpire could correctly have penalised the ball shielding of the NED right flank player prior to her passing the ball into the goalmouth, a pass which led to the goalkeeper deflecting the ball away from the goal-line. But ignoring ball shielding is also pretty much standard practice – which is why ball shielding at every opportunity is standard practice for players. This is an area where the whistle really has been taken out of the game – almost completely.

Is there something beyond the reach of translation or beyond literal interpretation of word meaning in the text of Rule 9.11 and the Explanation provided with it? Are the words ‘only’ and ‘if’ being made to do too much work? Could the Rule be reworded so that it ceases to be so badly applied? How about Ball-body contact is not an offence unless the player hit with the ball…. But I think not, almost everything, including various rewording of the same criteria, has already been tried without making any difference whatsoever to ‘practice’. 

“Ball-body (foot) contact is an offence” is a meme, which umpires have been unable to get out of their heads for thirty or more years, despite the considerable efforts of the HRB and the FIH Rules Committee to get them to change that approach. It is a meme which will be heard repeated in every explanation of the Rules of Hockey offered by contributors to YouTube (including England Hockey), in many an International level player stands before the camera and informs viewers that this is a fact.  This ‘fact’ was also contained in the video made by the FIH, to give an idea of the Rules of the game to people who might be watching hockey for the first time during the WWC.

That raising the ball from close range into the legs or body of an opponent is always an offence is very rarely mentioned (perhaps because seeing an umpire penalise a player so hit, which is common, would confuse viewers?). 

I believe an entirely new approach to ball-body contact is required.

July 27, 2018

Back-sticks Question

and a rant about obstruction.

The text below is taken from a part copy of the article by Todd Williams (link above) which was re-published on on 27th July 2018.

All four teams can still progress and three of the four (Australia, NZ and Japan) are fighting to top the pool and go straight through to the quarter-finals.

The margins are tight, every point and, in all possibility, every goal will be important in determining who progresses and who has to play in the, wait for it, pre-quarter-final cross-over elimination games, for finishing second or third.

The stakes at a World Cup are, as you would expect, as high as they get.

The preparation has been extensive and intensive but that of course doesn’t guarantee anything. Part of the appeal of sport is the fact that luck will play its part; whether that be the bounce of the ball or the shot off the post or goalkeeper that goes in or stays out.

Umpiring decisions also come into that category and there will always be, and should be, moments in sport where the interpretation of the umpire determines in what direction the play should go.

That said, the successful and effective introduction of the Video Umpire into top-level hockey has given teams at least one opportunity to question whether or not they’ve been on the wrong end of the stick from a big decision.

Seeing goal, penalty stroke and penalty corner decisions questioned and then overturned is now common place and all teams are aware of the need to use their referral, particularly early in the game, with care.

Critically, with the sheer speed of the game, as well as the congestion and intensity of the attacking circle, it makes absolute sense that on-field umpires have this extra resource to help them get as many of the big decisions correct.

That is why, sensibly, umpires also have the ability to make their own referrals when they sense that something they were initially sure about needs a second look.

With all these points in mind, doesn’t it seem a little bit crazy that the final make-up of Pool D, including which team’s tournament finishes then and there, could come down to a goal that was clearly scored off the back of the stick?

By pure coincidence, this conversation actually started on day one, with Japan’s second goal against Australia. With the umpire quite rightly allowing an excellent advantage instead of awarding a penalty stroke, Akiko Kato swept the ball on her reverse into the goal.

The only trouble was the replay showed that it almost certainly had been hit flush, not even off the edge, but with the whole back of the stick. Given that the game was into the last minute and Australia still had a referral, it seemed strange that they didn’t go the Video Umpire.

Barring the extraordinary, they had nothing to lose and, if successful, they might have just saved a goal which, as it has transpired could be worth its weight, if not in gold, in reaching the quarter-finals.

According to one of the Australian coaching staff, this was a rare self-confessed “brain fade” from the Hockeyroos wonderful goalkeeper Rachel Lynch.

The big question for all umpires out there though is what would the decision have been had the referral been upheld? Back to the penalty stroke or a free hit out?

While bettering your goal difference is one thing, gaining a point from a draw is another level altogether and that is why it would be understandable if Black Sticks coach Mark Hager had a polite word of concern to the Umpire’s Manager about Japan’s second goal in their 2-1 loss to Japan.

With NZ pressing for an equaliser, a speculative aerial was intercepted and played forward to Minami Shimazu who rounded the goalkeeper and, on her reverse, hit the ball into the open goal.
The trouble was, as players and umpires through most grades now know, when the ball had been hit by Shimazu, it had risen off the ground with the tell-tale looped trajectory that was slower than the speed of the swing and which almost always means that it’s been “topped” by the back of the stick.

Despite that, the umpire awarded the goal and although NZ scored four minutes later, Japan held on for a hard fought win.

Now, let me first of all say that none of this is Japan’s fault and nor am I questioning the ability of the umpire. It does however seem crazy and somewhat inconsistent that with the use of video at hand, we are talking about such an important goal being allowed to stand when, had NZ been able to refer it, it would almost certainly have been reversed.

I also take the argument that NZ had played their referral card and lost but back of the stick, just like the ball coming off the foot, is the equivalent of football’s hand ball and whether it’s Diego Maradona or Thierry Henry, we all know the justifiable uproar that has caused over the years.

After watching the extraordinary over-complication of VAR at FIFA’s World Cup, I couldn’t imagine for a second finding myself wondering if hockey should adopt any of their methods but maybe this shows that the VU checking the goal that has been awarded and letting the umpire know if there is a problem isn’t a bad idea.

Again, I’m happy to side with the umpire and say that the speed and angle of the play and the crowd noise has prevented her from seeing and hearing the critical clues of incorrect contact but surely we want goals scored with the correct side of the stick, no matter how close or open the goal is.

That is like reading the published views of a 16th Century Skeptic who knew he would be burned at the stake, for stating in plain language and spreading to others, what he really believed.

Does crowd noise prevent seeing?

I find it odd that Todd Williams should write an article about back-sticks and umpiring, especially in relation to Tournament positions at the pre-Quarter Final stage of a World Cup when we recently had a Commonwealth Games Final between Australia and India decided on the failure of an umpire to penalise an intentionally raised hit pass from outside the circle – which is a clear offence – a pass from which the only, and therefore the winning goal, was scored by the Australians with a volley hit from that raised pass . A Tournament Final decided on a combination of cheating and incompetence – where was the protest? Is that umpire in retraining? Are the players (especially the Indian players who should have asked for a video referral and clearly stated why they were doing so) being taught the Rules of the game? The Indian team were under pressure for much of the match and did not at any time seem likely to win, but they did not deserve to lose like that, through the carelessness of an official.

Clip of incidents in the JAP v GER match]

I have studied the video highlights clip presented within the article, made a slow motion excerpt of the relevant part and also taken frame by frames stills from it. The first thing that needs to be said is that the video quality and frame rate are such that it is impossible to be certain about anything concerning the striking of the ball. The second, is that I can see no evidence at all that the Japanese player struck the ball with the back of her stick-head. The flight of the ball looks consistent with an edge-hit and perfectly normal in that context. I have no idea how Todd Williams arrived at “a goal that was clearly scored off the back of the stick.”

So what to do about the potential back-stick problems? That’s easy, delete the offence.

“Back-sticks’ is no longer sensibly an offence; and if it is possible to abolish the prohibition on above shoulder playing of the ball and, before that, Rule concerning the raising of any part of the stick above the shoulder, it is simply part of ‘progress’ and common sense, especially when edge hitting has been permitted for years, to allow the ball to be played with any part of the stick. Stick-work would not disappear, in fact it could be expanded, as ball-stick movements not legal now, could be added to the repertoire of those prepared to put in the necessary practice.

In another match, ARG v GER, I cringed as a television commentator, an expert international level player, demonstrated in commentary that she has no awareness of the Obstruction Rule, as she fulsomely praised a GER player for using her body to shield the ball from an opponent. As it happens she was wrong; the GER player collected the ball while facing towards her own goal and then immediately and quickly moved away from her ARG opponent – and the ARG player let her go – allowed her to create ample space to turn on the ball and pass it towards the goal, and from that pass a goal was scored. There was no use of the body to shield the ball in that incident.

Ball shielding is an illegal action carried out when there is an opponent within playing reach of the ball who is demonstrating intent to play at the ball, and who could play at it but for the shielding of it by the body or stick of an opponent – it is specifically prohibited within Rule 9.12.

So back to the JAP V NZ match and an incident shown at the end of the clip. A JAP player in possession of the ball turned to position her body between a close NZ defender and the ball (ball shielding) and then backed into her (a second criterion of obstruction), I am not sure from the video if she made contact but it is possible that she did (a physical contact offence). The NZ player was obliged to move away to give herself room to use her stick to either side of her opponent. The umpire positioned about 3m away saw nothing untoward in the play of the JAP player and allowed play to continue.

I find it absurd that there is ‘hand wringing’ about back-sticks but very few seem to care ‘a toss’ about obstruction. But it is certainly the most important Rule in the book after those concerning dangerous play.

Back-sticks even when there is no attempt from the player doing it to disguise the fact it has occurred, is generally difficult to see and it is frequently impossible to determine if it has taken place, even with video replay. Obstruction on the other hand is usually a full body block – players don’t even much bother with fast and subtle half-turns these days (but see clip below), they are generally blatant and brazen and even slow, when using their body to block off an opponent (also in the clip below).

The only real difficulty, is the speed of the action, the duration of the obstruction. An obstruction that disadvantages an opponent sufficiently to prevent them playing the ball when they would otherwise have been able to do so can occur in a split second – the time it takes a moving opponent who is shielding the ball to have run beyond playing reach. If an attacking player moves her opponent’s goal-side of the ball before she comes to within the playing reach of her opponent and then maintains that position as she moves across her opponent – thus shielding the ball from her as she does so (usually done with the back presented full on to the opponent) – there is no turning action at the position of the defender but there is certainly obstruction.

