Archive for October, 2018

October 31, 2018

Running down the barrel


An absence of cognitive dissidence.

Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. This discomfort is triggered by a situation in which a belief of a person clashes with ‘new’ evidence perceived by or presented to that person. (The evidence from the Rules of Hockey is not new but it has been blanked out by following what others are doing – following selected parts or peer gossip and invention – rather than by fully reading and understanding what is given in the rule-book)

When confronted with facts that contradict personal beliefs, ideals, and values, people will find a way to resolve the contradiction in order to reduce their discomfort. Often the way found is to dispute the validity or authority of the evidence (I am frequently asked at what level I umpire or umpired, as if that could change what is given in the Rules of Hockey, which I frequently quote)  or to point to practice by others that confirms the held belief or simply – and most commonly – to ignore it, shut it out, pretend it isn’t there.

A commonly held belief, that is wrong, is that umpires are responsible for interpreting the Rules of Hockey. In fact they are responsible for applying interpretations (meanings and purpose) of Rules provided by the FIH Rules Committee to the actions of players during a hockey match – that is interpreting the actions of players vis-a-vis the Rules of Hockey and the Explanations of Application provided with them. This has nothing to do with the interpretation (meaning, use) of the wording of Rules and Explanations, which is determined long before an umpire sets foot on a hockey pitch to apply it. The distinction is lost on many players and umpires, but only the FIH RC can provide Rule Interpretation, and umpires as well as players are obliged to follow what is provided in the rule-book by way of Rule Interpretation in all matches played under the auspices of the FIH.

The above references to interpretation do not include changes to interpretation inadvertently made to Rules during translation from English to another language. It is common practice to disdain the 'black and white' of the rule-book as inadequate, based on ignorance of umpiring by rule-makers, umpires have even previously been told by senior umpire coaches (like the one in the video below) that they should throw their rule-books away, because the Members of the FIH RC have no umpiring experience (which is untrue).

It is worth enduring the following painful video (a little over five and a half minutes long) to get a picture of the process of the undermining of the authority of the FIH Rules Committee, by those who should be supporting it, and the mistaken notion umpire coaches have that it is part of their job to determine interpretation - rather than to pass on the provided interpretation. Umpire coaches should be seeking clarification from the FIH RC when this is necessary, not providing interpretation to the FIH RC for the Rules the FIH RC have written as if they do not understand what they themselves meant.

The video above is an extended version of a clip I first posted to You Tube in mid-March 2018, upon learning via a video Rule Briefing from the American Hockey Association that the positioning of an umpire close to the base-line and close to the left-side goalpost is, according to their statistical evidence, the best place for an umpire to position to see offences committed in the circle. I always found this position very uncomfortable (and cannot believe in the reliability of such ‘stats’ – I would like to know what they were based on – i.e. what was being seen and what missed) because I felt this positioning cut me off from the play I wanted to see, and I avoided taking it up except when supervising the taking of the now defunct long corner on my ‘own’ side of the goal – and even then I disliked it.

I posted the above video (I have others showing similar ‘blindside’ decisions) because the incidents in it clearly demonstrate the weaknesses of the baseline/goalpost position during the taking of a penalty corner. Three times in this match a shot was made at chest height or above at an out-running defender during a penalty corner, the ball hit the defender on each occasion and then deflected into the goal. Each time the umpire missed that the shot was high and had hit a defender and awarded a goal. Each time the award was overturned on video appeal. Why the umpire positioned near the half-way line did not signal for dangerous play following any of these incidents I do not know, but she didn’t.

At the end of October 2018 I received comment on the video (which began “What are you on about“, and went on to state that I was “absolutely incorrect” to assert that any of the shots made were dangerous play by the shooter (a follow-up message conceded that, on review, the first shot was dangerous, but only because it was going wide of the goal – which gave me a good idea of the Rule knowledge of my critic). My critic did not seem to realize that the shots had been declared dangerous on the recommendation of the video umpire and that the opinions that the shots were dangerous play were not mine, I just agreed with those decisions. He then went onto say that shots two and three were dangerous play by the out-runner who was “running down the barrel” and thus caused the danger. When I disagreed and pointed out that there was no barrel and that a shot at goal with a drag flick was not in any way like a ball shot from a gun in a fixed position with a predetermined ball trajectory, he replied with a selected part of the Explanation of Rule 13.3.l – leaving out the critical “without attempting to play the ball with their stick” (see the video). According to his interpretation any out-runner at a penalty corner who closed on an attacker in the act of shooting was committing a dangerous play offence – the Rule statement to the contrary, (sic) “a shot made at a defender within 5m and at knee height or above must be penalised as dangerous” was simply ignored – avoiding cognitive dissidence.

A little history is helpful here. Prior to 2004 the relevant Rule, which related to all raising of the ball towards another player, not just to the first shot at goal during a penalty corner was this:-

By 2004 I had been pointing out on various Internet hockey forums for some years that many of the drag-flick shots (which were routinely made high until Ric Charlesworth changed this approach) were illegal, simply because they were raised at opponents, and this circumvention of the height limit on the first hit shot by means of a drag-flick should be prevented by having a separate height limit imposed to a) make it a legal shot and b) so that a dangerously raised flick – one that was made too high and at a player- could be identified and penalised as dangerous play. I still hold this view and suggest the sternum height of a standing player as a height limit (120cms for senior men, which can be shown on a goal with a elasticated tape post to post around the back of the goal. This height avoids the problem of the ‘logging’ keeper but keeps the legal ball shot below most areas to which an injury could be life threatening). Shots not directed at a player would not be subject to a height restriction – so high shots wide of or above players would be legitimate.

