Archive for ‘Rules of Hockey’

October 13, 2021

“That’s the interpretation.”

Possibly the most important thing to realize when hockey umpires speak of ‘interpretation’ is that there is a principle of separation of powers in operation when it comes to drafting and approving Rule and Rule Interpretation (Explanation) in the game of hockey.

An umpire officiating on a pitch is no more able to make Rule or formulate interpretation than a judge in a Court of Law can make the Law for Parliament or a policeman can compose the Statutes he enforces. High Court Judges have in fact a great deal more discretion (Case Law) about the interpretation of words in Rules (Statutes) than a hockey umpire has information concerning the meaning of the words used in Hockey Rules and Explanations.

A hockey umpire should be interpreting player actions for compliance with the FIH published Rules, not ‘interpreting’ those Rules ‘on the fly’ in a match situation or prejudging situations which require subjective judgement (i.e. have to be witnessed before any decision may be made about them).

The FIH Rules Committee (FIH RC) cannot by itself enact a Rule of Hockey. The FIH RC composes draft Rule which it submits to the FIH Executive for approval and (if approved) the draft is then enacted and published by “the FIH”. If the draft is not approved it is not corrected by the FIH Executive and then published, because they alone also do not have the power to enact a Rule; it is sent back to the FIH RC (with comment) for redrafting and re-submission to the Executive. This separation of powers is supposed to ensure that no Committee and no individual committee member is able to go beyond their powers (but the ‘gains benefit saga of 2007 demonstrated that this aim is not always achieved – one might reasonably say that these days it is seldom achieved).

In this situation it may be appreciated that having individual Umpire Managers issuing Rules Interpretations and instructing umpires to act upon them (especially when the outcome is obviously contrary to a reasonable understanding of the FIH published Rules) is utterly wrong.

There is a framework of Rules of Interpretation used in the legal profession called the Rules of Statutory Interpretation. They are general rules used to try to decide what Parliament meant when drafting and then enacting a Statute by Act of Parliament. These Rules are sometimes called crude or dangerous (despite all the care that can be expected from High Court Judges when using them) but pointers can be taken from them when determining the meaning of the words used in the Rules and Explanations of Application of the Rules of Hockey – and why not when the alternative may be the personal opinion of someone with no legal training and whose native language is not the language the Rules of Hockey are published in (which takes us into the field of translation where different languages may not have words of exactly equivalent meaning) ?

A law book quote and a student essay.

“The rules of statutory interpretation] are rather crude labels for describing a complex mechanism, i.e. making sense of what someone else has written. The labels are still in common use, but they are dangerous. For a start, they use the word ‘rule’, and this gives the impression that if you follow a particular pattern you will not go wrong.”– Learning Legal Rules (7th edition) by James Holland and Julian Webb.

The following is an edited (the law cases used in support of the arguments have been removed for brevity) essay (not mine) on the views expressed in the above quotation.

Laws are created by Parliament; Judges interpret the laws using Statutory Interpretation. Draftsmen, when drawing up statutes endeavour to ensure they are clear and unambiguous; however, statutes can contain wording with uncertain meanings and with society’s progression, old statutes, though still applicable, may contain wording unused in present day. There may be other errors unnoticed by Parliament and statutes cannot cover every eventuality therefore; judges are required to interpret the meanings of statutes using the Rules of Statutory Interpretation. There are four Rules of Statutory Interpretation, these are the Literal Rule, the Golden Rule, the Mischief Rule and the Purposive Approach.

The Literal Rule requires courts to interpret statutes in their plain, literal and ordinary sense. The courts will not examine the intention of Parliament. This rule is used frequently as judges are not authorised to make laws and by following the statute to the letter judges cannot be accused of making law. This rule has positives, it does not question Parliament therefore upholds the law made even where it seems illogical, thus preserving the separation of powers. In limiting the role of the judge; verdicts are based on facts not opinion or prejudice. On the negative side, it creates loopholes where discrepancies in interpretation of the literal meaning occur, as it is ineffective in identifying limitations and complexities in English language. Occasionally use of this rule has defeated the original intention of parliament; The use of this rule can lead to injustice, weaken society’s confidence in the law and create precedents which require correction by Parliament. (Note. as an example in hockey we could consider the literal meaning of “attempting a tackle”, the absence of “preventing a tackle attempt”, and the use of Rule 9.13. to avoid applying Rule 9.12, which results in absurdity. It needs to be appreciated that the Rules of Hockey have been assembled ‘piecemeal’ over a period of about 170 years and some of them are still very badly written despite what we are told about constant revision and long term “simplification and clarification”. I regard the last rewrite of the entire rule-book in 2004 as an act of vandalism that has still not been recovered from – the ‘over haul’ in 1995/6 wasn’t any better. The FIH does not employ professional people with experience of drafting Rule for the game)

The Golden Rule, is used where the Literal Rule would result in an absurdity or an obnoxious result. The court investigates whether the statute wording conveys Parliament’s intention. The positives are that judgments are usually parallel with the legislator and errors in drafting are amended before awkward precedents are set, thus closing loopholes. Using common sense within law usually provides justice restoring public confidence in the legal system. It is problematic though as judges have power to interpret the statute as they wish, changing or adding to its meaning. It flouts the separation of powers.

The Mischief Rule, used to interpret gaps (ultra vires) Parliament intended to cover and apply a ruling that remedies the problem in ambiguous statutes. This rule allows for the adaption of statutes in a progressive society and closes loopholes. However, the judges have a law-making role infringing on the separation of powers and giving opportunity for a crime to be created after the event. Judges could make decisions based on their own opinions which could lead to injustice.

The Purposive Approach is implemented to ensure the law is effective as Parliament would have intended. In statutory interpretation courts rely on presumption, language, intrinsic and extrinsic aids. Presumptions are that common law has not been amended unless the Act shows intention to amend; Parliament cannot have retrospectively amended the law. In criminal cases Mens rea is necessary.

The rules of language are Ejusdem Generis, a list of words is followed by general words, which are limited to the same type of item as the specific words . Secondly, Expressio unius exclusio alterius the express mention of one thing excludes others; the Act applies only to items in the list. Finally Noscitur a sociis, a word is known by the company it keeps and must be looked at in the context of the Act.

Intrinsic aids are matters within an act itself which may make the meaning clearer. Finally extrinsic aids put an Act into context using case law, dictionaries from the time and historical setting. In consideration of the above quotation it is worth noting that the Law itself is a structure based upon rules, these rules are partly built upon social and moral rules.