The video below shows two different kinds of obstruction offence. The first in the first seconds of the clip (and later in slow mo) is by a NED player who runs ahead of the ball and between the ball and an ARG defender. As the ARG defender, unable to play at the ball, accelerates to try to get ahead of her, the NED players slips the ball behind her legs to a team-mate (clever stuff and obviously a rehearsed move). The second obstruction is by an ARG player who simply runs in front of the NED ball holder – between her and the ball -and then props to physically block her off from the ball (rough stuff). I suppose that the umpire played an advantage as the ball ran on to another NED player. I would have awarded a penalty stroke to the NED team for that offence (Oh yes, definitely), if I had not already penalised the first obstruction by the NED team.

So what do we do about this sort of thing? Delete the Obstruction Rule or retrain our umpires and our players?  I can’t accept a deletion of the Obstruction Rule because that would lead to a fundamental change to the playing of the game. Retraining umpires would probably necessitate doing without the services of many of the current FIH Umpire Coaches, for who could retrain them but themselves? They show no sign of changing what they are currently coaching (which is to “take the whistle out of the game” by ignoring Rule breaches).  To apply the Obstruction Rule it is necessary to believe that there is such a thing as obstruction and that it is described in that Rule – and they obviously do not believe these things.

July 25, 2018



Ball body contact. Forcing

World Cup Final 2014. A sports commentator at an outdoor match, perhaps misguided by the notion that if an FIH Umpire applies or fails to apply a Rule in a certain way (using ‘common practice’) then that way must be correct, causes confusion among viewers by lauding a foul by a NED player as if it was a proper and desirable skill, shortly after ‘drilling’ was introduced as an offence in the indoor game.

Below is what the FIH Rules Committee wrote under the heading ‘Rule Changes’ in 2011 in the Rules of Hockey – when ‘forcing’ was deleted as a stand alone offence.

The changes in this edition of the Rules essentially seek to simplify the game without altering its fundamental characteristics.

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

(My apologies that above statements, which remain extant, are more than a year ‘old’ and were given in writing in a previous rule-book – and are therefore ‘black and white’ and ‘ancient history’ – unlike the ‘latest interpretations’, stories of unknown origin, which are passed on by word of mouth – it is difficult to think of a more inaccurate form of communication – or on the Internet, possibly the worse form of cascade because much of it is not attributable and certainly not official opinion).

If an illegal playing action results in penalty in the opposite direction to that which it did (or should have) previously, then there has been a fundamental change to the way in which the game is officiated and therefore played i.e a change in its characteristics. Forcing contact was (and remains) an offence, raising the ball into a player from close range is an offence, playing the ball along the ground (with modest force) into an opponent’s foot has never been considered any offence except a forcing offence. So what is the umpire to do? It is obvious that the statement  because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules is untrue and a case of the Rules Committee not knowing their own Rules, so the grounds for the deletion because..etc..were a nonsense.
There is no mention at all of forcing in the current rule-book, so even the instruction, issued in 2011, that forcing should, where appropriate, be penalised using other Rules is not there to inform today’s umpires, as of course it should be.

However, the aim of simplification was achieved; it is simple to always penalise, no matter what the circumstances, a player who makes a ball-body contact: this is what is happening and it is simple-minded. It does not require though or judgement. “Did the ball hit a foot?” is an objective criterion not a subjective one and nor does it comply with the intent of the Rule, which is to ignore when irrelevant (which is usual) most ball-body contact.

In these incidents from the Rio Olympics (video below) the umpire (after consultation with his college !!!) awarded a second penalty corner (the first having been correctly awarded) because from the shot made from the first penalty corner the ball touched the foot of the goal-line defender (a foot which was sticking out wide of the post) on its way out of play. The shot from the second penalty corner made in the same way as the first also glanced off the defender’s foot in the same position and went out of play- so yet another, a third, penalty corner was awarded. So two penalty corners were awarded, here in direct conflict with instruction given in the Explanation of Rule Application. Such umpiring makes one wonder if these umpires have actually read the Explanation of Application provided with Rule 9.11. They took the time to consult with each other after the first foot contact and still got the decision wrong.

Back to Forcing.

The words “any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules” can only mean in the context, that any forcing action can and should be penalised using other Rules already in place at the time. But by 2014 ‘the interpretation’ (‘practice’) was the opposite, it was always the player forced to ball-body contact who was penalised.

In fact this was also the case prior to 2011, when the forcing (of ball-body contact in particular) was still clearly an offence, by the player doing the forcing. So, as far as umpires were concerned, there was no fundamental change in 2011, when the offence of forcing was deleted, they just kept doing what they had ‘always’ done and misapplied the ball-body contact Rule – often when the forcing action was also clearly dangerous play (a breach of the Explanation of application given with Rule 9.9 because the ball was raised).

At one time (1992) ‘what umpires had always done’ i.e ignored the written Rule or ‘interpreted’ it in a bizarre way (in a way opposite to the way it was intended to be applied) so infuriated the Rules Committee (at the time called the FIH Hockey Rules Board) that the criteria for a ball-body offence was changed to – both deliberately using the body to stop or deflect the ball and the gaining of an advantage (that change to Guidance lasted until 1998).

The 1992 change to the criteria for a ball-body contact offence made no difference whatsoever to the way umpires applied the Rule, they just continued doing exactly as they had done prior to 1992, when the two criteria were – intentional use of the body or a gain of advantage (and they umpired as if any ball body contact always gave an advantage to the player hit with the ball, which was what led to the change made in 1992. That ‘penalise all’ approach to ball-body contact is familiar to us now, in 2022, although still contrary to the Explanation of Application given with the Rule since 2004 and even to the change made in May of 2015).

(‘Gaining a benefit’ was deleted from Rule 9.11 in Jan 2007 – without making any difference at all to umpiring practice, and only reinstated via FIH Executive Circular, as ‘gains an advantage’, in May of 2015, so we have fairly recently completed yet another cycle of the ball-body contact ‘no change to umpiring practice’ merry-go-round.

The most recent development in the forcing and ball-body contact saga has been the introduction (2017) of a ‘drilling’ dangerous play offence in indoor hockey (dangerous forcing using high ball velocity combined with a pivot/spin with the ball from a shielding position – see first video above)- but with no counterpart in the outdoor game – despite a declaration from the FIH that the Rules for the two games will be kept ‘in sync’ as far as is possible. Why this Rule has not been incorporated into the outdoor Rules is a mystery – it’s certainly possible to do it – even desirable. .

The action of the NED player in the first video is a ‘shield, spin and drill’ and the defender had very little chance of avoiding the ball-body contact the attacker intended would result. I can’t see what advantage the defending team gained from the ball-leg contact, so I don’t know why the defender was penalised. The match commentators had no doubt that the forcing of the contact was carried out deliberately, they just had no idea that such forcing is supposed to be penalised (as any forcing may be) under “other Rules” – that is no surprise, this action has never been penalised as it should be and obstruction (illegal ball shielding) has been forgotten about.

‘Drilling’ following a spin-turn from a ball shielding position developed because ball shielding (obstruction) has not been penalised as it should be since around 1994. Here is an example. The obstructed player looks in astonishment at the umpire, as as well he might, when the following forced contact (illegal at the time the match was played in 2010) resulted in his being penalised for ball-foot contact.

The following video shows an attacker deliberately raising the ball into the legs of a defender from within 1m; the ball then deflecting off the defender to the advantage of the attacker (so the defender could not possibly have gained an advantage because the attacker did, the ball-leg contact was clearly not intended by the defender, so according to the Rules of Hockey the defender did not commit an offence). The attacker declined to play on even though he could easily have done so, the umpire (automatically) awarded a penalty corner.

Dangerous play. Forcing.

Dangerous play arising from a dangerously played ball, has not been penalised as it should be since around 2002 (following the publication of ‘The Lifted Ball’ an umpire coaching document, produced in the previous year). There followed in 2004 a number of Rule deletions and amendments which eventually led to the ‘on target shot’ nonsense which surfaced at the Beijing Olympics.

A blatant example (below) of deliberate forcing by an attacker who preferred to ‘win’ a penalty corner rather than attempt to shoot at the goal even though he was in the circle and goal-side of the defender he fouled. This was combined with what is technically dangerous play (the ball propelled at low velocity so unlikely to cause injury, but contrary to Rule 9.9 as it hit the defender, from within 5m – and also at at above knee height – but that latter point is not a criteria for the offence – the Explanation of Application of Rule 9.9. mentions only the raising of the ball towards an opponent, it does not stipulate a minimum height). Penalty corner awarded.


Here below is another blatant example from the 2014 World Cup Final.

The umpire was positioned directly behind the player who was hit with the ball and could have had no idea how high it was raised (it hit the defender on his thigh) but he waved away protest from the NED players. He should however have been aware that the AUS player charged bodily into the NED defender following raising the ball into him, to deny him opportunity to control the ball, obviously a physical contact offence. Why the NED players did not go to video referral I don’t know; bitter experience perhaps, but the goal scored against them from the corner must have been more bitter to swallow. What was laughable about this incident was the amount of trouble the umpire went to to ensure that the ball was placed on the base-line during the penalty corner  before it was inserted. Very close to the line was not good enough: an insistence on technical Rule compliance which was at odds with the seriousness of the deliberate dangerous play/forcing Conduct of Play offence he rewarded the AUS team for. The match commentators saw nothing untoward about the AUS player’s forcing action, the physical contact or the award of a penalty corner against the NED team; they expected the award of the penalty corner the AUS player went ‘looking for’ because there was a ball-body contact. Rule ignorance seems to be obligatory for television match commentators.

Rule 9.9. Explanation of application. Players are permitted to raise the ball with a flick or scoop provided it is not dangerous. A flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5 metres is considered dangerous.

There is a lot of confusion between the above Explanation and the Explanation of application given with Rule 13.3.l. which is about a first shot at the goal during a penalty corner:-

if a defender is within five metres of the first shot at goal during the taking of a penalty corner and is struck by the ball below the knee, another penalty corner must be awarded or is struck on or above the knee in a normal stance, the shot is judged to be dangerous and a free hit must be awarded to the defending team.

