Archive for October, 2019

October 19, 2019


The above link to the above extraordinary Internet hockey forum thread from 2014 appeared on my Word Press stats page on Friday 18th October 2019. It is headed with the following statement (coloured text), which appears to come from ritualhockey .com

Initial post 28th April 2014 leading to an extraordinary statement from Gingerbread on the 30th. Extraordinary because it is true — there is no generally observed Rule about a dangerously played ball.

“The problem is you can never have a ‘’catch-all’’ guide to “danger / no danger on the line” when there is nothing to support it in any written rule, interpretation or edict – you have to look at practice and advice from your peers and player expectation or your local organisation”

What is even more extraordinary is that not only is this situation accepted it appears to have been deliberately set up, despite the clearly stated rules, principles and aims published by the FIH Executive Board, with regard to the Rules of Hockey and to player safety.

The opening post on the topic thread from a contributor with the tag Pharoah was as follows:-


I’ve decided to get my Level 1 Badge here in Qld so I can get a bit more confidence in umpiring. I have a few questions which I was hoping the more experienced umpires on this forum could answer – I have read the rules but wanted to ask anyway so please ‘be gentle’.


1. within the 23m line, balls cannot be hit directly into the circle unless they go Sm. However free hits outside the 23m line (ie. even just 20cm past the 23m line) can be hit directly into the circle right? (I see this happen all the time where attackers are hesitant to shoot directly into the circle from just past the 23m line)

2. You CAN raise the ball into the D, as long as its not dangerous right?

3. A shot at goal (hit) that is rising and ends up in the top right/left comer of the goal should be disallowed right? This is diff to a raised/flicked ball.

4. Hockey sometimes moves at terrific speed, esp within the D – what do you do if (heaven forbid) you are unsighted and there is a foul which stops the game?

5. An attacker has had a shot on goal and the goalie has dived on the ball to stop it…is obviously trying to get up but the ball is being pushed below him by everyone fighting for the ball — PC right? He is unintentionally obstructing the ball plus to avoid injury I think.

Thanks all – if I have any more niggling questions, I’ll post them here for advice, etc.

Two of Pharoah’s statements surprised me. The first was that he has read the Rules, because the first four of his five questions can be answered by obtaining a common sense understanding of the published FIH Rules of Hockey by reading them, and the second, that he was apparently umpiring competitive matches without having previously obtained his Level One Badge. That is a safety issue.

But before looking in more detail at Pharoah’s questions, a look at what Gingerbread wrote:-

“The problem is you can never have a ‘’catch-all’’ guide to “danger / no danger on the line” when there is nothing to support it in any written rule, interpretation or edict – you have to look at practice and advice from your peers and player expectation or your local organisation”

Is this true? “you can never have a ‘’catch-all’’ guide to “danger / no danger on the line” That is not entirely true because the Royal Dutch Hockey Federation have issued an edict via letter to umpires in the Netherlands instructing them that legitimate evasive action does not apply to defenders on the goal-line during a penalty corner.

Koninklijke Nederlandse Hockey Bond



Wees Alert!

– Ook een schot op doel kan gevaarlijk zijn. Het schot op doel is gevaarlijk wanneer spelers een terecht ontwijkende beweging maken (dit geldt niet voor de lijnstopper bij een strafcorner-situatie);

Obviously inaccurately translated by Google Translate below, but the message is clear enough for comprehension.

— A shot on target can also be dangerous-

The shot on target is dangerous when players make a rightly evasive move
(this does not apply to the line stopper in a penalty corner situation).

Naturally this instruction has ‘evolved’ or has been ‘developed’ and is often also applied in open play, and there is now a situation where the bizarre and utterly wrong “An on target shot at goal cannot be considered to be dangerous play” which was invented during the 2008 Beijing Olympics (but has never been an FIH approved Rule), seems to have again become the norm in Dutch hockey (and elsewhere too).
I wrote to the FIH about this edict in May 2019 and was informed that the KNHB did not have the approval of the FIH and Executive or of the FIH Hockey Rules Committee to issue it and that they, the FIH, would look into the matter. The FIH should reprimand the KNHB and instruct them to withdraw this evasive action edict, which is of course illegal, but as far as I can see from watching Dutch League Hockey, the FIH have not done so. The KNHB web-site is naturally written in Dutch, which I cannot read, so it is difficult for me to check if the edict has been withdrawn. Maybe a Dutch reader, perhaps an umpire, can help me out?

