Archive for November, 2018

November 29, 2018

Authority and unwanted Rules


One of the simplest and clearest Rules in the rule-book is Rule 9.9. which concerns a ball raised with a hit.

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.
(a misuse of the word “explicitly”, I think what was meant was “exclusively”)

It is not an offence to raise the ball unintentionally from a hit, including a free hit, anywhere on the field unless it is dangerous. If the ball is raised over an opponent’s stick or body on the ground, even within the circle, it is permitted unless judged to be dangerous.

There are however two difficulties within the Rule requirements that need to be properly addressed if the Explanation of application is to be applied as written. The first of these arises because application depends on two subjective judgements and two objective judgements required of an umpire when the ball is raised with a hit – and then secondly, there are the exceptions to consider.

Objective decisions. 1) Was the ball hit? Yes/No 2) Was the ball raised? Yes/No Then Subjective decisions 1) Was the ball raised intentionally Yes/No 2) Was a player endangered by the raised hit? Yes/No and Finally do any of the exceptions apply – a ball raised in a controlled way (at low level and low velocity i.e. safely) over the stick of an opponent or an opponent lying on the ground? Yes/No.

The only one of these decisions that can possibly cause any pause for further consideration is the intention to raise the ball, but in the majority of cases it is perfectly clear when there is intention by the hitter – not least because the ball is raised towards an opponent who would have no difficulty at all in intercepting it if it was hit along the ground. Another indicator is the use of an edge hit in circumstances where an edge hit is not a necessary or even the best option available to propel/pass the ball, so it is probably the raising of the ball that is aimed for by the hitter.

A third, and overwhelming, difficulty is vague contradiction to the Rule that umpires receive as advice in the published FIH Umpire Briefing (for umpires officiating at FIH Tournaments) as part (there is also a verbal element) of their induction at each Tournament See below:-

 The UMB contradicts the Rule instruction to consider intent and tells an umpire to consider only danger caused if the ball is raised with a hit.

Why should the UMB be considered advice and not Rule? It’s a matter of common sense. An umpire cannot be obliged by Rule to have and use common sense and the inclusion of “Use common sense and show understanding of the play” in the UMB must therefore make it advice and not Rule. Moreover advice is not ‘lumped’ together with Rule as if they were both the same thing – and the UMB has a lot of similar advice – it even advises umpires to enjoy themselves, something that is clearly not subject to Rule.

The UMB is therefore not Rule and should not be regarded or used as if Rule – but unfortunately, parts of it are. Why is this unfortunate? Because much of the UMB is contrary to common sense, as it actually conflicts in places with what is given in the FIH published Rules of Hockey – as the above “blow only in dangerous situations everywhere on the pitch – forget lifted, think danger” does. Why do umpires follow the UMB in preference to the Rule? Because the individual Umpire Manager who gives an umpire additional verbal briefing, based on the published UMB (or not), about expected performance at the start of a tournament is going to write a report on the umpire’s performance and that report will have a bearing on his or her future appointments and the chance of promotion within the ranks of umpires – so the reason is self interest.

By-the-by in 1998 It was announced in the Preface of the Rules of Hockey that the (sic) new format of the rule-book included all the material which had previously been contained in umpire briefings – and so in future separate briefing papers would no longer be required. The fight continues, about a year ago I was informed by an FIH official who was replying to me (an official who is no longer with the FIH) that I was in a minority of one in wanting the separately published UMB discontinued – so in other words something that had Executive approval was not long afterwards completely disavowed by administrators despite never have been formally revoked by the FIH.

That the UMB is used in place of the Rules of Hockey is all the more bizarre because the FIH Execuitve have made it perfectly clear that no body – no other person, no other official, no group or committee, other than the FIH Rules Committee, make Rule, can amend Rule or provide Rule Interpretation. The FIH Rules Committee cannot be overruled in matters of Rule and Rule Interpretation – not even by the FIH Umpiring Committee. The only way forward when change is required is to persuade the FIH Rules Committee to amend the Rules where this is considered appropriate. In the meantime however umpires go their own way and do their ‘own thing’.