In open play, which is subject to Rule 9.9 but not Rule 13.3.l. a ball may not be raised towards (at, into) an opponent within 5m – I repeat there is no minimum height given for that to be a dangerous play offence. The Umpire Mangers’ Briefing (which is not the Rules of Hockey) states that a ball raised into an opponent, in a controlled way, at below half shin-pad height (20cms?) is not dangerous (this statement conflicts with what is given in Rule 9.9 – such conflicts should not happen because they are, despite any liaison between FIH Committees, an unauthorized amendment to written Interpretation – this might be overcome by having FIH Executive approval the contents of the UMB – I would however prefer to see the discontinuation of a published UMB in line with the declaration made in the 2002 rule-book that documents other than the rule-book should be unnecessary for the instruction of umpires). The UMB, while stating what is not dangerous play, is careful to avoid stating what IS dangerous play.

General practice is to (sometimes) penalise for dangerous play only if the ball is raised into an opponent at or above knee height, but there is no Rule support whatsoever for this practice in open play. In the incident shown in the video below the video umpire based her recommendation for a free ball to the AUS team on the ball being played into the AUS defender at knee height. The match commentators were sure a penalty corner would be awarded – so the Rule knowledge of the video umpire was marginally better than that of the commentators, but not correct. There can be no doubt that had the ball been raised into the defender’s shin, rather than into her knee, a penalty corner would have been recommended by the video umpire.

Change. ‘Gains benefit’.

The fundamental characteristics of hockey have been dramatically changed in the last twenty years because of changes to the application of the Rules without there being corresponding changes to the Rules. Some, but very few, of the changes that were made to the Rules have resulted in betterment of the game, however, if applied correctly, many more of them would have done (and fewer changes would have been made necessary). The self-pass is a good example of an opportunity missed, caused first by bizarre umpire ‘interpretations’ (for example,  allowed direction of retreat by opponents) and then by the introduction of unnecessary Rules in relation to it (for example, required moving of the ball 5m before playing it into the circle, which was compelled as a result of the unnecessary Rule that a free ball awarded in the opponent’s 23m area may not be played directly into the circle)

The prohibition on an intentionally raised hit is an example of an unnecessary Rule which led to a need to introduce more Rules and also to the UMB ‘interpretation’ “forget lifted” to circumvent it (why not instead clarify the dangerously played ball Rule by adding objective criteria?)

The ‘gains benefit’ saga is a prime example of an official FIH Rules Committee Rule change being prevented in a way that was without any authority whatsoever.

Due to the ‘generally accepted’ way of applying ‘gains benefit’ prior to 2007, mentioned above, the FIH Rules Committee deleted that criteria for a ball-body contact offence in the Rules of Hockey issued in January 2007 (an opposite approach to the one they took in 1992). In February 2007 Peter von Reth authored an ‘Official Interpretation’ on the FIH website in which he explained (without offering a rational explanation) that he and the Chairman of the FIH Rules Committee and a couple of unnamed others had agreed to the reinstatement of the ‘gains benefit’ clause and it would continue to be applied as it had been applied in 2006.

Here is the explanation for the reversion that was offered:-

The 2005/6 Rules indicated that it was not an offence if the ball hits the foot, hand or body of a field player unless that player or their team benefits from this. However, as with other rules, this continues to be an offence if benefit is gained. Rule 9.11 should therefore continue to be applied taking into account any benefit gained by the player or their team.


 That statement is irrational (and an insult to the intelligence of participants).  Because “unless that player or their team benefits from this” means exactly the same as “if benefit is gained” (the bolding of the word ‘is’ was not explained by the bolding of it), so the entire explanation offered is contained in the words “However” and “Therefore” and justified by “general discussion” and the unspecified feedback apparently received from various parties and a few unidentified National Associations – and given after the change to the Explanation of Rule 9.11. was made public, only three weeks before the above reversal was published. In other words there was (despite the title given to the announcement article) no official explanation or justification (indeed no justification of any sort). In passing it should be noted in relation to (“However, as with other rules, this continues to be an offence if benefit is gained“) that there was and is no Rule, other than ball-body contact, in which ‘benefit gained’ was/is used to determine offence and never has been.

The previous long-term disquiet about the way the Rule was being applied under the 2005/6 Rules of Hockey and those of previous years – the reason for the deletion of ‘gains benefit’ (active from January 2007) made by the FIH Rules Committee , after the usual consultations with all parties when a change is to be proposed to the FIH Executive, had taken place and Executive approval received, was just brushed aside within a month.

The ‘gains benefit’ clause was flawed because it could be used as a blanket ‘catch all’ when badly applied, but it should not have been deleted in its entirety, it should instead have been amended to make it both fair and workable. The deletion was extreme and we were then just forced back to acceptance of a previous extreme, one which had just been deleted by the HRB because ‘gains benefit was generally misapplied – all contact being seen as a gain of benefit.

This type of pendulum swing between extremes is common even in official Rule amendment, we went for example, from pitch length chip hits to a total ban on all intentionally raised hits, except hits made as a shot at the goal – this unrestricted exception being a sick joke if player safety was supposed to be the aim of the change, which banned intentional raising of the ball with a hit. A joke because intentionally raised hits were (and still are) most frequently made as a shot at the goal. The whole thing could have been dealt with by a height limit on any ball raised with a hit – and refined with another limit placed on any ball raised at an opponent with any stroke, even when taking a shot at the goal (and still can be). It is necessary I believe to retain the height limit on the first hit shot at goal made during a penalty corner. There is no reason to height limit any other shot made at the goal that is not made directly at another player, but there are very good reasons to height limit any ball raised directly at another player.


The Advantage Rule, which declares that there is no need to penalise an offence if no advantage is gained by the offending team (opponents are not disadvantaged by the offence) is not the same as the gains advantage statement in Rule 9.11. which in fact converts a ball body contact, that is not an offence, into an offence if benefit is gained by the team of the player hit with the ball. The difference between the Advantage Rule (12.2) and the ‘gains advantage’ clause in the explanation of Rule 9.11 is unnoticed by many umpires and thus advantage is commonly misapplied.


There are still a number of ‘loopy’ Rules in place (as dangerous or nonsensical as the now deleted ‘Own goal’ ) but the biggest danger to players and the future of the game is ‘interpretation’ and ‘common practice’ (umpires on their own or following instruction by their coaches, ‘overruling’ or ignoring the Rules provided by the FIH Rules Committee). It is for example forbidden to make a shot at the goal in a dangerous way (a way that endangers another player – recently and inadvisably  changed to “an opposing player”) during a penalty corner (and by commonsense extension, at any other time during a game) but one would never know that by watching the playing of any hockey match.

Other examples of ‘practice’, are seen in the above videos from some of the most senior umpires in the world – i.e. personal opinion – formed and derived from direction and coaching – that bears no resemblance to the meaning of the wording given in and with the FIH Rules of Hockey. In other words umpires are interpreting words (very badly) instead of interpreting player actions in relation to well understood instructions contained in the Rules of Hockey. Where instruction is not commonly well understood then the issues need to be addressed to the FIH Rules Committee – not subverted in personal ‘interpretations’.

Players, who are required to be aware of the Rules of Hockey and play according to them, have no chance of doing so with the ‘interpretations’ shown above (and I have not mentioned at all the edge-hit ‘clearance’ or the high ‘cross’ into the circle with either the edge-hit or an undercut forehand hit). Players who deliberately breach the Rules, are coached to flout them, get away with doing so because what they are doing has illegally or unconstitutionally become ‘accepted’ and ‘common practice’ within our umpiring culture (penalise a raised hit only if it is dangerous, but see no danger – or disadvantage to opponents – that occurs)  – is a meme of hockey.

July 22, 2018

Playing Advantage


A re posting.

The critical difference between “Play on (no offence)” and playing ‘Advantage’ following a ball-body contact that is an offence

The related Rules and/or Explanation of application.

Rule 9.11. Explanation of application.

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

The above explanation is current and not as it was in 2014 when this match was played. At the time the criteria for offence were a voluntarily made contact or positioning with the intention of stopping or deflecting the ball with the hand, foot or body.

The previous ‘gains benefit’ criterion was deleted from the Rules of Hockey by the FIH Rules Committee on issue of the 2007-9 rule-book in January 2007. However, Mr. Peter von Reth contrived, in February 2007, that the FIH Rules Committee be over-ruled (an impossibility but it happened) and insisted that ‘gains benefit’ continue to be applied as it was in 2006. So although ‘gains benefit’ (as the present “gain an advantage”) was not restored to the Rules of Hockey until January 2016 (active via FIH Circular May 2015), umpires who wanted to progress did as they were told in the intervening eight years – and what the top level umpires were doing was carried by ‘cascade’ to all other levels. The incident in the video can therefore be examined as if current Rule (gain an advantage) should have been applied to it as well as the Explanation extent at the time (voluntarily made contact) because that was what was happening.

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

(”breaking the Rules” is a neat bit of ambiguity introduced apparently with the intention of fudging the distinction – which was previously very clear – between an offence and a breach of Rule which was not an offence, because it did not meet the criteria for offence. This whole confusing mess arising from the deletion of the word ‘intentionally’ from the Rule Proper – Rule 9.11).

The MAS player hit with the ball did not commit an offence but he was in breach of the Rule – a ridiculous situation created by a long sequence of deletions and additions to both the Rule Proper and the Explanation of application (previously Guidance) since the 1980’s (one of which, 1992, required in the Rule Proper, that there be a deliberate ball-body contact – AND an advantaged gained by the contact. None of various versions produced by the HRB/FIH RC over the past thirty plus years have made the slightest difference to the way umpires ‘interpreted’ ball-body contact – and that continues to be the case).

12.3 A penalty corner is awarded :
a for an offence by a defender in the circle which does not prevent the probable scoring of a goal

There was no offence

2.2 Advantage :
a it is not necessary for every offence to be penalised when no benefit is gained by the offender ; unnecessary interruptions to the flow of the match cause undue delay and irritation.