It is reasonable for Statutory Interpretation to be labeled “Rules”. Rules are utilised in many activities from games like hockey to the etiquette expected in a particular working environment. They are responsible for regulating and guiding a behaviour or action against which an action or behaviour may be assessed and judged. Rules set a standard. In general rules can be applied to cases without having to reassess the intrinsic worth of each case; this provides a consistent result and can be both predicted and stable.(Note. an approach which is a problem in a game like hockey where a particular individual action is supposed to be judged on subjective criteria). There is however the argument that as the law is expressed in language there are factors that will influence the interpretation and application of legal rules, however by having a set of rules to follow in the interpretation of the rules, it does not suggest rigidity in the result and it is possible for the result to be the “wrong” result. However, the rules of statutory interpretation are varied, it is not one set rule, and therefore the most effective rules should be applied in consideration of the case. Together the rules allow for contemplation and are the starting point to allow for the most effective action in upholding the law.

~~~~~~~~~~

That process seems so much more considerate than “Because I say so.”

Quote: -Craig Gribble from Umpire Mangers Briefing Video Rio Olympics 2016. – “ Of course a defender on the goal-line cannot expect the protection of the Rules because the goal-line is properly the domain of the goalie.

What Rule, I wonder, is that statement an interpretation of?

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October 12, 2021

Suggested rewrite of the Rules of Hockey – First Draft

Click download below to view pdf doc.

October 2, 2021

A player receiving the ball or a player in possession of the ball?

A ten minute read.
Somebody said to me not long ago that obstruction in hockey is a very complicated concept and is difficult to apply. I don’t think that is true, I believe it to be a very simple concept. The difficulty is in getting umpires to respond appropriately when they see it (they do see it) instead of pretending they don’t see it or that it didn’t happen. The execution of application isn’t anywhere near as easy as the theory of what constitutes the offence – and many umpires aren’t even coping with the latter.

Here is a simple and a very straightforward concept. You put something directly in the way of (on a path to the ball) therefore you obstruct a player moving on that path. Telling a player so obstructed that unless he (attempts to) go around the obstruction he isn’t obstructed, makes no sense at all. If he isn’t obstructed there is no need to go around. If to obstruct does not mean obstruction or obstruction does not mean to obstruct use another word/s.

Obstruction can (will) occur when a player, in possession of the ball or not, positions his body (or part of) or his stick, between an opponent and the ball, when the opponent is intent on playing at the ball (is moving to do so) and is prevented from playing directly at the ball by the blocking player when (but for this blocking/impeding/obstruction) the opponent would have been able to play immediately and directly at the ball.

Obstruction in a similar way is also the illegal prevention of a tackle attempt by ball shielding.The exception to the Obstruction Rule, the permit to receive the ball in a shielding position, without being considered immediately in breach of the Rule (the so called ‘New Interpretation’ introduced in 1993), does complicate things, but only because in 1994 the FIH RC amended the (sic) recently introduced explanation of what the receiving player should do once having received the ball (which had in the previous year been “must immediately move away or pass the ball away” and which defined the moment in time the change between being a receiver of the ball and a player in controlled possession of the ball had occurred).

The explanation was altered to read “having received the ball the receiver may move off in any direction – “except bodily into an opponent” – which told us nothing, as that statement was then neither prohibitive nor directive, and the instruction not to move bodily into an opponent, had anyway already been part of the Interpretation. The FIH HRB having considered comment received over the previous year about Rule interpretation once the ball had been received, had responded promptly, making matters worse, removing all other clear instruction.

If you think this is a rare occurrence think of the confusion that has been made of the once concise Free Hit (even the Rule name is wrong) Rules following the introduction of the Self Pass (which is now near useless when awarded in the opposing 23m area), or the impact on Rule 9.10 Falling ball, following the introduction of above shoulder play (itself far too ‘loose’ to be safe) We also have the brainless idea that all penalty following offence beneath a falling ball should be taken at the point the ball was falling, removing all deterrent from the action of raising the ball to fall into a contestable area.

We have since 1994 had years of ‘interpretation’ which insisted that even when holding the ball within the playing reach of the player intending to tackle, the ball holder can still move with it in a way that prolongs his shielding of the ball to an unlimited extent – even though he is no longer a player receiving the ball. So a receiving player is given special privilege which would not normally be granter to a player in possession of the ball who turned over it to block off an opponent as they approached that opponent (spin turn into opponent’s range) or as the opponent approached them.

Over the last ten years or so the distinction between the treatment of a receiving player and a turning player (as described) has blurred to the point where the two are indistinguishable in action. A player in possession of the ball is generally treated as a receiving player alone once (briefly) was. A receiving player is currently informed he is permitted to move off in any direction – which means exactly the same as may move off etc. but reads as if (suggests) that at one time he would not have been permitted to move off with the ball (the direct opposite of the true situation).

The Rule text itself does not help, the original (1993) Technical Interpretation occupied almost two pages of the rule-book and a part of that described (badly and inadequately) what a receiving player had to do when the ball was received. The application of the Obstruction Rule has been floundering ever since. The Rule Proper was not changed from the wording used prior to 1993 until 2004 (although there there were what were termed ‘housekeeping’ – order of word -changes made in 2001) The last amendment made was in 2009 (more on that below).

Prior to 1993 there was a reasonable consistency, excepting the few zealots who are always with us and have a ‘special take’ on some area of Rule, be it ball-body contact or the ball raised towards an opponent or propelled at the goal. Some of these zealots have occupied positions which allowed them to influence the coaching of umpires in their locality. I came across an instance near Frankfurt in 1968 while at a hockey festival. Umpires were penalising any turning about the ball even when there wasn’t another player within 10m. Players in teams from other parts of Germany assured me this peculiarity was entirely local, but beyond their control (their umpires simply followed along when umpiring home sides, so as not ‘rock the boat’ and perhaps cause their team to be unable to participate in the festival the following year. Bizarre, but I suppose it was eventually resolved. I didn’t meet the Umpire/Tournament Manager involved but he must have been a fearsome individual, everyone appeared very anxious not to upset him.

Obstruction wasn’t a problem pre-1993; it didn’t happen much among competent players (players avoided ‘giving’ obstruction) and on the odd occasion it did happen, it was dealt with. (I can’t recall ever having being penalised for obstruction in the many years when I was playing First or Second X1 club hockey and my memory is not poor.) Now obstruction is a near constant state of play when players are contesting for the ball or trying to maintain possession of it – and most (possibly all) of this obstruction is intentional (and certainly avoidable). The Rule wording concerning a receiving player now is :-A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction. Why only a stationary player – when that is not a complete true statement? There is nothing at all said about a receiving player once the ball has been received, but let us suppose we then move onto the second phase and we are presented with instructions for a player in possession of the ball- of which the second and third are as widely ignored as the fact that a ball body contact is not necessarily an offence.A player with the ball is 1) permitted to move off with it in any direction 2) except bodily into an opponent or 3) into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it. (my numbering)No matter for how long you have watched modern hockey matches, without having read that sentence in the rule-book (and many participants never look at a rule-book), you could have no idea that a player with the ball is supposed to comply with those directions. It’s hardly a long and comprehensive or difficult set of instructions, in fact I think it falls short of what should be given – it’s unclear. What, for example, does “move off” mean, does that mean move away to put and keep the ball beyond the playing reach of opponents ? It should do.


Moving into a position between an opponent and the ball (assuming the opponent is or is going to be by the time a turn is made within playing reach of the ball) or (in a similar way -but in a separate Rule clause – backing into; meaning backing with the ball or backing the ball, into the playing reach of an opponent while shielding it from him are obstructive actions. Turning to block off a rapidly approaching opponent and shielding the ball from him (without moving away as appropriate), falls into the same category of obstructive actions – these all depend on distance from the opponent at moment of ball shielding and the timing of movements.

There is nothing wrong with imposing the body between an opponent and the ball if the opposing player is and remains beyond playing reach of the ball while this is done. The situation changes when an opponent gets to within playing reach of the ball. Getting this right is easy enough for an agile and mobile umpire who maintains good position – and a nightmare for the umpire who adopts a place to stand on the pitch and does not move more than a few meters from it during the match. A player in possession of the ball who is aware of the position of the umpire will use that knowledge to his advantage whenever the opportunity arises. Umpires should note that a player will play them as readily as they will play an opponent.

Currently the idea is that shunting along a side-line or base-line at walking pace while ‘protecting’ the ball is ‘acceptable’; even just dribbling the ball back in the general direction of the ball holder’s base-line at ‘snails pace’ is fine. In fact in these situation obstruction isn’t considered at all by most of our current crop of FIH Umpires, the entire focus shifts to “an onus on a tackler” (which was deleted after 2003 – it is no longer in the rule-book, but is still trotted out as if an existing obligation on the tackler to position to make a tackle), although of course the ball holder may be turning/ obstructing as much, if not more than he initially was, to try to ensure that a tackle remains impossible, that does not seem to matter, even though it should be fundamental in application of the Obstruction Rule.

Recently I watched a First XI match at Regional level, which was I suppose about two league levels below the second rung of the National League. I estimate there to have been on average one obstruction offence per minute throughout the game – nearly every time a ball-holder was challenged for possession of the ball. Not once was any penalty awarded because of any of theses offences.

I have come across various written statements by umpires that perhaps explains this. Many umpires have declared (in Internet hockey forums for example), with apparent sincerity, that a stationary player in possession of the ball cannot obstruct or that a moving player in possession of the ball cannot obstruct or that a player who is moving the ball cannot obstruct or that a player who has his stick in contact with the ball cannot obstruct. Taken together there is no situation in which obstruction can occur, but these many individuals never seem to disagree with each other or even compare notes, but cannot leave their own “cannot obstruct” mantra. Where their various beliefs (which are read without comment by many others) come from I can only guess (from the reinforcing forum group to which they contribute? Their own bubble? There is no Rule backing for any of them as stand alone statements)

Many umpires I believe read the Rule (the one given in the FIH published rule-book – which is the only legitimate Rule) but are very hesitant about applying it properly because they have seldom seen another umpire do so – and no umpire coach or ‘watcher’ has ever suggested that they should apply it. The Obstruction Rule is simply being allowed to die, and the game is that worse for that.

The Rule does of course need rewriting, but without intensive umpire coaching that alone will probably not be sufficient to rescue it or the game. As the part pointed out above in bold text illustrates it is easy to ignore Rule amendments and carry on as before. That amendment, the last made to the Obstruction Rule, was added in 2009, but has yet to enter the Rule application practice of a great many umpires. The part after the word “except” – ” bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.”, has not entered their conscious thought. The only part of it that which surfaces is that a opponent must be attempting a tackle for the ball (never mind that a tackle attempt is being actively prevented – i.e. the fundamental point, that seems to be considered unimportant). All player coaching at the moment seems directed towards maintaining possession by obstructing an opponent who intends to tackle for the ball, and umpires are receiving no help whatsoever to counter this trend – they are in fact encouraged to ignore those players who protest when they are obstructed or tell them they did not make a tackle attempt or were not in a position to make a tackle attempt. “More tea Alice?”



















September 27, 2021

Face masks and dangerous play.

A few days ago a question was posted to the Facebook Hockey Rules Discussion Group about the permitted wearing of face-masks:-

Had an umpire penalise a defender for running out of D with ball wearing face mask after she picked the ball at a short corner. I thought it was the 25 she could run to with mask on

