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 offence 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.

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