There was no offence to penalise but had the MAS player intentionally made contact with the ball in this incident (an offence) then ‘advantage’ could have been played.  It would be illogical to assert that both players/teams had gained advantage following a single ball-body contact by a single player, the MAS team were in fact disadvantaged by the foot contact made by their player as it deflected the ball towards an ESP player who would otherwise not have received it.


I have posted the relevant part of the match video, with commentary, exactly as it was posted to YouTube within the full match video so that the comments and opinions of the umpires as well as the commentators may be known. What is obvious is that everybody accepted or believed that the ball-foot contact by the MAS player was an offence, when it clearly was not, meeting none of the criteria for an offence.

  1. The contact was not made voluntarily.
  2. The MAS team did not gain an advantage from the contact, they were in fact disadvantaged because of it, the ball being slowed and deflected so that it was easily collected by the second ESP player – who had an advantage ‘handed’ to him.
  3. The MAS player did not position with the intention of using his foot to stop or deflect the ball – he was in fact surprised by the deflection off the stick of the ESP player in front of him when the ESP player failed to control the ball and the MAS player could not avoid being hit with it.

So despite what he said he did the match umpire did not give or allow an advantage, he simply allowed play to continue because there was no reason for him to intervene. He could perhaps have usefully called out ”No offence-play on”.

Note should also be taken of this Rule provided in the section following Conduct of Play: Players, entitled Conduct of Play: Umpires.

12 Penalties

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

So even where there is a breach of Rule or an offence there is no reason to penalise if the opposing team have not been disadvantaged by it. How often that could be pointed out to the umpire who penalises ball-body contact as a reflex. In the incident under review the ESP team were certainly not disadvantaged by the ball-foot contact of the MAS player, they gained advantage because of it.

Advantage combo

The incident then took on a surreal slant as the video umpire, ignoring the ball shielding and ball-leading of the second ESP player as he moved to turn towards the goal (clearly an obstruction offence – but I will not go into the detail of that here), invented an interference with ‘the advantage’. Which advantage he was referring to is unclear but the penalty corner was apparently awarded because the ball-foot contact at the top of the circle did not lead to a clear advantage for the ESP team – which is a very strange interpretation of both Rule 9.11 and Rule 12.1.

An offence occurs when there is advantage gained by the team of the player who made contact NOT when the opposing team do not gain an advantage (the opposing team did in this case gain an advantage, the fact that this advantage was subsequently “interfered with” – the ball was contested for – should have been completely irrelevant to the award or non-award of penalty for the initial ball-leg contact).

Coaching note.

Pictures 4, 5, 6 above. The first ESP player, having seen the MAS player at the top of the circle deflect the ball and the second ESP player take control of it, should – instead of stopping and standing with his hand up in the air in appeal – have continued to play and rapidly supported the second ESP player to give him a back-pass option. A quick short back-pass would then have created an easy chance for the first ESP player to shoot at the goal from directly in front of it or to past to the third ESP player closer to the goal. The ESP team actually threw away their unearned advantage following the opponent’s acccidental ball-leg contact, and the umpires gave it back to them for no reason at all.

July 12, 2018



2017 FIH announces restructuring of Committees and Panels to support the Hockey Revolution. More about this report later. First, a look at the role of the Hockey Rules Board in the issuing of Rules and Interpretations as presented in this 2002 FIH report, which is linked to the 2017 restructuring because it continues unchanged. (The HRB was renamed the FIH Rules Committee after 2011, the 2013 Rules of Hockey were issued, by the same Committee personnel, under the new name)


Report of the Hockey Rules Board.

HRB Authority of 2001-2

The text of the report (in blue) with added comment (in italics).


In line with our overall aims, the last two years have, on the one hand, been a period of transition for the Hockey Rules Board (HRB) — while on the other it has been a period of relative consolidation. The transition has focused on incorporation of research and development of the rules within the active remit of the HRB rather than in a separate but linked Rules Advisory Panel, which has now been disbanded. At the same time, the rules themselves have been through a period of consolidation rather than significant change. But this does not mean that the HRB has not been active, as the following report will testify.

Rules Changes

One change, which has been significant, at least as measured by the range of views about it, is allowing the edge of the stick to be used to play the ball. This change was introduced as a mandatory experiment in 1999 and was continuously reviewed. Views about it ranged from a welcome for an action which gave players more options and which in particular could be used for exciting shots at goal, to concern that it might lead to danger or could damage sticks. Making a. decision involved a delicate and careful balance of these issues, with the HRB deciding that the experiment should run for a third year but that, with effect from 2002, the change would be incorporated as a formal rule.

Comment. If the aim was to increase options and dangerous play was a concern it is very strange that a deletion of the ‘backsticks’ Rule was not considered – or if considered, ruled out. That would be a welcome simplification especially for novice players and would be no more dangerous, in fact probably less so, than the permitted playing of the ball with a stick edge.

Another change, which deserves comment, was the introduction in 2001 of a rule, which explicitly makes manufacturing a foul an offence. This reflects an ongoing concern by the HRB to protect skill and encourage attractive hockey by reducing negative and destructive actions.

Comment. This rule was eventually deleted because umpires refused to penalise forced contacts, preferring instead to penalise, for ball body contact the player a ball had been forced into (it was declared that they could not with certainty see intent to force a contact. Right or wrong they preferred a simple objective criteria for determining offence). The subjective judgement ‘gains benefit’ or ‘gains an advantage’ has always suffered in application because some umpires have insisted on and persisted in treating all ball-body contact as a offence: turning the criteria from a subjective one “Was there intent or advantage gained” into an objective one “Was there ball body contact?” and inverting the way in which Rule 9.11 is supposed to be applied. Forcing ball-foot or ball-leg contact is no longer seen as a negative or destructive action (which it is) but as a skill and a legitimate means of ‘winning’ a penalty against opponents – which is bizarre because forcing is still an offence. The Rule was deleted (because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules). so obviously, the offence was not deleted.

Rules Interpretations

The HRB recognises that hockey is a complex game and that, despite good intentions and continuous review, its rules sometimes require interpretation. There has been a tendency in the past for some interpretations to emerge from individuals and bodies other than the HRB. However, it is now agreed that the sole source of such information should be the HRB. (my bold).

Comment. This announcement was probably made necessary by the activities of the Rules Advisory Panel and a so called ‘mafia’ of top level umpires, who are mentioned in the video below (how the four of them with three languages between them – English, Dutch and Afrikaans – dealt with ‘interpretation’ worldwide, when in their opinion the FIH  could not /cannot, is not revealed). That Hadfield was asked to sort out a dispute over a Rule meaning because of the placement of a comma, as she claims she was, is absurd. It is unlikely that any of the four ‘mafioso’ is an expert in either syntax or semantics. It is also strange that someone who declares the wording of the Rules to be inconsequential would accept the task of adjudicating a Rule for meaning based on punctuation (an ego trip?). The obvious person to approach about the meaning and purpose of a Rule is the person who drafted it, and at the time that person would have been the late George Croft the Hon. Sec. of the HRB. The thing could have been resolved easily and cheaply by fax message even in the era before email became widespread – what is written into the rule-book does matter (how can it not matter?) – interpretation (by anyone) does not change what is written in the rule book. Interpretation of any given text, on the other hand, can change from one individual to another and from one game to another.

Despite the Hockey Rules Board producing Rules for the approval of the FIH Executive, in liaison with the FIH Umpires Committee it is no surprise to discover that Graham Nash – who was Chair of the Umpiring Committee in the 1990’s – advised umpires to throw their rule-books away (and replaced the content of them with what?). In the circumstances I wonder how sincere his liaison with the HRB was.

I have no hesitation being confrontational and even aggressive about this sort of pernicious nonsense being presented as umpire coaching. Listening to Jan Hadfield’s entire presentation I detected some of the rubbish I have seen Keely Dunn produce on various internet hockey forums, so I suspect that Jan Hadfield was the mentor Dunn used to run back to in her early Internet hockey forum days, to confirm an opinion she had given on the forum, in other words Dunn is probably one of Hadfield’s victims. Another would be the Russian umpire Elena Eskina who during the 2010 Women’s World Cup (Hadfield was the Umpire Manager) – insisted, would not budge from the view, that an on target shot at the goal could not be considered to be dangerous play (when it certainly was). One of Hatfield’s oft repeated approving remarks is “Taking the whistle out of the game.” (said in regard to obstruction and also to the raised hit, in other parts of the presentation -second and fourth videos below) an appropriate interpretation of this remark would be “We are ignoring these offences” or “We are ignoring major parts of both of these Rules”. But why? Why?

Because of inserts sound on the videos is a second or two out of sync with motion.

Rule 9.9 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.

Endangering another player by raising the ball towards that player (with any stroke) is an additional and separate offence:- see Rule 9.9. “Taking the whistle out of the game” by penalising an illegal intentionally raised hit only when it is also dangerous play is the deliberate ignoring of a clear Rule instruction by means of what is called ‘interpretation’ – but which is in no sense interpretation. The goal given in the above video clip should not have been awarded because the intentionally raised hit pass was a foul that disadvantaged opponents. The UMB advice  forget lifted – think danger (interpreted to mean think only of danger, ignoring disadvantage) is a contradiction of Rule.9.9. and as such is unacceptable.


Comment The  very low key Rules Interpretations announcement:-

The HRB recognises that hockey is a complex game and that, despite good intentions and continuous review, its rules sometimes require interpretation. There has been a tendency in the past for some interpretations to emerge from individuals and bodies other than the HRB. However, it is now agreed that the sole source of such information should be the HRB.

attempted (obviously without any success at all) to change the practice of senior umpires working to their own personal interpretations of the meaning of the wording of the Rules and Interpretations provided in the rule-book. Working with and on the HRB/FIH RC must have been and be, one of the most frustrating tasks in hockey – every senior umpire, even when they differ from each other, believes he or she ‘knows better’ than the FIH Committee that drafts the Rules and the FIH Executive who approve them. Maybe they do, but in that case they should be a lobby for Rule change and Rule improvement, not a conduit for subversion. No matter how frustrating achieving change via a committee might prove to be the alternative is worse, it is anarchy.

