Archive for May, 2021

May 31, 2021

When is a Rule not a Rule.

There does not appear to be the slightest interest in holding the FIH Rules Committee to promises made when amendments were made to the Rules of Hockey by the FIH RC or its forerunner the FIH Hockey Rules Board. There may be some head scratching about that comment because these incidents have occurred at well spaced (but reducing) intervals over decades. However the effects of them are still seen and felt today.

The first I’ll mention is the deletion of the Offside Rule in 1997.
At the time the FIH RC wrote in the rule-book that following this deletion constraints would be placed on the actions of attackers close to the goal. Clearly the idea of ‘goal-hanging’ attackers shooting at goal at point blank range and without height restriction is a disturbing one. So what constrains did the FIH RC introduce? Answer, NONE. In fact 1997 is now so long ago that no-one raised an eyebrow when the Rules were amended in 2015 to allow attackers to shoot at goal when the ball was still above shoulder height (as long as this was done safely, ha ha), and the tennis smash style shots that are now frequently made are commended as skillful. Players changing in on a goal-keeper, before a drag-flick is made as a first shot during a penalty corner, in order to hit any rebound into the goal or to deflect from close range, a ball passed towards the goal, high into the net, are also a common sight. It’s not difficult to devise reasonable Rule to deal with all of these problems but no attempt has been made to do so. These obvious problems (dangers) aren’t even acknowledged to exist.

In 2002 there was an announcement made in the rule-book that an upcoming comprehensive rewrite of the Rules of Hockey would be complete, in that it would contain all the briefing notes previously set out elsewhere separately as advice and instruction to umpires officiating at international Tournaments, so other Rules documents would become unnecessary. But what had happened in 2004 when the promised rewrite was completed? All Advice to Umpires and Technical Interpretations, previously in separate sections at the back of the rule-book, were deleted. The rule-book, far from being a comprehensive Rules document, which included Umpire Briefing and perhaps also relevant playing parts of Tournament Regulations, became a skeleton of its former content and the Umpire Managers Briefing for Umpires at International Tournaments (the UMB) took on a new life, instead of being discontinued (as it still should be).

The UMB went on to conflict with and contradict the Rules of Hockey in some areas. For example Rule 9.9 concerning the intentionally raised hit was scuppered by the inane mantra ‘forget lifted – think danger‘ with the result that hits intentionally raised into the opponent’s circle are often not penalised even thought prior to 2004 any raising the ball into the opponent’s circle with any stroke had been expressly prohibited. This was one of the first constraints on attackers which was removed in a way that was contrary to the undertaking given in 1997.

The UMB also announced, contrary to what was given in the Explanation of Rule 9.9 that balls raised to below half shin-pad height are not dangerous – which is as daft as the recent change to the dangerous play Rule which declares that only opponents can be subjected to a dangerous play offence. It does not take much imagination to envisage scenarios (player fallen to ground for example) where a hit into them raised only about 8″ could be extremely dangerous, and one has only to mention the name Sam Ward to recall how easy it is for a player to inadvertently injure a team-mate.

In 2007 we had a Rules farce that ran in the other direction. The FIH RC deleted a Rule clause and individuals within other FIH Committees, notably Peter von Reth, the Chairman of the FIH Umpiring Committee, refused to accept the deletion, despite the FIH RC being the sole appointed Rule authority, as the FIH Executive had reaffirmed in a Executive Circular in 2002.

So from Feb 2007 when an ‘official Explanation of Rule 9.11’ (which was nothing of the sort) was posted on the FIH website, until May 2015, “or gains benefit” was applied as if it was still part of Rule 9.11. The restoration of the clause to the rule-book, as advantage gained, did not occur until January of 2016.

We then had in 2011 the bizarre situation where the Forcing Rule was deleted, but the offence was not, because the reason given for the deletion was “because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules” but umpires immediately stopped penalising forcing offences (to the great detriment of the game). The deletion of the ‘gains benefit’ clause was ignored and the clause continued to be applied as Rule even though there was no mention of it in a rule-book for a period of nine years, the penalising of forcing offences ceased in 2011 and there has been no further mention of this offence, despite it still being an offence, in a rule-book since then..

