Dangerously played ball.

Rules of Hockey.

9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.

A ball is also considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by opponents.
The penalty is awarded where the action causing the danger took place.

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. 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.

The above paragraph is about raised hits, the following one is about flicks and scoops (which are by definition raised)

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. 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.

I assume, following the advice of the UMB, applying common sense to the application of the Rules, the combination of the above two clauses, that a hit that is raised towards an opponent within 5m must also be considered to be dangerous play. Why would this not be the case when raised hits generally exceed the velocity of flicks and scoops? The paragraph does state that a raised hit may be considered dangerous.

The mention of a shot in the above clause is strange as in general play a ball could be raised at an opponent from anywhere on a pitch, it looks as if that phrasing was just ‘copy- pasted’ directly from the Penalty Corner Rule, which is careless drafting.

Most of the remaining Rules about a ball that has been dangerously raised with a hit or flick are contained in the Penalty Corner Rules. What is missing is the playing of the ball in a way, usually a scoop, that will result in a falling ball, a circumstance that may lead to dangerous play or be in itself dangerous if a scoop is made at an opponent. I am not going to comment further on a scoop or aerial pass in this article because I want to focus on an anomaly in the Rules concerning flicks and hits towards opponents.

Penalty Corner

3.3 l if the first shot at goal is a hit (as opposed to a push,flick or scoop), the ball must cross the goal-line, or be on a path which would have resulted in it crossing the goal-line, at a height of not more than 460 mm (the height of the backboard) before any deflection, for a goal to be scored.

The requirements of this Rule apply even if the ball touches the stick or body of a defender before the first shot at goal.

If the first shot at goal is a hit and the ball is, or will be, too high crossing the goal-line it must be penalised even if the ball is subsequently deflected off the stick or body of another player.

The ball may be higher than 460 mm during its flight before it crosses the goal-line provided there is no danger and provided it would drop of its own accord below 460 mm before crossing the line.

m for second and subsequent hits at the goal and for flicks, deflections and scoops, it is permitted to raise the ball to any height but this must not be dangerous.

A defender who is clearly running into the shot or into the taker without attempting to play the ball with their stick must be penalised for dangerous play.

I have head match commentators and others state that it is a dangerous play offence for a defender to close on a striker during a penalty corner especially if the defender runs from within the goal. That is utter nonsense. Any defender who intentionally runs into the ball or the body of an opponent commits an offence, but a defender who closes on an opponent with the intention of playing at the ball with his stick is not committing an offence. If an outrunning and closing defender is hit with the ball that is a separate matter and then the Rule as published must be applied. It is wrong to conflate outrunning with getting hit with the ball. When a defender is hit with the ball that is frequently the fault of the player who propelled the ball.

Otherwise, if a defender is within five metres of the first shot at goal during the taking of a penalty corner and is struck by the ball below the knee, another penalty corner must be awarded or is struck on or above the knee in a normal stance,the shot is judged to be dangerous and a free hit must be awarded to the defending team

Readers may have noticed some anomalies in and between the above Rules.
1) The Rule governing the first hit shot at goal during a penalty corner is far more severe than the Rule governing any other shot taken at any time during a match. There is a height limit of 460mm which applies whether or not another player is actually endangered with the ball. A ball raised above 460mm will be penalised – for what penalised is not made clear, it seems to be just for failure to comply with the Rule.

2) On the other hand a hit shot which is raised below 460mm into an outrunning defender during a penalty corner, even if that runner is within 5m, will result in the award of another penalty corner. This directly conflicts with the Explanation of rule Application given in Rule 9.9 concerning the raising of the ball towards another player. The Penalty Corner Rule it seems overrules the open play Rule. However:-

3) Although there is no mention of knee height in the general open play Rules it has become common practice to regard any ball raised towards an opponent in open play as not dangerous if it is not raised to knee height or above. So Penalty Corner Rule is being applied outside of the penalty corner and is again considered the superior Rule – that has to be wrong. We have added to this the advice to umpires in the UMB which states that a ball raised into an opponent at below half shin-pad height is not dangerous – also a contradiction of Rule 9.9. Which, because it take no account at all of the circumstances in which such a ball might be played, is a dangerous nonsense.

4) The height restriction on a first hit shot during a penalty corner extends to and beyond the goal-line. The height restriction on a flick (drag-flick) extends to 5m; beyond that distance a flick shot can be judged dangerous only if it causes legitimate evasive action. But many umpires are of the opinion that evasive action taken by a player who is more than 5m from the ball cannot be legitimate because such players should easily be able to evade the ball (evading a ball that is travelling in excess of 100kmh is not at all easy). Legitimate evasive action is evading the ball to avoid being hit with it (and defines a dangerously played ball) so suggesting easy evasion as a reason for not penalising the raising of the ball at a player does not make sense especially when legitimate evasive action is not distance limited. The problem is of course that “legitimate” is not defined and is therefore a subjective judgement.

5) There is no mention of ball velocity in the Rules and no other objective criteria beyond knee height and 5m. There should be. It should be considered dangerous play to propel the ball at high velocity at another player at sternum height or above, from any distance. High velocity could be considered as a velocity that could cause injury to a player if hit with the ball at the height it was raised. The umpire can ask himself “If that hit me at that height would it injure me?”

6) The Penalty Corner Rule states:- for second and subsequent hits at the goal and for flicks, deflections and scoops, it is permitted to raise the ball to any height but this must not be dangerous. That of course means that no flick or scoop shot should be made at the goal in a way that endangers another player. Hits are only separated into second and subsequent because the first hit shot is dealt with separately in the preceding Rule clause. Do we ever see drag-flick shots endanger or injure defenders? Hell yes, and the umpire then, contrary to Rule, penalise the defender.

7) The tactic of hitting or pushing the ball along the ground towards the goal during a penalty corner, an action which is indistinguishable from a shot, and then deflecting that ‘shot’ in a planned way, high into the goal from close range is another circumvention (the first being the drag flick) of the intent of the restrictions on the first shot at goal made during a penalty corner. I have seen defenders who have been hit with such a close range deflection penalised with a penalty stroke even though they had no chance at all of avoiding being hit with the ball deflected high into their body. A way need to be found of curtailing this development which is often far more dangerous to defenders than raising the ball to above knee height at an out-running defender who is within 5m.

The following video shows an example of what I consider to be a dangerously played ball. I have received comment via YouTube that the award of the penalty corner was correct because a defender can be seen to place his hand on the attacker. That is true, but that action, although an offence did not disadvantage the attacker in any way, and should have been ignored following Rule 12.1.  I hope my critic, who thinks I have a very awkward view of the Rules, is not an umpire but I suspect he is.

I have a collection of video clips, there are dozens of them, where an attacker has made what I believe to be a dangerous hit or flick into or towards a defender and a goal or a penalty has been awarded against the defender. I have only one example in which an umpire penalised a dangerous shot which hit a defender. The bias against defending is very pronounced.

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