Archive for December, 2018

December 30, 2018

The prevention of a tackle attempt and Rule wording

We move into 2019 with the FIH Rules Committee once again having failed to grasp the opportunity to put right some major flaws in the Rules of Hockey. Here I take another detailed look at the wording of the present advice and  Obstruction Rule as set out in the UMB and the Rules of Hockey, and point out some simple but, I think, desirable, amendments to clarify them without significantly changing the Rule. All suggestion, even if it might look new and completely alien, is taken from principles which were previously set out in the Obstruction Rule or given as advice to umpires post 1993.

The Umpire Manager’s Briefing for FIH Umpires at FIH Tournaments


∙ Are the players trying to play the ball?
∙ Is there a possibility to play the ball?
Is there active movement to prevent the playing of the ball? (my bold)

Be aware of professional use of the body to illegally block opponents from the ball, as well as players trying to demonstrate obstructions by lifting their sticks dangerously over opponents’ heads

∙ Stick obstruction is a ‘hot issue’ for players. Judge it fairly and correctly and blow only if you are 100% sure

Rules of Hockey 2019 –


9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.  (my bold)

Players obstruct if they:
– back into an opponent
– physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent
– shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction). This also applies if an attacker runs across or blocks defenders (including the goalkeeper) when a penalty corner is being taken.

There are problems of both syntax and semantics in the writing pertaining to the Obstruction Rule in both the advice given in UMB and the instruction given in the rule-book (the distinction between advice and instruction is an important one) and I need to start comment on them by addressing these issues. One issue is ambiguity, the UMB and the Rule Explanation both try to cover obstructive tackling, obstruction by a player in possession of the ball (the most common obstruction offence) and third-party obstruction, without making sufficient distinction between them. The UMB for example, begins:- 

Are the players trying to play the ball?

That cannot reasonably refer to a situation where an obstructing player is in controlled possession of the ball. This is a trivial point and does not make a significant difference to the possible understandings of the question put, if common sense is used, but not all of the ambiguities are trivial.

Is there a possibility to play the ball?

Presumably, the writer means:-  Is a player who might claim (or is claiming) to be obstructed in a position from which he could play at the ball? The UMB, in the advice on tackling, warns umpires against pre-judging where a legal tackle could possibly be made from, so it is acknowledged that this is not always an easy decision to make and a tackler can often attempt to play at the ball from what looks to an umpire to be an impossible position. This seems to me to be a way of denying that an obstructed player is obstructed because he or she might actually somehow be able to play at the ball, even if it looks unlikely that that is the case. It gives a ball shielding player great scope in positioning between an opponent and the ball, I think too much scope in most instances.

Is there active movement to prevent the playing of the ball?

There is a syntax error there, it is not possible to make an inactive movement, movement is an activity. The word “active” is redundant. This minor error is a pity because it spoils the flow of one of the most important pieces of advice in the UMB. An umpire might pause to consider what an active movement is. Is it a movement that is relevant rather than irrelevant?  This sentence is, however, problematical in another way, it gives the impression that the illegal prevention of a tackle attempt, i.e. obstruction, depends entirely on there being a movement to obstruct by the obstructing player, a point I will come back to.

Be aware of professional use of the body to illegally block opponents from the ball,…

That is better in one way (there is no suggestion that movement is necessary for there to be an obstruction offence). But what does “Be aware” mean (penalise?) and why is the word “professional” inserted in the statement? That is an insult to professional players.

The advice given about the penalising of stick obstruction is also unnecessary, an umpire should not penalise for any offence unless he or she is certain that it has occurred, but should not fail to penalise when a team is disadvantaged by the illegal action of an opposing team player.

The Rule Proper. 

9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

We are then presented with Explanations of Application of the Rule, set out in several clauses most of which are definitions of obstruction. We are also provided with an Exception to the Rule. Unfortunately, many of these clauses are badly constructed or incomplete or both.

Explanation of Rule Application

Players obstruct if they:
– back into an opponent

This apparently uncontentious instruction has proved to be extremely contentious because of the way it has been interpreted, something that would not have been an issue, if it had been properly written and explained, has turned the application of the Obstruction Rule ‘on its head’. I have written more than one article on this matter. Here is one, reading it and looking at the videos within it will be helpful.

I will place links to other articles about the Obstruction Rule at the foot of this article.

Put briefly, this clause does not say or mean back into contact with an opponent and I have put the case for interpreting it to mean ‘back into the playing reach of an opponent, while shielding the ball from that opponent, to prevent a legal tackle attempt being made‘ longer but unambiguous and accurate.

– physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent.

The Rules about physical contact are duplicated and  ‘pop-up’ all over the place in the Rules of Hockey and this is but one example of this repetition, but it is true that these actions may also constitute an Obstruction offence. When combined with “back into an opponent” we have both two obstruction offences and possibly two different physical contact or interference offences, to body and to stick. To see them all together (unpenalised) watch a shootout in almost any senior match decided in this way. The video below is of a high school championship and demonstrates  the complete unawareness of the Obstruction Rule that is now typical in hockey, world wide. This may be directly attributed to the poor standard of umpire coaching disseminated by FIH Umpire Coaches in this area of Rule.

– shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body. (my bold)

Here is another vitally important clause spoiled by a poor word choice. The word “from” is just ‘skimmed’ and accepted as is for no better reason than the fact that it is contained in a long-standing phraseology. But its use makes no sense at all, in fact takes the sense away from the ‘sentence’ because it is generally the case that no tackle can be attempted, never mind a legitimate (legal) one, when the ball is shielded (to prevent a legitimate tackle) by a player in possession of it. It would make good sense if the clause was written ‘Players obstruct if they shield the ball to prevent a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body. This is one of the very few examples of better word use in the UMB than is given in the Explanations of Application of the Rules. It should be noted (going back to my point about the absence of need for a movement to obstruct an opponent) that there is no mention of any movement by the obstructing player in this clause. Shielding the ball to prevent or delay an opponent attempting a legal tackle – because a tackle is made impossible, due to the ball shielding, for the intending tackler to immediately make a tackle for the ball, is an Obstruction offence. Advice used to be given in the rule-book to umpires that an obstruction occurred when a tackler who would otherwise have been able to play at the ball could not do so because it was shielded by the body or stick of an opponent. That sensible advice mysteriously (that is without any reason being offered for its deletion) disappeared. Umpires were also at one time (around 2002) advised (in the rule-book and the UMB) to “watch for players who stand still and shield the ball when under pressure” Standing still is clearly not an active movement so the FIH RC and the UMB have been very inconsistent with their advice about obstruction since 1993.

  In compliance with existing Rule, defenders who attempt to run-down time by holding the ball in a corner in their own half, should be penalised with a penalty corner (and a yellow card) and those who ‘crab’ the ball along their own base-line to ‘protect’ it from opponents while taking it out of the circle, with a penalty-stroke. Intentional offences should be penalised more severely.

A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

This Rule Exception is what is left of what in 1993 was mistakenly called the ‘New Interpretation’ of the Obstruction Rule, which at the time, was set out over two pages in the Rule Interpretations section in the back of the rule-book.

The divisions into The Stationary Player and The Moving PLayer contained in that Interpretation were ridiculous (and the above clause is silly for that reason – a receiver who is moving can also be facing in any direction as the ball is received). What the writer (who I believe was the late John Gawley) was trying to say was that a stationary receiver could remain stationary to receive the ball, even if closely marked, without immediate penalty for obstruction. Up until the date of this change a receiver needed to make a lead run to get space, away from the playing reach of a close marking opponent, in which to receive the ball and to avoid being penalised for obstruction as the ball was received within the marker’s playing reach.  That previous interpretation made hockey very difficult for a novice player to play as receiving the ball when marked required considerable skill (and made the more confined indoor hockey very difficult even for experienced players)

Also ridiculous was the “onus” on a tackler to position where a tackle could be attempted and then to make a precise play at the ball with the stick (often an impossibility because there was nothing to prevent the ball holder moving to maintain a ball shielding position. The blatant obstruction of the goalkeeper which usually occurs during shootouts is condoned by suggesting that the GK makes no attempt to play at the ball, even when to legally do so was an impossibility).  But there was no mention of any onus on a ball-holder not to obstruct an opponent who was within playing distance of the ball and demonstrating an intent to make a tackle. All this heavily slanted ‘new interpretation’ (which was the extreme opposite of previous practice and not just a reasonable modification) was struck out of the rule-book in 2004, but there are still today umpire coaches, who were probably active umpires in 1993 and after, who continue to coach to new umpires the ‘interpretation’ extant at that time – which was basically, if a tackler could not play directly at the ball he or she could not be obstructed. The flaw in that approach should be obvious to all, the illegal prevention of a tackle attempt was not considered at all in a Rule which should have been primarily about exactly that.

To be clear, I think the introduction of protection for a ball receiving player was an excellent idea because it opened up tactical opportunities, which had existed before (as the German teams under Paul Lisseck had demonstrated) but which were very rarely used. I do not want to go back to a situation where all a marker had to do to win a free ball was clatter into the back of an opponent who was receiving the ball while pretending to be attempting a tackle. That said the protection given to a receiving player, a temporary exemption from the Obstruction Rule, must not be extended into the play after the ball has been received and controlled. I am then in favour of the original “must move away” rather than the present “is permitted to move off” which is neither directive nor prohibitive, so a choice between opposites and not a Rule instruction at all.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

That is probably the most badly constructed clause in the rule-book. It starts by making a Rule statement that, as mentioned above, is neither directive or prohibitive and which it is therefore unnecessary to make (and which could, in fact, have been omitted entirely) and then gives two exceptions to that statement which both prohibit described actions. Setting out the proscribed actions alone would have been simpler and clearer and would probably have led to better Rule application. I think this, below, would be much better even if somewhat longer, because it is directive and, I think, unambiguous even if perhaps unduly recursive in construction:-

A unambiguous version

A player with the ball is not permitted to move bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent, who is within playing distance of the ball,  in a position of balance to make a tackle, i.e. not facing or reaching in the wrong direction, and is demonstrating an intent to play at the ball.