Umpire interpretation must be restricted to the interpretation of the actions taken by players in relation to written instruction received via the FIH Rules Committee in the Rules of Hockey. A problem that gets in the way of this approach is the (unnecessary) interpretation of the word interpretation. When umpires find themselves with various ‘interpretations’ of what is given in the rule-book as Interpretation or Explanation of Rule Application something is seriously amiss. Such instructions should be clear enough not to require additional interpretation. That they are not is clearly a matter that the FIH Rules Committee (when necessary, for translation purposes, in consultation with National Associations) needs to address.

An FIH Executive Circular sent to all National Associations in mid 2002 used much more forceful language concerning the sole authority of the HRB, but the content of that Circular was quickly forgotten. This information needed to be printed in all subsequent rule-books, not just issued in a one-off Circular which would not be widely read – and might even be deliberately withheld from most participants. Hadfield does not mention it, she may even be unaware of it or, more likely, dismissed it as interference.

I am intrigued by her assertion that both the FIH Rules Committee and the Umpiring Committee contain ‘political’ appointees who have no umpiring experience whatsoever, as the assertion is untrue – and it is certainly not the reason (or even a reason) for confusion about the application of Rules over the past few years. People in glass houses should not throw stones – it is without doubt the culture of ‘interpretation’ spread by Umpire Managers and other senior umpires (and sadly by the FIH Umpiring Committee) that is the cause of confusion. I wonder what the people who attended that coaching seminar thought about it when they had time to reflect on the content of it – what did they learn from it that would be of use to them as umpires when they had thrown their rule-books away?

In parallel with this agreement, the interpretations in the rules book were revised for the 2002 publication. Among other things, they incorporate material, which had formerly been published in FIH umpires briefing papers. More generally, the interpretations were rationalised and simplified. It is hoped that, together with other measures reported elsewhere, this will contribute to a more accurate and consistent interpretation and application of the rules.

Comment. So a separately published UMB should have become unnecessary (is unnecessary). Simplification of the Rules meant, for the most part deletion, and there was precious little clarification (more would probably have increased the number of words used to explain the purposes of Rules – but so what?). The Rules and Interpretations were not rationalised – they still contain irrational statements, misplaced Rule clauses and also contradictions. The FIH Rules Committee are working under difficult circumstances (they have no enforcement ‘teeth’) and are obviously not appreciated, but these are not excuses for not doing a much better job of clear communication.

Review of the Presentation and Style of the Rules

A desire to achieve a clearer understanding of the rules by all involved in the game has led to a project to review the presentation and layout of the rules book. Among other things, it is intended that the rules will be more closely linked to interpretations and that interpretations will be further simplified. Other changes will include a section bringing together material of particular interest to umpires. Work on this review is a very labour intensive activity but is well underway. An advanced draft will be considered by the HRB in November 2002, with the new layout and content incorporated in the 2003 publication.

There was a rewrite and reformatting of the rule-book in 2004, which overall, I now regard as an act of vandalism. The aims set out above were not achieved.

It is worth noting that both the rules and an informal guide to the rules are included on the FIH web site.

Rules Development and Trials Discussions

The HRB include a wide range of options for development of the rules but it is wise to carry forward only a small number at any one time. Over the last two years the focus has therefore been on a trial, which requires three players always to be outside their defending 23 metres area. This is therefore a way of limiting the number of defenders allowed in the 23 metres area.

Although feedback has been varied and refers to a range of factors, the positive indications are that as a consequence the 23 metres and circle areas are less crowded and more attacking opportunities occur.There are also other beneficial effects such as a reduction in the frequency of hard hits into the circle. The trial is therefore continuing and includes plans to use it in a small number of appropriate international tournaments.

Comment. This idea (a sort of inverted off-side) seems to have ‘sunk without trace’, which is not a surprise, as it must have been difficult to enforce without additional officials to observe play for compliance. The ‘three up’ trial was an odd inclusion on top of the deletion of the Off-side Rule only a few years earlier, a deletion which had given a huge advantage to the attacking team and threw up potential dangers to the members of the defending team without the promised “constraints” on the actions of attackers ever materializing.

Why it was though hard hits into the circle would be reduced by this measure is a mystery to me. Why a committee that was concerned about hard hits into the opponent’s circle in 2002 should (in 2012) introduce the, short lived, Own Goal is another mystery. The problem with giving a reason for doing or not doing something is that it is necessary to remember when and why the reason was given and in which direction previous change was made, the FIH have not been good at that, flips between one extreme and another have been commonplace since the early 1990’s – an archive of previous rule books might have been of help to them.

Consultation and Commitment

Associated with its more explicit responsibility for rules development, the HRB is keen to hear the views of the hockey community. It is therefore responding positively to a concern that the rules are sometimes not applied uniformly and appropriately especially in major tournaments. A circular was sent to all national associations and continental federations in the middle of 2002 seeking their views on this matter and also on wider ideas for rules development. These views will be the focus of a workshop involving representatives of NAs and CFs to be held alongside the 2002 Congress.

This reflects the HRB’s commitment to being open to ideas and to taking steps to support the development of the game while preserving its attractive and distinguishing features.

The HRB’s Ongoing Role This report has concentrated on the major focuses of HRB activity over the last two years but must also acknowledge the considerable amount of more detailed work undertaken by it members and officers. But there is still more to be done in the context of the overall aims of the HRB.

Manzoor Atif Chairman, Hockey Rules Board


2017.   FIH announces restructuring of Committees and Panels to support the Hockey Revolution.           Jason McCracken CEO.


Restructuring of FIH Committees 2017

Comment. Whether or not the restructuring of various FIH Committees and the creation of new ones will have any effect at all on the authority invested in the FIH Rules Committee by the FIH Executive is unclear, but there seems to be no reason to suppose that there is any change. Umpire Managers can of course be expected, in the absence of any action to prevent them doing so, to continue to ignore the authority of the FIH Rules Committee in favour of their own opinions (interpretations).

∙ New Panels and Committees announced to progress the FIH strategy
∙ Gender equality integral to new nomination process
∙ New membership to be approved by Board in June 2017

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has announced changes to its Committee and Panel structures that oversee the management and development of the sport to align with the Hockey Revolution strategy.

All Committee and Panel membership has been disbanded, with the exception of the Athletes’ Committee, Judicial Commission and Disciplinary Commissioner. New Panels and Committees have been introduced, some have been refined and others have been completely removed from the new structure.

As a result FIH will be calling on nominations for all Committees. This year however there will be an extra emphasis on gender equality as Hockey’s 10-year Hockey Revolution strategy further integrates recommendations outlined by the International Olympic Committee and in Olympic Agenda 2020.

A prerequisite of each Committee is that each continent has representation and the Continental Federations will be asked to nominate one male and one female candidate from their region for consideration.

Whilst Committees will require continental nominations, Panels will be appointed directly by FIH, with all membership to be approved at the next FIH Executive Board meeting in June 2017.

Several new Panels have been created as part of the new structure and are designed to modernise and enhance the competency of hockey’s governing body. These include: International Relations & Olympic Solidarity Panel; Event Portfolio Implementation Panel: Home & Away League Management Panel and Commercial and Broadcast Panel.

A newly established Officials Committee has also been created. This Committee combines the Appointments Committee, Technical Officials development and appointments (formerly part of the Competitions Committee) and Umpiring Committee.

The HR & Governance Panel has been separated, with a new HR & Remuneration Panel created and a stand-alone Governance Panel established.

A significant development has been to widen the remit of the Medical Panel to a new Health & Safety Panel. It will look at not only medical matters for athletes but athlete health, safety and welfare both on and off the pitch.

The Competitions Committee will develop and implement the new regulations required to support the new Event Portfolio announced under the Hockey Revolution strategy.

Several other Panels have been abolished, with many of the responsibilities now being undertaken in-house. These include the Masters Panel as well as the High Performance & Coaching Panel, an area that the FIH Hockey Academy is currently managing.

With a new President. Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra, elected in November 2016 followed by the appointment of a new CEO. Jason Mccracken. three months later. hockey’s new leadership team took the opportunity to review and restructure the governance structure to support the FIH’s strategy.

Speaking about this. FIH President Dr Narinder Dhruv Batra said: “We are grateful to all of those who have given up their time to support our sport through Panels and Committees over the past years. Their contributions have helped the sport reach great heights. However. with the new event portfolio now in implementation mode we took the decision to refresh this structure at what is a crucial time for our sport. I am confident that these changes will help our sport continue to grow over the coming years. We look forward to receiving nominations over the coming months and announcing the new Committee and Panel membership after the June
Executive Board meeting.”

FIH CEO Jason McCracken added: “It was critical that the FIH aligned our Committee and Panel structure to support the Hockey Revolution. With this new structure in place we are moving quickly to implement the new Event Portfolio, build our commercial and broadcast proposition while focusing on athlete and officials’ welfare. We are excited about the new structure and now the hard work begins to find the very best people, who share our vision. to join the new Committee and Panels as we move to the implementation phase of the new Event Portfolio.”                 (More information about the make up of Committees is available on the FIH website)

Jason McCracken resigned as CEO the following December.

There is no mention in the above document of the FIH Rules Committee but it still exists and in the absence of information to the contrary,  it’s remit and authority are unchanged. i.e they remain as announced in 2002. Only the FIH Rules Committee can make or amend Rule and/or Interpretation for publication after approval of it by the FIH Executive – no one else.

The FIH Competitions Committee are responsible for issuing Tournament Regulations (not the Rules of Hockey). Apart from the length of suspension given with personal penalty cards, these Regulations have no bearing on umpiring or the Conduct of Play during a hockey match.

July 8, 2018

Preventing a tackle. Ball shielding



The Umpire Manager’s Briefing for umpires at FIH Tournaments. 2017.

The Rule.

The UMB and the Rule appear to agree that ball shielding to prevent a tackle attempt by an opponent is obstruction but, oddly, the Rule does not use the words ‘to prevent’ but the vague ‘from’. We moreover often hear umpires declaring that a player was not obstructed because he or she was not in a position to play the ball and therefore there could be no legitimate tackle made – even though, as in the videos above and below, that player is at the time within playing reach of the ball, in a balanced position, demonstrating an intent to play at the ball and is only prevented from playing at the ball because it is (deliberately) blocked from him by the stick or body of the player in possession of it.