The words “forget lifted, think danger’ in the first clause of the UMB page above are a case in point when discussing conflict. The Rule is absolutely clear about judging a ball raised with hit as an offence based explicitly (exclusively) on an intent to raise the ball , not on whether or not endangerment (a separate offence) is caused because the ball has been raised with a hit. It is absolutely wrong to permit a player to intentionally raise the ball with a hit, to the disadvantage of opponents and to do so without penalty. That opponents are endangered by an illegally raised ball is a second, related but separate issue. An umpire cannot properly apply the Rule and at the same time ‘forget’ lifted (it’s  very conflicted advice because the essential element, intent, is not mentioned at all.)

It is clear from the wording of the Explanation of application of the Rule that accidental raising of the ball with a hit is not an offence unless endangerment is caused. The UMB therefore effectively advises umpires to regard all raised hits as accidental – and to look only for dangerous play when a ball is raised with a hit,  ignoring any intent to raise the ball; an obvious nonsense given the wording of the Rule – and a very unfair nonsense. The exception to the Rule, accidentally raising the ball with a hit not being an offence, has replaced the Rule and intention to do so is simply disregarded.

The umpire in the following incident made a horrible blunder in not penalising the clearly intentional raising of the ball with a hit past the two IND defenders (to their disadvantage) and allowing the AUS team to score a goal as a result of this planned tactic. Comment elsewhere has pointed to the possible disappointment of the spectators if such a spectacular ‘goal’ had been disallowed. I think more about  deliberate cheating and the certain dismay of the Indian players that it was awarded (and it was the only goal of the match).

In the above video not only the match commentator (but a former FIH Umpire, Keely Dunn – who posted and commentated on the above video) are wrong in considering this foul play to be “superb” or “magnificent” (the language they used), an intentional and planned contravention of Rule, which this action obviously was, should never be so described. A deliberate offence is cheating and foul play no matter how well executed.

In the video below the pass from near the half-way line was wrongly praised as “great skill” by the match commentator. Yes, it was made with excellent weight and direction and caused no danger, but it was made in an illegal way and to the disadvantage of opponents, it should have been penalised under current Rule (the same pass could in any case have been made in a legal way with a scoop stroke) There is no point in having Rules to control specific actions if these Rules are ignored.

The intentionally raised edge hit into the circle in the following video is similar to the play seen in the first one above, the only real difference is the distance involved. This too resulted in the award of a goal when it should not have done. The umpires caught themselves in a consistency trap by the failure to penalise the first raised edge hit, which a defender used to clear the ball over a side-line. That clearance (which also looks to me, because of the evasive action taken, to have been dangerous play) should have resulted in the award of a penalty corner.

Do we want or need intentionally raised hits that are not shots at the goal to be penalised? No obviously not, not unless they are also dangerous play, but that is not how the Rule is presented or how it should be applied. It’s a rotten Rule which was put in place in the late 1980’s to prevent hits that at the time had become popular, because of the introduction of the ultra stiff carbon-fibre reinforced stick, which facilitated, in expert hands, a clip or chip from one end of the pitch to the other. The reason given at the time for banning such hitting was because it led to boring play rather than the real (possibly seen as ‘wimpy’) reason, which was that it was dangerous or potentially dangerous play.

In not so expert hands attempts to emulate the high and long chip hits of the experts (including the taking of shots at the goal) became extremely dangerous and the long and high chip/clip hit had to be banned before someone was killed – but a better way to achieve such a ban could have been employed, for example an absolute height limit on any raised hit which was not a shot at the goal (it’s apparently still okay to put at risk of death players who are defending a goal, but that’s another story)- and the then extant prohibition on raising the ball into the circle (with any stroke), irrespective of intent to do so, should have remained in place. It was instead ‘lost’ to deletion because it was not considered necessary. When there was a ban on intentional raising of the ball with a hit unless taking a shot at the opponent’s goal from within their circle, the ball could not be raised with a hit into the circle, could it?- How wrong that supposition turned out to be.

Would restoring the ban on any raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit (and perhaps a height limit on other strokes and deflections) lead to fairer umpiring? It should do. It should at least lead to more consistent umpiring. Few umpires confuse raised with not raised, but most are apparently (and unsurprisingly, given they are effectively told to ignore it) very poor at determining intent.


Dangerous play.

The other part of the Explanation of Rule 9.9 does not explain anything that is actually written in the Rule Proper (which is only about an intentionally raised hit). This is the instruction concerning the raising of a ball towards another player within 5m with a flick or a scoop.