Having received the ball a receiver must then, without delay, either play the ball away or immediately move with the ball away from opponents, to put and keep it beyond the playing reach of any opponent. Keeping the ball beyond the playing reach of an opponent may include eluding a tackle attempt by an in-range opponent as long as the ball is constantly kept open to that opponent and not shielded in any way, with body or stick, that prevents a legitimate tackler attempt.

And finally we have the afterthought, which was at one time, all that there was of the Obstruction Rule.

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction). This also applies if an attacker runs across or blocks defenders (including the goalkeeper) when a penalty corner is being taken.

That clause is and always has been a muddle of two very different kinds of obstruction. The word “also” is also in the wrong place. But importantly it does state that a player who blocks an opponent to prevent that opponent attempting to play at the ball is obstructing.

An expanded suggested alternative which includes some long ago deleted but still relevant previous guidance for players and umpires:-

A player who runs in front of or blocks off an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this may also be third party obstruction). Third party obstruction may occur if an attacker runs across or blocks off out-running defenders (including a goalkeeper) when a penalty corner is being taken.

It is not necessary for the obstructed player to be within playing distance of the ball at the time a third-party obstruction occurs, all that is required for offence is the prevention of opportunity to intercept the ball or challenge an opposing player for the ball, when but for the obstruction the obstructed player would have been able to achieve one or other of these objectives. 

The Rule on ball-body contact – 9.11 – could also be reconstituted and greatly improved with  a combination of current and previous wording, but it really needs a new approach. That basically is a focus on ball-body contact by a player in possession of the ball rather than by a tackler or defender hit with the ball.

The Rules on dangerous play (there are several scatted throughout the Rules text) need a rethink, particularly the Rules concerning the dangerously played ball. 9.8, 9.9, 9.10 and those contained in the Rules of the penalty corner. I have written articles with suggestions for all of these Rules. The dangerously played ball needs to be judged far more objectively, for example, more height limits introduced. Legitimate evasive action has long been ignored as a criterion largely because it is both difficult to determine and is inadequate. A player hit with the ball has anyway often no opportunity to try to get out of the way of it. As John Gawley wrote in another umpire coaching document back in 2001. “No player should ever be forced to self-defence”

Elephants in the Room

Elephants in the Room. We have recent Rule changes, like the facility to play at the ball above shoulder height, which ought to be far more restrictive than they are and some ancient Rules (written back in 1908) which are no longer fit for purpose.

Links to some other Obstruction Rule articles.

There are also many articles about other Rules in which I make reference to the Obstruction Rule or post videos of examples of breach of it, but attempting to read through the above list should be enough to make you as crazy as I am.

December 28, 2018


Back in 2006 when I was a regular contributor to a ‘newbie’ named Keely Dunn joined and posted about a defender positioned in front of the goal during a penalty corner and asserted in that post that such a defended caused danger and should be penalised if hit with an attacker’s shot at the goal. I posted a reply to that assertion in which I stated that the opposite was true – that a ball raised towards another player that endangered that other player was always, provided there was no intentional use of the body by the defender to stop or deflect the ball, the fault and responsibility of the player who raised the ball. Keely Dunn’s response was a tirade of more than a thousand words in which she declared that the fact that a defender positioned between a shooter and the goal demonstrated an intention to use the body to stop the ball and she then went on to describe her dedication to umpiring, her ambition (at the time to be an Olympic Umpire) and her hard work to that end. (an absurd attempt to claim the moral high ground by asserting that I had made a personal attack on her, when I only disputed her opinion on a single issue – absurd because I was the one trying to protect players from dangerous play, while she was promoting the opposite). She finished her response by scolding me for “calling her out” and stated that if I ever did so again she would not respond – so this time I am perfectly safe from her rebukes despite the fact that I am again going to disagree with her (declare that she is wrong)  in the same way and for the same reasons. I will not accept that a defender is not allowed to defend the goal or not allowed to be in (punished for being in) any position they need to be to do so.

Below, in coloured text, is part of her analysis of the changes to the Rules of Hockey for 2019, in which she makes a similar claim to the one she made in 2006, concerning the protection offered under the Rules to a defender in front of the goal when a shot is made at the goal. That this is presented as a matter of safety is bizarre as there would seldom be any danger in such circumstances if the ball was not raised by a shooter directly towards a defender (a deflection towards a defender is rarely the result of raising the ball directly at that defender by an initial shooter).

In her defence I must point out that she has reversed the long-standing meme that an outrunning defender at a penalty corner who is attempting to tackle for the ball with his stick is committing an offence.  (She does not now refer to such out-runners as ‘suicide runners‘).

The reason for taking away a non-kitted player who can use their body inside the circle to play the ball is primarily safety. Watching a player without any real protective equipment throw themselves in front of a ball for club or country has become a Hunger Games-esque spectacle (for example, from the men’s World Cup, see the Blacksticks’ Bennett running down a Peillat drag flick, or England’s Gleghorne all but decapitating |Ireland’s O’Donoghue on the line at the end of their crossover match).

The two clips below contain the incidents referred to in the above paragraph.