Unfortunately, in a Pre-Olympic tournament in 2004 the coach of the S.Korean team, playing against Pakistan, devised a stupid way of defending against the drag-flicks of Sohail Abbas. These flicks, once made, were unstoppable by any player except a goalkeeper because above shoulder playing of the ball was not permitted to field players. The Koreans out-running players were coached to charge down the shots in groups of three, using their bodies to stop the ball. Their coach ‘reasoned’ that as raising the ball into the body of an opponent was an offence, an offence which would be committed just prior to the deliberate ball-body contact, this tactic would prevent Abbas from scoring. I don’t know why the match umpire didn’t use common sense and card the offending out-runners on the first occasion this happened, but he didn’t and the tactic was repeated.

As a result of these incidents in a single match an emergency change to the Rules (for the Athens Olympics) was made by the FIH RC, this was confirmed during a complete (and unrelated) rewrite of the rule-book, which changed the Penalty Corner Rule and introduced a mandatory penalty corner when an out-runner was hit with the ball below knee height. Rule 13.1.3.d. (above) was deleted as a stand alone offence and became, with the addition of a 5m limit, part of the Explanation of Application of the new Rule 9.9. – a Rule about the intentional raising of the ball with a hit when not taking a shot at the goal (so completely unrelated to high drag-flicks during a penalty corner). Part of the new penalty corner Rule 13.3.k. then conflicted with (contradicted) part of the Explanation of the new Rule 9.9, but never mind, umpires would use common sense – wouldn’t they?

We still don’t have a height limit on a ball raised at an opponent (with any stroke); from beyond 5m. Dangerous play from beyond 5m is left to the opinion of umpires, and based on a subjective view of the legitimacy of any action taken by a defender to avoid being hit with a raised ball – bizarrely raising the ball towards an opponent high and with high velocity from beyond 5m is not prohibited by Rule even if it is done intentionally.

This ‘cock-up’ has similarities with the later (2011) deleting of the Forcing Rule with the announcement made in the rule-book at the time that “any forcing action of this sort can be dealt with (penalised) under other Rules”a statement which has long been forgotten because it was not included in any rule-book after 2011 – Why not?. Could it be that the FIH were later made to realize that there were no other Rules which were applicable if the ball was not raised so the “any action of this sort” clause was a misstatement?

In 2008 at the Beijing Olympics a match commentator broadcast the view that an on target shot at the goal could not be considered to be dangerous play, and during the incident being commentated about that was the line the match umpire took. The commentator seemed to be quoting from briefing he had received. The Tournament Director at Beijing was the Dutchman Peter von Reth (the same guy who in 2007 attempted to overrule the FIH RC concerning the deletion of “benefit gained” and who ‘contained’ a change in umpiring practice even though the FIH RC did delete the ‘gains benefit clause – and it was not restored to the Rule until May 2015 as ‘gains an advantage’ – so umpiring practice should have changed after Jan 2007, but didn’t).

The Dutch are at it again; in 2018-19 the KNHB have instructed umpires that legitimate evasive action does not apply to a defender defending on the goal-line during a penalty corner. A notion that is as inventive and wrong as the 2008 on-target shot nonsense was and is, and the notion of a defender “running down the barrel” is (this is, in fact, an alternative version of the “on target” invention).

Why isn’t there cognitive dissidence re: “running down the barrel” when a defender who has closed to within 5m of the shooter and is then hit by a ball raised towards him at knee height or above by the shooter, should according to Rule be awarded a free ball for dangerous play by the shooter? The contradiction between the assertions made about “running down the barrel” and this Rule could not be more obvious and it is not a complicated concept. An out-running defender closing on the player intending to shoot during the taking of a penalty corner, with the intention of preventing a shot or making a tackle for the ball with the stick, is not committing an offence: although I have heard more than one television commentator assert that this closing down action is of itself an offence, especially if done from within the goal (this added detail seems to lend credibility to this nonsense). The replacement of the penalty corner with a power-play in the 23m area is long overdue: it was overdue in the 1980’s when Fischer and Boverlander were making their fearsome ‘banana hits’.

Even now we have umpires who insist that an on-target shot at the goal cannot be dangerous play, that out-runners are the sole cause any danger to themselves even if a shot is raised high and directly at them and that defenders on the goal-line will not be afforded the limited protection from a dangerously played shot that is given by legitimate evasive action (the sole definition of a dangerously played ball from beyond 5m, even though it shouldn’t be the sole criterion). Prior to this time umpires used “positioning with intent” and “acceptance of risk” (risk from illegal actions cannot be accepted) to try to justify their unfair penalising of defenders. Some even declared – demonstrating their poor knowledge of playing hockey – that when a player was positioned behind his or her stick when attempting to stop the ball that was an intention to use the body if the ball was missed with the stick. (Have they not seen a defender trying to defend his feet to prevent a ball contact being forced by an opponent? Where are his feet positioned? Behind his stick of course).