Archive for ‘Dangerous Play’

June 3, 2020

Pass or shot?

The Rules of Hockey.

A tactic to circumvent safety Rules that creates a ‘murky Rule area’ if the pass to the attacking in-runner is also towards the goal.

This requires that an amendment be made to the Rules so that a first hit, push or flick towards the goal during a penalty corner, which is intercepted/deflected by another attacker, is always regarded as a pass and not as a shot at the goal – and therefore a shot at goal made after such interception is always limited in height in the same way as a first hit shot would be, no matter how it is subsequently propelled towards the goal.

Its not unusual to see head high deflections made from within 5m of the goal-line and this should not be considered safe practice – simply because it is not.

There are two Rule contraventions by the attacking side in this video. What are they?

First, the attacking in-runner breaks into the circle before the ball is ‘inserted’; That should have caused the umpire to stop play immediately and reset the corner (punishments for defenders who break early are more severe – a player gets sent beyond the half-line and the corner is reset without him)

Secondly, the ball is deflected up into a defender’s groin from close range (within 2m) injuring him. That is a dangerous play offence. The ball may not be raised at an opponent at all from within 5m. (Too big a distance, but that is what is given in the Rule – intentional deflections are not mentioned in the Rule but common sense dictates they be included as a means of propelling the ball towards an opponent in a dangerous way)

I think it reasonably follows that if a shot at the goal is raised with a hit in open play and is then intercepted or deflected by a second attacker and propelled towards the goal, the initial action must be regarded as a pass and therefore an illegally raised hit.

This would fit with the promise made by the HRB back in 1997 when the Off-side Rule was deleted, that for the safety of players, constraints would be placed on the actions of attackers when close to the goal – a promise that has been forgotten for a long time.

December 28, 2018


Back in 2006 when I was a regular contributor to a ‘newbie’ named Keely Dunn joined and posted about a defender positioned in front of the goal during a penalty corner and asserted in that post that such a defended caused danger and should be penalised if hit with an attacker’s shot at the goal. I posted a reply to that assertion in which I stated that the opposite was true – that a ball raised towards another player that endangered that other player was always, provided there was no intentional use of the body by the defender to stop or deflect the ball, the fault and responsibility of the player who raised the ball. Keely Dunn’s response was a tirade of more than a thousand words in which she declared that the fact that a defender positioned between a shooter and the goal demonstrated an intention to use the body to stop the ball and she then went on to describe her dedication to umpiring, her ambition (at the time to be an Olympic Umpire) and her hard work to that end. (an absurd attempt to claim the moral high ground by asserting that I had made a personal attack on her, when I only disputed her opinion on a single issue – absurd because I was the one trying to protect players from dangerous play, while she was promoting the opposite). She finished her response by scolding me for “calling her out” and stated that if I ever did so again she would not respond – so this time I am perfectly safe from her rebukes despite the fact that I am again going to disagree with her (declare that she is wrong)  in the same way and for the same reasons. I will not accept that a defender is not allowed to defend the goal or not allowed to be in (punished for being in) any position they need to be to do so.

Below, in coloured text, is part of her analysis of the changes to the Rules of Hockey for 2019, in which she makes a similar claim to the one she made in 2006, concerning the protection offered under the Rules to a defender in front of the goal when a shot is made at the goal. That this is presented as a matter of safety is bizarre as there would seldom be any danger in such circumstances if the ball was not raised by a shooter directly towards a defender (a deflection towards a defender is rarely the result of raising the ball directly at that defender by an initial shooter).

In her defence I must point out that she has reversed the long-standing meme that an outrunning defender at a penalty corner who is attempting to tackle for the ball with his stick is committing an offence.  (She does not now refer to such out-runners as ‘suicide runners‘).

The reason for taking away a non-kitted player who can use their body inside the circle to play the ball is primarily safety. Watching a player without any real protective equipment throw themselves in front of a ball for club or country has become a Hunger Games-esque spectacle (for example, from the men’s World Cup, see the Blacksticks’ Bennett running down a Peillat drag flick, or England’s Gleghorne all but decapitating |Ireland’s O’Donoghue on the line at the end of their crossover match).

The two clips below contain the incidents referred to in the above paragraph.

I would not describe the PWGKP in the Ireland goal as a someone who had thrown himself into the path of a shot at the goal while aping the actions of a fully kitted goalkeeper, but rather as someone genuinely trying to get out of the way of the ball because he believed he would be badly injured if hit with it.

It is part of the training of goalkeepers to persuade them that a hit with the ball to the head when they are wearing a helmet is not life threatening (although there have been some nasty injuries caused to goalkeepers by the failure of a sub-standard helmet or a previously weakened eye-grill) and get them to use the helmet to deflect the ball. This training is not easy as it is counter-intuitive to most people, and it can be no surprise that a field-player who has not been properly trained as a goalkeeper should react as if his head was not protected with a helmet. (Injuries to the side of the head, including fractures of the skull, are not uncommon in defenders wearing face masks, who turn their face away from an incoming ball; overcoming the instinct to avert the face is not an easy task – the injury to Godfrey Irwin of Cookstown HC in the EHL comes to mind).

The Rule which penalises the raising of the ball into an outrunning defender during a penalty corner is a near copy of the part of the Explanation of application of Rule 9.9. concerning the raising of a ball towards an opponent – but there are critical differences.
The Penalty corner Rule contains reference to a height limit (knee height), Rule 9.9. does not, Rule 9.9 refers to the strokes used to propel the ball, while Rule 13.3.l does not. (but I believe it sensible to consider a ball that has been raised with a hit or an intentional deflection into a close opponent in open play to be dangerous play). Do you see how unnecessarily diverse and complicated the Rules are even in simple matters such as raising the ball towards a close opponent? More about that following the last video below

At lower levels, the benefit to pulling the goalkeeper is still too often an exercise in futility where a hapless defender stands on the penalty spot wearing a different—coloured shirt, terrified to leave and create the numerical advantage that is the sole benefit of the exercise.

Teams are now constrained to using only all field players to create the numerical advantage (or continue playing a match where a fully—kitted goalkeeper is unavailable). It doesn’t change the fact that we have unprotected players running around in the circle, but hopefully, there will be less incentive for anyone brave soul to sacrifice their limbs for goal-saving glory. I nominate this the rule Most Likely To Be Forgotten It Was Ever Different When The Next Rule Book Comes Out.

