Archive for ‘Raising the ball into the circle’

November 29, 2018

Authority and unwanted Rules

FIELD HOCKEY RULES.

One of the simplest and clearest Rules in the rule-book is Rule 9.9. which concerns a ball raised with a hit.

9.9 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 not an offence to raise the ball unintentionally from a hit, including a free hit, anywhere on the field unless it is dangerous. If the ball is raised over an opponent’s stick or body on the ground, even within the circle, it is permitted unless judged to be dangerous.

There are however two difficulties within the Rule requirements that need to be properly addressed if it is to be applied as written. The first of these arises because application depends on two subjective judgements and two objective judgements required of an umpire when the ball is raised with a hit – and then secondly, there are the exceptions to consider.

Objective decisions. 1) Was the ball hit? Yes/No 2) Was the ball raised? Yes/No Then Subjective decisions 1) Was the ball raised intentionally Yes/No 2) Was a player endangered by the raised hit? Yes/No and Finally do any of the exceptions apply – a ball raised in a controlled way (at low level i.e. safely) over the stick of an opponent or an opponent lying on the ground? Yes/No.

The only one of these decisions that can possibly cause any pause for further consideration is intention to raise the ball, but in the majority of cases it is perfectly clear when there is intention by the hitter to do so – not least because the ball is raised towards an opponent who would have no difficulty at all in intercepting it if it was hit along the ground. Another indicator is the use of an edge hit in circumstances where an edge hit is not a necessary or even the best option available to propel/pass the ball, so it is obviously the raising of the ball that is aimed for by the hitter.

A third, and overwhelming, difficulty is vague contradiction to the Rule that umpires receive as advice in the published FIH Umpire Briefing (for umpires officiating at FIH Tournaments) as part (there is also a verbal element) of their induction at each Tournament See below:-

Why should the UMB be considered advice and not Rule? It’s a matter of common sense. An umpire cannot be obliged by Rule to have and use common sense and the inclusion of “Use common sense and show understanding of the play” in the UMB must therefore make it advice and not Rule. Moreover advice is not ‘lumped’ together with Rule as if they were both the same thing – and the UMB has a lot of similar advice – it even advises umpires to enjoy themselves, something that is clearly not subject to Rule.

The UMB is therefore not Rule and should not be regarded or used as if Rule – but unfortunately, parts of it are. Why is this unfortunate? Because much of the UMB is contrary to common sense as it actually conflicts in places with what is given in the FIH published Rules of Hockey – as the above “blow only in dangerous situations everywhere on the pitch – forget lifted, think danger” does. Why do umpires follow the UMB in preference to the Rule? Because the individual who gives an umpire additional verbal briefing, based on the published UMB (or not), about expected performance at the start of a tournament is going to write a report on their performance and that report will have a bearing on further appointments and the chance of promotion within the ranks of umpires – so the reason is self interest.

By-the-by in 1998 It was announced in the Preface of the Rules of Hockey that the (sic)new format of the rule-book included all the material which had previously been contained in umpire briefings – and so in future separate briefing papers would no longer be required. The fight continues to this day.

That the UMB is used in place of the Rules of Hockey is all the more bizarre because the FIH Execuitve have made it perfectly clear that no body – no other person, no other official, no other group or committee, other than the FIH Rules Committee, make Rule, amendment Rule or provide Rule Interpretation. The FIH Rules Committee cannot be overruled in matters of Rule and Rule Interpretation – not even by the FIH Umpiring Committee. The only way forward is to persuade the FIH Rules Committee to amend the Rules where this is considered appropriate. In the meantime however umpires go their own way and do their ‘own thing’.

The words “forget lifted, think danger’ in the first clause of the UMB page above are a case in point when discussing conflict. The Rule is absolutely clear about judging a ball raised with hit as an offence based explicitly on an intent to raise the ball , not on whether or not endangerment (a separate offence) is caused because the ball has been raised with a hit. It is absolutely wrong to permit a player to intentionally raise the ball with a hit, to the disadvantage of opponents and to do so without penalty. That opponents are endangered by an illegally raised ball is a second related but separate issue. An umpire cannot properly apply the Rule and at the same time ‘forget’ lifted (a very vague bit of advice because the essential element, intent, is not mentioned at all.)

It is clear from the wording of the Explanation of the Rule that accidental raising of the ball with a hit is not an offence unless endangerment is caused. The UMB therefore effectively advises umpires to regard all raised hits as accidental – and to look only for dangerous play when a ball is raised with a hit; an obvious nonsense given the wording of the Rule and a very unfair one.

The umpire in the following incident made a horrible blunder in not penalising the clearly intentional raising of the ball with a hit past the two IND defenders (to their disadvantage) and allowing the AUS team to score a goal as a result. Comment elsewhere has pointed to the possible disappointment of the spectators if such a spectacular ‘goal’ had been disallowed. I think more about the certain dismay of the Indian players that it was awarded (and it was the only goal of the match).

In the above video not only an appointed match commentator (but a former FIH Umpire, Keely Dunn – who posted and commentated on the above video) are wrong in considering this foul play to be “superb” or “magnificent”, an intentional and planned contravention of Rule, which this action obviously was, should never be so described. A deliberate offence is cheating and foul play no matter how well executed.

