The case of the impossible video refferral

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 by 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:-



2 Comments to “The case of the impossible video refferral”

  1. Hello Martin,

    The rules for foot contact as they stand are clearly not ideal. I think a solution is available and could be trialled. As a coach I frequently change the rules of hockey for training purposes and I have tried “accidental contact with your foot is not an offense unless after the contact you are the next player to play the ball”. I do this because I don’t want PCs in my training sessions and I do want play to continue when it is reasonable for it to do do. Perhaps the words ” or prevents the ball crossing the line for a goal might also be added”. Obviously it’s pie in the sky to think that this could be adopted, but maybe it’s worth an airing on a forum like yours.

    • Hi Martin,

      I have put forward in my suggested rewrite of Rule 9.11 that the focus should be on ball-body contacts made by a player in possession of the ball and not a player trying to defend, except of course when such contact is deliberate (a very rare occurrence). We seem to be moving in a similar direction on this matter.
      The other area which is a complete mess is the offence of Forcing the Rule was deleted in 2011 but the offence was not. The explanation given for the deletion stated it was deleted because all actions of this sort could be dealt with under other Rules – that is not deletion,, it is transfer and a totally unnecessary transfer at that.
      Aside from dangerously or recklessly hitting the ball into a close opponent (maybe an opponent who has fallen to ground) there is no other Rule which can be used to deal with ground level ‘attacks’ with the ball so the rational for the deletion (such as it was) was based on a false premise as well as being absurd.

      Raising the ball into a close opponent is of course contrary to Explanation given with Rule 9.9. I can’t accept that any player who has had the ball deliberately forced into his feet, legs or body should ever be penalised for the ball body contact, the forcer, if disadvantaged, has simply disadvantaged himself and should accept the consequences of his lack of skill – i.e. loss of possession.

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