Way less to remember. There are no fewer than 24 instances (yes, I counted them because I’m a giver that way) in the rule book where a PWGKP was specified in addition to the goalkeeper and those are now all gone. No more arguing about putting on helmets, whether they can wear the goalkeeper’s blockers on penalty corners, or reminding attackers that YES THEY CAN USE THEIR FEET, PLEASE JUST PLAY ON NOW CHEERS.

I am surprised that anyone could have doubted that a player in the position that used to be referred to as ‘kicking back’ could use their feet, but I suppose it is possible since PWGKP was introduced into terminology some years ago. But this mess is not going to be forgotten. It was wise of the FIH HRB to insist on a fully equipped goalkeeper when they did and a mistake to withdraw that requirement – despite the difficulties with the expense of kit in some regions. The eroding attitude to the safety of defenders positioned in front of the goal does not inspire confidence in the wisdom of the FIH RC in making the change made for 2019-. I believe the only reasonable course is to go back to the fully equipped goalkeeper being a compulsory element of a team, in the same way that helmets became compulsory for goalkeepers.  (It’s daft to compel a goalkeeper to wear a helmet but not compel a team to have a goalkeeper, and also to have the option to replace a fully kitted goalkeeper with a field player – who will be shot at as if he or she were a fully equipped goalkeeper.)

However, you’re likely going to have more situations where you have difficult decisions to make regarding dangerous play, i.e. when attackers shoot at goal with field players in the way. You’ll need to continue to keep in mind the idea that defenders who are standing in front of the goal doing their best Maddie Hinch are choosing to put themselves in danger (and really need to stop that, m’kay?).

No not m’kay or okay. An attacker who chooses to raise the ball at an opponent in a way that endangers that opponent (forces self-defence for example), chooses to commit a foul and should be penalised. A player who carelessly or recklessly raises the ball towards another player (I believe the change to “opponent” to be a mistake – the emphasis should be on the safety of all players – hospital emergency rooms will not make a distinction between injured same team or opposing team players) commits an offence and should be penalised.

Defenders who are marking, intercepting, closing down the ball or otherwise making an attempt to tackle are NOT putting themselves in danger and need to be protected.

Of course they are putting themselves in danger, given the present penalty-corner set up they have no choice but to do so. Anything which facilitates the near immediate making of a shot at the goal will be stupidly dangerous to defenders trying to prevent that shot and having to run between 12m and 14m towards opponents in possession of the ball to do so, especially with the present attitude towards a ball raised towards a defender – even if it is only allowed below knee height when the opponent is within 5m.(any defender positioned beyond 5m is apparently ‘fair game’) The penalty-corner needs to be replaced with a power-play conducted in the opponent’s 23m area and the now necessary ‘charge’ eliminated.

I don’t hate this change. Simple is usually better, and safety (when real and not imagined) is no one’s enemy. it’ll also make teams more cautious when pulling their goalkeeper. But when they do, they’ll go for goal with more rigour, making for more exciting, attacking hockey at the right moments.

I very much doubt what is written in the last sentence. Attackers will still back into opponents, spin and ‘look for a foot’, at present they are given, because of ‘umpiring practice’, no reason not to.

The above clip is an excellent example of the degrading of Rule to the point where it is applied in the opposite way to that which it was obviously intended it be applied. Any forcing action is still supposed to be dealt with (penalised) under “other Rules”. What other Rule if the ball is not raised? Your guess would be welcome.

The ARG player who makes a tackle and gets possession of the ball has several options immediately available to him but realizes what the team needs most is time to position to take advantage of their possession of the ball – they are closely grouped and still recovering from the chase-back to retrieve the ball from their opponents and so are not ideally placed to exploit possession. So what does he do? He decides to ‘win’ a free ball.  He has no hesitation in raising the ball and aiming it into the legs of the NZ player (contrary to what is given with Rule 9.9), who is attempting to position to tackle him because he fully expects the umpires to ignore this foul and to penalise the player hit with the ball. As it happened the NZ player intercepted the ball with his stick, but the ARG player appealed for a contact offence anyway, possibly hoping that the umpire was too far away to be certain of what actually happened (the umpire was still recovering from his move to the baseline in anticipation of an NZ attack, but must have seen that the ball was raised from close range into the NZ player? No?) The umpire followed expectation and awarded penalty against the player the ball was raised at, following the claimed contact, and the ARG player got away with this blatant cheating.

This raises the matter of the positioning of umpires and the number of officials on the pitch. I think, at this level, there should be five officials. Four flag officials running the arcs between the half-line and the goal-posts, each responsible for one side of a single half of the pitch, with some overlap around the half-way line, and an umpire in the center between the circles running the diagonals between the widths of the circles. In that way almost all incidents on the pitch should be supervised by at least two close officials and often by three. Should anyone think this number excessive they might consider that a top level tennis match is supervised by eight officials (seven of them with a very limited task) and the playing area and the number of players involved is a fraction of that used to play a hockey match.

I view the shot at the head of the IRE PWGKP when there was nobody guarding the left post and therefore much of the left side of the goal open, as cheating i.e. as deliberate dangerous play. In my view the (highly skilled) shooter deliberately targeted the defender knowing the defender would not be able to adequately defend himself. A risible comment? If you like, but despite my Irish blood there are no ‘sour grapes’, a 3-2 loss is as much a loss as a 4-2 loss. There can be no doubt (the opinion of Keely Dunn aside) that the shot was dangerous play by the shooter and it was played where it was played deliberately. A small risk as ENG were winning anyway, but maybe the shooter thought a shot wide of the defender would be more easily saved. There was nobody doing “a Maddie Hitch impression”, there was desperate evasive action, which in the circumstances was, I believe, legitimate. That shot would have been saved easily by a competent goalkeeper but a PWGKP, wearing only a helmet for additional protection (which he would not have been accustomed to wearing), stood very little chance of stopping it.

July 2020 and i need to add to this article comment about acceptance of risk and a defender choosing to position (probably on the goal-line) to defend the goal because of risible comments made by the Umpire Manager at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

“Of course” he says but why “Of course” The usual ‘other reason trotted out is ‘acceptance of risk’ – the defender choosing  to be in place  where the ball could be propelled at him or her.

