Archive for January, 2019

January 28, 2019

Anticipating play

I have posed some questions about the situation in the picture below supposing the person replying to be the match umpire, but there is no need to be a full time umpire to give an answer, all participants in hockey matches are obliged to be aware of the Rules and perform according to them – so every participant should be capable of forming an opinion and most people who can read and write English should be capable of expressing that opinion.

What has been the response so far? There hasn’t been any, no one has ventured an opinion and I wonder why. Is it fear of ridicule, of being thought wrong by me or someone else? That seems unlikely because people have been only too willing in the past to tell me I am wrong when I have expressed opinion about the Rules of Hockey (and I have to admit I am not perfect, I have on occasion been wrong). Is it ignorance? Are there people playing hockey who actually do not know the Rules of the game? I have come across questions in hockey forums where the questioner could have found the answer within a minute or so of looking through a rule-book. Is that just attention seeking (socializing) or is it laziness? Is it disdain, an unwillingness to bother to engage in debate or offer any sort of opinion; disinterest in and boredom with this kind of inquiry, arrogance of a sort? That said I cannot pretend to be surprised at the lack of response. On the typical Internet Hockey Forum a few people make hundreds or even many thousands of contributions but a great many  forum members post one or two or even none at all and they generally do not bother to read topic threads from beginning to end, they just skim through the last post made or only look at the last post a certain favoured individual wrote, because they know that the views of that individual will very seldom clash with their own and thinking or a change of opinon will not be required. The general attitude to the Rules of Hockey among many participants is one of thoughtlessness and apathy, this is often covered by the cry “We  don’t want any more change”

There is something very wrong in the playing situation shown in the picture below because if the Rules of Hockey were being applied properly it shows positioning that would NEVER occur in any match played by competent players who were conscious of observing the Rules or of keeping the risk of being penalised for an offence to a minimum – and at international level one must assume players are more than just competent, but such positioning frequently occurs and it is done deliberately.


Field Hockey Rules.

Suppose yourself to be the umpire appointed to officiate. The player in possession of the ball is a defender. What do you anticipate might happen next? (Consider both a breach of Rule by a tackler and a breach of Rule by the defender in possession of the ball)

If what you anticipate may happen does happen, a) describe it and b) state how you would respond to it (how penalise it) in both cases.

Think about how you would consider the intentions of the players.

Two of the most relevant Rules in the above situation – the fairly clear and very strictly applied Rule 9.13, which is supposed to be a balance for the very poorly written Rule 9.12, which is hardly applied at all, are presented below.

(For reasons for failure to apply the Rules see other articles on the Obstruction Rule such as :- )

9.13 Players must not tackle unless in a position to play the ball without body contact.
Reckless play, such as sliding tackles and other overly physical challenges by field players, which take an opponent to ground and which have the potential to cause injury should attract appropriate match and personal penalties.

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

January 19, 2019


Rules of Hockey

Bizarrely written and largely unnecessary additions to the Rules of the indoor game. No alignment.

9.13 Umpires should place particular emphasis on limiting time spent in situations where the ball becomes trapped in the corners of the pitch or close to the side-boards (especially towards the end of matches) when the player in possession effectively shields the ball such that an opponent is prevented from being able to play it. Early interventions by the Umpires will make teams aware that this type of play or tactic is of no benefit to them.

I will start by explaining what I mean by bizarrely written using  the first part of the first sentence of the above Rule Explanation (which has not been added to the outdoor version of the Obstruction Rule, even though holding the ball in a corner of the pitch while shielding it to prevent a tackle, is common in the outdoor game) as an example.

Umpires should place particular emphasis on limiting time spent in situations where the ball becomes trapped in the corners of the pitch or close to the side-boards (especially towards the end of matches) when the player in possession effectively shields the ball such that an opponent is prevented from being able to play it.

When a player in possession of the ball shields the ball in a way that effectively prevents an opponent playing at it that is immediately an obstruction offence, so why is the above explanation focused on limiting the time spent obstructing opponents and then only in corners and close to sideboards and especially towards the end of matches. This is saying in effect that obstructive actions should only be penalised when they are not brief (brief obstruction offences are therefore acceptable ???) So I suppose not carried out with the intention of ‘running-time’ to the advantage of the team of the player committing the offence. What is the time limit for this foul which, I repeat, should be penalised immediately it occurs if it disadvantages an opponent? I have no idea, that is presumably an umpire judgement.

The second sentence then presents an obstruction offence as a type of play or a tactic rather than as a foul.

I now come to Rule 9.19 which had been drafted especially for the indoor game. This Rule has two diametrically opposing parts

Part one

9.19 Players must not trap or hold the ball against the side-boards.

That is a simple and very clear prohibition. However it should but doesn’t only prohibit this action if it prevents an opponent playing at the ball. That is obvious to those who are familiar with the game, but not stipulating exactly what is meant is laziness.

