Archive for September, 2021

September 27, 2021

Face masks and dangerous play – update for 2022

Here is the note of Rule change regarding the wearing of face-masks effective 1st January 2022.

Rule 4.2 was changed to allow for defending players using Penalty Corner protective equipment to continue to play the ball outside the circle after intercepting during the taking of a penalty corner.
Players can now continue to run with the ball while keeping their protective equipment on but they must remove that same equipment immediately after the first opportunity to do so and
always inside the 23 m area. No player using PC protective equipment can play the ball outside the 23 m area at any time.

A few days ago a question was posted to the Facebook Hockey Rules Discussion Group about the permitted wearing of face-masks:-

Had an umpire penalise a defender for running out of D with ball wearing face mask after she picked the ball at a short corner. I thought it was the 25 she could run to with mask on

That defenders are permitted to wear face-masks (and additional protection) during the taking of a penalty corner is a tacit acknowledgement by the FIH RC that the penalty corner presents a potentially dangerous situation for defenders.

The Rule concerning face-masks:-

Field players -are permitted to wear a smooth preferably transparent or single coloured face mask or metal grill face mask, which follows the contours of the face, when defending a penalty corner or penalty stroke for the duration of that penalty corner or penalty stroke including the immediate taking of a free hit awarded after a penalty corner when passing the ball to another player; the primary objective of wearing a face mask to defend a penalty corner is safety; wearing of face masks which are consistent with the underlying spirit of this guidance should be allowed;

– are not permitted, when wearing face masks, to conduct themselves in a manner which is dangerous to other players by taking advantage of the protective equipment they wear;– are not permitted to wear protective headgear (face mask or other protective head covering) in any other circumstances.

That is the current Rule as far as I am able to discover. Nothing there about taking a face mask off as soon as possible or allowing a player in possession of the ball to move with it to the 23m line, although both were I think part of previous Rule.

I think this “– are not permitted to wear protective headgear (face mask or other protective head covering) in any other circumstances” severely limits what a defender, wearing a face-mask and in possession of the ball, may do, but it is not explicit about what such a defender may or may not do.

I doubt it includes dribbling the ball as far as the 23m line.

A defender wearing a face-mask is (for safety reasons) dealt with in a heavy handed way compared with the limitations placed on a player taking a shot with a drag-flick or deflecting the ball high towards the goal from close range during a penalty corner – such shooters are told they must not play the ball dangerously, but what does that mean? I can’t recall ever seeing a drag-flick at the goal penalised as dangerous play (although doubtless many do endanger opponents). The received ‘wisdom’ which is referred to as THE interpretation (From who?), is that defenders should not position themselves where they could be endangered – which is an illogical inversion of Rule.

The Rules 13.3.l and 13.3.m clearly state that during a penalty corner, a shot may not be made in a dangerous way (in a way that endangers an opponent – i.e. puts him at risk of injury). Common sense suggests that these instructions – see Rule 9.8 and Rule 9.9 – apply to any shot taken at the goal in any phase of play.

There is nothing at all to be found in the Rules concerning the positioning of a defender when defending his own goal. But Umpire Managers (and the Royal Dutch Hockey Board) have taken it upon themselves to declare that a defender positioned on the goal-line cannot expect the protection of the Rules. Umpires should of course ignore that bizarre and dangerous statement. That statement can be heard on the video made as Umpire Briefing for the Rio Olympics, but another version of it was heard during match commentary at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The idiots are nothing if not persistent.

Has the 2022 amendment made any difference at all to the way that players and umpires conduct themselves? How reasonable or realistic is it to demand of a player in possession of the ball and under opposition pressure while defending, that he remove a face-mask or remain within his own 23m area? Is it less dangerous to himself or others for a defender to continue wearing a face mask indefinitely within the 23m area? Is there any recorded example of injury to an opponent by a player wearing a face-mask or is all this ‘danger’ just supposition?

How many recorded examples of injury to a defender from a drag-flick shot are there? Hundreds? Thousands?