Acceptance of risk is the usual, normal and reasonable acceptance of the fact that in the course of a sport (or other activity) a player may be injured by accident. In such circumstances a player cannot claim compensation for damages because of such injury (it’s a legal principle). BUT, the principle hangs on the actions of others being reasonable in the context and very importantly on the actions being legal i.e. not against the Rules of the sport being engaged in.

Raising the ball at an opponent in a way that endangers that opponent and causes that opponent to take or attempt to take evasive action is dangerous play – and dangerous play is neither a reasonable or legal action in hockey, it is an offence, a foul. It matters not that it is legal to raise the ball at the goal at any height when shooting in open play. It is NOT legal to endanger another player while doing so. So the risk that that may happen is not something that can be ‘accepted’.

The fact is that it is the shooter who chooses to propel the ball by raising it, who chooses to propel it at maximum velocity, and who chooses not to avoid hitting defenders he or she is able to see are positioned between his or her position and the goal. The defender on the other hand is positioned where an attacker might propel the ball, the goal being 3.66m wide. Choice is with the shooter, not the defender of the shot, who is often forced by the action of the shooter to self-defence. All players MUST act with consideration for the safety of others. “Of course” they must – that Rule is given on page one of the rule-book where even the most reluctant of readers can easily find it.

September 21, 2018

Unauthorized Rule exception in the Netherlands.


Dangerously played ball

While commentating on a video I recently posted to YouTube I was critical of a television sports commentator speaking within it who declared that a defender hit with the ball while on the goal-line defending the goal would (always) be penalised with a penalty stroke. The ball had in this particular incident been deflected up into the chest of the defender from very close range off his own goalkeeper – and yes, in such circumstances the award of a penalty stroke is correct, but the statement made is not (this commentator also said several times during the match that any ball-body contact would (should) result in penalty against the player who was hit with the ball – which is also incorrect  It is not always an offence if the ball hits the foot, hand or body of a field player. The player only commits an offence if they gain an advantage or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way”.).

I pointed out that if the defender had been hit like that by a ball propelled from close range by an attacker a free ball should (must) be awarded to the defending team. (In the same match the NZ team tried to score a goal during a penalty corner  using a pass followed by a high deflection of the ball at the goal from less than one meter (the ball hit a post and then the goal cross-bar and bounced back into play). That defection shot narrowly missed the head of a defender after hitting the goal-post. Had the ball been played directly at that defender he would have had no chance to evade it. Evasion in such circumstances has to be considered legitimate and therefore an indication of dangerous play by opponents. This is true even if the evasion attempt is not successful and the player is hit with the ball). These assertions have to be correct because otherwise Rules 9.8 (dangerously played ball) and the Explanation with Rule 9.9 (ball raised towards an opponent within 5m) would be ignored. Comment was made about what I had said during that video by an umpire from the Netherlands, who subsequently gave me a link to a special letter to umpires from the KNHB. The relevant part is set out below.


The Netherlands Hockey Federation

Koninklijke Nederlandse Hockey Bond



Wees Alert!

– Ook een schot op doel kan gevaarlijk zijn. Het schot op doel is gevaarlijk wanneer
spelers een terecht ontwijkende beweging maken (dit geldt niet voor de lijnstopper bij een strafcorner-situatie);

Obviously inaccurately translated by Google Translate below, but the message is clear enough for comprehension.

— A shot on target can also be dangerous-

The shot on target is dangerous when players make a rightly evasive move
(this does not apply to the line stopper in a penalty corner situation).

The invented clause, given in parenthesis, will always conflict with the second statement and is likely to align with the first statement, so I find the ‘club safety’ title ironic with this clause included.

I also got another translation which makes even less sense.

— A shot on target can also be dangerous-

The shot on target is dangerous when players make a rightly evasive move
(this does not apply to the line stopper at a criminal responsibility situation).

I does not matter which translation I write about but I’ll take the first one because I have been told by the Dutch Umpire that this is how umpires are instructed and anyway, to refer to criminality (by a defender) seems beyond bizarre. (There could well be a case made for criminality by the player who propelled the ball, but the deliberateness of a severe action (for example propelling the ball at the head of a defending opponent with the intention of inflicting injury) would be difficult to prove without several instances of it occurring. There might be need to be able to demonstrate that the player had been warned or penalised for doing it on a previous occasion – possibly even in the same match before criminality could be asserted. This difficulty has always stood in the way of penalising a deliberately dangerously played ball).

The first difficulty about applying this (this does not apply to the line stopper in a penalty corner situation) exception to legitimate evasive action, is that it is not a legitimate i.e. legal, Rule clause (which ‘kills’ it stone dead); it is an invention by the KNHB who do not have the authority to invent or impose such exceptions to the FIH Rules of Hockey (nobody other than the FIH Rules Committee has this power). It was not drafted by the FIH Rules Committee and submitted to the FIH Executive for approval and then approved by the Executive, which is the only legitimate procedure for making or amending Rule, (that is why it is not in the FIH published Rules of Hockey) so it is not and cannot be considered to be FIH authorized and should not be applied by any umpire anywhere in the world as if it is authorized by the FIH. I am not referring here to a correct interpretation of a valid Rule statement using different wording with the same meaning, which would be acceptable, but to contradiction. This exception does not even appear in the Dutch language edition of the Rules of Hockey produced by the KNHB themselves.

Even if this exception was valid (if it had been introduced by the FIH RC) there would be difficulties with the interpretation and application of it. For example, would this exception overrule not only what is given about evasive action in Rule 9.8 but also what is described as dangerous play in Rule 9.9. (that is raising the ball towards another player from within 5m)? If Rule 9.9 still applied (as it should) the exception would not be complete, there would be an exception to it, which would further complicate umpiring. If Rule 9.8 still applied there would be a contradiction created. Then, when is a defender considered to be a line-defender? When he or she is positioned on the line or a little in front of it? How far off the line must a defender be to be not considered a line defender or is that irrelevant, with “gained an advantage” overruling dangerously played? (Which should not happen because if the ball is dangerously played by a shooter before any advantage from stopping a dangerously raised ball with the body is gained, the first offence must be penalised first)

If Rules 9.8 and 9.9. would not apply because of this exception then there would be no emphasis on the safety of players or an enforceable demand for the consideration of the safety of other players or an enforceable demand that players behave responsibly – and the FIH Rules Committee might just as well be disbanded and cease its function. Then all National Associations could compose their own Rules, as the KNHB have done here and we could wave goodbye to participation in the Olympic Games (because of the IOC demand that there be a sole world Rule authority for any sport included in the Games): this means that the FIH are obliged to prevent National Associations or any other body or group from imposing their own “Rules” or altering FIH Rules.