As a result players in possession of the ball have become skillful at obstructing opponents who are trying to tackle for the ball and nobody expects them to be penalised for it, not even the tackler.

The defender in his turn will shield the ball along the base-line or hold it shielded in a corner with no expectation that these obstructive actions will be penalised – the obstruction shown below was not penalised. This has been going on for a very long time. Everyone knows this situation is a nonsense but nothing is being done to resolve the contradictions. Instead, if anything, excuse is being found not to penalise what is obviously obstruction.

This is not a call for Rule change, even if the minor clarification suggested above  (from -> to prevent) would be helpful, but a call to apply the Rule “As is”. Is there any argument about the illegality of ball shielding to prevent a legitimate tackle attempt? Any doubt about what the Rule is or what the purpose of it is? Is anyone suggesting that moving or even being positioned to shield the ball from an opponent is legitimate play? I don’t think so. So what is the problem? Why the wilful blindness?

July 5, 2018

We don’t want any change

I was prompted to write this article in response to this posting by Ernst Baart

Ernst writes “First off… I love our game as is! I think any future changes should be minimal. Especially changes affecting the core of our sport. Hockey is great the way it is. We should not change it. If people don’t get it, that’s their loss… Instead of changing the way we are, we should focus on teaching the sports fans about our game to help them understand and love the game as is.”

Okay, no argument with his passion, but how is (what as, why is) ‘our’ game, ‘seen’ in any one particular way? Is it? No, absolutely not. The view of it, and how it should be played and the Rules of it interpreted and applied, is far from an homogeneous one. In fact that is a huge understatement, this area is a battleground and the above declaration of “as is” is meaningless unless “as is’ refers only to the perception Ernst, as an individual, has of it.

I want to see enormous changes, some of of them rolling back present practice, which I see as mistaken (I do not want to see current practice ‘consolidated’ – the ‘in’ term for refusal to see error in application – I want to see it dismantled) and other changes, new ideas, which I believe would be significant improvements, put in place. In my view the present application of the ball-body contact Rule, as seen in the following video, has to be changed for the good of the game:-


And the application of the Obstruction Rule needs to be changed too. Ernst dismisses my suggestions as ‘square wheels’ (after I posted the last cartoon below when he initially replied to me) and has said to me that he has no time to respond in detail (indeed respond at all) to any of them. (He responds in comments below  to say that this is a personal issue with my attitude and behaviour, he won’t engage in discussion with me because I am too confrontational in my writing style. In other words he can find no rational way to refute my arguments for change, but will not allow himself to be persuaded by them by actually properly considering them.)

I listen to (read) the “no change” proponents and note that in the majority of cases the first thing they do is propose the changes they want made. Inside every conservative, rebel or revolutionary there is a potential dictator. For example. If people don’t get it, that’s their loss… Instead of changing the way we are, we should focus on teaching the sports fans about our game to help them understand and love the game as is.” Dictatorship is in human nature (survival of the fittest). But who is “We” (who owns the game), perhaps I should use ‘us’ and ‘we’ to express my own opinions where that might appear more powerful. (“We” is apparently the large number of people Ernst has spoken to who also don’t want any change – maybe one of them could explain why not)

Howls of anguish at official changes made (many so-called changes are not official, but inventions ‘imported’ via ‘practice) and calls for no more change are not a new phenomena, there are still people complaining about the change from natural grass to synthetic surfaces for all top-level hockey (they do however offer capital expense as a reasonable argument against this change, even if that discounts the huge maintenance costs of grassed surfaces ), but let us suppose that instead of launching a number of trials and Mandatory Experiments, which led to Rule changes in the period 1990 -1999 (the rule-book was rewritten and reformatted in 1995/6) the FIH HRB took notice of the “No changes ” mob and to date did nothing post 1991. Suppose that instead of major changes – like the introduction of the receiving exception to the Obstruction Rule (in 1993) and the abolition of Off-side, (completed by 1997) which were far from popular reforms at the time, but (or because) they made a huge difference to the way in which the game was played, the FIH Executive went ahead and adopted them into Full Rule – the (sic) FIH HRB to date recommended no changes from the Rules and Guidance to players and umpires as they were in 1991. What would hockey be like? What, that we now generally applaud as good hockey, would be entirely missing from the game?

I chose 1991 as a time to go back to because I have the 1991 rule-book (so I can check my memory of playing to those Rules) and because it is a date before nearly all the current top level players began playing hockey but most of them had been born by then, and also because by 1992 the all composite hockey stick had been accepted, a ‘landmark’ change that, ironically, is now one that is almost unnoticed “we have had composite sticks since the beginning of time” (just as we have always had synthetic surfaces to play on) is a young (rich) and misinformed view and these changes are rarely recalled in Rule change lists.

In 1985 I had to make a virtue out of necessity when designing a wooden stick with a set back head (the set-back was the aim of the design, the heel bend of the wooden stick-head having been made as tight as it could get without timber break-out or without using in excess of twenty laminations, could not be improved upon), the kink in the shaft, a by-product of bending laminated timber into the shape of a set-back stick head with an up-turned toe, had to be made a significant advantage, (a problem not appreciated in the early thinking about a set-back head). As it happened it did turn out to be of real advantage, (after a great deal of tweaking of shape – a tapered thickness – for rotational balance), in the stopping of the ball (and in scanning the field and in positional balance).

If you are not sure what the advantage is of not having to put the left hand to ground when stopping the ball while holding the top of stick with that hand, try this:- Using your normal left hand grip, put the left hand in contact with the ground with the handle/shaft of the stick horizontal and on or nearly in contact with the ground and across the front of your feet as if presenting a stick block to the ball. Now try to lift your left foot off the ground. Put the stick to ground in the same way but to your right hand side- now try to lift your right foot off the ground. You may have discovered that putting your hand to ground while holding a stick not only puts your head at the knee level of opponents – and a knee to the head hurts – it will pin one or the other, and sometimes both, of your feet, especially if you have not much bent your knees. In addition to that your scan vision will be non-existent or very limited. Not having to put the hand to ground to block the ball over a considerable length of the shaft is a very significant advantage.

The set-back head  produced later by Talon as a composite stick (called a Recurve), did not have a kinked shaft because that stick, being a moulded product, could be manufactured without one (and anyway I held a patent on the kink feature which Talon were decent enough, unlike others, not to breach). The introduction of the composite stick was not an easy process, TK struggled mightily to get it accepted,  (the same vested interests who fought against the introduction of my design, also fought very hard against the introduction of the composite stick) and, even when eventually approved for general use, composite sticks were initially not permitted to be used in international level matches. In making that announcement in his home country, Australia (in 1990), the then Chairman of the FIH Equipment Committee, the late Frank Zind, also declared that ZigZag sticks could not be used in international matches or on artificial surfaces (in Australia) even though these sticks had been in use without any such restriction for five years at the time. Thus began my long love affair with FIH bureaucracy and the investigation into who could and could not make the Rules to which the game is played (Not, as it turned out, Frank Zind, his ZigZag bans were just a personal invention ‘hung’ on his Chairmanship of the FIH Equipment Committee – a body that could not and still cannot, dictate or amend the Rules of Hockey).

So we start and are stuck with (after that long introduction), the 1991 mainly glass and carbon-fibre reinforced, wooden stick – maximum weight 28oz (now 26oz). I’ll make observations and suggestions about other Rules issues as I present them.

Off-side changed a lot during my playing ‘career’. When I started there had to be three defenders goal-side of an attacker for that attacker to be on-side at any time his side was in possession of the ball. The number was reduced to two around 1967 and the Rule made similar to the way it now is in soccer – two defenders goal-side of the foremost player at the time a pass was made. Then in the mid-1990’s the off-side line was moved from the half-way line to the 25 yard (23m) line (making correct umpire positioning difficult). Off-side was abolished in 1997 (with promise of the introduction of Rules to constrain the actions of attackers close to the goal – which never materialized – no compensation for this tactical loss to defences was ever enacted ). I would now like to see the introduction of a small goal zone, as well as a rewrite of part of the Rule concerning the playing of the ball at above shoulder height (forbidding the playing of the ball at above shoulder height when in the opponent’s circle) – as the least the FIH RC should offer for the loss to defences of the advantages of an Off-side Rule.…ewrite-rule-9-14/

Recounting the number of changes made to the Penalty Corner Rule would require a separate article. I would like to see it replaced with a time limited Power Play conducted within a defended 23m area. There has been talk of doing this for more than thirty years but no widespread trial or Mandatory Experiment has been conducted. The nearest to an official trial was carried out in the Australian Lanco 9’s but the fact that it was 9-a-side and the goals were made 1m wider for this tournament, made making any comparison of scoring stats worthless and that trial close to a waste of time. The only other suggested replacement, a 14m penalty hit, was trialed in South Africa and had to be abandoned because scoring rates got close to 100%.

Edge hitting was considered ‘back-sticks’ (not face-side so not permitted). The forehand edge hit has more recently been banned after having initially being permitted, but umpires almost routinely ignore the offence of forehand edge-hitting, even when such a hit is used to raise the ball when not shooting at the goal (the prohibition by the way specifically includes forehand edge hits made as shots at the goal). My view on edge hitting is that it should be permitted to either side of the body but height limited to no more than sternum height (120cms). There is supposed to be an issue concerning control of only the forehand edge hit, but in the mid 1990’s I umpired a match between an England U16 team and senior county players, at Bisham Abbey, in which several attempts to shoot at the goal, from a left inner position, with a reverse edge hit by an U16 England player, went out of play high in air over the right side-line. This level of control of the reverse edge hit (ignorance of the correct technique) was not uncommon among young players when the stroke was first introduced – but for some reason the FIH insisted on persevering with it – the ‘trial’ went on for three years and edge hitting was then accepted into Full Rule in spite of still vigorous opposition to it on grounds of danger. I have no doubt that with sufficient practice the forehand edge hit could be properly controlled. Look at reverse edge hitting now, good isn’t it? Consider those long head sticks from the turn of the 20th century, how did anyone play hockey with them? But they did.