September 22, 2021

707. Ball raised towards an opponent within 5m with a flick or scoop.

According to what is given with the Explanation of Application of Rule 9.9 if a ball is raised towards an opponent within 5m with a flick or scoop that is to be considered dangerous play. If such a flick or scoop is played towards an opponent intentionally that should also be considered to be a forcing offence (forcing offences being penalised under other Rules).

The video shows three incidents in which a ball was raised with a flick into the legs of an opponent, in the second and third of these incidents it looks as if the player in possession of the ball intended to hit the legs of the defender in front of him, but intention is not necessary for there to be a breach of the Rule clause explained in Rule 9.9 as dangerous play.There is one example of a ball dangerously scooped towards an opponent; causing that opponent to take legitimate evasive action. All these offences by ball-holders were ignored by the umpires. In all but one of the cases of a flick raised into and hitting a defender who was within his circle, a penalty corner was incorrectly awarded. (The raising of the ball into an out-running defender, within 5m during a penalty corner, is a dangerous exception to the general Rule, being penalised, if the defender is hit with the ball, if the ball is kept below knee height, with the award of another penalty corner – this award is mandatory . This absurdly, is the only time a height limit is mentioned in any Rule in connection with a ball raised towards an opponent).

I take ‘with a large pinch of salt’ statements that umpires at this level are always working hard to be the best they can be, because they are not the best they could be. A competent umpire knows how and when to apply the FIH published Rules of Hockey.

Whether they are not at their best is because of ‘the nerves’ caused by an important match on a big occasion (they don’t get bigger than the last two matches of an Olympic Games) or because they are umpiring according to their habits (accepted practice / briefings) I cannot determine.

September 20, 2021

Raising the ball towards an opponent.

Two incidents are shown in the video clip below. In both the ball was raised at high velocity towards an opponent with a hit. The first one was high enough to hurt the opponent but the second not, even thought it was hit at the defender from well within 5m of his position, he appears to have been fortunate and protected by his shin pads.

The first raised hit incident was penalised although the ball was hit from beyond 5m of the defender, in the second the player who was hit was penalised even though well within 5m of the striker.

These two incidents point up some peculiarities in the Rules concerning a dangerously played ball. Technically (in other words according to a strict reading of the text of the Rules of Hockey) the only Ruel the hitters could be said to have contravened in either incident was intentionally raising the ball with a hit stroke (and that is an action that is subject to an umpire’s opinionwhich is skewed by the “Forget lifted -Think danger” advice given in the UMB).

The fact that the ball hit and injured (endangered) an opponent in the first incident is, according to the Rules, irrelevant. In the second incident if the umpire did not consider the ball to have been raised intentionally with the hit stroke – and he clearly didn’t because he penalised the defender – the fact that the ball was raised with a hard hit, rather than flicked or scooped, could be considered reason to call that propelling of the ball towards an opponent, legitimate, because raising the ball with a hit stroke is not specifically prohibited in the relevant Rule (9.9), while flicks and scoops are.

The Rules concerning raising the ball towards (at) an opponent are not written in a rational way. The umpire who officiated the first incident possibly penalised the striker because the ball had been raised high at the defender, but there was no reason in Rule for him to do so. No player beyond 5m of a striker is offered protection from a ball raised at him in open play from any stroke at any height.

The Penalty Corner Rules state that no shot at goal may be made in a dangerous way but offers no criteria to define dangerous from beyond 5m (aside from legitimate evasive action which is almost universally ignored beyond 5m., even though there is no reason at all why it should be). Umpires usually put this Rule quirk to one side and penalise hits that are raised into opponents from fairly close range. The umpire of the second incident chose to penalise the player hit with the ball even though it was propelled from within 5m of him – possibly because he thought the defender had gained an advantage from the ball contact. The penalising of ball body contact is often in these circumstances irrational too.

September 1, 2021

A shot towards the goal

There is nothing in the Rules of Hockey to support the notion that an on target shot at the goal cannot be dangerous play.