There is also the problem of the Common Law legality of the exception. In Civil Law, accusation of the tort of negligence is often defended by pointing out that the plaintiff knew the risks and knowing of them willingly accepted them and in such circumstances there is at least contributory negligence by the plaintiff. Sport is an area where it may be claimed that participation alone carries a certain risk and that the risk must be assumed to be accepted by willing participants.

But that legal defence cannot be used if the defendant (the player who propelled the ball) has caused injury to the plaintiff due to a breach (especially a deliberate breach) of a Rule of the game being played. In hockey it is declared in Rule that to raise the ball (with no minimum height or intention mentioned) towards an opponent within 5m IS dangerous play, i.e. doing so is prohibited. There is no Rule forbidding a defender from positioning on the goal-line (if there were an umpire would be obliged to clear the goal-line of field-players before the commencement of a penalty corner).

It is also the case that causing legitimate evasive action (forcing evasion to avoid the probability of injury) defines a dangerously played ball (with no height or distance criteria for legitimate evasive action mentioned in the Rule, so no such limits can be assumed). Therefore any ball propelled towards an opponent, from any distance, where there is potential that a player may be injured if hit with it, can be a cause of (force) legitimate evasive action and can (must) be considered dangerous. Is that extreme and unreasonable? No, not when the ball can be propelled at a player at velocities in excess of 150 kmh and often is. Stripping out legitimate evasive action as a definition of dangerous play removes the possibility of dangerous play and that runs contrary to the FIH declared Rule emphasis on player safety, so doing that cannot be correct or acceptable.

Demonstrating knowledge by a defending player that the ball might be propelled at the position of that defender is an insufficient justification for penalising a defender hit with the ball (or awarding a goal if evasive action is successfully taken) because it is also true that the ball might be propelled elsewhere rather than at the defender forced to evasion – the defenders cannot know with certainty where the ball will be propelled – and attackers often engage in deception to cause uncertainty about the timing and positioning of the shot.

Moreover, when there is a defender positioned on the goal-line the player propelling the ball knows where that defender is positioned both before the ball is propelled and while it is being propelled and chooses anyway to propel the ball in the direction it is propelled while having that knowledge – and also with knowledge of the existence of a duty of care towards the defending players. The admonishment (i.e. Rule – “players must”) which demands play with consideration for the safety of others is set out in the rule-book on the very first page. Players are also instructed that they are expected to play responsibly (play with care and take responsibility for their own actions) at the commencement of Rule 9 Conduct of Play.

The fact that the existence of a dangerously played ball is based on evasive action means it must be acceptable in Rule for a defender to be in a position where evasive action may become necessary, it is therefore illogical to declare that a defender should not or cannot legitimately position on the goal-line to defend the goal during a penalty corner or may be penalised simply for being so positioned or for having accepted risk. Defending the goal is not in itself irresponsible behavior and attempting to defend a goal with the hockey stick can never (unless there is backsticks) be considered to be an illegal action (intent to use the body to stop or deflect the ball is an entirely different matter – but the umpire needs to be certain of such intent before it may be penalised, a failure to stop the ball with the stick when an attempt is made to do so, cannot be assumed to be intent to use the body to stop the ball if it is missed with the stick even if the body is positioned behind the stick, players frequently position their bodies behind their stick especially when defending their feet and legs from ‘attack’).

When a ball is raised at another player and obliges that player to take evasive action to avoid injury (the opposite of intent to use the body to stop the ball) it is always the fault and the responsibility of the player who chooses to raise the ball in this way, not the fault of the player towards whom the ball was raised. If any penalty is to be applied in these circumstances it should always penalise the player who raised the ball – not a difficult concept and one that is fair and completely Rule compliant.

“But that will make it more difficult to score goals” That’s true, but so what? It is right and proper that it should require considerable skill to score a goal. The emphasis of the Rules is supposed to be on player safety, not on unfairly disadvantaging defenders or making easy the scoring of goals.

I wrote to the FIH about this matter last year shortly after posting this article and received a reply in November from Jon Wyatt, the FIH Development Officer. He assured me in that reply that neither the FIH Rules Committee nor the FIH Executive have given approval to a change to the Rules of Hockey along the lines of the instructions issued to umpires from the KNHB concerning legitimate evasive action, but I do not know if the FIH have contacted the KNHB about this problem.…-the-netherlands/

August 11, 2018

Lizzie Watkins. Regrets are not enough

I posted this article more than nine years ago and took it down after about six months exposure. I re-posted an edited version, with videos added, about a three years ago, because this needs to be asked:-           What has been done since May 2012 to try to make hockey a safer sport? 

Answer, absolutely nothing. On the contrary, players are now permitted to play the ball and even take shots at the goal on the volley when the ball is above shoulder height – which they were not permitted to do nine years ago. We still have participants who believe that an ‘on target ‘ shot at the goal cannot be considered to be dangerous play and that in such circumstances legitimate evasive action (bizarrely the definition of a dangerously played ball) does not apply.

Nothing has been done to limit the way in which a ball may be propelled towards another player from beyond 5m and even the existing restriction on raising the ball towards an opponent within 5m (given in the Explanation of Application of Rule 9.9) is widely ignored. The video below shows an incident during the 2018 WWC in which an attacker raised the ball towards a defender positioned within 5m of the attacker, causing her injury, and the umpire awarded a penalty stroke. I have no idea why the Japanese defender was penalised at all. As far as I can tell from the video the ball was traveling across the face of the goal and was not even going towards the goal when it struck the defender (that should not of course be relevant when the ball is raised at another player from close range but regrettably it is still considered to be so)


The umpire saw no reason to intervene during the play shown in the above video.