The machinations of the KNHB aside, what is the Rule situation regarding a dangerously played ball, particularly in regard to a shot at the goal?
There are in fact two Rule ‘catch-alls’ to guide ‘dangerous’ decisions. one can be found in the Explanation of Application given with Rule 9.9. the Rule concerning the intentionally raised hit.

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.

That’s a severe Rule, it prohibits all raising of the ball towards an opponent within 5m with a flick or scoop, there is no mention of height or velocity. The Rule does not mention raised hits (and is therefore badly written) but as the clause is contained in the Explanation of Application of the Rule concerning an intentionally raised hit, it seems common sense to include in the prohibition hits and intentional deflections which raise the ball towards opponents who are within 5m. Not to do so would be absurd.

The second guide is ‘legitimate evasive action’. A ball played in a way that causes an opponent to take legitimate evasive action is dangerous. There is no distance limitation on legitimate evasive action, but it requires a subjective judgement from an umpire. Was the evasion legitimate? So it is necessary to ask “What does ‘legitimate’ mean?” Trying to avoid being hit with the ball can never be considered to be an illegal action so we can dispense with legitimate meaning legal (as it does in other Rules such as the Obstruction Rule). The next most obvious choice of meaning is ‘genuine’ i.e. not false or acted. So a genuine fear that he will be injured if hit with the ball indicates legitimate evasive action in any particular incident of a ball raised towards an player by an opponent. How does an umpire gauge the genuine fear of injury in a player when the ball is raised at that player? Well, in the absence of other objective criteria, height and ball velocity might give an umpire a clue.

Do umpires make these judgements? Generally no. They usually follow quite bizarre umpiring practice and weird player expectation along the lines of “Asking for it” or “acceptance of risk” from defenders. Some see defensive positioning as evidence of an intent to use the body to stop the ball. The acceptance of risk argument has even been used by FIH Officials but is it obviously a nonsense. No player in any sport can be obliged to accept any risks created by the deliberate illegal (contrary to Rule) actions of opponents, acceptance of risk from a legal standpoint can only be applied to accidental actions. Propelling the ball with a flick at high velocity towards the head of a defender on the post during a penalty corner, especially in high level games where a high level of skill may be expected from all the participants, cannot be assumed to be accidental, especially when it happens so often and so consistently.

There is, however, no guidance on height or velocity in rule 9.8 or 9.9, it has however become common practice to ‘borrow’ “within 5m and at knee height or abovefrom the Rule concerning a first hit shot at the goal during a penalty corner, but this is often ignored in open play.

Despite their being no distance limit on LEA the majority of umpires would not I think consider any raised ball dangerous to a player if it was raised at him from more than 5m, even if it was at his chest height or head height. Many umpires, as was demonstrated in Beijing and later, will not penalise an attacker who raises the ball high towards the goal even if it hits a defender within 5m of their position. Some won’t penalise any ball raised towards an opponent in the opponent’s circle when they would probably do so if a similar ball was raised at an opponent outside his circle. ‘Interpretation’ is random and a mess based entirely on personal opinion i.e. how the umpires feels about it at the time or alternatively (and worse) what he or she has seen other umpires doing i.e. there is no judgement of the specific facts at all. This is laziness.

There are clearly insufficient safeguards in place for reasonable player safety and there is an urgent need for addition guidance about a ball propelled towards a player at high velocity from significantly beyond 5m – up to 15m – arriving at the defending player above a particular height – say sternum or elbow height – in other words reasonable objective criteria.

At present defenders are being obliged to attempt to play at high shots raised directly at them because successful evasion simply leads to the award of a goal, and unsuccessful evasion, not only usually leads to injury but to the award of a penalty stroke. That is the opposite to the supposed emphasis on safety which the FIH espouses, and which all participants (including umpires) are obliged to comply with. It is also contrary to the consideration for the safety of other players which all players are required to demonstrate in appropriate circumstances (most participants consider this requirement to be something that need not be taken seriously, a joke from the FIH who are seen to be just ‘covering their backs’).

Let’s take a look at the questions Pharoah put to the forum.

1) A free ball awarded inside the opponents 23m area cannot be played directly into their circle. That is the (very silly) Rule. I would like to see it deleted along with the raft of 5m restrictions on the free ball (especially when taken as a self-pass) currently in place.