The ‘gains benefit’ clause should not have been deleted because that removed appropriate penalty for the direct prevention of a goal with an accidental ball-body(foot/leg) contact, but it certainly needed to be amended and reinforced, because standard umpire coaching at the time (which I was on the receiving end of) was that any ball-body contact would gain a benefit for the team of the player hit with the ball, an obvious nonsense which no umpire should have accepted as proper direction because it turned one of the two criteria for a ball-body contact offence ‘on its head’.

No one who can remember how hockey was played prior to 1993 when what was called a New Interpretation of obstruction was introduced (which was nothing of the sort, it was an Exception to the Rule, which applied only to a player in the act of receiving and controlling the ball; the criteria for the offence, the illegal prevention of a legitimate tackle for the ball, remained and remains exactly as it always has been), can be comfortable watching the way hockey is now played. Here again the long practice of umpires interpreting in their own way (or to instruction given by Umpire Managers) caused them to completely ignore the extension of a clause in the Rule Explanation of Rule 9.12, added in 2009, which prohibited a player who had received and controlled the ball, from moving to position between an opponent and the ball – which should of course include moving to maintain an existing ball shielding position and backing or leading the ball with the body into the playing reach of a defender (advice which was ‘lost’ in the vandalism which was called the rewrite of 2004).

The above is an brief account of some of the odd things which have happened. But I have not mentioned the important subject of dangerous play and the inexcusable introduction during the Beijing Olympics of the idea that an on target shot at the goal could not be considered to be dangerous play (again the 1997 constraints on attackers upended) That surfaced again from an umpire during the 2010 World Cup, and was present, in slightly altered form, in the Briefing video for the Rio Olympics, so the idea has not yet been discarded despite its absurdity.

One of the strangest things to have happened in the last few years is the issue of a letter from the Royal Dutch Hockey Board to umpires in the Netherlands, in 2018, instructing them that legitimate evasive action (the causing of which defines a dangerously played ball) does not apply to defenders defending the goal during a penalty corner. Strange because this National Board does not have the authority to issue such an instruction, but stranger still, because although aware that this has happened (I know they were informed in November of 2018) the FIH Rules Committee and the FIH Executive have done nothing at all to correct this situation.

The application of the Rules to which the game of hockey is supposed to be played is a mess, and the apathy of ‘the hockey community’ and ‘the hockey family’ (and their and the FIH Rules Committee’s apparent powerlessness to control Umpire Managers) are ensuring that it stays that way.

May 20, 2021

What are the criteria for a dangerously played ball?

“Rule 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.”

Despite the FIH Rules Committee having stated in the rule-book that the Rules of Hockey apply to all participants and officials at all levels (worldwide). The Royal Dutch Hockey Board have instructed umpires in the Netherlands that legitimate evasive action does not apply to defenders during a penalty corner, effectively meaning that any raised shot at goal from beyond 5m of a defender cannot be considered to be dangerous play, even if it is made directly at a defender who is forced to evasion.

Whether or not the KNHB would consider a player who has been hit on the head with the ball and seriously injured from such a raised shot, to have been endangered, is unknown. But no doubt if such a thing were to happen they would deny any responsibility for an injury resulting from their permitting/encouraging shooting of this sort, however they would probably need the services of immoral and capable lawyers.

The FIH RC and the FIH Executive who are well aware of the illegal instruction the KNHB have issued, and who have done nothing to ensure that it is withdrawn, would also be culpable for any injury that resulted from this negligence.

Given that the FIH are at present £500,000 ‘in the red’ it would be wise of them to take action to ensure that a legal action against them claiming damages due to injury, is a remote rather than a strong possibility due to the very large number of penalty corners that are awarded every year.

May 8, 2021

Referral restrictions

Another area of hockey that is in need of reform.