The fact that the death of Lizzie Watkins was not caused by an opponent raising the ball towards her with a hit, scoop, or flick and the deflection was not off another player’s stick (there seems in fact to have been a deflection up off her own stick) appears to have been accepted as an indication that all is well, rather than as terrible warning that even fit high level players are at risk from ball injuries when the ball is raised by an opponent with a stroke or deflection – just as other participants are.

Reports on the death of Lizzie Watkins in a field hockey incident by the FIH and various media outlets.



Aside from a mention earlier in the week on the WA Website that Lizzie was “Rushing to tackle” there has been no hint from those involved that the incident occurred during a penalty corner or that a drag-flicked shot was made. Later reports state that the incident occurred during open play.


There was also a regrettable incident, in a European Hockey League match in October 2011

From the Belfast Telegraph.

Geofrey Irwin

Godfrey Irwin might be said to be lucky. He was defending the goal during a penalty corner. The ball was propelled, with a drag-flick, high ‘through’ an out-running defender, who took evasive action (so there was a prior dangerous play offence before Irwin was hit)

Irwin, unable to track the ball from the moment it was propelled, because it was screened from him, had no chance to evade it. He knew the ball was traveling towards the goal but not the exact path of it.

He was wearing a mask but instinctively turned his head to protect his face and was hit on the back of his head just below his ear. A few centimeters higher and the strike could have been fatal to him.

He walked from the pitch unable to continue playing but unaware of the seriousness of his injury. (He had a fractured skull and a perforated ear drum and was later taken off work for a year by his doctors)

The game resumed with a penalty-stroke against Cookstown – for the ‘offence’ Irwin committed  –   being hit with a dangerously propelled ball. His attempt to evade the ball was not seen as legitimate – which was of course absurd even if the umpire did not realize the extent of his injuries.

I agree with Errol D’Cruz (Field article above) the penalty corner is now too dangerous to be continued in its present format (a statement I here base on the drag flick shot in the Irwin incident rather than the death of Lizzie Watkins, which D’Cruz mistakenly thought occurred during a penalty corner), but there is also a need for a definition of a dangerously played ball based on objective criteria, such as: 1) at a player and 2) within fifteen metres, 3) at a velocity that could cause injury, and 4) at above sternum height.

The emergence of the lifted reverse edge hit, so that it is now the preferred method of shooting at the goal in open play, makes such controls essential because the edge hit is generally not as well controlled, especially regarding height, as a hit made with the flat of the face of the stick.


Players should be given the facility to judge for themselves when they can evade the ball without ‘giving away’ a goal. At present players are being forced to self-defence when a high ball is played directly at them, because evasion of the ball is generally not seen as ‘legitimate’ by umpires unless the shooter is within five meters of the defender when the ball is propelled (and often not even then – see the first presented video above). When a ball may be propelled at 75mph / 150kph or more, five metres is a ridiculously short distance on which to base ‘dangerous’ – evasion is often not possible from more than twice that distance. To talk of skill level in determining if a ball of that velocity is (or even can be) dangerous is absurd.

Endangerment should be based on the propensity of the ball to inflict injury to any person it hits, not on the supposed ability of the person endangered to avoid being hit. The physiology of international level athletes, when it comes to the effects of ball impacts on flesh and bone, is the same as that as any other human being, and the difference in reaction times, between Olympic level athletes and the average healthy individual of the same approximate age, are statically insignificant (i.e. there are very similar reaction times).

The death of Lizzy Watkins caused some activity aimed at mitigating player injury from ball impact and a spate of newspaper reports and comment on the Internet. One of which was that the poster was disgusted I was using this incident to progress my own agenda (there are some nasty stupid people around).

17th May 2012
I see from the news reports in Perth, Australia….

…that there is movement for the resurrection of a previous campaign to introduced protective helmets for field players.

I am sure that this would make the present situation re the dangerously played ball worse rather than better. Past experience has shown – as with the introduction of helmets and HD foam equipment for goalkeepers and the face-mask at a penalty corner for other defenders – that an increase in protective equipment results in a more cavalier attitude to endangering those wearing it.

I am also sure sports equipment manufacturers will be adding their support to the proposal, but I feel that the essential first step is to redefine the dangerously played ball so that a goal cannot be scored with a shot that has been lifted high and ‘through’ a defender. If a goal cannot be scored with a shot made ‘at’ an opponent in a dangerous way, but instead the shooter will be penalised, then attackers will stop making such shots.

This is the shot that hit Irwin on the head while he was positioned in front of the goal-line. At this point there has already been dangerous play; the ball was raised to above knee height directly at a defender who was within 5m of the shooter, compelling his evasive action.

Even if helmets are introduced that alone will not be sufficient action to reduce incidents of injury, it may indeed have the opposite effect. Changes to the Rules concerning the dangerously played ball will be needed even more if field-helmets are introduced.

Press article and comments from Perth Now

A DOCTOR is on a collision course with hockey officials over the sport’s lack of protective headgear after a young player died in Perth on Sunday.

Lizzie Watkins, 24, died after being hit in the head during a match at Curtin University when the ball deflected off her stick.

Melbourne doctor Denise Fraser said she would reactivate a campaign to make players wear protective headgear so such a tragedy would not be repeated.

“I am a hockey parent and I see a lot of kids hit with the hockey ball,” she said.

“A hockey ball … is not like a football or a soccer ball. It is more like a cricket ball, and when you are facing a cricket ball, you wear protective headgear.

“Goalkeepers wear head protection in hockey but the other players don’t. I have written to Hockey Victoria before and all they say is, ‘Thank you for the letter’. The rules don’t change.”

Hockey Australia chief Mark Anderson defended his sport’s safety record, saying the death was the first of its kind.

“We certainly believe hockey is a safe sport,” Anderson said.


Actual hockey player of Perth Posted at 3:14 PM May 11, 2012

This reply to the Doctor’s comment made in the above letter to the newspaper is typical of the other extreme – and based entirely on assertions that are false.