I would not describe the PWGKP in the Ireland goal as a someone who had thrown himself into the path of a shot at the goal while aping the actions of a fully kitted goalkeeper, but rather as someone genuinely trying to get out of the way of the ball because he believed he would be badly injured if hit with it.

It is part of the training of goalkeepers to persuade them that a hit with the ball to the head when they are wearing a helmet is not life threatening (although there have been some nasty injuries caused to goalkeepers by the failure of a sub-standard helmet or a previously weakened eye-grill) and get them to use the helmet to deflect the ball. This training is not easy as it is counter-intuitive to most people, and it can be no surprise that a field-player who has not been properly trained as a goalkeeper should react as if his head was not protected with a helmet. (Injuries to the side of the head, including fractures of the skull, are not uncommon in defenders wearing face masks, who turn their face away from an incoming ball; overcoming the instinct to avert the face is not an easy task – the injury to Godfrey Irwin of Cookstown HC in the EHL comes to mind).

The Rule which penalises the raising of the ball into an outrunning defender during a penalty corner is a near copy of the part of the Explanation of application of Rule 9.9. concerning the raising of a ball towards an opponent – but there are critical differences.
The Penalty corner Rule contains reference to a height limit (knee height), Rule 9.9. does not, Rule 9.9 refers to the strokes used to propel the ball, while Rule 13.3.l does not. (but I believe it sensible to consider a ball that has been raised with a hit or an intentional deflection into a close opponent in open play to be dangerous play). Do you see how unnecessarily diverse and complicated the Rules are even in simple matters such as raising the ball towards a close opponent? More about that following the last video below

At lower levels, the benefit to pulling the goalkeeper is still too often an exercise in futility where a hapless defender stands on the penalty spot wearing a different—coloured shirt, terrified to leave and create the numerical advantage that is the sole benefit of the exercise.

Teams are now constrained to using only all field players to create the numerical advantage (or continue playing a match where a fully—kitted goalkeeper is unavailable). It doesn’t change the fact that we have unprotected players running around in the circle, but hopefully, there will be less incentive for anyone brave soul to sacrifice their limbs for goal-saving glory. I nominate this the rule Most Likely To Be Forgotten It Was Ever Different When The Next Rule Book Comes Out.

Way less to remember. There are no fewer than 24 instances (yes, I counted them because I’m a giver that way) in the rule book where a PWGKP was specified in addition to the goalkeeper and those are now all gone. No more arguing about putting on helmets, whether they can wear the goalkeeper’s blockers on penalty corners, or reminding attackers that YES THEY CAN USE THEIR FEET, PLEASE JUST PLAY ON NOW CHEERS.

I am surprised that anyone could have doubted that a player in the position that used to be referred to as ‘kicking back’ could use their feet, but I suppose it is possible since PWGKP was introduced into terminology some years ago. But this mess is not going to be forgotten. It was wise of the FIH HRB to insist on a fully equipped goalkeeper when they did and a mistake to withdraw that requirement – despite the difficulties with the expense of kit in some regions. The eroding attitude to the safety of defenders positioned in front of the goal does not inspire confidence in the wisdom of the FIH RC in making the change made for 2019-. I believe the only reasonable course is to go back to the fully equipped goalkeeper being a compulsory element of a team, in the same way that helmets became compulsory for goalkeepers.  (It’s daft to compel a goalkeeper to wear a helmet but not compel a team to have a goalkeeper, and also to have the option to replace a fully kitted goalkeeper with a field player – who will be shot at as if he or she were a fully equipped goalkeeper.)

However, you’re likely going to have more situations where you have difficult decisions to make regarding dangerous play, i.e. when attackers shoot at goal with field players in the way. You’ll need to continue to keep in mind the idea that defenders who are standing in front of the goal doing their best Maddie Hinch are choosing to put themselves in danger (and really need to stop that, m’kay?).

No not m’kay or okay. An attacker who chooses to raise the ball at an opponent in a way that endangers that opponent (forces self-defence for example), chooses to commit a foul and should be penalised. A player who carelessly or recklessly raises the ball towards another player (I believe the change to “opponent” to be a mistake – the emphasis should be on the safety of all players – hospital emergency rooms will not make a distinction between injured same team or opposing team players) commits an offence and should be penalised.

Defenders who are marking, intercepting, closing down the ball or otherwise making an attempt to tackle are NOT putting themselves in danger and need to be protected.

Of course they are putting themselves in danger, given the present penalty-corner set up they have no choice but to do so. Anything which facilitates the near immediate making of a shot at the goal will be stupidly dangerous to defenders trying to prevent that shot and having to run between 12m and 14m towards opponents in possession of the ball to do so, especially with the present attitude towards a ball raised towards a defender – even if it is only allowed below knee height when the opponent is within 5m.(any defender positioned beyond 5m is apparently ‘fair game’) The penalty-corner needs to be replaced with a power-play conducted in the opponent’s 23m area and the now necessary ‘charge’ eliminated.

I don’t hate this change. Simple is usually better, and safety (when real and not imagined) is no one’s enemy. it’ll also make teams more cautious when pulling their goalkeeper. But when they do, they’ll go for goal with more rigour, making for more exciting, attacking hockey at the right moments.