There is nothing in the Rules of Hockey pertaining to open play that supports the idea that a dangerously raised ball must be raised to above knee level.
(A first hit shot made during a penalty corner must not be raised to above knee level, but that is not a dangerous play Rule, it is a condition that must be met for a hit shot from which a goal may be scored, which incidentally keeps play safer than it might otherwise be).

Oddly umpires normally penalise as dangerous a ball that is raised into an opponent within 5m; this has become accepted practice even though Rule 9.9 expressly prohibits only the raising of the ball into an opponent within 5m with a flick or scoop stroke. An exception to this sensible practice has been made for the on-target shot at the goal – and this exception is applied even when the ball is raised into a close opponent with a flick or scoop.

Since 2018 further misinformation has appeared which is closely allied with the notion that an on-target shot at the goal cannot be dangerous play. This is the idea that during a penalty corner legitimate evasive action does not apply in the case of a defender positioned on the goal-line. This idea is contrary to Rules 13.3.l and 13.3.m, which are about the making of a shot at goal during a penalty corner, and to Rule 9.8 which states, without exception, that a ball that is played at an opponent in a way that causes legitimate evasive action (necessary evasion of the ball to avoid injury) IS dangerous play.

There is no height limit mentioned in either Rule 9.8 or Rule 9.9 and no distance limitation for LEA mentioned in Rule 9.8. (The advice to umpires included in the UMB, that a ball raised to below half shin-pad height is not dangerous, in not included in the Rules of Hockey – so it isn’t a Rule of hockey).

I find myself in a position that is difficult to justify. I approve of umpires including hits and deflections that are raised into close opponents within the meaning of dangerous play, even though there is no Rule support for this practice. However I disapprove of umpires casting aside the relevant dangerously played ball Rules when a shot is on target and causes a defender to take evasive action, precisely because that approach is contrary to FIH published Rule.

On page 2 of the rule-book players are instructed to play with consideration for the safety of other players, this is a very broad and vague Rule, but it is a Rule (even if unnumbered and not included in the Conduct of Play Rule). Rule 9. Conduct of play, is prefaced with the instruction that players are required to play responsibly. Hitting the ball at maximum velocity into the legs of an opponent who is here within 3m, is obviously not playing responsibly or with consideration for the safety of that opponent.

It is inconvenient for attackers that they are instructed not to endanger opponents because that requires that they develop skills beyond just hitting the ball as hard as possible towards a close opponent, but hockey is supposed to be a game of skill, not brute force.

On balance I think it better that umpires do not invent Rule (which they call Interpretation), and where there needs to be sensible adjustment (as in the case of a hit or intentional deflection raised towards an opponent within 5m), the FIH Rules Committee become alert enough to recognize it and make suitable Rule amendment to correct what is (or should be) obviously an inane current Rule.

The fact that there is no height limit (aside from above knee height towards an out-runner within 5m during a penalty corner) to describe any endangerment, be it from a hit or drag-flick or scoop, should be a scandal, but the FIH has been so inept and participants so apathetic (“Not our business” “Can’t be bothered”) that this situation has continued for decades, despite an apparently frantically busy Rule authority “simplifying and clarifying” the rule-book during this entire period.

In fact any attempt to address the issue of the dangerously played ball (or the Obstruction Rule) has been vigorously rejected by the umpires who are or have been the moderators of the four Internet hockey forums that I have been ejected from (I report with pride that I have been ejected/banned twice for raising the problem of the non-application of the Obstruction Rule and twice for comment about the dangerously played ball – my speed record is a ban for life by the Australian HA immediately after I made one post, but their hockey forum was discontinued within a month, they didn’t really want ‘outsiders’ questioning their assertions but others, in support of me, continued to do so).

The assertion in question on that occasion was made by an FIH Umpire and was that a player hit with the ball in front of the goal should always be penalised with a penalty stroke – part of the notion that a shot at goal cannot be considered to be dangerous play. That record might be thought to be something to do with my peculiarly aggressive writing style (an opinion that was voiced), but anybody who attempts to discuss either of these subjects in a rational way on an Internet hockey forum will be greeted with yawns (of feigned boredom) or dismay and the topic thread they opened to make their comment very quickly closed down.