My comment (which presents both sides of the dangerous play question.)

That defenders are permitted to wear face-masks (and additional protection) during the taking of a penalty corner is a tacit acknowledgement by the FIH RC that the penalty corner presents a potentially dangerous situation for defenders.

The Rule concerning face-masks:-

Field players -are permitted to wear a smooth preferably transparent or single coloured face mask or metal grill face mask, which follows the contours of the face, when defending a penalty corner or penalty stroke for the duration of that penalty corner or penalty stroke including the immediate taking of a free hit awarded after a penalty corner when passing the ball to another player; the primary objective of wearing a face mask to defend a penalty corner is safety; wearing of face masks which are consistent with the underlying spirit of this guidance should be allowed;

– are not permitted, when wearing face masks, to conduct themselves in a manner which is dangerous to other players by taking advantage of the protective equipment they wear;– are not permitted to wear protective headgear (face mask or other protective head covering) in any other circumstances.


That is the current Rule as far as I am able to discover. Nothing there about taking a face mask off as soon as possible or allowing a player in possession of the ball to move with it to the 23m line, although both were I think part of previous Rule.


I think this “– are not permitted to wear protective headgear (face mask or other protective head covering) in any other circumstances” severely limits what a defender, wearing a face-mask and in possession of the ball, may do, but it is not explicit about what such a defender may or may not do.


I doubt it includes dribbling the ball as far as the 23m line.


A defender wearing a face-mask is dealt with in a heavy handed way (for safety reasons) compared with the limitations placed on a player taking a shot with a drag-flick or deflecting the ball high towards the goal from close range during a penalty corner – such shooters are told they must not play the ball dangerously, but what does that mean? I can’t recall ever seeing a drag-flick penalised as dangerous play (although doubtless many do endanger opponents). The received ‘wisdom’ which is referred to as THE interpretation (From who?), is that defenders should not position themselves where they could be endangered – which is an illogical inversion of Rule.


The Rules 13.3.l and 13.3.m clearly state that during a penalty corner, a shot may not be made in a dangerous way (in a way that endangers an opponent – i.e. puts him at risk of injury). Common sense suggests that these instructions – see Rule 9.8 and Rule 9.9 – apply to any shot taken at the goal in any phase of play.


There is nothing at all to be found in the Rules concerning the positioning of a defender when defending his own goal. But Umpire Managers (and the Royal Dutch Hockey Board) have taken it upon themselves to declare that a defender positioned on the goal-line cannot expect the protection of the Rules. Umpires should of course ignore that bizarre and dangerous statement. That statement can be heard on the video made as Umpire Briefing for the Rio Olympics, but another version of it was heard during match commentary at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The idiots are nothing if not persistent, but anybody can play that game.



September 22, 2021

707. Ball raised towards an opponent within 5m with a flick or scoop.

According to what is given with the Explanation of Application of Rule 9.9 if a ball is raised towards an opponent within 5m with a flick or scoop that is to be considered dangerous play. If such a flick or scoop is played towards an opponent intentionally that should also be considered to be a forcing offence (forcing offences being penalised under other Rules).

The video shows three incidents in which a ball was raised with a flick into the legs of an opponent, in the second and third of these incidents it looks as if the player in possession of the ball intended to hit the legs of the defender in front of him, but intention is not necessary for there to be a breach of the Rule clause explained in Rule 9.9 as dangerous play.There is one example of a ball dangerously scooped towards an opponent; causing that opponent to take legitimate evasive action. All these offences by ball-holders were ignored by the umpires. In all cases of a flick raised into and hitting a defender who was within his circle, a penalty corner was incorrectly awarded.

I take ‘with a large pinch of salt’ statements that umpires at this level are always working hard to be the best they can be, because they are not the best they could be. A competent umpire knows how and when to apply the FIH published Rules of Hockey.

Whether they are not at their best is because of ‘the nerves’ caused by an important match on a big occasion (they don’t get bigger than the last two matches of an Olympic Games) or because they are umpiring according to their habits (accepted practice / briefings) I cannot determine.

September 20, 2021

Raising the ball towards an opponent.

Two incidents are shown in the video clip below. In both the ball was raised at high velocity towards an opponent with a hit. The first one was high enough to hurt the opponent but the second not, even thought it was hit at the defender from well within 5m of his position, he appears to have been fortunate and protected by his shin pads.

The first raised hit incident was penalised although the ball was hit from beyond 5m of the defender, in the second the player who was hit was penalised even though well within 5m of the striker.

These two incidents point up some peculiarities in the Rules concerning a dangerously played ball. Technically (in other words according to a strict reading of the text of the Rules of Hockey) the only offence the hitters could be said to have contravened in either incident was intentionally raising the ball with a hit stroke (and that is an action that is subject to an umpire’s opinionwhich is skewed by the “Forget lifted -Think danger” advice given in the UMB).

The fact that the ball hit and injured (endangered) an opponent in the first incident is, according to the Rules, irrelevant. In the second incident if the umpire did not consider the ball to have been raised intentionally with the hit stroke – and he clearly didn’t because he penalised the defender – the fact that the ball was raised with a hard hit, rather than flicked or scooped, could be considered reason to call that propelling of the ball towards an opponent, legitimate, because raising the ball with a hit stroke is not specifically prohibited in the relevant Rule (9.9), while flicks and scoops are.

The Rules concerning raising the ball towards (at) an opponent are not written in a rational way. The umpire who officiated the first incident possibly penalised the striker because the ball had been raised high at the defender, but there was no reason in Rule for him to do so. No player beyond 5m of a striker is offered protection from a ball raised at him in open play from any stroke at any height.

The Penalty Corner Rules state that no shot at goal may be made in a dangerous way but offers no criteria to define dangerous from beyond 5m (aside from legitimate evasive action which is almost universally ignored beyond 5m., even though there is no reason at all why it should be). Umpires usually put this Rule quirk to one side and penalise hits that are raised into opponents from fairly close range. The umpire of the second incident chose to penalise the player hit with the ball even though it was propelled from within 5m of him – possibly because he thought the defender had gained an advantage from the ball contact. The penalising of ball body contact is often in these circumstances irrational too.

September 1, 2021

How misinformation is spread

There is nothing in the Rules of Hockey to support the notion that an on target shot at the goal cannot be dangerous play.

There is nothing in the Rules of Hockey pertaining to open play that supports the idea that a dangerously raised ball must be raised to above knee level.
(A first hit shot made during a penalty corner must not be raised to above knee level, but that is not a dangerous play Rule, it is a condition that must be met for a hit shot from which a goal may be scored, which incidentally keeps play safer than it might otherwise be).

Oddly umpires normally penalise as dangerous a ball that is raised into an opponent within 5m; this has become accepted practice even though Rule 9.9 expressly prohibits only the raising of the ball into an opponent within 5m with a flick or scoop stroke. An exception to this sensible practice has been made for the on-target shot at the goal – and this exception is applied even when the ball is raised into a close opponent with a flick or scoop.

Since 2018 further misinformation has appeared which is closely allied with the notion that an on-target shot at the goal cannot be dangerous play. This is the idea that during a penalty corner legitimate evasive action does not apply in the case of a defender positioned on the goal-line. This idea is contrary to Rules 13.3.l and 13.3.m, which are about the making of a shot at goal during a penalty corner, and to Rule 9.8 which states, without exception, that a ball that is played at an opponent in a way that causes legitimate evasive action (evasion of the ball to avoid injury) IS dangerous play.

There is no height limit mentioned in either Rule 9.8 or Rule 9.9 and no distance limitation for LEA mentioned in Rule 9.8. (The advice to umpires included in the UMB, that a ball raised to below half shin-pad height is not dangerous, in not included in the Rules of Hockey – so it isn’t a Rule of hockey).

I find myself in an awkward position to justify. I approve of umpires including hits and deflections that are raised into close opponents within the meaning of dangerous play, even though there is no Rule support for this practice. I disapprove of umpires casting aside the relevant dangerously played ball Rules when a shot is on target and causes a defender to take evasive action.

On page 2 of the rule-book players are instructed to play with consideration for the safety of other players, this is a very broad and vague Rule, but it is a Rule (even if unnumbered and not included in the Conduct of Play Rule – Rule 9. Conduct of play, is prefaced with the instruction that players are required to play responsibly). Hitting the ball at maximum velocity into the legs of an opponent who is within 5m (here within 3m), is obviously not playing responsibly or with consideration for the safety of that opponent.

It is inconvenient for attackers that they are instructed not to endanger opponents because that requires that they develop skills beyond just hitting the ball as hard as possible towards a close opponent, but hockey is supposed to be a game of skill, not brute force.

On balance I think it better that umpires do not invent Rule (which they call Interpretation), and where there needs to be sensible adjustment (as in the case of a hit or deflection raised towards an opponent within 5m), the FIH Rules Committee become alert enough to recognize it and make suitable Rule amendment to correct what is (or should be) obviously an inane current Rule.

The fact that there is no height limit (aside from above knee height towards an out-runner within 5m during a penalty corner) to describe any endangerment, be it from a hit or drag-flick or scoop, should be a scandal, but the FIH has been so inept and participants so apathetic (“Not our business” “Can’t be bothered”) that this situation has continued for decades, despite an apparently frantically busy Rule Authority “simplifying and clarifying” the rule-book during this entire period.

In fact any attempt to address the issue of the dangerously played ball (or the Obstruction Rule) has been vigorously rejected by the umpires who are or have been the moderators of the four Internet hockey forums that I have been ejected from (I report with pride that I have been ejected/banned twice for raising the problem of the non-application of the Obstruction Rule and twice for comment about the dangerously played ball – my speed record is a ban for life by the Australian HA after I made one post, but their hockey forum was discontinued within a month, they didn’t really want ‘outsiders’ questioning their assertions.

The assertion in question on that occasion was made by an FIH Umpire and was that a player hit with the ball in front of the goal should always be penalised with a penalty stroke – part of the notion that a shot at goal cannot be considered to be dangerous play.That record might be thought to be something to do with my peculiarly aggressive writing style (an opinion that was voiced), but anybody who attempts to discuss either of these subjects in a rational way on an Internet hockey forum will be greeted with yawns (of feigned boredom) or dismay and the topic thread they opened to make their comment very quickly closed down.

I invite anyone to try it and experience the wall of resistance to such discussions that exists. Meanwhile the FIH RC continues to pretend to welcome comments and suggestions for Rule improvements from anyone who cares to make them.

A Comment received

Salisu JabboI I think the umpires are applying the rule the way they see see it. Where in the rule does it say every shot at goal is dangerous. If the umpires are inventing it, how. I are agreed with you that some shot at goal are dangerous, especially when it causes evasive action or from close proximity.

Reply

Anyone who declares that an on target shot at the goal CANNOT be dangerous play (which is what has repeatedly been declared since Beijing in 2008) is profoundly ignorant i.e. they may never have seen a hockey match.

If after seeing a number of hockey matches umpires are prepared to make that statement, they are incredibly stupid and dangerous and should not be permitted to umpire any hockey match. How somebody that stupid becomes an umpire is a matter that is worthy of close attention.

That experienced international level umpires, many of whom are responsible for coaching other umpires, could support the ‘cannot be dangerous’ statement is beyond comprehension. But in the Rules of Hockey umpires are given no instruction at all regarding ball height when a ball is raised towards an opponent in open play (bar the inane not dangerous below half-shin pad height, from the UMB) and only limited instruction in this regard (knee height) when a ball is raised towards an opponent within 5m during a penalty corner (they are simply told in Rule that a shot at goal must not be made in a dangerous way during a penalty corner -Rules 13.3.l and 13.3.m).

No advise at all is offered about ball velocity, none is offered about identifying ‘legitimate evasive action’ and there is no instruction whatsoever (more than twenty years after the drag-flick was introduced) about a ball raised towards an opponent from more than 5m.