 And very well too. There was however, because of changes made (nothing dramatic and ‘brilliant’ but a gradual evolution), improvements made. Hockey came to be as it was when I started playing in the mid 1950’s (By the ‘standards’ of the 1980’s the 1950’s stick-head was ridiculously long, but by the standards of the 2000’s the 1980’s stick-heads were ridiculously short). However despite (with a little practice) the much improved ball control they offered , many players refused for years to adopt the modern longer (hook and semi hook) heads which appeared post 1986. The original Hook, marketed by Grays after 1982, had a tiny initial take up – a good illustration of the ‘no change’ mentality, even when clear advantages could be demonstrated.

Playing or playing at the ball when it was above shoulder height was prohibited. I liked the later amendment which allowed a defender to try to save a high shot at the goal with the stick, but not the penalty imposed (mandatory penalty corner) if the shot happened to be off-target.

I am convinced, because there have been fatalities as well as a large number of serious injuries caused by sticks, that players should be prohibited from raising the stick-head to above shoulder height when they are attempting to play at the ball or have played at the ball with a follow-through and there is in either case an opponent present within playing distance of the ball. The Rule as it was initially framed prohibited any raising of any part of the stick above the shoulder in any circumstances, even the taking of a Free Hit – it was far too severe – but to delete it entirely instead of suitably amending it was a mistake (and a case of the usual extremes). Most of my suggested change is modification, rather than throwing out all current practice and starting again at an opposite extreme – a pattern of Rule – or ‘interpretation’ change we should all be familiar with (see the deletion of the Forcing Rule in the video above or the current application of the, once too severely applied, Obstruction Rule).

Aerial pass. In 1991 attention was paid to the relative positions of players – in the area it was perceived the ball would fall – at the time the ball was raised. if opposing players in the fall area were too close to each other for safety, the player who raised the ball could be penalised for play likely to lead to dangerous play (the player who raised the ball to fall in a potentially dangerous area was considered responsible for doing that – why not?). This was advice given to umpires which was never made Rule, but it should have been and still can be, with the proviso that if the same team player retreats from the landing area (3m?) before the ball arrives, to allow the receiver to accept the ball, there is then no need to penalise the offence. Deflections could be treated in much the same way except that there would be no intentional play likely to lead to dangerous play and failure to retreat would properly be penalised at the landing point. At present players are forbidden to approach an initial receiver but there is nothing said about moving away to allow the ball to be received – an often discussed oversight that could easily be rectified, but the FIH RC always forget to make this change. Accidental deflections by defenders into their own circle would probably be more fairly dealt with by a free ball from the place of the deflection or a free ball to the attacking team centrally on the 23m line.

In 1991 when the ball accidentally lodged in the equipment of a goalkeeper or the clothing of a player a bully restart was ordered to be taken at the place the incident occurred, unless that was in a circle, in which case the bully was taken in line with the incident and 5m from the circle. There was nothing wrong with that Rule. The award of a penalty corner for such an incident involving a defender in the circle is in my view unnecessarily harsh. Similarly the award of a penalty corner for accidental deflection which sent the ball directly up high into the air was fairly dealt with by a bully restart (and now both need nothing more severe than a restart for the attack on the 23m line). The same is true of a ball intentionally played over the base-line by a defender – a restart for the attack on the 23m line is fair for something that is not even an offence.

The self-pass did not exist. I suggested this idea in 2001. It was introduced in the EHL in 2007 and as an Experimental FIH Rule in 2009 and confirmed into Full FIH Rule in 2011. It has never been applied as I envisioned it would be, being almost destroyed as an effective tactic within the opposing 23m area by the Rule prohibiting the playing of the ball directly into the circle from a free ball awarded in the opposing 23m area and also by a number of 5m requirements and restrictions associated with that which effect both the taker and opponents.

I proposed the Direct Lift at the same time as the Self Pass, but it was introduced a couple of years after the Self Pass was established. It’s a Rule that is very difficult to make a mess of applying – it is at the receiving end where the Rule application has unraveled See aerial Pass above.

The other Rules associated with what is misnamed the Free Hit have become a complicated mess when a free-ball is awarded in the opponent’s 23m area, especially when it is taken as a self-pass. The prohibition on playing the ball directly into the circle is inane. What is needed is a prohibition on raising the ball into the opponent’s circle (in any phase of play and from anywhere on the pitch) with a hit that propels the ball out of the direct possession of the hitter. In 1991 with very limited exception (over an opponent’s stick on the ground or over an opponent on the ground), any raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with any stroke was prohibited – raising the ball into the circle over an opponent’s stick placed flat on the ground was also often penalised, umpires not allowing the permitted exceptions. Exceptions to Rules generally have a very poor history of observance in Rule application. An exception to a Rule is often either completely ignored (for example Rule 9.11 ball-body contact – not an offence unless) or becomes the Rule (Rule 9.12 – may be facing in any direction – which is now applied not only to a player receiving the ball, as it should be, but also, incorrectly, to a player in controlled possession of the ball, who is shielding it from opponents.

In 1991 we had Long Corners. Now because of the mess made of the Fee Hit Rule we have instead a restart for the attack on the 23m line, fortuitously, this is an improvement on the long corner taken in the corner.

There are probably some Rules which were extant or not in 1991 or after, but are not now extant, that I have not remembered (the Own Goal came and went and we had the ‘gains benefit’ debacle which lasted from 2006 until 2015: but ball-body contact is generally penalised even when there is no intent and/or no advantage gained by the player hit with the ball), but as what there is under the heading of changes is substantial and this article is already longer than I had intended (when aren’t they) I will close the list. There is no reason to go beyond briefly pointing out that many of the changes made since 1991 have had consequences far beyond what was intended at the time they were made.

(Who, for example, would have imagined in 1993 that allowing a receiver to receive the ball while close ‘marked’ by an opponent, without immediately being penalised for obstruction, would rapidly lead (within five years) to the Obstruction Rule not being applied at all?. There is even an umpire coach in the USA who is currently promoting the idea that moving backwards towards and into the playing reach of an opponent, while shielding the ball from that opponent, cannot be obstruction unless the ball holder by doing this causes physical contact.(His justification is that this is the way FIH Umpires are applying the Rule, which is an inverted rational and no justification at all) In these circumstances it will, of course, usually (always) be the defender who will be penalised for any such contact.

Reminder list.   Wooden sticks.  Off-side.  Severe Obstruction Rule application. No edge hitting. No raising of the stick above the shoulder when playing or attempting to play the ball. No playing at the ball above shoulder height. Aerials could be considered likely to lead to dangerous play. Lodged ball = bully. High deflection = bully.  Raising the ball into the opponents circle prohibited.  Long Corners. No self-pass. No Direct lift from free ball. No zone restriction on the taking of a Free ball.

Are we happier now than we would be if no changes had been made post 1991? We don’t  know the answer to that question, at least not completely. If participants were not made aware of the possibility of a legal edge hit or Self-Pass how could they miss either not being introduced? I am pleased Ernst thinks the self-pass “a brilliant idea” but I have no way of knowing if any other suggestion I have made is good or a complete dud – it will depend on the application of it – in my view the way the self-pass as currently restricted makes that change an improvement to game flow but not as significant an improvement as it should do.

The frustration of having what seem to many people to be reasonable and important suggestions for change delayed for years or completely ignored or turned down without reason, can make them very unhappy, as can the useless and irritating chant “No change” when change is seen to be desperately needed.

The other side of the coin is the making of useless and irritating Rule changes, often it seems, without applying foresight or common sense or apparently just for the sake of change (A needless change, the name-change from Long Corner to Corner, followed a couple of years later by the senseless retaining of the name Corner for a 23m restart for the attacking team, is one such minor self inflicted wound) The Own Goal and the (dramatically opposite) ban on playing a ball from a free ball, awarded in the opponents 23m area, directly into their circle (and the necessarily attached 5m requirements and restrictions), are also examples of such irritations.The ban on playing the ball  into the circle from a free ball awarded in the 23m area – for reasons of safety – looks ludicrous when one sees deflections at the goal made during a penalty corner, often from very close range made from passes wide of the goal or even from what appear to be shots at the goal – and these deflections, not being the first shot, are usually directed high towards the goal and towards defenders who have no chance to evade the ball.

The cry of “No change” has, unfortunately, some foundation in reason (largely because of Umpire Manager ‘Interpretations’ rather than Rule changes), but not enough to erect a monumental shrine on it. We need changes, I am convinced the survival of the game depends on radical changes being made to it. Many participants (including me) who were playing in 1990, cringe when watching the present ‘product’, are appalled by some aspects of it, and are also dismayed that it is now coldly referred to by administrators as a product and that umpires now ‘sell’ decisions, instead of simply ensuring that they make decisions that are both correct and fair.

The FIH Rules Committee continue to ask for suggestions for the improvement of the game from all participants. Undoing much of the damage done to the Rules and interpretation since 1994 (or even 2004, the last major rewrite) could be a vast improvement.

See comments below:-

July 1, 2018

Headless chicken.

The Hockey Revolution or running around in circles like a ….

The announcement of the appointment by the FIH Executive of the latest CEO was made in March 2018 as follows:-

The tone of the announcement of the departure of Mr.Weil from FIFA was quite different:

Projected revenues of $5.65 billion over a four year cycle, which is an average of $1.4125 billion per year. Let’s put that in perspective. This is the income and expenses page from the audited accounts of the FIH in 2016. The figures below are in Swiss francs which at present are about on a par with the US dollar. 1SF = $1.01


The full accounts can be seen here:-


I need now to turn to the advertisement by the FIH of the post that Mr.Weil applied for. Please search carefully for any mention of how hockey is to be played.