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.(my upper case bold)

That inserted statement is properly part of the Rule concerning a dangerously played ball, Rule 9.8. This clause concerning the raising of the ball towards a close opponent is however generally ignored (ignoring danger caused by raising the ball into an opponent- is contrary to the advice given in the UMB as well as in the Rules), with the result that Rule 9.11 – ball body contact – is very badly applied. Players are ‘winning’ penalty corners instead of being penalised for contravention of the Explanation of Application given in Rule 9.9: the ‘Rule clause’ under which the forcing of an unintentional contact from an opponent by raising the ball into that opponent should be dealt with (The deletion of the Forcing Rule but leaving the offnce in place to be “dealt with bu other Rules” is another bizarre story).

The following Explanation clause  appears to be random repetition of a clause from the Rules of the Penalty Corner. I cannot explain the reference to a shot or why this clause is repeated in the Explanation to Rule 9.9 at all. It almost goes without saying that it is poorly applied, the words “without attempting to play the ball with their stick” being generally ignored.

If an opponent is clearly running into the shot or into the attacker without attempting to play the ball with their stick, they should be penalised for dangerous play.

It does not matter at all what the Rules are if umpires (or their coaches) decide not to apply them – which they often do even though they have no authority whatsoever to pick and choose which Rules or bits of Rules to apply as given in the rule-book, and which to subvert. Rule 9.9 is clearly a mess which needs sorting out with a rewrite by the FIH Rules Committee, but then Rules 9.8,  9.10, 9.11 and 9.12 are also urgently in need of rewrites not least, but not entirely, because of the mess umpires have made of their ‘accepted’ application of them.


It is only the FIH Rules Committee that can introduce new Rule or amend existing Rule or Interpretation. The FIH Executive issued a Circular to National Associations in 2001 that made that perfectly clear. The wording of that Executive Circular could usefully have been added to the preamble in the Preface of the Rules of Hockey under the title Authority, just as the emphasis on safety (ha ha) is included each year under Responsibility and Liability. In that Circular it was stated that no other person or official or body (committee) has authority to amend the Rules or the Interpretation of the Rules. The opinion of umpires seems to be entirely the other way about. As part of an exchange of views on Facebook following comment about umpire briefings (the UMB) posted with the first video shown above, I received this in reply.

Michael Margolien Briefing obviously overrides rules.

Think of it as an executive decision overriding a law (a rule) which is a more complicated and longer process (the rule change is). Hockey develops in a certain way (and international especially) and this is the way it is umpired.

He could not be more wrong, umpires and even umpire managers are not the FIH Executive (and even the FIH Executive cannot unilaterally introduce or amend a Rule – it approves such changes made by the FIH Rule Committee – who are also unable to unilaterally impose new Rule).

It only takes a few minutes considering the consequences of the above statement by Michael Margolien  to realize that it is a path to chaos – and it is anarchy. (Changes to ‘umpiring practice’ in regard to Rule application, made via umpire briefings, are in large part responsible for confusion about the Rules and the perception, which is inaccurate, that “The FIH are always (unnecessarily) changing the Rules“).

Umpire Briefings do not override the Rules of Hockey, that is an impossibility. Umpire Managers and Umpire Coaches cannot make short term or immediate changes to Rules or Interpretations according to the way the game is being played (has developed) and then expect or demand that the FIH Rules Committee ‘catch up’ with ‘their Rule’ at a later date. That is ‘cart before the horse’ as well as acting without authority. It is in fact allowing hockey coaches to determine the Rules of Hockey – each nation trying to do so to their own advantage

(I am reminded that edge hitting was ‘legal’ in Argentina for several years before it became so in the rest of the world and that the focus on speed and fitness in Australian hockey led to the Australian HA pressing hard for the introduction of squads of sixteen and rolling substitutions (this has lately been extended by breaking matches into four period of 15 minutes rather than two of 35 minutes). Edge hitting and a game of four quarters might now be considered to be good things, although I am not happy to see shorter more ‘frantic’ matches and I feel that playing time should have been increased to 80 mins (4 x 20) to reflect the influence and advantage of three breaks in play, and rolling substitutions and larger squad sizes. The changes are not balanced, they are all in one direction. Hockey is being ‘packaged’ like confectionery. Year on year the portion given is reduced and the price (our annoyance at changes) increases. The current ignoring of the Obstruction Rule and the increase of physical contact in play and several other aspects of ‘modern’ hockey may not be regarded as improvements in the longer term and I certainly do not want to see the FIH RC changing these Rules to reflect how International Level umpires (especially in Europe, Australia and the Americas) are currently interpreting them (with the Asian teams being dragged reluctantly along the same path)