You ask “Where in the rule does it say every shot at goal is dangerous?” when you could more reasonably have asked “Where in the rule does it say that a shot made at goal may be dangerous (and say how or why)?” or “Where in Rule is a dangerous shot at the goal described (the criteria laid out)?”

Against that background umpires are supposed to interpret and apply Rule. What Rule wording are they supposed to be interpreting? Answer:- None; they are supposed to be interpreting player actions for compliance with certain and well understood Rules (which do not exist).

The umpires I have (many times) seen award a goal or a penalty stroke when a ball has been raised as a shot at goal high (at head, neck, or chest) into a defender from considerably less then 5m are, presumably, ‘interpreting’ Rule (whatever that means) or following Briefing instructions (more likely), but they are not applying any FIH published Rule rationally or correctly. If they were they would be able to quote it. They cannot quote a Rule to support the idea that an on target shot at the goal cannot be considered dangerous play, so instead they present a baseless (contrary to Common Law) argument about “acceptance of risk.” on the part of defenders. The risk from any action which is contrary to a Rule of a game (a shot at goal must not be made in a dangerous way – Rule 13.3.m.), cannot legally be said to be an accepted risk.


Any raising of the ball towards an opponent within 5m should be considered to be dangerous play, but as mentioned above, the FIH Rules Committee have made a mess of the relevant Rule (9.9) by including only flick and scoop strokes in it, and also by not mentioning ball height or velocity (both of which relate to the propensity of a ball to injure anyone hit with it, and could give good reason for an attempt at evasive action).

Causing legitimate evasive action (an entirely subjective judgement) remains in many instances the sole criterion for a dangerously played ball, which is itself a subjective judgement, but umpires who act as if a shot at the goal cannot be considered to be dangerous play (here supposedly following the insistence of the FIH that there be an emphasis on player safety) ignore evasive action, in favour of the objective “at the goal”. They have no reasonable defence for adopting this practice.

August 1, 2021

Contact tackle and interpretation.

Here we have an example of player’s knowledge and understanding of Rule having come from an unauthorized source – possibly a coach repeating the Rule or Rule Interpretation that were extant when the said coach was a player.

Who for instance knows this Rule Interpretation? :-“A reverse-side tackle or one from behind the player with the ball is not permitted if there is any body or stick contact between the players concerned before the ball is played by the tackler.”

That is usually truncated to “tackling from behind is not permitted”

I have seen videos produced in the last five years in which that statement has been included in an explanation of the Rules of Hockey.

The second part is usually stated “Body or stick contact between a tackler and a player in possession of the ball must not occur before the ball is played by the tackler” and then that is ‘interpreted’ to mean that once the ball is played by the tackler contact between the two players concerned is permitted.

The ARG defenders here obviously believe this to be the case, but they are badly misinformed – and that caused them to make a pointless request for video referral.

The Rule Interpretation stated at the start of this post was deleted from the Rules of Hockey in 2004 when the whole of what was Appendix B Rules Interpretations was removed.

The current Tackling Rule is 9.13.

9.13 Players must not tackle unless in a position to play the ball without body contact.

Reckless play, such as sliding tackles and other overly physical challenges by field players, which take an opponent to ground and which have the potential to cause injury should attract appropriate match and personal penalties.

So body or stick contact between tackler and ball-holder is not permitted in any circumstance.

When I first saw this incident on video I was astonished that the umpire did not award a penalty stroke and a yellow card.

I don’t like the framing of the current Tackling Rule because of the influence it has on obstructive play – where potential tacklers are actively prevented from playing at the ball when within playing reach of it and where they could have done so if the ball had not been shielded from them.

There is a lack of balance and fairness between the applications of the two Rules. Rule 9.12 hardly being applied at all, and 9.13 applied even when the only thing the player attempting to tackle has done is to shadow the ball-holder. Both Rules need to be properly rewritten.



May 31, 2021

When is a Rule not a Rule.

There does not appear to be the slightest interest in holding the FIH Rules Committee to promises made when amendments were made to the Rules of Hockey by the FIH RC or its forerunner the FIH Hockey Rules Board. There may be some head scratching about that comment because these incidents have occurred at well spaced (but reducing) intervals over decades. However the effects of them are still seen and felt today.

The first I’ll mention is the deletion of the Offside Rule in 1997.
At the time the FIH RC wrote in the rule-book that following this deletion constrains would be placed on the actions of attackers close to the goal. Clearly the idea of ‘goal-hanging’ attackers shooting at goal at point blank range and without height restriction is a disturbing one. So what constrains did the FIH RC introduce? Answer, None. In fact 1997 is now so long ago that no-one raised an eyebrow when the Rules were amended in 2015 to allow attackers to shoot at goal when the ball was still above shoulder height (as long as this was done safely, ha ha), and the tennis smash style shots that are now frequently made are commended as skillful. Players changing in on a goal-keeper, before a drag-flick is made as a first shot during a penalty corner, in order to hit any rebound into the goal or to deflect from close range, a ball passed towards the goal, high into the net, are also a common sight. It’s not difficult to devise reasonable Rule to deal with all of these problems but no attempt has been made to do so. These obvious problems (dangers) aren’t even acknowledged to exist.

In 2002 there was an announcement made in the rule-book that an upcoming comprehensive rewrite of the Rules of Hockey would be complete, in that it would contain all the briefing notes previously set out elsewhere separately as advice and instruction to umpires officiating at international Tournaments, so other Rules documents would become unnecessary. But what had happened in 2004 when the promised rewrite was completed? All Advice to Umpires and Technical Interpretations, previously in separate sections at the back of the rule-book, were deleted. The rule-book, far from being a comprehensive Rules document, which included Umpire Briefing and perhaps also relevant playing parts of Tournament Regulations, became a skeleton of its former content and the Umpire Managers Briefing for Umpires at International Tournaments (the UMB) took on a new life, instead of being discontinued (as it still should be).

The UMB went on to conflict with and contradict the Rules of Hockey in some areas. For example Rule 9.9 concerning the intentionally raised hit was scuppered by the inane mantra ‘forget lifted – think danger‘ with the result that hits intentionally raised into the opponent’s circle are often not penalised even thought prior to 2004 any raising the ball into the opponent’s circle with any stroke had been expressly prohibited. This was one of the first constraints on attackers which was removed in a way that was contrary to the undertaking given in 1997.

The UMB also announced, contrary to what was given in the Explanation of Rule 9.9 that balls raised to below half shin-pad height are not dangerous – which is as daft as the recent change to the dangerous play Rule which declares that only opponents can be subjected to a dangerous play offence. It does not take much imagination to envisage scenarios (player fallen to ground for example) where a hit into them raised only about 8″ could be extremely dangerous, and one has only to mention the name Sam Ward to recall how easy it is for a player to inadvertently injure a team-mate.

In 2007 we had a Rules farce that ran in the other direction. The FIH RC deleted a Rule clause and individuals within other FIH Committees, notably Peter von Reth, the Chairman of the FIH Umpiring Committee, refused to accept the deletion, despite the FIH RC being the sole appointed Rule authority, as the FIH Executive had reaffirmed in a Executive Circular in 2002.

So from Feb 2007 when an ‘official Explanation of Rule 9.11’ (which was nothing of the sort) was posted on the FIH website, until May 2015, “or gains benefit” was applied as if it was still part of Rule 9.11. The restoration of the clause to the rule-book, as advantage gained, did not occur until January of 2016.

We then had in 2011 the bizarre situation where the Forcing Rule was deleted, but the offence was not, because the reason given for the deletion was “because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules” but umpires immediately stopped penalising forcing offences (to the great detriment of the game). The deletion of the ‘gains benefit’ clause was ignored and the clause continued to be applied as Rule even though there was no mention of it in a rule-book for a period of nine years, the penalising of forcing offences ceased in 2011 and there has been no further mention of this offence, despite it still being an offence, in a rule-book since then..

The ‘gains benefit’ clause should not have been deleted because that removed appropriate penalty for the direct prevention of a goal with an accidental ball-body(foot/leg) contact, but it certainly needed to be amended and reinforced, because standard umpire coaching at the time (which I was on the receiving end of) was that any ball-body contact would gain a benefit for the team of the player hit with the ball, an obvious nonsense which no umpire should have accepted as proper direction because it turned one of the two criteria for a ball-body contact offence ‘on its head’.

No one who can remember how hockey was played prior to 1993 when what was called a New Interpretation of obstruction was introduced (which was nothing of the sort, it was an Exception to the Rule, which applied only to a player in the act of receiving and controlling the ball; the criteria for the offence, the illegal prevention of a legitimate tackle for the ball, remained and remains exactly as it always has been), can be comfortable watching the way hockey is now played. Here again the long practice of umpires interpreting in their own way (or to instruction given by Umpire Managers) caused them to completely ignore the extension of a clause in the Rule Explanation of Rule 9.12, added in 2009, which prohibited a player who had received and controlled the ball, from moving to position between an opponent and the ball – which should of course include moving to maintain an existing ball shielding position and backing or leading the ball with the body into the playing reach of a defender (advice which was ‘lost’ in the vandalism which was called the rewrite of 2004).

The above is an brief account of some of the odd things which have happened. But I have not mentioned the important subject of dangerous play and the inexcusable introduction during the Beijing Olympics of the idea that an on target shot at the goal could not be considered to be dangerous play (again the 1997 constraints on attackers upended) That surfaced again from an umpire during the 2010 World Cup, and was present, in slightly altered form, in the Briefing video for the Rio Olympics, so the idea has not yet been discarded despite its absurdity.

One of the strangest things to have happened in the last few years is the issue of a letter from the Royal Dutch Hockey Board to umpires in the Netherlands, in 2018, instructing them that legitimate evasive action (the causing of which defines a dangerously played ball) does not apply to defenders defending the goal during a penalty corner. Strange because this National Board does not have the authority to issue such an instruction, but stranger still, because although aware that this has happened (I know they were informed in November of 2018) the FIH Rules Committee and the FIH Executive have done nothing at all to correct this situation.

The application of the Rules to which the game of hockey is supposed to be played is a mess, and the apathy of ‘the hockey community’ and ‘the hockey family’ (and their and the FIH Rules Committee’s apparent powerlessness to control Umpire Managers) are ensuring that it stays that way.

May 20, 2021

What is the criterion for a dangerously played ball?

“Rule 9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.”

Explanation”

A ball is also considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by opponents.”


Despite the FIH Rules Committee having stated in the rule-book that the Rules of Hockey apply to all participants and officials at all levels (worldwide). The Royal Dutch Hockey Board have instructed umpires in the Netherlands that legitimate evasive action does not apply to defenders during a penalty corner, effectively meaning that any raised shot at goal from beyond 5m of a defender cannot be considered to be dangerous play, even if it is made directly at a defender who is forced to evasion.


Whether or not the KNHB would consider a player who has been hit on the head with the ball and seriously injured from such a raised shot, to have been endangered, is unknown. But no doubt if such a thing were to happen they would deny any responsibility for an injury resulting from their permitting/encouraging shooting of this sort, however they would probably need the services of immoral and capable lawyers.


The FIH RC and the FIH Executive who are well aware of the illegal instruction the KNHB have issued, and who have done nothing to ensure that it is withdrawn, would also be culpable for any injury that resulted from this negligence.


Given that the FIH are at present £500,000 ‘in the red’ it would be wise of them to take action to ensure that a legal action against them claiming damages due to injury, is a remote rather than a strong possibility due to the very large number of penalty corners that are awarded every year.

May 8, 2021

Referral restrictions

Another area of hockey that is in need of reform.

The task of the video umpire is to advise and make recommendation to the match umpire so that the match umpire (who remains responsible for all decisions made) is able to make a fair decision. Clearly that did not happen here.