2. You CAN raise the ball into the D, as long as its not dangerous right?

No, that is incorrect. The ball may not be raised into the circle with a hit if the ball has been raised intentionally. None of those who addressed this question on the forum mentioned the appropriate Rule 9.9. An intentional ball raising hit action must be penalised if it is dangerous in itself or leads to dangerous play or if it disadvantages opponents. The advice in the UMB “forget lifted – think danger”, which is too simplistic and which contradicts the Rule, should be withdrawn.

Other than dangerous or leading to danger there is no restriction on raising the ball into the opponents circle with a flick or scoop. That needs to be revisited in view of the facility granted to players to play at the ball at above shoulder height – which also needs reconsideration. I think that players should be prohibited from playing or playing at a ball at above shoulder height when in the opposition’s  circle.

3. A shot at goal (hit) that is rising and ends up in the top right/left comer of the goal should be disallowed right?

No, not unless it has endangered an opponent during its flight.

4. An FIH Technical Delegate and an FIH Umpire made a joke and a tongue in cheek (I hope) reply to this.
What do you do if (heaven forbid) you are unsighted and there is a foul which stops the game?

Another contributor answered correctly, that the umpires should consult, and if fault cannot be established, there must be a bully restart.

5. An attacker has had a shot on goal and the goalie has dived on the ball to stop it…is obviously trying to get up but the ball is being pushed below him by everyone fighting for the ball — PC right?

Not necessarily. If the goalkeeper has not obstructed an opponent before moving off the ball, the opponent/s trying to play it ‘through’ him while he is on the ground could be considered to be committing both a physical contact offence and an impeding offence. This was the only question of the five that received properly considered reply from any contributor to the forum.

The most extraordinary statement from Gingerbread was this, his second one:- ….when there is nothing to support it in any written rule, interpretation or edict – you have to look at practice and advice from your peers and player expectation or your local organisation”

“It” appears to be an opinion or a feeling by an umpire that an an action is dangerous, so where does that feeling come from if not from information gleaned from a reading of the Rules? I find it impossible to think of a dangerously played ball situation (other than the falling ball) where the ball has not been propelled directly at or into an opposing player and those situations are covered by the two ‘catch-alls’ mentioned above, imperfectly to be sure, but sufficiently for an umpire with common sense to take personal responsibility and make a Rule based decision. What we see far too often in hockey matches is umpires who base their decisions not on an understanding of what is given in the Rules of Hockey, but on common umpiring practice and advice from peers and player expectation or local umpiring organisations. Of the three only the local Umpiring Association is worthy of further consideration because their advice should come from experienced umpires and be based solely on the Rules of Hockey.

BUT I was once told by the secretary of a local umpiring association that he did not want me to umpire according to what was given in the rule-book (I was applying the ball-body contact Rule as it was written in the rule-book at the time) but to do what other umpires were doing. He had already ‘hung himself’ with his opening sentence, so I replied to him that I would have no problem doing what other umpires were doing as long as they applied the Rules as published by the FIH. That presented him with a ‘chicken and egg situation’ which he did not appreciate. But as far as I was concerned it was the other umpires who needed to change their ways.

The match shown below is one played during the 2016 Rio Olympics between Belgium and New Zealand. I would not suggest to any umpire that they follow the umpiring seen in it. Sadly it is very easy to find blunders of similar magnitude relating to nearly all the Rules of Conduct of Play during the Rio Olympics (I don’t recall a player throwing an object at another player or an umpire, or a back-sticks offence that was poorly umpired, but every other Rule was undermined with invention or neglect on several occasions in the matches during the Tournament)]


This sort of decision making is the norm in ball-body contact incidents. The Rule has become a farce designed to produced goals by increasing the number of penalty corners awarded (often without any justification at all).

Player expectation is created by their coaches and prior umpiring decisions, and umpiring decisions (umpires say) are then influenced by player expectation, eventually it is team coaches and players who will be deciding (the latter by their behaviour) which of the Rules will be observed and which not: that cannot be accepted. There is an example of this sort of thing in a previous post (in which I make suggestion for an amended Ball-body contact Rule)…hould-be-amended/ ‎

where someone commented that not awarding a penalty corner following a ball contact forced onto the leg of a defender in the circle would infuriate the attackers – yes it might, but that’s just too bad, it’s the only way to change the expectations of players who do not know the Rules. Changing the habits of umpires is a much more difficult problem.

I have been attacked in the comments section below by someone who believes I was wrong to apply the Rules as they were published at the time and says that I ruined the enjoyment of the game for the players.

 I advocate a rewrite of most of the Rules and the making of amendments to others, but I have never invented Rules while umpiring or applied those that no longer existed, sadly most umpires do both of these things.