Archive for January, 2020

January 28, 2020

The case of the impossible video referral

VIDEO UMPIRE conduct and requirements are given in Appendix 17 of the FIH Tournament Regulations.


5.1  The Video Umpire calls for as many replays from any camera angle as necessary to reach a decision.

5.2  Within the shortest time frame possible, the Video Umpire provides his / her advice and recommendation:


-‘No Goal’

-‘Penalty Stroke’

-‘No Penalty Stroke’

-‘Penalty Corner’

-‘No Penalty Corner’

-‘Shoot-out to be re-taken’

-‘No shoot-out re-take’

-‘No Advice Possible’

-plus advice on any observed breach of the Rules.

5.3  If a breach of the Rules is observed and advised to the Match Umpire, it is then for the Match Umpire to take into account the breach in reaching his / her final decision.

5.4  Implications for the retention or loss of team referral rights:

a   in the event that the referral is upheld the referring team retains its right of referral;

b   in the event of ‘No Advice Possible’ (if the video footage is inconclusive, including through not having the correct replays available, the ball never being in shot in the replays, the footage being of insufficient quality to permit a decision or technical problems with the referral equipment), the referring team retains its right of referral;

c   if there is no clear reason to change the Match Umpire’s original decision, the referring team loses its right of referral.

5.5  A team referral that has been already been adjudicated upon may not be the subject of a subsequent referral by the opposing team.


6.1 The final decision, including any matter of interpretation, (my bold) remains with the Match Umpire and not the Video Umpire.

 Whether or not an action was carried out intentionally, and whether or not an (unfair) advantage was gained because of any referred action that occurred, are matters of interpretation i.e. are subjective judgements, therefore intention and advantaged gained are judgements beyond the remit of a video umpire.

It follows that whether or not a ball-body(foot) contact is an offence is a judgement beyond the remit of a video umpire because a ball-body(foot) contact is an offence only when made intentionally or only if advantage is gained by the team of the player who was hit with the ball (or both simultaneously).
Here the umpire only informs the video umpire that there is a claim from the BEL team of a foot contact in the circle by an AUS player, the umpire himself has not seen such a contact. The video umpire then makes a decision and tells the umpire what it is. Both of these exchanges are contrary to the regulations concerning conduct of a video referral. Given the information she was told the video umpire could only refer the umpire to the prior barge by the BEL player (an objective fact), she was not permitted to make a judgement concerning advantage gained i.e. declare whether or not there had been an offence because of the ball-leg contact because that was an interpretation. (the contact was obviously unintentional and likely caused because the AUS player was being barged into at the time he was trying to play the ball with his stick, so intent was not an issue, but the video umpire made her decision solely on the grounds that there had been a ball-leg contact by an AUS player and not on either of the criteria for offence and nor was she permitted to do so – so she could not make a rational decision and should have said no decision was possible in this regard).

For those who are at present ‘steaming out their ears’ I must point out I did not write Rule 9.11 Conduct of Play or the FIH Tournament Regulations, they are what they are. But I invite alternative interpretations of the wording given in the Rule, and/or the Tournament regulations as they apply to video referrals. I would be happy to know that this is not in fact the mess of contradiction it seems to be.
Be that as it may, there was a blunder made here, the barge by the BEL player should have been penalised and a 15m free awarded to the AUS team; instead the very important first goal of the match was conceded from the awarded penalty corner against the Australians.

6.2 All other decisions remain with the Match Umpires.

6.3 Substitutions may not take place during the stoppage of play for a video referral; substitution may take place on the resumption of play subject to the Rules of Hockey.

I belatedly add that I would like to see a system instituted where during a video referral the match umpire joined the video umpire (set up in a pitch-side trailer close by – transportable video facilities would in any case be useful) after receiving the team question, and the reserve umpire took up player supervision on pitch while the match umpire was thus engaged. The video umpire could begin locating the recorded incident while the match umpire was making his way to the trailer and then the two of them could discuss the relevant incident in private. This I feel would be a better use of the time of officials than the match umpire standing around waiting for a necessarily restricted announcement from the video umpire. It has the advantage that the match umpire has (usually) already seen the incident in real time and live scale and is then either confirming or rejecting his or her initial impressions – and there could then be no question about who is making the final decision or who has the authority to do so.

There were two other video referrals in this match and both followed a similar pattern, with the video umpire wrongly being asked to make judgements and decisions about player intentions

I have been advocating for some years that the offence of back-sticks be abolished. I also think the Belgium player did the safe thing here, another more cynical player might have jabbed the ball forward into the Australian player who had fallen to ground.

Here is another example of Rule and Regulation being ignored:-

January 17, 2020

Height limits

Head injuries from reverse edge hit ‘clearances’ should not be happening. What the articles (links below) do not state, but should have, is that intentionally raising the ball with a hit in such circumstances is a foul even if the raised ball is not dangerous to anyone. Obviously a raised hit ‘clearance’ disadvantages the opposing team and that alone is sufficient for penalty (a penalty corner if in the defended 23m area).

Defenders can of course point to the unfairness of such hits being permitted ‘through’ them at the goal, and defenders actually being penalised if their evasive action is not successful (and often penalised with a goal if it is successful). We need height limits when a ball is raised towards another player even from substantially beyond 5m.(up to 15m?) Certainly no player should be permitted to raise the ball at high velocity towards the throat or head of another player in any circumstances.

Umpires are of course ignoring the Rule and following the UMB advice (and it is only advice, not Rule) to “forget lifted – think danger” but thinking about danger after it has occurred is too late.

Players must be prevented (deterred) from indulging in reckless play and causing injury to other players. Players are already instructed to play responsibly and to play with consideration for the safety of others, but obviously many are not doing so. In such cases umpires must act responsibly and officiate with consideration for the safety of players, and they need Rules drafted to enable them to do this correctly.