It probably would have happened if video referral was not restricted to decisions leading to the award of a goal or a penalty corner, and the match umpire him or her self was able to leave the pitch to review replay of questionable incidents. (the third umpire could be utilised to supervise players while this was happening).

This should not be difficult to arrange. What is required is a pitch-side trailer and technicians to find and order the relevant ‘footage’ as the umpire is making his/her way pitch-side to view it. (Such trailers could be equipped to be towed different venues).

The current ‘hanging around’ of the match umpire while a third party makes a decision (which according to Tournament Regulations he/she should not be making) is unsatisfactory.

May 4, 2021

Forcing ball-body contact

Rules of Hockey 2011. Ten years of negligence.

“RULES CHANGES
The changes in this edition of the Rules essentially seek to simplify
the game without altering its fundamental characteristics.
The Rule which used to say that “players must not force an opponent
into offending unintentionally” is deleted because any action of this
sort can be dealt with under other Rules.”

So the forcing of ball-body contact (being one of the actions of this sort) remained an offence to be ‘”dealt with” under other Rules. (Offences can be dealt with either by allowing advantage to the player hit with the ball – the player offended against – or by penalising the player responsible for the forcing action, there are no other options).

But 2011 was the last year in which there was any mention at all of the offence of forcing in a rule-book., so many current umpires have no idea (they are certainly not told by their coaches) that forcing ball-body contact is an offence.

This cannot be an oversight by the FIH, it looks like deliberate negligence. Now why would they do that? More penalty corners, more goals, more ‘excitement and spectacle’. That’s pathetic when they are supposed to be promoting and protecting skillful play.

May 4, 2021

Having received the ball…

Both the Rule and the Rule interpretation used at one time to give instruction about what a player who had received the ball should do once it was within his control.

Now we have :-
“A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction .”….
(the parts of the Rule that are recalled by umpires and how application of the Obstruction Rule is coached).

But then that second sentence continues:-
“except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it”.
(Umpires also recall that a player who claims to be obstructed must be attempting to play at the ball – but they don’t in general know what a tackle attempt looks like or that the prevention of a tackle attempt is also obstruction)

“A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction).”

The part in parenthesis (this is third party or shadow obstruction) is taken to mean that this clause applies only to third party obstruction, but if it was amended (as Rule 9.8. was amended) with the substitution of “this may also be” for “is” a more accurate description of the Rule is reached without in any way changing the interpretation of it.

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this may also be third party or shadow obstruction)

In the video the player in white (Poland) correctly protests to the umpire that there has been an obstruction by the Indian player in possession of the ball – the umpire shrugs and smirks, and play continues from the sideline.

May 2, 2021

Defining ‘Dangerous’

I have been trying for some years now to get the FIH RC to introduced another criteria for a dangerously played ball. It being “any ball that is propelled at above sternum height and within the shoulder width of a player and at a velocity that could cause injury to anyone hit with such a ball should considered to be dangerous play”.

At present there is no objective criteria for a dangerously raised ball if the player the ball is raised at is more than 5m from the player raising the ball. There is only the subjective ‘legitimate evasive action’ which – as can be seen in the video – is simply ignored.

In fact the Dutch Hockey Board have even instructed umpires in the Netherlands that legitimate evasive action does not apply to defenders on the goal-line during a penalty corner. (An illegal instruction because no National Association has the authority to amend Rule in any way without the prior approval of the FIH Executive – and this approval has not been given).

There are Facebook hockey Rules discussion group posts on this topic here:-


https://www.facebook.com/groups/424559554644848/permalink/1193643771069752/?comment_id=1193846917716104&reply_comment_id=1193963144371148&notif_id=1619992828389395&ref=notif&notif_t=group_comment_mention

April 27, 2021

The New Normal

Rules of Hockey

An umpire coaching video popped up on my Facebook Timeline a few days ago and this was inserted at the beginning of it.

There is nothing in the Rules of Hockey which supports either of those statements. The passer’s responsibility for the consequences of his passing action does not end the moment he has raised the ball above and beyond near opponents, and the second statement could be a contradiction of the second clause of Rule 9.8 Dangerously Played ball which reads:-

9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.
A ball is also considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by opponents.
The penalty is awarded where the action causing the danger took place.


(Note from where danger was caused which is NOT necessarily from where it occurred)

To state – as the text does – that the lifter of a ball will NEVER be penalised for the action of lofting the ball to fall onto/into a crowded space (and therefore a space occupied by players of opposing teams who might compete for the falling ball) when and where that action took place, is bizarre and utterly wrong.

When a player chooses to loft the ball with a scoop so that it will land on the position of a team-mate who is closely marked by an opponent, the passer has chosen to carry out an action that is potentially dangerous, because that opponent and the passer’s team-mate may choose to complete for the ball as it falls.

Rule 9.10 stipulates that in these circumstances the same team player must allow the opposing player to receive and control the ball. If he does not, but instead contests for the ball he has committed a dangerous play offence contrary to Rule 9.10, and the lifter of the ball (the passer) has committed an offence contrary to Rule 9.8.

A Free ball obviously cannot be awarded in two different places simultaneously so clearly the first offence (the lifting of the ball into a contested area) as the first offence, must be penalised first (with a Free ball or a penalty corner as appropriate (if for example, the ball was lofted from within the passer’s own 23m area, a penalty corner for a deliberate offence in that area). The second offence, (contesting for the falling ball) is a breaking down of play with deliberate dangerous play and should result in at least a Green Card for the offender. This would be both correct (Rule compliant) and fair.

When should a Free ball be awarded at the point the ball was landing? When and only when the same team player was in free space or made a lateral run to create space to receive a ball lofted to land wide of his position or more than 5m short of his position (if he is closely marked) or alternatively beyond his position AND an opponent who was 5m or more from the intended receiver at the time the ball was raised closed to within 5m of the intended receiver while the ball was in the air and/or before it had been controlled on the ground by the receiver (this intended receiver is in these circumstances i.e when in free space or moving into free space, as the overhead pass is made, referred to as the initial receiver).

What should happen if the ball is lofted to fall onto a position where two or more opposing players might contest for it? The intended receiver (the player of the same team as the passer) should allow an opposing player to receive the ball and play it into his control on the ground. An opponent must not interfere with or influence the play of the receiver while the ball is being so received.

Has there been an offence by the player who lofted the pass when his team-mate closes on an opposing initial receiver from beyond 5m? No, the situation was safe at the time the ball was raised. The sole offender in these circumstances is the team -mate who encroaches on the opponent.

Rule 9.8 stipulates offence when the overhead pass leads to actual dangerous play. A withdrawing action from the intended receiver (that allows the opponents to receive and control the ball on the ground) therefore nullifies the potentially dangerous play of the passer. Even if it was considered that there was an offence by the passer in these circumstances it would be unnecessary to impose penalty because opponents would not be disadvantaged by his reckless passing action, play should continue with advantage to the opposing team. However a word of caution from the umpire to the passer would not be amiss when potentially dangerous play like this occurs, even when danger is averted by third party action.

P.S. There is no launch pad for a pass (just as there is no “Covid roadmap”)

October 20, 2020

Coaching players to obstruct an opponent.

Rules of Hockey 2019

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.

The Rules of Hockey apply to all hockey players and officials.

9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

Players obstruct if they:

      back into an opponent

      shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part oi their body

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

Note. The exception is important. Moving bodily into an opponent and moving to position between an opponent and the ball (and within the opponent’s playing reach) are separate and distinct examples of an obstructive action. It is not necessary that there be body to body contact or stick contact for an obstruction offence to occur.

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing.

Note This may also be shadow or third party obstruction. The Explanation goes on to read “this is shadow or third party obstruction”, possibly giving the impression that these actions are not or may not be the simple obstruction of a player by an opponent in possession of the ball, to prevent a tackle attempt. Inserting “May also be” removes this ambiguity.

October 6, 2020

Change

An article from the Hindustan Times published in the fieldhockey.com website on 4th June 2019.

‘Focus on limiting changes to hockey,’ says FIH’s CEO Thierry Weil

Change is the only constant in international hockey, a sport that sees such frequent tinkering in its rules and tournament formats that even its ardent fans find it hard to keep up.

B Shrikant

Change is the only constant in international hockey, a sport that sees such frequent tinkering in its rules and tournament formats that even its ardent fans find it hard to keep up.

For example, the qualifying programme for the Olympic Games has been changed four times in the last three decades.

In the Olympics, the host country, five continental champions and six qualifiers make the 12-team field, and though the continental championships remain intact, the qualifying event has been changed regularly—a single tournament gave way to three events of eight teams each (till 2012), which was replaced by the Hockey World League, which in turn gave way to the Pro League and FIH (international hockey federation) Series (Open and Finals).

The Pro League currently involves eight top teams playing each other on home and away basis while the other competition involves a series of FIH Series Open events followed by three 8-team Finals.

However, even as eight teams—India, Japan, South Africa, Poland, Russia, Uzbekistan, USA and Mexico—get ready for the second event in the FIH Series Finals in Bhubaneswar, which will be held from June 6-15, comes the news that the event will be discontinued from next year.

Similarly, the FIH has dumped the Champions Trophy, and reworked rules nearly every year as the game has metamorphosed from a match of two halves to one involving four quarters of 15 minutes each.

So, why does the FIH introduce so many changes, unlike sports like football and tennis, whose basic structure has remained the same?

Hindustan Times put this question to Thierry Weil, FIH’s chief executive officer and he agreed that there have been too many changes.

As far as the FIH Series is concerned, Weil blamed financial burdens for scrapping the tournament.

“The FIH Series involves teams that are not in the Pro League, provide them a chance to qualify for the Olympics,” he said. But participating in these events is a big financial burden on these teams. Also, we found out that there was a conflict with the activities of the continental federations which were also conducting similar tournaments. I agree that changes have come too frequently but many of them were necessary, like ‘no offside’ because it was not conducive to the fast-pace of hockey. When I took over as CEO (in April 2018), I have asked them to limit these changes. My focus has been on standardising the calendar and evolving the Pro League,” Weil said.

Meanwhile, the game will continue to see some big changes in the next few years.

Pro League 2 in the offing

The FIH is planning to launch a second division of Pro League, tentatively named Pro League 2, which will involve teams ranked between 9 to 20 and introduce promotions and relegations.

“It’s one of the ideas we are working on,” Weil said. “Recently, we have introduced a two-year home and away system which will reduce by half the travel in the current format.”

The FIH is likely to roll out the second division from next year.

Big investments

Weil said the FIH has made significant investments in introducing a new ranking system from January 2020, and a new synthetic turf which reduces dependence on water. The roll out of a new match-based ranking system will also promote bilateral series involving top teams.

“Each match will become important as it will involve some points. All matches recognised by FIH will contribute towards the ranking of the team,” he said.

Introduction of a new turf before 2024 is the most ambitious project that FIH has taken up, as water scarcity is a growing reality that impedes the widespread adoption of the current astroturf, especially in countries like India.

“Currently we are in investment mode and have made big investments in the rankings system, new turf and promotion of Pro League,” Weil said.

The title of this newspaper article is misleading; the “Rules” written about are not the Rules of Hockey or FIH Tournament Regulations,  (the latter concern  the way in which players may compete in matches in an FIH Tournament.). Whether or nor a match is played in two halfs or four quarters does not much effect the way in which players play – but may make the game more high paced or ‘frantic’.