    As she said “hockey PARENT” never played the game to see wearing a helmet would get in the way more than anything and cricket players like goal keepers have the ball directly have the ball pelted at them at speed at head height. On the field the ball is meant to be kept below the knee unless flicked over head. People who don’t play the sport should keep stupid comments like that to themselves. If she’s that worried she can make her own kid wear one see how that goes for them…….. PS Wasn’t the ball that killed her was the ticking time bomb in her brain that got knocked enough to rupture. Get all facts before commenting.

Frank Watkins later e-mailed to inform me that his daughter had no skull weakness or especially vulnerable area like an embolism in her brain, she was physically a normal healthy individual.

My reply to the newspaper comment. Martin Conlon of United Kingdom Posted at 1:08 PM May 17, 2012

    Actual Hockey player of Perth has obviously never defended a drag-flick at a penalty corner. The Rules do need to be changed, the dangerously played ball is at present an almost entirely subjective decision by an umpire and a common approach among umpires at present (sic)  is that there is no such thing as a dangerous shot on goal. Defenders need to know when they can evade the ball because it WILL be called as dangerous (just as they can with a first hit shot during a penalty corner that is raised too high) and attackers need to know that they will not be allowed to score with a ball that is directed over-height at (‘through’) a defender. If attackers were prevented from scoring with high shots made ‘through’ defenders the problem of the dangerously played ball would rarely arise. The number of near-misses and minor head and face injuries occurring at present, particularly during the penalty corner and when other shots at the goal are made is unacceptable. I am however skeptical of the merits of protective helmets. Past experience has shown that allowing protective wear – like the face-mask at the penalty corner – simply increases the degree of danger players protected with equipment are expected to accept.

Actual hockey player of Perth  Posted at 10:21 AM May 19, 2012

   Penalty corners are another story all together I believe in the higher grades the posties should have to wear a mask and with saying that everyone that plays hockey know the risk and still choose to put themselves in the line of fire. Rules state everything goes in the D IF you are having a direct shot at goal if you choose to stand there knowing full well that’s the rule they are there at their own risk. It’s not a wimpy sport if you can’t deal with it don’t play it and stay at home and knit.

Although the above views could reasonably be described as inaccurate and extreme they are not at all uncommon. I have heard the ‘acceptance of risk’ meme even from senior umpires, when common sense should ‘tell’ everyone that no player is obliged to accept the risk of dangerous play from an opponent, because dangerous play is an illegal action. Illegal actions can never be ‘accepted’ as a legitimate risk. Everyone of course accepts that there is a risk of injury or worse from purely accidental actions – actions like the one that killed Lizze Watkins – and that it is impossible to legislate for incidents of this sort. But raising the ball at an opponent from within 5m is legislated for and such action is always to be considered dangerous play – there is no leeway for a different interpretation and no exception to this Rule (the only additional proviso is applied only during a penalty corner when the ball is raised towards an out-running defender; in those circumstances the ball is considered dangerously played only when it is raised at the defender at knee height or above – I think that this exception should be struck from the Rules and the raised ball propelled at an opponent from close range should be considered dangerous play in all circumstances. The Exception given in the UMB, that a ball raised towards an opponent at below half-shin pad height is not dangerous, contradicts the Rule and should also be struck out – as should other Rule contradiction in the UMB such as “forget lifted – think danger” because the evidence is that umpires don’t think “danger” they generally don’t even react to clear disadvantage following such offences)

The gentleman wrote  PS Wasn’t the ball that killed her was the ticking time bomb in her brain that got knocked enough to rupture. Get all facts before commenting”. I agree that it is helpful to have all the facts concerning the fatal incident, but with nothing else that he has written. I wonder where he got his ‘facts’ about the ‘ticking time bomb’, the nature of the incident and also his opinions about the Rules of Hockey “Rules state everything goes in the D IF you are having a direct shot at goal. The Rules of course state nothing of the sort, but if theses opinions are generally held, or held even by a minority, then hockey is not a safe sport. And it is not in ‘safe hands’ if administrators and Rule makers do not accept that it is potentially a very dangerous sport.

The drag-flick came into being as a way of circumventing the height restriction on the first hit shot during a penalty corner, The FIH should address the circumvention of a Rule which was (and is) intended to curb dangerous play, not ignore it. (Aside from prohibiting the use of a drag-flick when taking a penalty stroke, the drag-flick is not mentioned in the Rules of Hockey, it is not even listed in the Terminology along with the other strokes that are listed. Oddly, edge hits are not listed either).

April 5, 2018

Raising the ball into the circle.


Raising the ball into the circle.

The potential for danger of the ball raised into the circle has long been recognised, probably for almost as long as hockey has been played in the modern era. Prior to the introduction of the ban on the intentionally raised hit in the late 1980’s (except when taking a shot at the opponent’s goal from within their circle), it had been for many years illegal to raise the ball into the opponent’s circle. There were over time several variations of this Rule and it also went through the extremes, but it was never prior to the current version an offence only if done intentionally or only if danger actually occurred – the long established prohibition of raising the ball directly into the circle with a hit was a simple Rule that was easy for players to understand and observe and for umpires to apply, but for some unknown reason (it reduced spectacular play or ‘excitement’ ? ) it could not be left alone :-

1) There was a long-standing prohibition on raising the ball into the circle with a hit.

2) then (usually for single year each time) a free-for-all on deletion of that Rule (or another).

3) then a very hedged reintroduction of prohibition of any raising of the ball into the circle, which was complicated (there were exceptions) and therefore the Rule was very badly applied – usually too strictly (it was not as daft or made as complicated as the present ban on playing a ball directly into the opponent’s circle from a free awarded in their 23m area, but the exceptions were often ignored and the same absurdity was present)

4) finally (I have reduced the number of steps because some changes were just a recycle or a ‘see-saw’ of a previous version) the present situation where the ball should not be intentionally raised into the circle with a hit (because all intentionally raised hits outside the opposing circle are prohibited, but there is nothing at all said in the Rules of Hockey about flicks and scoops into the opposing circle nor about raised deflections – although there is a mess of Rule about the receiving/contesting for a ball put up in the air by any of these means).

The problem with the present Rule is wilful blindness to intention within ‘umpire practice’, ‘enshrined’ in the UMB with the phrase “forget lifted – think danger“, which also ‘forgets’ that opponents in the circle may be disadvantaged by an illegally raised hit from outside the circle, even when they are not endangered by it – and that is precisely why attacking players raise the ball into the circle and why it should be penalised.