The Royal Dutch Hockey Board are as I write, instructing umpires that legitimate evasive action does not apply to a defender defending the goal while positioned on the goal-line during a penalty corner. That instruction has been brought to the attention of the FIH Rules Committee. I am interested to see how they are going to react to this invention by the KNHB. (As I review this article, three years later in 2021, they have done nothing at all to correct the KNHB)

Umpire briefings must follow the extant Rules, not attempt to lead them. The ultimate authority, Congress, who appoint the FIH Executive, decides how the game will be played. The FIH Executive in turn appoints a Rules Committee which is given sole authority to issue Rules and the Interpretations of those Rules – which the Executive must then approve before they become official – so that the game is played in the way desired by Congress. What is not clear is exactly how much influence Congress actually exert in the drafting of new Rule or how they do so. A Congressional Inquiry into the Rules of Hockey might provide a way forward.

Umpires (unless they lobby the FIH RC as individuals or via their National Associations) have no direct part in making Rules or Interpretations of (the wording of) Rules while umpiring (despite what the Australian Umpire Coach Jan Hadfield might think). Their task while umpiring is to apply the Rules as instructed by the FIH Rules Committee. (so with the assistance of the FIH Umpiring Committeewho are said to liaise with the FIH Rules Committee – they interpret player actions during a match for compliance with the wording of published Rules and Interpretations). If umpires don’t understand how a Rule should be Interpreted then they need to ask (probably via their National Association) the FIH Rules Committee to issue clarification; these days that can be done fairly quickly. Rule clarification from authority cannot be only the personal opinion of a TD or UM , issued on an ad hoc basis just prior to or during a Tournament, especially when that opinion conflicts with FIH RC instruction (For example the bizarre invention, which appeared during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, that an ‘on target’ shot at the goal could not be considered to be dangerous play or the equally absurd declaration in a video briefing prior to Rio 2016 that defenders on the goal-line cannot expect the protection of the Rules – which presumably means the Rules concerning the dangerously played ball).  Nor can it be instruction issued solely by any National Umpiring Association, none of these individuals or bodies have this authority.

We sometimes hear of the FIH fining or threatening to fine a National Hockey Association if they fail to turn up to participate in an FIH Tournament – and the fines are heavy. It would I think be a good idea if the FIH similarly fined National Associations who invent amendments to the Rules of Hockey and allow them to be applied without first seeking and obtaining the approval of the FIH Executive via the FIH Rules Committee.

November 27, 2018

The Einstellung Effect

The Einstellung Effect (pronounced Eye-stellung)

Einstelling is a German word which the author of A Mind for Numbers  Dr. Barbara Oakley, states means to put or erect a barrier or block a way, (that is not the translation I get on German language translation websites, but I will go with it because it is the inadvertent blocking of the mind by using a particular focus, as explained in her book that, I want to examine)

The Einstellung Effect is a tendency to continue to think in a way that is being used (on a present problem) or has previously been used in making judgements and decisions, which can lead to blocking of relevant though and therefore to less-than-optimal decisions or judgments. That is answers or decisions that are incomplete or incorrect.

The effect can be the culprit in failure to find optimal and/or simpler solutions to new problems when we see features of a problem that reminds us of similar problems we’ve solved in the past, (or seen others solve in a particular way). The first solutions that come to mind  tend to follow similar lines to those past solutions/decisions (to put it mildly). Those first ideas often get in the way of (block) the finding of better solutions or the making of correct decisions because they prime us to think in a certain way.

Cognitive traps like this may be the result of our natural desire to simplify the way we process information since simplification saves mental energy. Our minds are cognitive misers, using shortcuts to save cognitive power whenever the opportunity arises (we are naturally lazy or ‘economical’ with effort).

An example from the 2018 World Cup.

We can fall prey to the Einstellung Effect whether we’re novices or masters in any problem-solving arena (but you have been warned so may not immediately do so here).