Whatever the current perception, the FIH Executive does not approve several changes to the Rules every year – they are very conservative and always have been.
In the first of these areas, the Rules of Hockey, huge change is needed to rectify the mistakes made in the past twenty or so years and to improve the way in which the game is played and officiated.

What is likely to happen is that the “no change” mantra, which is advocated above, will conflate changes to the way teams qualify for the Olympic Games and World Cups, with change to the Rules of Hockey (what is drafted by the Rules Committee and published as the Rules of Hockey by the FIH). As usual the FIH are not communicating clearly and neither is the newspaper reporter.

Thierry Weil was not talking primarily about the Rules of Hockey but about the Regulations concerning League and Tournament formats and the means of qualification to World Level events, as well as about economics and water shortage concerns and standards for pitch surfaces, Technical Specifications such as these are not at all the same thing as “the Rules” as commonly understood.

If there is concern about the frequency of past changes to the Rules of Hockey this can be addressed by discarding from ‘practice’ those changes which the FIH Rules Committee have not actually made and dissuading umpires (and Umpire Managers) from imposing their own personal interpretations as if Rules.

The invention that an on target shot at the goal could not be considered to be dangerous play, springs to mind. A stationary player cannot obstruct, is another. A third:- Aerial Rules (whatever they might be) do not apply to either shots at the goal or to deflections. The list of what will not be found in any rule-book but is applied as if it can be, goes on and on and the FIH Executive just look the other way even though they must know they have NOT approved these ‘Rules’. See

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/09/21/unauthorized-rul…-the-netherlands/

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.

 

 

 

May 13, 2020

The invention of ‘Rules’

Here are two more examples of ‘interpretation’ contradicting Rule or the provided Explanation of application:-


February 23, 2020

Silly Rule and confusing yellow card.

Correction edit added

The draconian enforcement of one of the silliest conventions in the Rule book. Excellent play by the defender penalised as if a crime. Fortunately it occurred in a match in which the Netherlands team were missing on most cylinders when in front of the goal, and they missed yet again from the penalty corner.- a good save by the ARG keeper.

I have noticed that of late umpires have been more inclined to award a penalty corner following a tackle from which a defender sends the ball – often apparently inadvertently – out of play over the base-line. In this same match this umpire’s colleague awarded a penalty corner following such a tackle. His characterization, to the player involved, of the tackle stroke used, as a long sweep at the ball, was wildly inaccurate. I wonder have Umpire Managers told umpires to be more strict about applying this very silly and unnecessary Rule.

Making defending as difficult as possible is becoming ridiculous. Defenders near their base-lines already have to contend with players shunting into them while shielding the ball and opponents trying to play the ball into their feet. They are likely when shunted into, to be penalised for a contact tackle and when the ball is forced into their feet, in both instances with a penalty corner.

The defender is more and more restricted while attackers seems to have no restrictions at all imposed. Even raising the ball into a defender is viewed as the defender’s fault – he shouldn’t be there. The most difficult and necessary part of the game is being made near impossible, that is not going to improve the skill levels of attackers or make the game more interesting for spectators.

CORRECTION

I got this completely wrong, the card was not for the knock off the base-line but it would seem (I am not certain) for a much earlier contact tackle attempt near the half-way line by the ARG No.5. But there was no advantage signal given and the umpire did not communicate clearly why he had stopped the game or quickly explain why he had issued the card. Things were done out of proper sequence and communication was poor.

My comment concerning the unjustness of a penalty corner award for a defender (intentionally ?? ) playing the ball off the pitch during a tackle are unaltered.

February 5, 2020

A silk purse from a sow’s ear.

Rules of Hockey

9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

It is necessary when trying to communicate the meaning of statements made in Rules clauses or Explanation clauses not to assume any prior knowledge of the game by the intended listener/reader and an absence of deductive reasoning. No conditions or circumstances not specifically mentioned in any Rule statement can to be assumed. Everything the Rule maker needs the participants to know to comply with a Rule must be fully explained.It is also almost a certainty that people who have not ever read a rule book will have very fixed ideas about what the Rules state and what they do not, and it will be extraordinarily difficult to get them to change their opinions because they will have formed their opinions by listening to and/or watching people they respect and trust.

When the Obstruction Rule is read together with the provided Explanation of Application of Rule it quickly becomes apparent that the normal principles of comprehensive explanation are not adhered to. Much is left unexplained and much is assumed to be common knowledge. The current Rules and Explanations are a sow’s ear with nearly everyone of them being ‘interpreted’ into a multitude of personal ‘silk purses’, of value only to their inventors.

Explanation of Application Rule 9.12.
Players obstruct if they:-

back into an opponent.

It is possibly acceptable for a Rule (the words of the Rule Proper) to be unclear when considered in isolation, the terms used may not have been previously explained, but the Rule should become very clear when the Explanation of Application clauses are read because all such clauses should be written in an unambiguous way. For example, the word ‘obstruct’ in the Rule Proper is undefined, but a reading of the Explanation clauses should make it very clear what actions ‘to obstruct’ include  – but this is not clear.

I’ll demonstrate with what may seem to be the reasonably clear Explanation clause above:

Players obstruct if they back into an opponent.

which is in fact unclear and applied in a wide variety of ways or not applied at all. Is the opponent assumed to be in possession of the ball at the time and shielding it from an opponent while backing into that opponent? Reasonable assumptions perhaps, but possession of the ball is there only an assumption, it is not specified in the clause. The clause could refer only to off the ball play such as ‘third party’ obstruction.

What does ‘back in’ mean? The American umpire coach Cris Maloney asserts that it means to back into physical contact with an opponent, and that ‘backing in’ that is only backing towards an opponent is not an offence, no matter how close the players get, unless physical contact is made. To support this approach he points out, in analogy, that a car that backs into another car hits that car – otherwise it has not backed into that car.

I disagree with his view of backing in and take the view that a player who moves backwards taking the ball into the playing reach of an opposing player, while at the same time shielding the ball from that player (the tackler) to prevent a tackle attempt, obstructs that opponent immediately he or she brings the ball within the playing reach of the tackler. Why?  Because players may be obstructed once they are within playing reach of the ball when they are attempting to carry out a tackle. I answer the analogy of the backing car by pointing out that a car that backs into a garage or into a parking bay is not backed up until it hits something (a back wall or a fence) and is in the garage or parking bay in the same way a backing player (or a player leading the ball while shunting sideways towards an opponent) is within the playing reach of an opponent (often causing the opponent to back off to avoid physical contact, in which case a tackle attempt may become an impossibility).

Unfortunately the phrase “attempting to play the ball” which comprises much of the Rule Proper, is nowhere explained and it is necessary to construct circumstances in which a tackle attempt may be made, and also where one cannot be made and to know the reasons why in each case.This is not as easy as it might appear, but it is easier to describe situations in which a tackle attempt cannot be made (or is prevented) than it is to describe a legitimate tackle attempt. If you don’t believe that try it and see if you can come up with a ‘watertight’ definition that will fit all circumstances.

The word legitimate has several meanings and is used in a different ways in different Rules E.g. ‘legitimate evasive action’ and ‘legitimate tackle’ do not use the word ‘legitimate’ in the same way. A legitimate tackle is a tackle made in a legal way i.e without a foul (usually avoiding making physical contact with stick or body) But how? Legitimate evasive action is evasion that is necessary to avoid injury and is genuine for that reason. Evasive action cannot reasonably be considered to be illegal even when it is unnecessary or even an attempt to con an umpire.

It is often possible to look at prior wording to Rule or Explanation or to amendments added to Rule or Explanations at a later date (with obstruction the amendments were made in 1993, 1995, 2001, 2004 and 2009, with 1995 and 2004 being years in which major rule-book rewrites were undertaken) to get a better sense of what the HRB /FIH RC intended. Fortunately in the case of this particular clause there is a 2009 amendment that provides clarity. I will come back to that because it also includes part of the next “a player obstructs” statement.

– Players obstruct if they shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

A shield and shielding is often thought of something to protect the body from another object moving towards it. An umbrella for example is generally used to shield a person from rain. The other form of shielding is the use of the body itself to protect something or some one from attack or to prevent loss of possession of the thing shielded. It is more generally, but not exclusively, used in this latter sense in the Obstruction Rule and it is considered an illegal action if it prevents an opponent, who would otherwise be able to play immediately and directly at the ball, from doing so.

In 2002 the rule-book (and the UMB) contained advice to umpires to “watch for players who stand still and shield the ball when under pressure” Again a lot of assumptions, but that advice clearly informed umpires that a stationary player who was shielding the ball to prevent a tackle attempt by an opponent, was as guilty of obstruction as one who moved to impose his or her body between an opponent and the ball (I’ll come back to deletions).

But what is a legitimate tackle? Here legitimate appears to mean ‘legal’ or ‘Rule compliant’ i.e. not illegal. An illegal tackle, according to 9.13. is one that is made from a position where physical contact is (inevitable/unavoidable). Sliding tackles are often like this. There is of course a world of difference between a front-on or side-on sliding tackle at an open ball and a tackle attempt from the sort of positions that a ball holder puts a tackler in when moving to shield the ball from the tackler. That is moving his or her body (or the ball) to maintain positions where the ball is body shielded from the player intent on tackling for it, these latter actions are obstructive and an offence.

Here is the 2009 improved version of ‘Players obstruct  if they back into opponents combined with players obstruct if they move to shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.


A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent. (contact offence).
or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it. (ball shielding).

If the part about what a player with the ball is allowed to do is omitted (because it is unnecessary) we get, with a slight change of syntax, a clearer picture of what is prohibited.

A player with the ball is not permitted to move bodily into an opponent

or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

The second  part of that clause (after the first use of the word opponent) is the 2009 amendment, which has been practically ignored since it was published.

It could be improved “A player with the ball is not permitted to move into bodily contact with an opponent…. etc”. If body to body contact is prohibited, which is the case, that should be clearly stated even if it is duplication of the physical contact Rule.

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction). Improved by (this may also be third party or shadow obstruction)because it is also the prevent of possession of the ball just as the prevention of a tackle attempt may be.

When the wording of Rules gives an umpires ‘ sow’s ear’s to work with no amount of ‘interpretation’ improves matters, personal ‘interpretations’ generally make things far worse (because they vary between umpires) and they are not permitted anyway. The proper course of action is to lobby the FIH RC for amendment to the wording. An effective lobby group has to be in agreement about what changes it wants of course, and there’s the rub. 

The 2009 amendment is an improvement on what was there previously (after 2004) except that the advice on the situation of the stationary player under pressure was ‘lost’ in the 2004 rewrite and there is still no explanation of what action constitutes a tackle attempt (is it not demonstration by a tackler that there is intent to make a tackle?), and no mention, outside the advice in the UMB, of the illegal prevention of a tackle attempt  (which is basically what an obstruction offence by a player in possession of the ball is). So we get situations such as those in the shootout in the video below, where an attacker moves to position between a close opponent and the ball with impunity (apparently with immunity from the Obstruction Rule) preventing that player (the goalkeeper) from playing at the ball when he would otherwise have been able to do so – the ball being within his reach. The goalkeeper cannot “go around” the ball-holder (previous daft and unfair advice circa 1993, which was deleted in 2004) as that would just present an empty goal to a ball holder who would turn away to the other side from any attempt to go around him (an obvious flaw in the instruction that was not obvious to the person who drafted it  – and from there is was apparently just ‘rubber stamped’ without serious consideration being given to the effect it could have on the playing of the game). The deletion of this ‘go around demand’  was made with good reason but participants are still babbling on about an ‘onus’ on a tackler to go around (to get unobstructed) who declare, quite absurdly, they tacklers are not obtructed unless they take this action because they are not in a position to tackle for the ball  (because they are obstructed). The same people don’t consider that there is an onus on a player in possession of the ball not to obstruct opponents who are trying to play at it, but of course there is, otherwise there would be no Obstruction Rule. Oddly the ‘onus’ crowd don’t point to any of the other conditions that disappeared in 2004, because i assume, most of them were directed at the player in possession of the ball and not the opposing tackler. Not all of them disappeared, but it is difficult to explain why those that did were deleted.The third and fourth clause listed below are now common in play and many participants insist they are not obstructive actions. When- as they will  – they point out these clauses are deleted I can reply “So is the onus on a tackler to go around an opponent when obstructed, to reposition to make a tackle, and obstruction is still the prevention of a tackle attempt by means of ball shielding”