(generally the ball is raised with a slap hit, although edge hits – both (an illegal ‘hard’) fore and reverse edge hits are employed – as well the full power forehand top-spin ‘banana’ hits which were once popular with penalty corner strikers. We (umpires) now have only “forget lifted” to remember – to also “think danger” would be to be able to keep in mind two possibly conflicting thoughts and still be able to behave rationally).

The video clip below is of a hit being made into the circle and what resulted from it. This incident demonstrates that it does not matter what the Rules are if they are not applied. Have a look at the video and see if you agree with the final outcome, which was the recommendation of the award of a penalty corner, after a video referral by the defending side, questioning the initial penalty corner award, was rejected. I have no idea what the question put to the video umpire was, but there are several grounds upon which a properly framed referral should have been upheld.

One. The ball was raised intentionally with a hit in the area outside the opponent’s circle. Rule 9.9. prohibits this action.

Players must not intentionally raise the ball from a hit except for a shot at goal.

A raised hit must be judged explicitly on whether or not it is raised intentionally.

It is also an offence to raise the ball unintentionally from a hit, including a free hit, anywhere on the field if it is raised in a dangerous way. Technically the ball was not raised dangerously by the attacker – there was no opponent within 5m and evasive action was not necessary and was not attempted by the first defender. But clearly self-defence from a raised ball, that could have injured him, was forced on the third defender (after a deflection from a second defender, who was clearly disadvantaged by the illegally raised ball) and it would be reasonable to consider such raising of the ball as play (by the striker) resulting in (leading to) dangerous play.

Let us suppose the umpire though the ball may have been raised accidentally.

Two. The ball was hit hard with the fore-hand edge of the stick, a prohibited action.

9.6 Players must not hit the ball hard on the forehand with the edge of the stick.

Let us suppose the umpires did not see the edge hit and thought a slap-hit with the face of the stick had been used.

In addition: Being hit with the ball is not necessarily an offence by the player hit (which is ‘dealt with’ by the following Rule and the (now conflicting) Explanation of application)

9.11 Field players must not stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their body.

The player (who stops or deflects the ball with the body) only commits an offence if they gain an advantage or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way.

Clearly the player who was hit with the ball did not position with the intention of using his body to stop the deflected ball. But was there an advantage gained because the ball was stopped by the body of this defender? To decide that it is necessary to determine where the ball would most likely have gone if it had not hit the third defender.

What seems probable from the video evidence is that it would have deflected into the possession of a fourth defender.

The less likely alternatives are that it would have run loose and have been contested for by players from both teams or that (unlikely) it would have gone off the pitch over the base-line for a 23m ball to the attackers, before any player could take possession of it.

My conclusion is that two umpires (match umpire and video umpire), appointed to this tournament, being among the best available in the world, would not miss that a ball was propelled by either an intentionally raised hit or the illegal use of a forehand edge-hit, but they might have overlooked the first and ignored the latter criterion and instead have focused on dangerous raising of the ball, following forget lifted – think danger. But in ‘forgetting’ lifted they also (in this instance) overlooked that opponents had been unfairly disadvantaged by two concurrent deliberate offences

The two criteria for a ball-body contact offence are routinely ignored, so it is not necessary to offer an explanation for that happening in this particular instance. But there is no reason (other than penalising the prior illegal raising of the ball ) why either umpire – but especially the video umpire – should not have considered where the ball would have gone if it had not hit a defender – and then decided that there was no advantage gained by the defending team.


The solution to the initial problem, the ball raised (deliberately or otherwise) into the circle is not very difficult to work out, but of course any replacement Rule must be properly observed.

The following four suggested amendments would need to be enacted together.

The first step is to remove the prohibition of the lifted hit in the area outside the opponent’s circle (Delete the present Rule 9.9 and suitably amend Rule 9.8).

The second, to institute an absolute height limit (of shoulder height ?) on any hit ball in the area outside the opponent’s circle (not dangerous play related, dangerous play being a separate issue with other ball height limits imposed). That ‘deals’ with the long high clip or chip hit (similar to the modern long scoop) the initial ban on the intentionally raised hit was supposed to deal with; it also deals with the extraordinary number of times there is an ‘accidental’ raising of the ball, to considerable height, with an edge-hit made in the area outside the opponent’s circle.

Now we have a ‘clean slate’.

The third, prohibit any raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit. (this means a hit away from the control of the hitter and excludes low ‘dink’ hits made by a player dribbling with the ball who retains possession of the ball)

And finally, a (belt and braces) prohibition on playing or playing at the ball when it is above shoulder height within the opponent’s circle. (I have already already covered this recommendation in the suggested rewrite of the Rule concerning the playing of the ball at above shoulder height Rule 9.7).

So what happens when the ball is deflected and raised above the limit height into the opponent’s circle – accidentally or otherwise? A free-ball, to be taken from the point the ball was raised, should be awarded.

It’s perfectly possible to instead prohibit scoops or high deflections into the area inside the hash circle, if that would be considered to lead to safer and/or fairer outcomes – if the ball lands and then rebounds high off the pitch for example. It would also be providential as it would give the hash circle a function (It hasn’t had one since the requirement that a free ball awarded within 5m of the circle should be taken from outside the hash line was deleted – a backward step and a silly deletion because it led to the current permit for defenders to shadow the ball from within the circle when a free-ball is take from within the hash circle, without being, at any time, 5m from the taking of a free ball (but same team players are required to be 5m from the ball) – the introduction of unnecessary and difficult complications to the Rule requirements.

The restoration of prohibition of the raising the ball (especially high) into the circle and a prohibition on playing at the ball when it is above shoulder height inside the opponent’s circle, is the very least that should be offered by way of ‘compensation’ and safeguarding (the promised but forgotten Rule to constrain the actions of attackers) following the deletion of off-side in 1997 – which gave a huge new advantage to the attacking side.

The above video is of an example of play which is more akin to hurling than it is to hockey; there are at least three breaches of the Rules of Hockey by the attacking side. But this was a spectacular goal and so of course it was awarded. Umpires appear to believe they have a duty to ensure spectators are entertained even at the cost of fair play, observance of the Rules of the game and the consideration of player safety – that is at the cost of their most important responsibilities.