I invite anyone to try it and experience the wall of resistance to such discussions that exists. Meanwhile the FIH RC continues to pretend to welcome comments and suggestions for Rule improvements from anyone who cares to make them.

A Comment received

Salisu JabboI I think the umpires are applying the rule the way they see see it. Where in the rule does it say every shot at goal is dangerous. If the umpires are inventing it, how. I are agreed with you that some shot at goal are dangerous, especially when it causes evasive action or from close proximity.

Note I have never suggested that all shots raised towards the goal are dangerous or even that a goal-bound shot raised towards a defender will be dangerous. Distance from the shooter (ball), ball height and ball velocity should always be considerations in this decision. (Ball velocity does not even get a mention in the Rules of Hockey and the single reference to ball height is confined to shots made during a penalty corner, particularly the first hit shot)


Anyone who declares that an on target shot at the goal CANNOT be dangerous play (which is what has repeatedly been declared since Beijing in 2008) is profoundly ignorant i.e. they may never have seen a hockey match.

If, after seeing a number of hockey matches, umpires are prepared to make that statement, they are incredibly stupid and dangerous and should not be permitted to umpire any hockey match. How somebody that stupid becomes an umpire is a matter that is worthy of close attention.

That experienced international level umpires, many of whom are responsible for coaching other umpires, could support the ‘cannot be dangerous’ statement is beyond comprehension. But, in the Rules of Hockey, umpires are given no instruction at all regarding ball height when a ball is raised towards an opponent in open play (bar the inane not dangerous below half-shin pad height, from the UMB) and only limited instruction in this regard (knee height) when a ball is raised towards an opponent within 5m during a penalty corner (they are simply told in Rule that a shot at goal must not be made in a dangerous way during a penalty corner -Rule 13.3.m).

No advise at all is offered about ball velocity, none is offered about identifying ‘legitimate evasive action’ and there is no instruction whatsoever (more than twenty years after the drag-flick was introduced) about a ball raised towards an opponent from more than 5m.

You ask “Where in the rule does it say every shot at goal is dangerous?” when you could more reasonably have asked “Where in the rule does it say that a shot made at goal may be dangerous (and say how or why)?” or “Where in Rule is a dangerous shot at the goal described (the criteria laid out)?”

Against that background umpires are supposed to interpret and apply Rule. What Rule wording are they supposed to be interpreting? Answer:- None; they are supposed to be interpreting player actions for compliance with certain and well understood Rules (which do not exist).

The umpires I have (many times) seen award a goal or a penalty stroke when a ball has been raised as a shot at goal high (at head, neck, or chest) into a defender from considerably less then 5m are, presumably, ‘interpreting’ Rule (whatever that means) or following Briefing instructions (more likely), but they are not applying any FIH published Rule rationally or correctly. If they were they would be able to quote it. They cannot quote a Rule to support the idea that an on target shot at the goal cannot be considered dangerous play, so instead they present a baseless (contrary to Common Law) argument about “acceptance of risk.” on the part of defenders. The risk from any action which is contrary to a Rule of a game (a shot at goal must not be made in a dangerous way – Rule 13.3.m.), cannot legally be said to be an accepted risk.

Any raising of the ball towards an opponent within 5m should be considered to be dangerous play, but as mentioned above, the FIH Rules Committee have made a mess of the relevant Rule (9.9) by including only flick and scoop strokes in it, and also by not mentioning ball height or velocity (both of which relate to the propensity of a ball to injure anyone hit with it, and could give good reason for an attempt at evasive action).

Causing legitimate evasive action (an entirely subjective judgement) remains in many instances the sole criterion for a dangerously played ball, which is itself a subjective judgement, but umpires who act as if a shot at the goal cannot be considered to be dangerous play (here supposedly following the insistence of the FIH that there be an emphasis on player safety) ignore evasive action, in favour of the objective “at the goal”. They have no reasonable defence for adopting this practice.