Archive for July 22nd, 2018

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.