I very much doubt what is written in the last sentence. Attackers will still back into opponents, spin and ‘look for a foot’, at present they are given, because of ‘umpiring practice’, no reason not to.

The above clip is an excellent example of the degrading of Rule to the point where it is applied in the opposite way to that which it was obviously intended it be applied. Any forcing action is still supposed to be dealt with (penalised) under “other Rules”. What other Rule if the ball is not raised? Your guess would be welcome.

The ARG player who makes a tackle and gets possession of the ball has several options immediately available to him but realizes what the team needs most is time to position to take advantage of their possession of the ball – they are closely grouped and still recovering from the chase-back to retrieve the ball from their opponents and so are not ideally placed to exploit possession. So what does he do? He decides to ‘win’ a free ball.  He has no hesitation in raising the ball and aiming it into the legs of the NZ player (contrary to what is given with Rule 9.9), who is attempting to position to tackle him because he fully expects the umpires to ignore this foul and to penalise the player hit with the ball. As it happened the NZ player intercepted the ball with his stick, but the ARG player appealed for a contact offence anyway, possibly hoping that the umpire was too far away to be certain of what actually happened (the umpire was still recovering from his move to the baseline in anticipation of an NZ attack, but must have seen that the ball was raised from close range into the NZ player? No?) The umpire followed expectation and awarded penalty against the player the ball was raised at, following the claimed contact, and the ARG player got away with this blatant cheating.

This raises the matter of the positioning of umpires and the number of officials on the pitch. I think, at this level, there should be five officials. Four flag officials running the arcs between the half-line and the goal-posts, each responsible for one side of a single half of the pitch, with some overlap around the half-way line, and an umpire in the center between the circles running the diagonals between the widths of the circles. In that way almost all incidents on the pitch should be supervised by at least two close officials and often by three. Should anyone think this number excessive they might consider that a top level tennis match is supervised by eight officials (seven of them with a very limited task) and the playing area and the number of players involved is a fraction of that used to play a hockey match.

I view the shot at the head of the IRE PWGKP when there was nobody guarding the left post and therefore much of the left side of the goal open, as cheating i.e. as deliberate dangerous play. In my view the (highly skilled) shooter deliberately targeted the defender knowing the defender would not be able to adequately defend himself. A risible comment? If you like, but despite my Irish blood there are no ‘sour grapes’, a 3-2 loss is as much a loss as a 4-2 loss. There can be no doubt (the opinion of Keely Dunn aside) that the shot was dangerous play by the shooter and it was played where it was played deliberately. A small risk as ENG were winning anyway, but maybe the shooter thought a shot wide of the defender would be more easily saved. There was nobody doing “a Maddie Hitch impression”, there was desperate evasive action, which in the circumstances was, I believe, legitimate. That shot would have been saved easily by a competent goalkeeper but a PWGKP, wearing only a helmet for additional protection (which he would not have been accustomed to wearing), stood very little chance of stopping it.

July 2020 and i need to add to this article comment about acceptance of risk and a defender choosing to position (probably on the goal-line) to defend the goal because of risible comments made by the Umpire Manager at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“Of course” he says but why “Of course” The usual ‘other reason trotted out is ‘acceptance of risk’ – the defender choosing  to be in place  where the ball could be propelled at him or her.

Acceptance of risk is the usual, normal and reasonable acceptance of the fact that in the course of a sport (or other activity) a player may be injured by accident. In such circumstances a player cannot claim compensation for damages because of such injury (it’s a legal principle). BUT, the principle hangs on the actions of others being reasonable in the context and very importantly on the actions being legal i.e. not against the Rules of the sport being engaged in.

Raising the ball at an opponent in a way that endangers that opponent and causes that opponent to take or attempt to take evasive action is dangerous play – and dangerous play is neither a reasonable or legal action in hockey, it is an offence, a foul. It matters not that it is legal to raise the ball at the goal at any height when shooting in open play. It is NOT legal to endanger another player while doing so. So the risk that that may happen is not something that can be ‘accepted’.

The fact is that it is the shooter who chooses to propel the ball by raising it, who chooses to propel it at maximum velocity, and who chooses not to avoid hitting defenders he or she is able to see are positioned between his or her position and the goal. The defender on the other hand is positioned where an attacker might propel the ball, the goal being 3.66m wide. Choice is with the shooter, not the defender of the shot, who is often forced by the action of the shooter to self-defence. All players MUST act with consideration for the safety of others. “Of course” they must – that Rule is given on page one of the rule-book where even the most reluctant of readers can easily find it.

December 19, 2018

Rule Changes for 2019

The FIH bring a band-aid to a train crash.

The following is from the FIH website (My comment in italics, but I don’t know why I am still bothering to make comment).

Lausanne, Switzerland: Every second year, the Rules Committee of the International Hockey Federation (FIH) may make proposals to amend the rules of hockey. In 2018, the following proposals have been made by the Committee and approved by the Executive Board:

(This is not a complete list of all the changes made; to find those you will need to look at the new version of the rule-book via the FIH web-site)

Introduction of the match format of four quarters as standard

In international matches, teams have been playing four quarters for some years and it is felt that uniformity in match formats can be achieved when all match formats are based on a four-quarter principle. Like in international matches, time is stopped between the awarding of a penalty corner and the taking of that penalty corner. Other than in international matches, where this is covered by FIH Tournament Regulations, time is not stopped to celebrate goals as this was introduced primarily for television coverage. The four quarters has additional advantages at junior levels of the sport in which coaches often umpire youth school matches and the additional breaks provide for coaching opportunities.