January 2, 2020

The letter of the Law.

A ball raised towards (at) an opponent within 5m is dangerous play. Why? Because a Rule Explanation clause (Rule 9.9) states that it is. No minimum height is given and no minimum velocity is given. A very severe Rule, probably far too severe but that is the Rule.

The attacker in the first incident should have been penalised for (intentionally) raising the ball into the legs of the defender (but intention is not required for there to be a dangerous play offence; it is for a forcing offence). Yes, a forcing offence.

Unfortunately, due to sloppiness from the FIH RC, their 2011 Rule Change announcement that the Forcing Rule was deleted “because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules” (a very odd reason for deleting a Rule and regrettably not the true one, which was that umpires were simply not applying it, claiming to be unable to see intent to force and preferring to penalise the easy to see and objective, ball body contact even when it did not meet the criteria for offence) was not included in subsequent rule-books as it should have been. Most umpires are now ignorant of this condition on the deletion.

It is not permitted for an umpire to ‘interpret’ what is clearly stated in Rule to be dangerous play as not dangerous simply because it does not look dangerous (especially when he should have been considering intention to take the action taken). Conversely it is not permitted for an umpire to ‘interpret’ a Rule compliant action as dangerous play. In this case a ball raised high above an opponent (when that opponent is more than 5m away) this action is not dangerous play because there is no Rule (other than raising the ball over the circle) that states it is or can be dangerous play.

Unless the penalty corner in the second incident was awarded for something not clearly seen in the video (perhaps a kick at the ball in the goalmouth) there was no reason to have awarded it.

It may seem counter intuitive to say that a ball raised about 20cms is dangerous play and one raised 2.5 meters is not, but the critical thing in an endangerment decision is whether or not the ball was raised and propelled towards or into an opposing player.

The scoop shown in the video below should have been penalised as dangerous play.

Comment received on You Tube.

Crux 11
Ehm, the rule interpretation you refer to, is for a scoop or a flick. Not for not for small lifts where the ball is below knei height. Actually, there is no height restriction for regular play of a ball to be dangerous, this is the umpires interpretation.

Crux 11
Let me state it like this. Except for the drag flick during pc there is no height restriction whatsoever. This is the umpires interpretation. However, if a ball is soft and on the shin protector, barely anyone will see that as a dangerous ball.

My reply (withdrawing nothing stated above)
I have heard that assertion before. One umpire informed me the Rule 9.9 clause applied only to flicks or scoops made towards an opponent at head height. But there is no Rule support for that assertion or for what you have called umpires’ interpretation (knee height), which contradicts what you also write “Actually, there is no height restriction for regular play of a ball to be dangerous” which is true.

Umpires are not permitted to invent interpretation from nothing, in fact they are not permitted to invent interpretations at all. The ‘knee height or above’ limit applies only during the taking of a penalty corner first hit shot and when the ball is propelled with any stroke towards an out-runner within 5m.
Here is the relevant part of the wording for open play:-.

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 could be improved by replacing “a flick or scoop” with “any stroke raised” and by adjusting the syntax accordingly)

There is no scope for ‘interpretation’ concerning ball height in the current wording, it is absolute, the ball must not be raised towards an opponent within 5m. (a prohibition which is far too severe as it mentions neither height or velocity, but that is not an excuse for umpires to ignore it – if umpires applied it as they should, it would probably be a very short time before the FIH RC amended it.)

It is worth noting here that up until 2004 any raising of the ball towards another player was prohibited. That prohibition not only made no reference to height or velocity it made no mention of distance either.
The development of the drag-flick together with umpires routinely ignoring what was Rule 13.3.1.d led to the FIH RC, contrary to their own emphasis on the safety of players, deleting this ridiculously severe Rule and transferring it to Rule 9.9. (why not Rule 9.8 ?) as Explanation, with the addition of a 5m distance limit.

Calls for the introduction of more height limits, for example sternum height, to describe a dangerously played ball from greater distances, which would have been a better course of action, have been studiously ignored by the FIH for more than thirty years.

We now have umpires who (want to) believe a ball raised at an  opponent from more than 5m cannot be considered dangerous play, even though legitimate evasive action is not distance limited, and others who (want to) believe that an on target shot at the goal cannot in any circumstances be considered to be dangerous play. They refer to these strange beliefs as interpretations – but interpretations of what?

I believe that including raised hits and intentionally raised deflections within the Explanation of Rule 9.9. to be acceptable (which is an interpretation not provided by the FIH RC, who are the only entity permitted to provide Rule Interpretation, so it could be dismissed out of hand) I give two reasons for my opinion.
1) The clause in is a Rule about intentionally raised hits.
2) It would be absurd to exclude raised hits and deflections but include flicks or scoops of similar velocity – common sense.

One might argue that penalising for a ball raised only about 20cms is not sensible, but this was in my view, an intentional forcing offence that should have been penalised under Rule 9.9 and therefore height (and velocity) were irrelevant.

 “because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules”

One FIH Umpire argued (in an Internet hockey forum) in 2011 that “dealt with” did not mean penalise but I do not accept her argument (that no action should be taken against the forcing player in any instance of forcing), because an umpire can only legitimately deal with a breach of Rule (that is an offence) in one of three ways 1) Where possible, allow advantage to the opposing team.  2) Allow play to continue if opponents are not disadvantaged by the offence. 3) Penalise the offender. (note the order of umpire response and that allowing advantage is NOT the same thing as just allowing play to continue)

I also found her argument that the player hit with the ball should be penalised “for a lack of skill” an affront, considering the criteria for a ball body contact offence given in Rule 9.11. and the lack of skill demonstrated by players who use easy forcing tactics to ‘win’ penalty, instead of stick-work to elude and beat opponents.