How misinformation is spread

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 (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 an awkward position 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. 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.

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 within 5m (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 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 after I made one post, but their hockey forum was discontinued within a month, they didn’t really want ‘outsiders’ questioning their assertions.

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.


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 -Rules 13.3.l and 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.

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