(It is not stated above if playing time will be reduced from 70mins to 60mins as in current International matches. I don’t believe a reduction of time played will be popular. We could and I think should, have four quarters of 20mins in all hockey i.e. an addition to playing time to bring hockey more into line with other outdoor team sports).   P.S. Playing time has been reduced to 60mins.

Removal of Goalkeeping privileges for substitute field player

A mandatory experiment, with effect from 1 January 2019, taking out the option for teams to play with a field player with goalkeeping privileges. Teams have now two options: they either play with a goalkeeper who wears full protective equipment comprising at least headgear, leg guards and kickers and who is also permitted to wear goalkeeping hand protectors and other protective equipment, or they play with only field players. Any change between these options should be treated as a substitution. It is hoped that this experimental rule will enhance safety as field players will no longer have goalkeeping privileges so will not be entitled to use their body to stop shots at goal and it also enhances the promotion of the sport by eliminating the issue of outfield players wearing other shirts to indicate goalkeeping privileges.

(What the FIH cannot bring themselves to say is that attackers will not be entitled to raise the ball at a field-player in the goal with impunity as they would at a goalkeeper in the goal – but fault and offence will apparently, and bizarrely, remain with defenders when an attacker raises the ball towards a defender in line with current umpiring practice but not with current Rule. The blurb above, especially that about the enhancement of safety and the promotion of the sport is only that – unsupportable blurb)

∙ Defending free hits within 5 meters of the circle

The explanation for how to treat free hits for the attacker close to the circle has been changed in Rules 13.2.f. It has now been made clear that players other than the attacker taking the free hit must be at least five meters away, including when they are in their circle. if the attacker, however, chooses to take the free hit immediately, then defenders who are inside the circle and within five meters from the ball may shadow around the inside of the circle as per the explanation of the rule before 2019. This has the advantage of not preventing the quickly taken free hit which has been widely welcomed by coaches and players, whilst maintaining the 5m rule used everywhere else on the pitch to provide space for the free hit taker.

(This is useless, there is in effect no change at all. What is needed is a restoration of taking the ball outside the hash circle when a free ball is awarded for an offence committed by a defender between the hash circle and the shooting circle. The present prohibition on playing the ball directly into the circle from a free inside the 23m line needs to be deleted and the Rules concerning the self-pass adjusted accordingly. Prohibiting the raising of the ball into the circle with a hit, in any phase of play, could sensibly replace both the present circumvented or ignored Rule concerning an intentionally raised hit and the direct playing of the ball into the opponent’s circle from a free awarded in the opponent’s 23m area. The long, high intentionally raised hit, which is very seldom penalised as it should be, could be dealt with with the imposition of an absolute height limit on any raised hit which is not a shot at the goal from within the opponent’s circle – but shots at goal that are made towards and ‘through’ defenders from beyond 5m must also be height limited, sternum height is suggested. The current adoption from the penalty corner Rules “above knee height and within 5m” being considered dangerous play, although not strictly Rule compliant in open play – where there is no minimum height mentioned – See Rule 9.9 is better than the lack of control we have from beyond 5m.)

∙ Free hits awarded inside the defensive circle
As in Indoor Hockey, a defender may now take a free hit awarded in the circle anywhere inside the circle or up to 15 meters from the back-line in line with the location of the offence, parallel to the side-line.

(Back to where we were, this should not have been changed the last time it was)

∙ Completion of a penalty corner
Rule 13.6 that described the completion of a penalty corner for substitution purposes and for a penalty corner at the end of a period, has been deleted. The option that a penalty corner is completed when the ball travels outside the circle for the second time no longer exists.

(The second change one that seems designed to further disadvantage the defending team. I can’t see the need for it or anything wrong with the present reasons to terminate a penalty corner)

(Other areas where change and reinforcement are desperately required have – as usual – been ignored )

I notice elsewhere that a goalkeeper is now allowed to propel the ball over long distances with any part of his or her equipment, a welcome change and one I have been advocating for years. We can now expect to see goalkeepers launching counter-attacks using a hand protector as well as a kicker.

These amendments will come into force on 1 January.

These detailed revisions to the Rules of hockey will be available from Friday 21st December on the FIH Rules app.

Why do I compare the Rule change actions of the FIH RC in 2019 to the application of a Band-Aid following a train crash? Because it is obvious to me that some ‘heavy lifting’ needs doing to move things out of the way that are impeding the playing of the game to a consistency applied set of Rules. I think not only should that be obvious to everyone, it IS obvious to all that some Rules are not applied at all. In this category I will put the Obstruction Rule (where the prevention of a tackle attempt and not the making of a tackle attempt should be emphasized, but most umpires seem instead to be oblivious to the existence of the Rule) and the dangerously played ball when it is a shot at the goal (excepting a first hit shot during a penalty corner). Some Rules are routinely misapplied, here, for example, we have the ball-body contact Rule and the Advantage Rule. Some Rules are unnecessary or unfair, here there is Rule concerning the taking of a free ball in the opponents 23m area: a defender intentionally playing the ball over the base-line; and the Rule/s surrounding the aerial or falling ball, just to mention the more obvious ones. The FIH RC has yet again done nothing at all to address flaws in the game arising from these Rules, some of these flaws have been with us for thirty years or more (and are therefore ‘well established’ or ‘traditional’ elements which are preserved for only that reason.