The task of the video umpire is to advise and make recommendation to the match umpire so that the match umpire (who remains responsible for all decisions made) is able to make a fair decision. Clearly that did not happen here.

It probably would have happened if video referral was not restricted to decisions leading to the award of a goal or a penalty corner, and the match umpire him or her self was able to leave the pitch to review replay of questionable incidents. (the third umpire could be utilised to supervise players while this was happening).

This should not be difficult to arrange. What is required is a pitch-side trailer and technicians to find and order the relevant ‘footage’ as the umpire is making his/her way pitch-side to view it. (Such trailers could be equipped to be towed different venues).

The current ‘hanging around’ of the match umpire while a third party makes a decision (which according to Tournament Regulations he/she should not be making) is unsatisfactory.

May 4, 2021

Forcing ball-body contact

Rules of Hockey January 2011. Twelve years of negligence.

The changes in this edition of the Rules essentially seek to simplify
the game without altering its fundamental characteristics.
The Rule which used to say that “players must not force an opponent
into offending unintentionally” is deleted because any action of this
sort can be dealt with under other Rules.”

So the forcing of ball-body contact (being one of the actions of this sort) remained an offence to be ‘”dealt with” under other Rules. (these offences can be “dealt with” either by allowing advantage to the player hit with the ball – the player offended against – or by penalising the player responsible for the forcing action or by applying the ‘other Rule’ breached, there are no other options).

But 2011 was the last year in which there was any mention at all of the offence of forcing in a rule-book., so many current umpires have no idea (they are certainly not told by their coaches) that forcing ball-body contact is an offence.

This cannot be an oversight by the FIH, it looks like deliberate negligence. Now why would they do that? More penalty corners, more goals, more ‘excitement and spectacle’. That’s pathetic when they are supposed to be promoting and protecting skillful play.

May 4, 2021

Having received the ball…

Both the Rule and the Rule interpretation (which no longer exists as a separate section in the rule-book having been deleted in 2004) used at one time to give instruction about what a player who had received the ball should do once it was within his control.

Now we have :-
“A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction .”….
(the part of the Rule that is recalled by umpires and how application of the Obstruction Rule is coached).

But then that second Rule sentence continues:-
“…….except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it“.
(Umpires also recall that a player who claims to be obstructed must be attempting to play at the ball – but they don’t in general know what a tackle attempt looks like or that the illegal prevention of a tackle attempt is obstruction)

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction).

The part in parenthesis (this is third party or shadow obstruction) is taken to mean that this clause applies only to third party obstruction, but if it was amended (as Rule 9.8. was amended) with the substitution of “this may also be” for “is” a more accurate description of the Rule is reached without in any way changing the interpretation of it and this might help rto achieve correct interpretation of the actions of players who obstruct an opponent. .

Suggestion. A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this may also be third party or shadow obstruction)

In the video the player in white (Poland) correctly protests to the umpire that there has been an obstruction by the Indian player in possession of the ball – the umpire shrugs and smiles, and play continues from the sideline. This inability on the part of umpires to recognize obstructive offences, and subsequent inaction when it occurs, is widespread.

May 2, 2021

Defining ‘Dangerous’

I have been trying for some years now to get the FIH RC to introduced another criteria for a dangerously played ball. It being “any ball that is propelled at above sternum height and within the shoulder width of a player and at a velocity that could cause injury to anyone hit with such a ball should considered to be dangerous play”.

At present there is no objective criteria for a dangerously raised ball if the player the ball is raised at is more than 5m from the player raising the ball. There is only the subjective ‘legitimate evasive action’ which – as can be seen in the video – is simply ignored.

In fact the Dutch Hockey Board have even instructed umpires in the Netherlands that legitimate evasive action does not apply to defenders on the goal-line during a penalty corner. (An illegal instruction because no National Association has the authority to amend Rule in any way without the prior approval of the FIH Executive – and this approval has not been given).

There are Facebook hockey Rules discussion group posts on this topic here:-