Above Shoulder Ball Rules should be amended.

Rules of Hockey.

9.7 Players may stop, receive and deflect or play the ball in a
controlled manner in any part of the field when the ball is at
any height including above the shoulder unless this is
dangerous or leads to danger.

In the year before the above Rule was introduced it was mandatory to award a penalty corner against a defender who attempted to play at an above shoulder height ball that was going wide of the goal. The FIH Rules Committee then leapt to the opposite extreme and now pretty much allow a free-for-all when a ball is falling into the area close to and directly in front of the opponents goal, because high shots at the goal are very rarely penalised and most attackers, given the opportunity and especially in congested situations, will take a volley shot at the goal rather than play the ball to ground and then take a shot.

The above Rule unnecessarily introduced several dangers which had not previously been present .
All that was required was an amendment which would allow a receiving player in free space to receive a ball while it was still above shoulder height and play it in control to ground.  There was no need for a facility to allow a free receiver to play (a very wide term) the ball away (perhaps as as a hit  pass or shot at goal) or to deflect the ball away (as a pass or shot at goal) while it was still above shoulder height.

This Rule also ran contrary to an undertaking made by the FIH Hockey Rules Board at the time off-side was deleted from the Rules (1997), to introduce measures to constrain the actions of attackers close to the goal. The above Rule does the opposite. I have written an article suggesting a goal zone which would provide a small measure of protection to defenders,particularly to goalkeepers who are often unfairly crowded by opponents in the goalmouth.


I wrote that article as a suggestion for a replacement to Rule 9.14, so there is no need for me to address that Rule again in this series of posts.

So rewriting Rule 9.7 I suggest:-

9.7 Players may intercept and play a ball in the air directly and safely to ground and into their own control and, where that ball is above shoulder height, safely onto a path where they alone will be able to chase and collect it. A ball may be intercepted at any height the player can reach with the stick in the air (it will be acceptable to jump to reach the ball with the stick).

A player may not hit or deflect the ball away beyond his or her playing reach while it is still above shoulder height, for example, as a pass or a shot or beyond where it can be reached and controlled before any opponent has opportunity to contest for it – so a player may control such a ball only into free space and where it is easily reachable by that same player.

A ball in the air that is below shoulder height when received may be played or played away in any manner that does not endanger another player.

A player may not under any circumstances play or play at a ball that is above shoulder height when he or she is in the opponent’s circle.


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