Why do the FIH RC have a ‘back-sticks’ Rule, but permit edge-hitting? The ‘back-sticks’ Rule could reasonably be deleted, that would not be more dangerous than allowing edge-hitting and would not fundamentally change the way in which the game is played – rolling the stick-head over the front of the ball would remain the most efficient way of moving the ball left to right during stick-work. I mention only that one suggestion for change (which I accept might be too far ‘outside the box’ for some) for to list all of them would take several pages (*footnote).

A related article:-…and-rule-wording/

* It actually took sixteen posts to list the suggestions with reasons and even then some appropriate changes were not included, because I referenced only the Rules concerning the Conduct of Play and two Penalties, the Free Ball and the Penalty Corner – see my recent posts Which Rules should be Amended or Deleted?  I haven’t made a count but I have probably suggested in excess of fifty changes – none frivolously.

So in 2020 we might see the FIH Rules Committee change an umpiring signal (because umpires are now not always using the advised signal) Tail wagging the dog (but in this case that is not a bad thing).

December 14, 2018

A rant about historical callousness.

I came across the article below, which was initially published in the Indian newspaper Firstpost, on the website on the 14th December 2008. It is a rant, and as such, it is repetitive and overlong – and it therefore reminds me of some of my own writing about the Rules of Hockey. Certainly, some of the phrases used struck a chord, those contained in the first and last sentences for example. I think there is overuse of the words ‘callous’ and ‘callousness’, other words could have been used more effectively on occasion, and the message is clear before the writer has written half of what he did, but there is no doubt about the indignation and passion felt.

I can at least break up some of my own ramblings with pictures and video examples to illustrate the points being made; even if very few readers interrupt their reading of an article to view a video (and very few people who browse YouTube videos link to articles when videos are produced just to illustrate them, which is often the case).

So here we go:-

When, just when, will the International Hockey Federation (FIH) stop peddling false information to the world at large!

The official tournament programme of the ongoing men’s World Cup in Bhubaneswar is an illustration of the callous and distasteful level of indifference toward the game’s history.

India’s wins against Germany in the previous editions are not reflected in statistics published by in the programme for 2018 World Cup.

India’s wins against Germany in the previous editions are not reflected in statistics published in the official programme of the 2018 World Cup. (I assume that repettition is deliberate)

For a moment, forget what the FIH and its affiliated national associations across the world have done over the years in trashing the game’s history, the World Cup would still seem to be an elite event whose records remain sacrosanct.

Err sorry, think again.

And, please think yet again if you consider the FIH and its affiliated units as custodians of hockey’s legacy. (Perhaps a reference to the Hockey Museam?)

Even in disseminating the records of the elite World Cup tournament of the past—just 13 tournaments since the inaugural edition in 1971 —they seem to prefer fiction to fact.

“Don’t tell me they want to pass them off as official records, these guys should be fiction writers,” screamed a former Indian player who had featured in four early World Cups and even won a gold medal in 1975.

Drawing the attention of The Hockey Insider to the disinformation being passed around with FIH “Stats” as the label, the ex-Indian striker was aghast after a simple glance at India’s head-to-head World Cup records.

‘They’ve simply scratched out the victories we carved out,” said the former Indian striker who noticed something amiss when two games where he had played a role in the Indian victories over Germany did not figure in the FIH statistics published by the Official Programme of the 2018 World Cup titled “Stars Become Legends” and carrying images of lndian players Manpreet Singh and PR Sreejesh on the cover.

The startling missing facts that prompted the ex-Indian World Cup player to call Firstpost would stare any Indian hockey follower in the face. India had an unbeaten record against Germany, who played as West Germany until the 1990 edition, in the initial three World Cups: two victories and a draw.

India won 1-0 in Barcelona in 1971; drew 0-0 against the then Olympic champions at Amsterdam in 1973 and outplayed them 3-1 in 1975 at Kuala Lumpur. The India-Germany encounters at Kuala Lumpur were the stuff that lingers on in the memory of sports fans. India were leading 1-0 in their preliminary group encounter when rain disrupted the match.

Given the practice in the rain-affected 1975 World Cup —where a match was even shifted to another ground at half-time —this game was supposed to resume from that stage. But the FIH decided to replay the encounter afresh, brushing aside India’s protests. In the replayed match, which India needed to win to advance to the semi-finals, the Ajitpal Singh-led Indian team turned the form book upside down yet again to defeat the Olympic champions 3-1.

The 1978 edition in Buenos Aires saw the Germans hammer India 7-0 with the two nations playing out a 2-2 draw in London 1986.