Part two

A player in possession of the ball may not be ‘trapped’ either in the corner of the pitch or against the side-boards by opponents with their sticks flat on the floor. Opponents must leave an outlet of reasonable size through which the ball may be played.

That clause, besides giving the umpire a difficult judgement task, is ambiguous because it does not state that the player in possession of the ball must have the ball in an open position i.e a position in which an opponent could make a legal tackle attempt. So, following on from what is given in Rule 9.13 above, the player in possession could (briefly?) shield the ball anytime a tackle attempt was made and would, following Rule 9.19, quite quickly be awarded a free ball because opponents had him trapped against the side-boards or in a corner. This Rule appears to be written in opposition to the Obstruction Rule and to the advantage of a player who is in possession of the ball even if he or she is shielding the ball to prevent a tackle attempt.

Examples of obstructive play close to the sideboards. The second one is from the cover of the Indoor Rules rule-book.

It is not necessary to make any comment about the following add-on clauses but the second of them is an attempt to tidy a ‘loose end’ in a previous clause, that exists as a result of poor initial drafting.

Umpires should recognise and interrupt play, with a bully re-start, when the ball is either trapped between players’ sticks or becomes unintentionally trapped against the side-boards.

Repeated instances of players trapping or holding the ball against the side-boards should be viewed as an intentional offence and penalised accordingly.

Similarly, players who deliberately aim to trap the ball between their and an opponent’s stick should be penalised and not rewarded with a bully.

January 5, 2019


Rules of Hockey

Replacing an error and ambiguity with a fudge.

I must confess to having looked at Terminology many times in the past years and missed that the description of a Push contained within it did not correctly describe a Push. What was wrong?

Terminology 2017

Moving the ball along the ground using a pushing movement
of the stick after the stick has been placed close to the ball.
When a push is made, both the ball and the head of the
stick are in contact with the ground.

That is an easy question with an obvious answer when the fact that there is an error is pointed out. A push is not made by placing the stick-head close to the ball and then sweeping it through the ball, that is a hit.

The wording ‘close to’ is ambiguous and that is a problem. Is ‘close to’ 5mm or 30cms or more. Other use of “close to” in the Rules is described as being “within playing distance”. The problem is even more obvious when the description of a flick is considered. 

Pushing the ball so that it is raised off the ground.

I will not know how long the error has been there until I do some research but it may have been many years. I do know that there has been error in the description of the ‘permitted deviation’ to the edges of hockey a stick since 2004. I know that because a former Hon. Sec. of the HRB the late George Croft, asked me to write the original specification, because he was unable to do so and, of course, I noticed that it changed after 2003. I have asked the FIH why it was changed several times and have yet to receive an answer to that question. It is likely that no one has a reasonable answer to it.

P.S.  It seems that a Definitions or Terminology page was first added to the rule-book in 1987 – effective Sept 1986 – and the “close to” wording has been used since then, but the reference to a moving ball it originally contained was dropped by 1990.

I suppose an ‘eagle eye’ somewhere pointed out that there was a problem with the use of “close to”, so a conservative within the FIH addressed the matter, but did not really understand the issue. The result is the fudge below.

Terminology 2019

Moving the ball along the ground using a pushing movement of the stick after the stick has been placed in contact or close to the ball (the fudge). When a push is made, both the ball and the head of the stick are in contact with the ground.

Both the ball and the head of the stick may be in contact with the ground when either a slap-hit or an edge-hit are made, but this is not a defining feature of a push or of those other strokes. The head of the stick being in contact with ball before the stroke is executed (and during the first part of the stroke) is defining of a push. As it happens this error is not too critical, an incorrect definition has existed in the rule-books for some years without the sky falling down, but the ‘solution’ now offered is symptomatic of a general malaise in the accuracy of the wording of Rules and the Explanations that go with them.

“Slap” hitting the ball, which involves a long pushing or sweeping movement with the stick before making contact with the ball, is regarded as a hit.

That does not help much.The word “long” is as vague as “close” is (although the context helps) and any sweeping motion (or punt motion) of the stick-head towards the ball before contact is made with the ball must, I think, be regarded as a hit.

I note in passing that the FIH RC continue to ignore the existence of the drag-flick. It is not listed in Terminology (it gets one mention in the Rules of Hockey:- a penalty stroke cannot be taken using a drag-flick) Nor, I suggest, can a penalty stroke be taken by placing the head of the stick on the ground close to the ball and then sweeping it through the ball. The ‘close to’ wording needs to be deleted to provide correct terminology, a simple task (that will not be carried out).

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