In the video below the pass from near the half-way line was wrongly praised as “great skill” by the match commentator. Yes, it was made with excellent weight and direction and caused no danger, but it was made in an illegal way and to the disadvantage of opponents, it should have been penalised under current Rule (the same pass could in any case have been made in a legal way with a scoop stroke).

The intentionally raised edge hit into the circle in the following video is similar to the play seen in the first one above, the only real difference is the distance involved. This too resulted in the award of a goal when it should not have done. The umpires caught themselves in a consistency trap by the failure to penalise the first raised edge hit, which a defender used to clear the ball over a side-line. That clearance (which also looks to me to have been dangerous play) should have resulted in the award of a penalty corner.

Do we want or need intentionally raised hits that are not shots at the goal to be penalised? No obviously not, not unless they are also dangerous play, but that is not how the Rule is presented or how it should be applied. It’s a rotten Rule which was put in place in the late 1980’s to prevent hits that at the time had become popular, because of the introduction of the ultra stiff carbon-fibre reinforced stick, which facilitated, in expert hands, a clip or chip hit from one end of the pitch to the other. The reason given at the time for banning such hitting was because it led to *boring play rather than the real (possibly seen as ‘wimpy’) reason, which that it was dangerous or potentially dangerous play. *(Is there anything as boring and unattractive in hockey as a player in possession of the ball ‘holding’ it for long periods in a corner of the pitch while shielding it to prevent a tackle attempt? – but nothing is being done to address this issue)

In not so expert hands attempts to emulate the high and long chip hits of the experts (including the taking of shots at the goal) became extremely dangerous and the long and high chip/clip hit had to be banned before someone was killed – but a better way to achieve such a ban could have been employed, for example an absolute height limit on any raised hit which was not a shot at the goal (it’s apparently still okay to put at risk of death players who are defending a goal, but that’s another story)- and the extant prohibition on raising the ball into the circle, irrespective of intent to do so, should have remained in place. It was instead ‘lost’ to deletion because it was not considered necessary. When there was a ban on intentional raising of the ball with a hit unless taking a shot at the opponent’s goal from within their circle, the ball could not be raised with a hit into the circle, could it?- How wrong that supposition turned out to be. Would restoring the ban on any raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit lead to fairer umpiring? It should do. it should at least lead to more consistent umpiring, few umpires confuse raised with not raised, but most are apparently (and unsurprisingly, given they are effectively told to ignore it in some circumstances) very poor at determining intent.

I recall a Commonwealth Final some years ago, again between the Australian and Indian women’s teams, which Australia won ‘at the death’ after the ball had been raised with a hit into the Indian circle – an illegal action at the time – (the raised hit was also dangerous, causing evasive action by an Indian defender) the ball was then put into the goal by a Australian attacker who dived to connect her stick with it as it bounced up off the ground and it was deflected high into the Indian net. The shot was so spectacular that everybody, including the umpire, just forgot the Rules and as above (first video) a goal was awarded.

The other part of the Explanation of Rule 9.9 does not explain anything that is actually written in the Rule Proper (which is about an intentionally raised hit). This is the instruction concerning the raising of a ball towards another player within 5m with a flick or a scoop.

Players are permitted to raise the ball with a flick or scoop provided it is not dangerous. A flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5 metres is considered dangerous.

That inserted statement is properly part of the Rule concerning a dangerously played ball, Rule 9.8. The clause concerning the raising of the ball towards a close opponent is however generally ignored (ignoring danger caused by raising the ball – is contrary to the advice given in the UMB as well as in the Rules), with the result that Rule 9.11 – ball body contact – is very badly applied. Players are ‘winning’ penalty corners instead of being penalised for contravention of the Explanation of Application given in Rule 9.9: the ‘Rule clause’ under which the forcing of an unintentional contact from an opponent by raising the ball into that opponent should be dealt with.

The following part appears to be random repetition of a clause from the Rules of the Penalty Corner. I cannot explain the reference to a shot or why this clause is repeated in the Explanation to Rule 9.9 at all. It almost goes without saying that it is poorly applied, the words “without attempting to play the ball with their stick” being generally ignored.

If an opponent is clearly running into the shot or into the attacker without attempting to play the ball with their stick, they should be penalised for dangerous play.

It does not matter at all what the Rules are if umpires (or their coaches) decide not to apply them – which they often do even though they have no authority whatsoever to pick and choose which Rules to apply as given and which to subvert. Rule 9.9 is clearly a mess which needs sorting out with a rewrite by the FIH Rules Committee, but then Rules 9.8 9.10. 9.11 and 9.12 are also urgently in need of rewrites not least, but not entirely, because of the mess umpires have made of their ‘accepted’ application of them.

It is only the FIH Rules Committee that can introduce new Rule or amend existing Rule or Interpretation. The FIH Executive issued a Circular to National Associations in 2001 that made that perfectly clear. In that Circular it was stated that no other person or official or body (committee) has authority to amend the Rules or the Interpretation of the Rules. The opinion of umpires seems to be the other way about. As part of an exchange of views on Facebook following comment about umpire briefings (the UMB) posted with the first video shown above, I received this in reply.