Imagine, these matches are not part of the statistics that show just three India-Germany matches with all three confirmed as German victories. History is often misinterpreted by people wanting to twist it to their liking, but here is a case of sheer callousness.

It is not as if the FIH is an organisation incapable of actually dishing out the correct information. But, it seems, callousness about the game’s history has assumed such drastic dimensions in the FIH that they do not care about momentous events even the other day.

Thousands of matches are missing from the FIH data, simply because it seems the federation could not be bothered to look up the records or conduct research. The FIH wants the hockey fraternity to forget memorable matches and just have a tunnel vision that looks just at the elite events.

Those propounding great theories about legacy may one day find time between their coffee breaks to look up the game’s history. History, most often, is not confined to elite events. But then, the World Cup is one of hockey’s few elite competitions and here too a star player of yesteryears had to scream to draw attention to the callous mistakes.

Just scratch your memories for international matches you have seen or read about. The chances are they will not be there in the FlH’s “glorious” collection of records. Over the past two years, it has been highlighted by the hockey fraternity of South Asia that a majority of encounters that are part of the game’s epic rivalry between India and Pakistan are missing from the FIH records.

The FIH, however, does not seem to have the time and inclination to even look into the mess it has created by recognising some matches and de-recognising the others.

A few years ago, the FIH actually tried to give some semblance of sanity to the historical data that they circulate to the world.

Since then, the media and the FIH television partners are fed historical data that, politely said, is a joke. And this data is being circulated along with the television pictures.

It seems the hockey mandarins are very busy trying to sell misinformation.


My own rants include articles about the statement by the Hockey Rules Board, in the Preface to the 1997 Rules, under Rule Changes, that following the deletion of the off-side Rule, “measures would be put in place to constrain potentially dangerous actions by attacking forwards close to the goal“. These ‘measures’ did not materialise in 1998 (Why not?) and were never again referred to (Why not?). In fact the opposite has happened attackers are allowed to hit a ball from any height, including from above head height, up into the goal from any distance within the circle and any evasive action taken by defenders, far from being a signal for penalty for dangerous play by an attacker, is just ignored.

What did appear in the 1998 Rules Preface was a statement that all existing Interpretations had been incorporated into the (sic) current rule-book, including those which up until that point had been produced exclusively for FIH Umpire briefings at FIH Tournaments, and that therefore no further such documents were necessary (so presumably the publication of such documents would cease?). The current reality is that the content of the still published UMB is now regarded as superior to what is given as Rule and Interpretation (Explanation of Application) in the rule-book and there is much unnecessary contradiction between the two, which creates ambiguities; it seems the hockey mandarins are very busy trying to ‘sell’ misinformation.

In 2001, at the behest of the HRB, the FIH Executive sent a Circular to all National Hockey Associations, which declared and instructed that no person and nobody, other than the HRB could compose or amend a Rule or an Interpretation. That didn’t stop the flow of unofficial ‘interpretation’, it increased dramatically after 2004, and in 2007 that instruction was sunk without trace when the HRB deleted ‘gains benefit’ from the ball body contact Rule. A Senior Umpire Manager had a chat with a few of his friends and ‘over-ruled’ the HRB on that deletion: so “gains benefit” was applied for the following eight-year period when it was not contained in the wording of the Rule Proper or in what was called the Explanations (of Application) after 2004 – so it was not Rule. “Or gains an advantage” (a pre “benefit” wording) was restored to the rule-book in 2016, but activated in May 2015 via an Executive Circular (an amendment which the UM’s did not disregard but which umpires now seldom apply correctly, often not even considering it at all before penalising a ball-body contact – I have written that a few hundred times in the past twenty years – umpires refused to let go of “gains benefit” but at the same time did not apply it appropriately or even in some cases, at all – especially when there wasn’t any benifit gained – and that is still the case).

During this same period, very sensible advice to umpires, which was introduced in 2002 and concerned what to watch for when applying the Obstruction Rule, for example:- “standing still and shielding the ball when under pressure” and advice about a player who was dragging the ball along a line while shielding it behind his legs and feet, among others, just disappeared during the ‘wholesale vandalism’ of the rule-book in 2004, which was presented as “simplification and clarification”.The above list is by no means a comprehensive one but the FIH present a picture of highly competent and consistent umpiring that they are very happy with and which all players respect.
The outrage of the Indian Team at the umpiring of an incident in the quarter-final match of the 2018 World Cup between the Netherlands and India which resulted in a ten-minute suspension for an Indian player at a critical time of a match, which India lost 1-0, is based on an incident which does not exist. The problem with ‘Records’ is that a 7-0 drubbing is recorded in exactly the same way as a 2-1 loss, which the losing side ascribe to poor umpiring. The FIH produced video highlights of the match do not show any such incident. I have no opinion concerning it as I have not seen it. When just when, will the International Hockey Federation (FIH) stop peddling false information to the world at large!

What is amazing to me is that players rise above the incompetence of Rule makers, the indifference to the Rules of the game and the poor display of Rule application by officials, which is the result of the FIH’s casual approach to Rule writing and to conflicted umpire coaching: some of the hockey played during the 2018 World Cup was incredibly good.