March 28, 2018

Irresponsible umpiring


I received a strange ‘friend’ request on Facebook on Tuesday (28th March). The individual concerned just wanted to be able to send me a message and a video which demonstrated again that I was wrong. What I was wrong about he did not say but as the video and his message were about a player shooting as he put it:-

“This is what you said last time about aiming and dangerous shots!! Another example that you were wrong because this is what happend in the hoofdklasse last weekend!! Amazing Goal while the girl sits on the ground the other girls smacks the ball in the cage! No time to look up and see if someone is there!”

In other words he said that the shooter in the video he sent to me, shot ‘blindly’ towards where she ‘knew’ the goal to be and she could not have taken account of the position of a defender because she had no time to do so or was blocked (he claims both in separate messages) and the umpire still awarded a goal. Ergo my view of reckless play is wrong.

Naturally he has put what I wrote ‘back to front’. in article about the video below (see link) I declare the action of the striker to be reckless precisely because he could see both the goal and the defender and had ample opportunity to make an alternative shot or even to pass the ball to a team-mate for an easy tap-in, but chose instead to raise the ball directly at the defender (who was within 5m of him) with a hit which was raised to above knee height – or rather not to care that that is what he did (or know that it was dangerous play by all the FIH published criteria). Ironically the shooter immediately, before the penalty stoke signal was given, asked for a video referral – a request he withdrew.

The other incident we ‘discussed’ (I was abused for my opinion of) was the second one in the following clip. An incident from the Rio Olympics, where an attacker unnecessarily hit the ball hard and high across and past the head of a defender from less than one meter. I had and have no issue with the velocity of the shot but I have with the raising of it, the ball could have been driven low into the backboards, there was nothing the defender could have done to stop it.

(I have frequently wished that the commentator of the first part of the video below made some attempt to learn the Rules of the game: he is a menace. His social chit-chat and irrelevant background knowledge 100%, his Rule and game knowledge zero)

I was initially quite confused by the video that my new ‘friend’ (who now I notice has no friends listed) sent, because he informed me that the shot he was describing occurred near the end of it. There were a number of incidents in the video, which was more than 18 mins long and contained highlights from several matches, where attackers shot towards the goal when there was a defender in a low (crouched) position in front of it. I eventually realized that he must be referring to an incident that occurred during the first penalty corner awarded in the first minute of the video. The beginning of a video is at one end of it, so this simple example serves to illustrate one of the difficulties of communication – understanding common terms: like “end” or “reckless” or “dangerous” (even if the latter has both subjective and objective criteria provided within the Rules of Hockey to define it. The “within 5m” part actually proves at times to be a hindrance to correct interpretation; there is often an illogical assumption made that a ball propelled from beyond 5m of a player cannot have been dangerously played at that player)

As it happens the incident he described as correct umpiring (and demonstrating my error) contains one of the worse examples of irresponsible umpiring I have seen, and the attacker, far from shooting ‘blindly’ obviously uses a mental image ‘snapshot’ to define her target, because she clearly looks up as she approaches the ball, she does have the time and space to do so, and executes a perfect hit which is exactly on that target – the gap between the defender and the post. The problem is that the umpire should have stopped play before the shot was taken.

.Whether or not the penalty corner was correct is debatable. Had I been umpiring I would not have awarded it but allowed play to continue (there was more likely to have been some danger from swinging sticks than from the low velocity of the ball). In my view the attacker who closes on the raised ball as it is falling, is at least as responsible for the ball hitting her as the defender, who was trying to play it to ground and who had not initially raised the ball towards the attacker (and the attacker may be considered have been guilty of an encroaching offence). It is perhaps odd to view the player who raised the ball as an initial receiver, but the ball was never beyond her playing reach and the attacker was about 5m away from her when the ball was raised.

The drag-flick shot towards the defender on the goal-line was dangerous play Others may want to debate or even deny that assertion until ‘the moon turns blue’ but the actions taken by the players are a prima facie example of dangerous play – the ball was propelled directly, at high velocity, at the head of an opponent, who took legitimate evasive action but was nonetheless hit on the head with the ball.

It is what followed that hit to the head of the defender that I find astounding (I am no longer even mildly surprised at what is considered “Not a dangerously played ball”).  The umpire seeing that the ball had hit the defender on the head and that she had crumpled to ground and was obviously injured, also saw that the ball was rebounding to an approaching attacker and gave a ‘play on – advantage’ signal – putting the fallen defender in harms way.

That was dangerously irresponsible, I have never before seen any umpire do that. He had no way of knowing that the approaching attacker would hit the ball along the ground, she could have been as reckless as the shooting player in the first or second videos above. Had a second shot been raised into the defender while she was defenseless on the ground and injured her further, she would have had excellent grounds to take legal action against that umpire for damages for negligence. Geoff Erwin of Cookstown who was hit on the head with a similar drag-flick in an EHL match, suffered a fractured skull and a perforated eardrum from that single hit and was off work for a year, damages in cases where an initial injury is compounded by negligence (in addition to the negligence of not penalising the initial shot – which gives encouragement to attackers to make such shots) could be very substantial.

The umpire of the incident shown in the last video, after awarding a goal, didn’t even check to see if the defender was cut or concussed and there is no evidence he allowed medical aid staff onto the pitch to examine her or that he asked her to step off for a substitute until others considered she was fit to resume play. What was he thinking? Probably nothing at all.

As team coach at a tournament I would voice the strongest possible objection to that umpire officiating in any match my team were due to play.

There are those who consider this from page 1 of the Rules of Hockey to be a joke:

Responsibility and Liability

Participants in hockey must be aware of the Rules of Hockey and of other information in this publication. They are expected to perform according to the Rules.

Emphasis is placed on safety. Everyone involved in the game must act with consideration for the safety of others.

my ex ‘friend’ is one of them.

The words participants and everyone both include umpires.

The umpire at the other end not long afterwards awarded a penalty stroke when a forward fell in the circle. I have looked at that incident several times and can see no justification at all for a penalty stroke. Maybe, and it is a very weak maybe, a penalty corner could be argued for.



So, at that point, 1-1  the umpires.