(I originally posted a picture of the ad but it was deleted – which is possibly an FIH reaction to this article (but I don’t know that). The ad did have a FIH logo on it so the pretense for the deletion (which would have required communication between the FIH and WordPress) may be a copyright issue. I have been unable to post the picture a second time, so I present instead the text of the ad – don’t think the deletion unbelievably petty, it’s standard behaviour, even not contacting me to let me know what they were doing is normal FIH communication. The FIH desperately need – or needed – a Communications Director, maybe they still do).

Marketing 8: Cornmunicatilons Director — FIH 8 May

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) is seeking to appoint a Marketing and Communications Director who is ready to enter the fast-
paced world of hockey and demonstrate the FIH core values of being: inclusive, optimistic, progressive and dynamic-

With 137 member Nationa| Associations and millions of fans around the world, hockey enjoys a strong global profile and following. You will become part of a talented team aiming to build upon this exposure with a mission to grow the game globally through targeted development work as part of F|H’s dynamic 10-year ‘Hockey Revolution’ strategy.

With further game-changing developments in the pipeline. including the introduction of a new portfolio of events in 2019, it is certainly an exciting time to be joining the FIH.

The successful applicant will lead the FIH Marketing and Communication steams. reporting directly to the FlH CEO-Marketing 8‘ Communications is responsible for all marketing campaigns, communications activities, digital and social

Job Description

Marketing 8: Communications Director— FIH (International Hockey

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) is seeking to appoint a

Marketing & Communications Director who is ready to enter the fast-
paced world of hockey and demonstrate the FIH core values of being
inclusive, optimistic, progressive and dynamic-

With “137 member National Associations and millions of fans around the

world. hockey enjoys a strong global profile and following. You will become part of a talented team aiming to build upon this exposure with media activities, international relations, event on—site media operations, image and branding

Overall responsibility:

Responsible for planning, development and implementation of all the FlH’s marketing strategies, marketing communications and public relations activities both external and internal.

Directs the efforts of the marketing and -communications staff and -coordinates at the strategic and tactical levels with the rest of the Leadership Team.

Key Responsibilities, Tasks and Activities:

– Responsible for creating, implementing and monitoring the FIH marketing and communications strategy to raise the profile, engage and grow the sport.

– Responsible for widening the FlH’s international influence through high quality stakeholder engagement. PR and international relations activities

– Responsible for ensuring that. hockey is a leading sport that meets ambitious targets in terms of online presence, fan experience and digital communities

– Drive strategy behind website, social media and new technology platforms to ensure that we remain number one choice for hockey content

– Implement. highly recognizable brands that deliver a compelling glo-bal image and signifi cantly in-crease market share

– Direct campaigns for FIH event.s and activities through FIH owned channels and partner channels

– Develop ongoing consumer insights programme to inform decision making and measure progress

– Broaden relationships with media and other key internal and external stakeholders to ensure seamless and positive communication between the FIH and these groups

– Responsible for the achievement of Marketing and Communications -goals objectives, within budget

– Work with the leadership team to develop and maintain strategic perspective (based on marketplace needs and satisfaction) in organizational direction a.nd decision–making

– Ensure effective management within the marketing, communications and digital function

– Lead and manage agencies and freelance resources

Requirements, Education and Experience:

– Demonstrated experience, skills and knowledge of marketing, communications and digital at a strategic level.
– Comprehensive understanding of power of -content (video, data, etc)

– Strong: track record of establishing: an-d managing brands

– Proven experience of risk and reputation communication management and working with international media. both re–
actively and proactively

– Experience developing and managing budgets

– Experience overseeing the design and production of print materials, digital materials and publications

– Commitment t.o working with shared leadership and in cross-functional teams

– Strong: oral and written communications skills

– Ability to manage multiple projects at a time

– Travel is required

Skills and Knowledge:

– Leadership qualities, with character and a sense of humour and well presented

– Capable of setting high standards of professionalism;

– Strategic thinker, capable of -contributing to- the big: picture

– Highly creative

– High level of honesty and integrity, discrete and ethical

– Strong negotiation, -conflict management and problem solving skills

– Positive, flexible and optimistic approach, able to quickly adapt to the changing: nature of work
– Well-organized, strong time management skills

– Provide managerial and administrative leadership, capable of building a high performing team

The FIH is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes applications from all qualified candidates. We thank all applicants, but only those considered for the position will be contacted-

FIH ad

After that lengthy introduction I now turn to the release, on the 29th June 2018, of interview notes, from the FIH Press office, which prompted me to write this article. I don’t have much to say following this.

Reflecting on his first three months in charge, new International Hockey Federation (FIH) CEO Thierry Weil gives his first interview in which he reflects on his move from the world’s largest international sports federation, FIFA, to head of a sport that has been working hard to innovate and grow in recent years.

One of his first observations has been the passion that people within the FIH have for their sport. This, he considers, is both a blessing and challenge. He explains:“From the President to the Executive Board to the office staff, there is a passion for the sport that comes from lifelong involvement. For some people, they have been in hockey their entire lives and their parents were involved in the sport before them.”

For Weil, this is somewhat at odds with the concept of a ‘Hockey Revolution’. ‘The term ‘revolution’ means dramatic change, so for me, as an outsider, a revolution within the sport is an exciting prospect but it’s not easy to implement because the passion for the sport makes it difficult to introduce too much radical change.‘

‘The Hockey Revolution is an ambitious mission but it opens a lot of possibilities in view of new initiatives and different approaches.‘

But being an outsider and a newcomer to the sport has its advantages. ‘I can ask stupid questions or have crazy ideas that would actually fit in with the idea of a Hockey Revolution. They are the questions that those within the sport would never dream of asking. It means I can have conversations that at least will open people’s minds to new ideas.‘

For Weil, the three words that drew him to the role of CEO were ‘FIH Pro League‘, and his views on this are outlined in the second part of this interview to be published shortly. However, not surprisingly for someone brought up in the world of football, while the FIH Pro League is a thrilling initiative, it is the World Cup that remains the number one event.

‘I see the World Cup as the pinnacle. It is the biggest event. The Olympics is also big but the World Cup is an FIH event and so must be the top. And it has so much commercial value —two World Cup events in a year is great commercially as well as for the sport’s profile.‘

Reflecting on the Hockey Revolution, how dramatic will it be under its new leader?

‘The Hockey Revolution is an ambitious mission but it opens a lot of possibilities in view of new initiatives and different approaches,‘ says Weil. “I think that the way to increase the popularity of the game is to make it simple to play
and easy to understand.‘

Weil cites two areas, aside from the FIH Pro League and the Hockey Series, in which the game can grow commercially: the development and spread of the short-form version of the game, and the introduction of exhibition matches in
cities, so that people can just turn up and watch the sport as they are walking around town.

These initiatives will help increase the fan base and participation rates, which in turn will have a positive knock-on effect on FlH’s ability to find commercial partners. To back up these ambitions, in 2018 and 2019 FIH will invest more than ever in its dynamic broadcast and content strategy, with the aim of raising the quality of coverage. This will include features that will help spectators understand the game better.

Three months in and Weil is a huge fan of the sport. He says hockey has great potential to grow, develop and lead the way in innovation. At its heart is the fact that it is both a team sport and a sport that is enjoyed and played equally by men and women, of all ages and ability.

“Hockey has already taken a big step forwards over the past few years,‘ says Weil, and, while it might not be a revolution in the strictest sense of the word, he is excited to be leading hockey into the brave new world of commercial sport.

The FIH obviously hired Mr.Thierry Wield to obtain money, particularly Tournament sponsorship money, for the FIH (that is very clear from the job description). With a total operating income of around $11,000,000 the FIH Executive would  ‘prostrate themselves on the ground’ before a man they thought might be able to perhaps double that amount, and he is a man who is used to securing large sum long term sponsorships. But it bears repeating that FIFA had a $500,000,000 sponsorship shortfall in the last four year cycle and an operating loss of $122,000,000 in 2015. We are not told in the articles what the total sponsorship revenue of FIFA was in that or any other, year.

What Thierry Wield is not, and this is also very clear, is somebody who knows anything at all about field hockey. His remarks about the passion participants have for the game and the fact that it is played over a great age range by both genders, are the level of research that could be done in a few hours on Google or Wikipedia by an elementary school pupil writing a project essay. It is likely that prior to his application to be CEO of the FIH he had never seen a hockey match played. Yet he appears to want to be involved in making hockey simple to play (even though that is not part of his job description) obviously other people must undertake this task if it is considered necessary – but who?. Is it necessary or desirable to make hockey easier to play? I don’t think this is a priority, like tennis, hockey requires a basic level of competence which players must work hard to achieve if they are to enjoy playing the game. The development of a high level of skill is an ideal that is aspired to by younger players (there are ‘stars’ to emulate), not an impediment that stops them taking up the game. Players who do develop the necessary skills are proud of their achievements and want constantly to improve upon them. The presence of these skills is one of the main reasons people follow hockey.

Thierry Wield has picked up the ‘Hockey Revolution’ jargon but has no more idea what it means than any of the rest of us who have been subjected to the term have. I have absolutely no idea what it means, other than going around in circles.  I must profess to ignorance but other than ‘Back to hockey’, the development of ‘Walking hockey’ and ‘One Thousand Hockey Legs’ (the latter two both initiatives by individuals), I can’t point to a new example of the ‘Hockey Revolution’ in action that the FIH could be proud of or one that is creating revenue. The Pro Hockey League is floundering and Hockey 5’s is not yet established (will Hockey 5’s really be the face that hockey presents to the world at future Olympic Games? I believe that any suggestion that soccer be presented as a five-a-side game at future Olympics would ‘take off’ like a lead balloon and hockey should reject it for the same reasons soccer would). Five-a-side is a useful tool for introducing the game at school level (it’s economical because it uses small pitches and that makes it viable /attractive for the wide-scale introduction of hockey into schools. particularly State schools, which is something that desperately needs to be done) but I would not like to see 5-a-side replacing the present full pitch game.

How do we make the game easier to understand? Simple: ensure that it is played to the Rules of Hockey published by the FIH Rules Committee, while also ensuring that those Rules are consistent and sensible – but that is were I came in about twenty-five years ago. Describing the task is easy, achieving it is proving very difficult.