 

Michael Margolien Briefing obviously overrides rules.

Think of it as an executive decision overriding a law (a rule) which is a more complicated and longer process (the rule change is). Hockey develops in a certain way (and international especially) and this is the way it is umpired.

It only takes a few minutes considering the consequences of the above oddly composed statement to work out that it is a path to chaos – and it is anarchy. (Changes to ‘umpiring practice’ in regard to Rule application, made via umpire briefings, are in large part responsible for confusion about the Rules and the perception, which is inaccurate, that “The FIH are always (unnecessarily) changing the Rules“).

Umpire Briefings do not override the Rules of Hockey, that is an impossibility. Umpire Managers and Umpire Coaches cannot make short term or immediate changes to Rules or Interpretations according to the way the game is being played (has developed) and then expect or demand that the FIH Rules Committee ‘catch up’ with ‘their Rule’ at a later date. That is ‘cart before the horse’ as well as acting without authority. It is in fact allowing hockey coaches to determine the Rules of Hockey – each nation trying to do so to their own advantage

(I am reminded that edge hitting was ‘legal’ in Argentina for several years before it became so in the rest of the world and that the focus on speed and fitness in Australian hockey led to the Australian HA pressing hard for the introduction of squads of sixteen and rolling substitutions (this has lately been extended by breaking matches into four period of 15 minutes rather than two of 35 minutes). Edge hitting and a game of four quarters might now be considered to be good things, although I am not happy to see shorter more ‘frantic’ matches and I feel that playing time should have been increased to 80 mins (4 x 20) to reflect the influence and advantage of three breaks in play, rolling substitutions and larger squad sizes, the changes are not balanced, they are all in one direction. Hockey is being ‘packaged’ like confectionery. Year on year the portion given is reduced and the price increased. The current ignoring of the Obstruction Rule and the increase of physical contact in play and several other aspects of ‘modern’ hockey may not be regarded as improvements in the longer term and I certainly do not want to see the FIH RC changing these Rules to reflect how International Level umpires (especially in Europe, Australia and the Americas) are currently interpreting them (with the Asian teams being dragged reluctantly along the same path) – which would mean, except in the case of contact tackling, deleting them. The Royal Dutch Hockey Board are as I write, instructing umpires that legitimate evasive action does not apply to a defender defending the goal while positioned on the goal-line during a penalty corner. That instruction has been brought to the attention of the FIH Rules Committee. I am interested to see how they will react to this invention by the KNHB).

Umpire briefings must follow the extant Rules, not attempt to lead them. The ultimate authority, Congress, who appoint the FIH Executive, decides how the game will be played. The FIH Executive in turn appoints a Rules Committee which is given sole authority to issue Rules and the Interpretations of those Rules – which the Executive then approve – so that the game is played in the way desired by Congress.

Umpires (unless they lobby the FIH RC as individuals or via their National Associations) have no direct part in making Rules or Interpretations of (the wording of) Rules while umpiring. Their task while umpiring is to apply the Rules as instructed by the FIH Rules Committee. (so with the assistance of the FIH Umpiring Committee – who are said to liaise with the FIH Rules Committee – they interpret player actions during a match for compliance with the wording of published Rules and Interpretations). If umpires don’t understand how a Rule should be Interpreted then they need to ask (probably via their National Association) the FIH Rules Committee to issue clarification; these days that can be done fairly quickly. Rule clarification from authority cannot be only the personal opinion of a TD or UM , issued on an ad hoc basis just prior to or during a Tournament, especially when that opinion conflicts with FIH RC instruction (For example the bizarre invention, which appeared during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, that an ‘on target’ shot at the goal could not be considered to be dangerous play)  Nor can it be instruction issued solely by any National Umpiring Association, none of these individuals or bodies have this authority.

We sometimes hear of the FIH fining or threatening to fine a National Hockey Association if they fail to turn up to participate in an FIH Tournament – and the fines are heavy. It would I think be a good idea if the FIH similarly fined National Associations who invented amendments to the Rules of Hockey and allowed them to be applied without first seeking and obtaining the approval of the FIH Executive via the FIH Rules Committee.

 

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/06/24/an-unwanted-rule/

April 5, 2018

Raising the ball into the circle.

FIELD HOCKEY RULES

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.

Three. A free ball had been awarded and taken with a self -pass from just inside the 23m line. The ball was not moved 5m before it was played into the circle (a silly Rule, which I would like to see deleted, but still a Rule.)

.

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 not moved 5m or either an intentionally raised hit of this sort or the illegal use of a forehand edge-hit, but they might have overlooked the first and ignored the latter two criteria 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 three 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 or the failure to move it 5m before it was played into the circle) 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.

Suggestions.

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)

The fourth, a height limit (of knee height or elbow height ?) on any ball raised directly into the opponent’s circle with a flick, scoop or deflection.

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.

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.

 

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/04/05/raising-the-ball-into-the-circle/