Here are two examples of problems where difficulty with the Eintellung Effect is possible. The first has often been solved by young children in less than 20 seconds but has still completely baffled their teachers. Be warned there is some misdirection in the following puzzle.


Car park puzzel


2) Read the following sentence and identify how many errors it contains

Thiss sentence contains threee errors

The solution is contained in this pdf along with the remainder of this article:-  Thiss sentence

Video examples

The following clip labours the text of the Rule and suggests improvements to it. I am not convinced that the umpire was even watching, and saw this incident, as he struggled to get back into a position in the circle. His failure to penalise for obstruction and physical contact (backing in and barging) is otherwise inexplicable (a goal was awarded).

November 14, 2018

An example of Classical Conditioning


Classical conditioning, the ‘Pavolivian response’ in which two events – here player action and umpire reaction – are not associated with the expected stimulus, The Rules of Hockey.

Just as Ivan Pavlov was able, in experimental conditions, to cause dogs to salivate in response to the sound of a bell or buzzer, rather than as is normal to the sight or smell of food, umpires respond to conditioning (coaching, peer group pressure, expectation) rather than, as they are expected to, applying the FIH Rules of Hockey as they are written.

(Not a strong analogy because a bell is ‘food neutral’ whereas umpire coaching that contradicts the Rules of Hockey is not neutral. But the training method is similar and something that should not be expected to cause the associated behavior, does so)

I received the following incoherent comment when I posted the above video on YouTube.

I’m afraid this is a consistent theme across all borders. A goal bound shot is just that irrespective of whether it might be dangerous. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy: it’s dangerous play at penalty corners so we put on protective gear (much like you would for ice-hockey) ……so it’s no longer dangerous! I stood on the line for many years and suffered from deliberate deflections that hit me in the face….guess what the result was.

My immediate thought was “Brain damage” but, I guess the result was that he was conditioned to believe, by the umpire’s responses to his being hit on the head with the ball, that it is an offence to be hit with the ball, but not an offence for an attacker (especially one taking a shot at the goal) to propel the ball in a way that will result in it hitting the head of an opponent if the defending opponent does not manage to get out of the way of the shot (and if he does get out of the way – takes legitimate evasive action to avoid injury – an on-goal shot will result in the award of a goal). And also the team of a player hit with the ball, who stops the ball, will in theses circumstances always be penalised with the award of a penalty stroke. That is, Rule 9.8 re: legitimate evasive action (and often what is given in Explanation with Rule 9.9 – i.e. raised towards, within 5m) will be ignored. The Rule itself ignores most situations where the defending player has no opportunity to take evasive action and is hit with the ball. i.e. there is no objective criterion for a dangerously played ball propelled from beyond 5m of the player hit (legitimate evasive action is a subjective judgement).

There are a number of fallacies and contradictions contained in the received comment but there is no cognitive dissidence caused to the player who made it because there is a trained disassociation between what is described as a dangerously played ball in the Rules of Hockey and the usual response, to what is in fact a dangerously played ball, from the authority figure of an umpire (apparently all or most umpires).

To summarize the received comment.

Umpires are right because they are qualified (and experienced) umpires, therefore a ball raised at my head at high velocity by an opponent *(when taking a shot at the goal) cannot be considered to be dangerous play because an umpire does not penalise that action as dangerous play.

  • There is an opposite attitude taken to the raising of the ball at an opponent when outside of the circles or a ball raised by defenders propelling the ball from within their circle. The logic of this apparently does not interfere with the ‘logic’ of not penalising any raised goal-bound shot, despite the fact that the Rules of Hockey make no distinction between these actions wherever a player is endangered with a raised ball.

Umpires are conditioned in the same way, by observing what other umpires are doing and following their practice, because that is a) What they are coached to do, because it is b) consistent c) easy (no need to judge if evasive action is legitimate) d) expected by players (who have been trained by previous umpiring decisions).

The Rules of Hockey are commonly regarded as subservient to (and alterable by) coaching from Umpire Managers and Tournament Directors, received during Tournament Briefings and match debriefings, despite that fact that the FIH Executive have previously instructed that this cannot and must not be the case, because these officials do not have the authority to make or amend a Rule or Interpretation (the Explanation of application provide with the Rule).