Umpires should be aware of players who are in possession of the ball who:
• back into an opponent;
• turn and try to push past an opponent; (barging)
• shield the ball with body, leg or stick and stand still when under pressure;
• drag the ball near their back foot when moving down the side-line or along the back-line;
• shield the ball with the stick to prevent a legitimate tackle

As difficult as the Obstruction Rule makes it to play the game (demanding movement skills) or worse, to learn to play it – and as unpopular as it may be with players in possession of the ball – without an Obstruction Rule, a non-contact game which hockey is, (there’s a surprise for some) becomes a farce. Which is why, when combined with the failure to penalise forcing offences, hockey has become a farce.

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January 28, 2020

The case of the impossible video refferral

VIDEO UMPIRE conduct and requirements are given in Appendix 17 of the FIH Tournament Regulations.

TEAM REFERRAL PROCESS

5.1  The Video Umpire calls for as many replays from any camera angle as necessary to reach a decision.

5.2  Within the shortest time frame possible, the Video Umpire provides his / her advice and recommendation:

-‘Goal’

-‘No Goal’

-‘Penalty Stroke’

-‘No Penalty Stroke’

-‘Penalty Corner’

-‘No Penalty Corner’

-‘Shoot-out to be re-taken’

-‘No shoot-out re-take’

-‘No Advice Possible’

-plus advice on any observed breach of the Rules.

5.3  If a breach of the Rules is observed and advised to the Match Umpire, it is then for the Match Umpire to take into account the breach in reaching his / her final decision.

5.4  Implications for the retention or loss of team referral rights:

a   in the event that the referral is upheld the referring team retains its right of referral;

b   in the event of ‘No Advice Possible’ (if the video footage is inconclusive, including through not having the correct replays available, the ball never being in shot in the replays, the footage being of insufficient quality to permit a decision or technical problems with the referral equipment), the referring team retains its right of referral;

c   if there is no clear reason to change the Match Umpire’s original decision, the referring team loses its right of referral.

5.5  A team referral that has been already been adjudicated upon may not be the subject of a subsequent referral by the opposing team.

FOR UMPIRE AND TEAM REFERRALS

6.1 The final decision, including any matter of interpretation, (my bold) remains with the Match Umpire and not the Video Umpire.

 Whether or not an action was carried out intentionally, and whether or not an (unfair) advantage was gained because of any referred action that occurred, are matters of interpretation i.e. are subjective judgements, therefore intention and advantaged gained are judgements beyond the remit of a video umpire.

It follows that whether or not a ball-body(foot) contact is an offence is a judgement beyond the remit of a video umpire because a ball-body(foot) contact is an offence only when made intentionally or only if advantage is gained by the team of the player who was hit with the ball (or both simultaneously).
Here the umpire only informs the video umpire that there is a claim from the BEL team of a foot contact in the circle by an AUS player, the umpire himself has not seen such a contact. The video umpire then makes a decision and tells the umpire what it is. Both of these exchanges are contrary to the regulations concerning conduct of a video referral. Given the information she was told the video umpire could only refer the umpire to the prior barge by the BEL player (an objective fact), she was not permitted to make a judgement concerning advantage gained i.e. declare whether or not there had been an offence because of the ball-leg contact because that was an interpretation. (the contact was obviously unintentional and likely caused because the AUS player was being barged into at the time he was trying to play the ball with his stick, so intent was not an issue, but the video umpire made her decision solely on the grounds that there had been a ball-leg contact by an AUS player and not on either of the criteria for offence and nor was she permitted to do so – so she could not make a rational decision and should have said no decision was possible in this regard).

For those who are at present ‘steaming out their ears’ I must point out I did not write Rule 9.11 Conduct of Play or the FIH Tournament Regulations, they are what they are. But I invite alternative interpretations of the wording given in the Rule, and/or the Tournament regulations as they apply to video referrals. I would be happy to know that this is not in fact the mess of contradiction it seems to be.
Be that as it may, there was a blunder made here, the barge by the BEL player should have been penalised and a 15m free awarded to the AUS team; instead the very important first goal of the match was conceded from the awarded penalty corner by the Australians.

6.2 All other decisions remain with the Match Umpires.

6.3 Substitutions may not take place during the stoppage of play for a video referral; substitution may take place on the resumption of play subject to the Rules of Hockey.

I belatedly add that I would like to see a system instituted where during a video referral the match umpire joined the video umpire (set up in a pitch-side trailer close by – transportable video facilities would in any case be useful) after receiving the team question, and the reserve umpire took up player supervision on pitch while the match umpire was thus engaged. The video umpire could begin locating the recorded incident while the match umpire was making his way to the trailer and then the two of them could discuss the relevant incident in private. This I feel would be a better use of the time of officials than the match umpire standing around waiting for a necessarily restricted announcement from the video umpire. It has the advantage that the match umpire has (usually) already seen the incident in real time and live scale and is then either confirming or rejecting his or her initial impressions – and there could then be no question about who is making the final decision or who has the authority to do so.

There were two other video referrals in this match and both followed a similar pattern, with the video umpire wrongly being asked to make judgements and decisions about player intentions

I have been advocating for some years that the offence of back-sticks be abolished. I also think the Belgium player did the safe thing here, another more cynical player might have jabbed the ball forward into the Australian player who had fallen to ground.

Here is another example of Rule and Regulation being ignored:-

 

 

January 17, 2020

Height limits

Head injuries from reverse edge hit ‘clearances’ should not be happening. What the articles (links below) do not state, but should have, is that intentionally raising the ball with a hit in such circumstances is a foul even if the raised ball is not dangerous to anyone. Obviously a raised hit ‘clearance’ disadvantages the opposing team and that alone is sufficient for penalty (a penalty corner if in the defended 23m area).

Defenders can of course point to the unfairness of such hits being permitted ‘through’ them at the goal, and defenders actually being penalised if their evasive action is not successful (and often penalised with a goal if it is successful). We need height limits when a ball is raised towards another player even from substantially beyond 5m.(up to 15m?) Certainly no player should be permitted to raise the ball at high velocity towards the throat or head of another player in any circumstances.

Umpires are of course ignoring the Rule and following the UMB advice (and it is only advice, not Rule) to “forget lifted – think danger” but thinking about danger after it has occurred is too late.

Players must be prevented (deterred) from indulging in reckless play and causing injury to other players. Players are already instructed to play responsibly and to play with consideration for the safety of others, but obviously many are not doing so. In such cases umpires must act responsibly and officiate with consideration for the safety of players, and they need Rules drafted to enable them to do this correctly.

http://fieldhockey.com/…/49275-kieran-govers-takes-it-to-so…

.http://fieldhockey.com/…/49274-a-knockout-blow-for-unikl-s-…

January 2, 2020

The letter of the Law.

A ball raised towards (at) an opponent within 5m is dangerous play. Why? Because a Rule Explanation clause (Rule 9.9) states that it is. No minimum height is given and no minimum velocity is given. A very severe Rule, probably far too severe but that is the Rule.

The attacker in the first incident should have been penalised for (intentionally) raising the ball into the legs of the defender (but intention is not required for there to be a dangerous play offence; it is for a forcing offence). Yes, a forcing offence.

Unfortunately, due to sloppiness from the FIH RC, their 2011 Rule Change announcement that the Forcing Rule was deleted “because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules” (a very odd reason for deleting a Rule and regrettably not the true one, which was that umpires were simply not applying it, claiming to be unable to see intent to force and preferring to penalise the easy to see and objective, ball body contact even when it did not meet the criteria for offence) was not included in subsequent rule-books as it should have been. Most umpires are now ignorant of this condition on the deletion.

It is not permitted for an umpire to ‘interpret’ what is clearly stated in Rule to be dangerous play as not dangerous simply because it does not look dangerous (especially when he should have been considering intention to take the action taken). Conversely it is not permitted for an umpire to ‘interpret’ a Rule compliant action as dangerous play. In this case a ball raised high above an opponent (when that opponent is more than 5m away) this action is not dangerous play because there is no Rule (other than raising the ball over the circle) that states it is or can be dangerous play.

Unless the penalty corner in the second incident was awarded for something not clearly seen in the video (perhaps a kick at the ball in the goalmouth) there was no reason to have awarded it.

It may seem counter intuitive to say that a ball raised about 20cms is dangerous play and one raised 2.5 meters is not, but the critical thing in an endangerment decision is whether or not the ball was raised and propelled towards or into an opposing player.

The scoop shown in the video below should have been penalised as dangerous play.

Comment received on You Tube.

Crux 11
Ehm, the rule interpretation you refer to, is for a scoop or a flick. Not for not for small lifts where the ball is below knei height. Actually, there is no height restriction for regular play of a ball to be dangerous, this is the umpires interpretation.

Crux 11
Let me state it like this. Except for the drag flick during pc there is no height restriction whatsoever. This is the umpires interpretation. However, if a ball is soft and on the shin protector, barely anyone will see that as a dangerous ball.

My reply (withdrawing nothing stated above)
I have heard that assertion before. One umpire informed me the Rule 9.9 clause applied only to flicks or scoops made towards an opponent at head height. But there is no Rule support for that assertion or for what you have called umpires’ interpretation (knee height), which contradicts what you also write “Actually, there is no height restriction for regular play of a ball to be dangerous” which is true.

Umpires are not permitted to invent interpretation from nothing, in fact they are not permitted to invent interpretations at all. The ‘knee height or above’ limit applies only during the taking of a penalty corner first hit shot and when the ball is propelled with any stroke towards an out-runner within 5m.
Here is the relevant part of the wording for open play:-.

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 could be improved by replacing “a flick or scoop” with “any stroke raised” and by adjusting the syntax accordingly)

There is no scope for ‘interpretation’ concerning ball height in the current wording, it is absolute, the ball must not be raised towards an opponent within 5m. (a prohibition which is far too severe as it mentions neither height or velocity, but that is not an excuse for umpires to ignore it – if umpires applied it as they should, it would probably be a very short time before the FIH RC amended it.)

It is worth noting here that up until 2004 any raising of the ball towards another player was prohibited. That prohibition not only made no reference to height or velocity it made no mention of distance either.
The development of the drag-flick together with umpires routinely ignoring what was Rule 13.3.1.d led to the FIH RC, contrary to their own emphasis on the safety of players, deleting this ridiculously severe Rule and transferring it to Rule 9.9. (why not Rule 9.8 ?) as Explanation, with the addition of a 5m distance limit.

Calls for the introduction of more height limits, for example sternum height, to describe a dangerously played ball from greater distances, which would have been a better course of action, have been studiously ignored by the FIH for more than thirty years.

We now have umpires who (want to) believe a ball raised at an  opponent from more than 5m cannot be considered dangerous play, even though legitimate evasive action is not distance limited, and others who (want to) believe that an on target shot at the goal cannot in any circumstances be considered to be dangerous play. They refer to these strange beliefs as interpretations – but interpretations of what?

