This blog is mainly about the FIH Rules of Hockey, which all participants in a hockey match are obliged to be aware of and abide by. It does not pretend to be the Rules of Hockey – which may be found via the link at the bottom of this page – but offers suggestions that, hopefully, may improve the Rules and interpretation of them, and thereby the game for players, umpires and spectators.

The author is Martin Conlon.  A former player (Blackheath HC , Slough HC, Hounslow HC, Surbiton HC, Maidenhead HC, and Lusitanians) former umpire (Surrey Umpires Association), former hockey coach (Cuba to Junior World Cup and Pan American Games), retired but still alive and kicking.

The photograph was taken while I was coaching in Cuba over twenty years ago. My eyebrows are now grey and the beard entirely white and there is not much hair left on top of my head. I also wear glasses just to walk around without bumping into things. I like to think that my mind is still sharp (if it could ever have been described thus) but I know from the way I play chess (another passion) that this is not always the case. In other words I am getting old; some would say that I am old, too old to be messing about with a hockey blog about the Rules of Hockey, but it must be done. I strongly disagree with those who suggest that we need a period of ‘consolidation’ with little or no change made to the Rules. I want to see the current Rules dismantled and reassembled properly so that they are fit for purpose.

There is no good reason why the Rules of Hockey are not as well understood and practiced as the Rules of Chess are, but the Rules of chess have been established for around five hundred years, after the game had been played for more than three thousand years, while hockey in the ‘modern’ format (with the present ball size and weight – everything else has been changed several times) has been played only since the early 1860’s, so there may be some excuse for the current bewilderment. Change takes a very long time to adjust to and is often not accepted at all. There is still wailing going on about the deletion of the Offside Rule (the last remnant of it, from the 23m line, was removed in 1997) and the fact that top class hockey is no longer played on natural grass surfaces.

The FIH have declared that they welcome any suggestions for improvement to the Rules of Hockey that any person wants to offer to them. I have suggested many changes, a few have been accepted by the Rules Committee, but I am tenaciously opposed to Rule changes made ‘on the fly’ during matches by officials who cannot have considered the long-term consequences of ‘interpretations’ made in this way. Even some changes (introductions) previously made by the FIH RC and approved by the FIH Executive have proved either disastrous or unworkable within a year of enactment (prohibiting the playing of the ball directly into the opponents circle from a free ball awarded in their 23m area and the (near opposite) Own Goal are two examples that come easily to mind). Even some Rules which can be seen to be vast improvements on previously allowed play, have disappointed because they were hemmed in by unnecessary restrictions (the Self pass) or were not restricted enough (playing of the ball at above shoulder height, which I believe should not be permitted to players when in their opponent’s circle)

This is not a forum but comments concerning The Rules of Hockey and the interpretation and application of them, are welcome.

The present Rules of Hockey are not perfect, they never have been, but some Rules which have been deleted could usefully be restored, some of the present ones withdrawn, and new ones added, to make the whole better than it currently is. The current ‘interpretations’ of some of the Rules are simply bizarre. The video clip below shows the first five minutes of a match between Argentina and the Netherlands during the World League Finals in January 2014 and provides a representative sample of what is being ‘cascaded’ down through all levels of hockey. Such ‘practice’ contradicts what is given in the rule-book, confusing both players and umpires, and hockey now in many ways resembles a version of soccer played with sticks.

Obstruction is the illegal prevention of a tackle attempt. Shielding of the ball, with the body or stick, to prevent an opponent playing at the ball and/or moving bodily, i.e. leading the ball, into the playing reach of an opponent while in possession of it are both specified within the Obstruction Rule (Rule 9.12) as illegal actions (actions that are contrary to the Rule) but you wouldn’t learn that from watching a hockey match – and some will disagree that the second described action is obstruction.

Following the change to Rule 9.11. made in January 2015 (and it was a significant change that was made not just a clarification because ‘gains benefit’ was deleted from the Rules of Hockey after 2006)  ‘gains an advantage’ is likely once again (this is the forth incarnation since 1993) to  be a blanket ‘catch all’ – so nothing has been learned and there may be no improvement to present practice and no progress made in this area. An alternative suggestion, only applying ‘gained unfair advantage’ to two or three well defined types of action, such as the prevention of a certain goal following a non-dangerous shot and only penalising ball-body contact by a player who gains an advantage from such contact while in possession of the ball, will not be tried out.

 I fully accept that not all will agree with much of what I suggest to resolve what I see as fundamental – and unwelcome  – changes to the nature of the game. I will be pleased to receive reasoned counterargument on any point I have made concerning the Rules of Hockey or serious alternative Rule or explanation of application of Rule suggestions from anyone who wishes to give them.

There has been no change to the Rules concerning the dangerously played ball, obstruction, the self-pass, or to the lifted hit – all of which I see as being badly flawed – in the past year, so my efforts to encourage change in these areas (and others) must continue.  The Rules concerning the taking of a free-ball are an over-restrictive and complicated mess. The own goal has come and is (thankfully) gone, but the recently introduced play at above shoulder height obviously needs more control than has been put in place and ‘interpretation’ (invention of ‘Rules’) is a ‘runaway train’ despite the FIH Executive having made it very clear that no individual and no body outside of the full FIH Rules Committee is permitted to make change the Rules or to the interpretation of them and that the FIH Executive must approve any amendments to the Rules made by the FIH RC before they may be applied in a hockey match.

The three areas that are subject to more misdirection, myth and mischief than others are:-

1) Ball-body contact, which is again encumbered with a vague gains advantage/benefit clause, misuse of the Advantage Rule and bizarre ‘interpretation’, which in combination lead to the penalising of almost all ball-body contact, particularly ball-foot contact, instead, as should be the case, very little interruption to the game for ball contact incidents. I estimate that about 95% of ball-foot contact that is penalised should not be. i.e. penalty follows ‘automatically’ irrespective of how or why a player is hit with the ball or the outcome.

2) Obstruction (ball shielding) to which Rule Interpretation deleted in 2004 is still being (often unknowingly) applied. Here we are taken in the opposite direction from the way the ball-body contact Rule is applied, with many players and umpires apparently being unaware that ball shielding to prevent an opponent, who would otherwise be able to play at the ball, from doing so, is an offence – and that the only exceptions to that general statement occurs only during the time a player, who is shielding the ball from an opponent, is receiving and controlling the ball and when (for obstruction with the body) a tackling player is not his or her own goal-side of the ball (a stick obstruction may still occur when a tacker is behind the play and his or her stick is fended off by the player in possession of the ball).

3) The dangerously played ball, particularly the raised shot at the goal, which some seem to believe cannot be considered dangerous in any circumstances. There is also a body of mistaken opinion that a ball raised high at another player cannot be dangerous to that player and need not be penalised if raised from beyond 5m – that needs to be corrected.

These areas will remain the main focus of this blog.



http://www.fih.ch/en/sport/rules      FIH Rules of Hockey

2 Comments to “About”

  1. I agree with your interpretation and how the rule is not properly enforced. I hope to connect with you for further discussion.

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