I believe that including raised hits and intentionally raised deflections within the Explanation of Rule 9.9. to be acceptable (which is an interpretation not provided by the FIH RC, who are the only entity permitted to provide Rule Interpretation, so it could be dismissed out of hand) I give two reasons for my opinion.
1) The clause in is a Rule about intentionally raised hits.
2) It would be absurd to exclude raised hits and deflections but include flicks or scoops of similar velocity – common sense.

One might argue that penalising for a ball raised only about 20cms is not sensible, but this was in my view, an intentional forcing offence that should have been penalised under Rule 9.9 and therefore height (and velocity) were irrelevant.

 “because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules”

One FIH Umpire argued (in an Internet hockey forum) in 2011 that “dealt with” did not mean penalise but I do not accept her argument (that no action should be taken against the forcing player in any instance of forcing), because an umpire can only legitimately deal with a breach of Rule (that is an offence) in one of three ways 1) Where possible, allow advantage to the opposing team.  2) Allow play to continue if opponents are not disadvantaged by the offence. 3) Penalise the offender. (note the order of umpire response and that allowing advantage is NOT the same thing as just allowing play to continue)

I also found her argument that the player hit with the ball should be penalised “for a lack of skill” an affront, considering the criteria for a ball body contact offence given in Rule 9.11. and the lack of skill demonstrated by players who use easy forcing tactics to ‘win’ penalty, instead of stick-work to elude and beat opponents.

https://martinzigzag.com/2020/01/02/the-letter-of-the-law/

December 4, 2019

Change, intention and perceptions

There is a persistent perception among umpires that it is part of their task to interpret the wording of the Rules for meaning and intent and then apply the Rules according to their personal interpretations (or the personal interpretations of an Umpire Manager or Umpire Coach given in a tournament briefing). But this perception is contrary to what has been circulated to National Associations from the FIH Executive – so long ago now that the current Executive Members will have forgotten that they (their predecessors) ever did it, even if they were at one time aware of the relevant documents. According to this document even the publication of a written UMB should have been discontinued.

From an FIH Executive Report 2001-2002 .

FIH Highlights Hockey Rules Board

Introduction
In line with our overall aims, the last two years have,on the one hand, been a period of transition for the Hockey Rules Board (HRB) – while on the other it has been a period of relative consolidation. The transition has focused on incorporation of research and development of the rules within the active remit of the HRB rather than in a separate but linked Rules Advisory Panel, which has now been disbanded.


The Rules Advisory Panel, as might be expected, became a pressure group and advocated many changes that the HRB did not adopt, much to the chagrin of the Advisory Panel. It was not mere coincidence that the disbanding of the Rules Advisory Panel coincided with the announcement that only the FIH HRB had the authority to introduce or amend Rule or Rule interpretation.

At the same time, the rules themselves have been through a period of consolidation rather than significant change. But this does not mean that the HRB has not been active, as the following report will testify.

Rules Changes

One change, which has been significant, at least as measured by the range of views about it, is allowing the edge of the stick to be used to play the ball. This change was introduced as a mandatory experiment in 1999and was continuously reviewed. Views about it ranged from a welcome for an action which gave players more options and which in particular could be used for exciting shots at goal, to concern that it might lead to danger or could damage sticks. Making a decision involved a delicate and careful balance of these issues,with the HRB deciding that the experiment should run for a third year but that, with effect from 2002, the change would be incorporated as a formal rule.

I had by 2002 been advocating for some years, the abolition of the back-sticks Rule. Usually to a chorus of abuse from hockey forum contributors who made ribald comments comparing my suggestion to ice hockey and saying that stick-work would disappear. I still believe the abolition of back-sticks would have been a wiser move than the introduction of edge hitting (with a back-sticks Rule still in place).

I have posted a picture of an Internet hockey forum post below; in the same topic thread contributors write of edge hitting being snuck in via the back door – an amazing attitude considering it had a three year Mandatory Experiment. What I think they mean is that edge hitting was imposed, despite widespread protest, which was just ignored. But the upending of this 2001 change (below) in 2011, apparently had full approval despite much objection to the deletion of the stand alone Forcing Rule. I certainly objected to it because it was obvious where it would lead (which it has)

Another change, which deserves comment, was the introduction in 2001 of a rule, which explicitly makes manufacturing a foul an offence. This reflects an ongoing concern by the HRB to protect skill and encourage attractive hockey by reducing negative and destructive actions.

The forgiving phrase “finding a foot” is the term currently used for what is now, by television commentators, called a skill, rather than cheating and a foul, which it still is (another forgotten part of Rule history). Forcing is now supposed to be “dealt with under other Rules” but the FIH Rules Committee have overlooked their own announcement ever since it was made, and most umpires are completely unaware of it, which is of course no surprise. It was unreasonable to make an announcement in a 2011 rule-book and then not bother to include it in subsequent rule-books, unless of course there was another formal deletion, but that never happened. There was an initial transfer to “other Rules” in 2011, and nothing has been published by the FIH RC in a rule-book or elsewhere on the matter since then – not even note of what the “other Rules” might be.

The first forgotten Rule promise I came across when researching past Rules, related to the final deletion of Off-side in 1997 (a huge advantage gifted to attackers with no compensation at all offered to the defending team). At the time the HRB wrote that measures would be put in place to constrain the actions of attackers close to the goal (to protect defenders). They then promptly ‘forgot’ about that undertaking. In fact they have since removed the few safeguards that were in place in 1997.

Forbidding players to play or play at an above shoulder height ball when in the opponent’s circle and the introduction of a *Goal Zone could go some way towards fulfilling the now distant obligation of the Rules Committee to honour their word in this area.

: https://martinzigzag.com/2018/03/30/suggested-introd…ewrite-rule-9-14/

The 2008 forum post pictured below refers to the removal of the “old system of Obstruction” which was a very strange phrasing. But then in 2009 a clause extension which considerably strengthen the existing interpretation, by prohibiting a player in possession of the ball moving to position between the ball and an opponent who was attempting to play at it, was introduced. It was the last amendment made to the Obstruction Rule, and it remains part of the current Rule. It made no difference at all to the strange idea that a previous ‘system’ had been removed when it had in fact been reinforced. Umpires behaved and still behave as if the Obstruction Rule had been -as one put it – “deconstructed years ago”.

One of the major problems of personal ‘interpretations’ is that they tend to confirm beliefs that are already held, no matter what the wording of them may be, confirmation bias just ignores the meaning of words or attempts to find a way around them. There is no recognition of cognitive dissidence.

A study of the history of the ball-body contact Rule makes that clear, even when (in 1992) the criteria for an ball body contact offence was deliberate use of the body to stop or deflect the ball AND advantage gained, umpires blithely continued to penalise just because a ball body contact was made, exactly as they usually do now even when there is neither clear intent seen (contact is obviously accidental or even deliberately (and unavoidably) forced by an opponent) or any tangible advantaged gained because of such a contact.

The ‘system’ of interpretation of the Obstruction Rule which was put in place in a time beyond living memory, was not altered by the 1993 receiving exception (the so called ‘new interpretation’, which was nothing of the sort, the criteria for obstruction outside of the receiving situation did not change at all) or changed by any of several word alterations (called ‘housekeeping’) prior to 2009 (the last prior to the 2004 Rules of Hockey rewrite, in 2001), or by the 2009 clause expansion. The criteria for obstruction remained exactly as they always were. Shielding the ball to prevent an opponent (who would otherwise have been able to do so) from attempting to play directly the ball, is now and has been for many decades an offence. But several contributors to the forum were content with the declaration that the Obstruction Rule was (in their view correctly) no longer applied – no one disagreed.

I was in 2009 banned from this forum for persistently pointing out the text of the Rules to Keely Dunn and her followers, who did not think Rule wording relevant to umpiring practice. They wrote with scorn of “the black and white of the written Rules” which they thought of as a straight-jacket and of ‘grey areas’ that require personal interpretation (ignoring that most Rule breach is perfectly clear). I agree that the writing of the Rules could be much improved, but no suggested improvement ever came from these people, just their own very varied umpiring ‘practice’, which they regarded as being as good in each case (no matter how different) as an official replacement of Rule. The notion, for example, that a high deflection which was falling onto a contested position or a lob shot at the goal, could NOT be treated as a falling a ball, (i.e. Rule 9.10 did not apply), were Dunn inventions which she insisted were correct interpretation. She used her status as an FIH Umpire and a declaration of universal support and consensus among umpires concerning her views, to bully anyone who dared to disagree with her.

There has been no improvement in application of the Obstruction Rule in the intervening ten or more years, quite the contrary. If some of the body blocking actions that are now routinely carried out by ball holders appeared in the early 1990’s the FIH might have stepped in to prevent the total collapse of the Rule and runaway ‘interpretation’ – but maybe not. The late George Croft the former Hon.Sec. of the HRB wrote, in some desperation I think, in the preface of the 1998 Rules of Hockey “Despite what some people think there still is an Obstruction Rule”. The destruction of this Rule has taken place over a long period with the destroyers getting more brazen year on year.

Here is a typical 2019 example of non-application of Rule and the type of play that it has encouraged. The attacker breaches every one of the obstructive play clauses and the defender does not even realize that the attacker has fouled him. The comments made below the video by an individual umpire give a good insight into the current attitude to Rule interpretation and application among certain umpiring groups.

September 29, 2019

Simplification and Clarification

Rules of Hockey.

Simplification and Clarification.

Open any rule book published in the last thirty years and you are likely to find in the Introduction or Preface a statement that the FIH HRB/ Rules Committee is always seeking to simplify and clarify the Rules or an announcement that it has done so within that publication. This is announced as a if a good thing, something to be desired but the result of this work may well be the very opposite.

By 1992 we had an Obstruction Rule which had not been altered in decades

A player shall not obstruct by running between an opponent and the ball nor interpose himself or his stick as an obstruction.

Technical Interpretations – a section in the back of the rule-book, gave:-
Body Obstruction and Interference (Rule 12) A player may not place any part of his body or stick between an opponent and the ball. Such actions are called obstruction and may also be referred to as screening the ball or blocking. Obstruction can only happen when: (a) an opponent is trying to play the ball (b) an opponent is in a position to play the ball without interfering with the legitimate actions of the player with the ball (c) the ball is within playing distance or could be played if no obstruction had taken place.

I would simplify that to:- An obstruction offence by a player in possession of the ball will occur when the ball is within the playing distance of a tackler who is demonstrating an intent to tackle for the ball, and the ball could be played at by the tackler, if not shielded by the body or stick of the ball holder, to prevent this action.

It is not necessary to mention physical interfere by a tackler as this breaches Rule 9.3. And an attempt to play at the ball legally may be made impossible by a moving or stationary shielding action by the ball holder. A Rule should not impose or demand an impossibility. i.e. demand that an attempt be made to play at the ball when that has been made impossible by the actions of the opponent in possession of it.

The offence is the illegal prevention of a legal tackle for the ball by an opponent and the criterion should reflect that.

In 1993 the Rule Proper was the same but there was an enormous ‘new interpretation’, occupying one and a half pages, presented in Technical Interpretations in the back of the rule-book. As I have written previously, this “new interpretation” was not in fact a new interpretation, the criterion for an obstruction offence remained exactly as they had been in the previous years. What was introduced was an Exception to the Rule; the Rule was no longer to apply during the time an opponent, (who could be facing in any direction, including towards his or her own base-line) was in the act of receiving and controlling the ball – and only during that time.

I present here only one sentence from this ‘New Interpretation’

Having collected the ball, the receiver must move away in any direction (except, of course, bodily into the tackler) (my bold)

In 1995 the the wording of the Rule was expanded but nothing new was added. The use of the words “to prevent an attempt”. would have been better than “from attempting” (and that is still the case)

Obstruction. Players shall not obstruct an opponent from attempting to play the ball by :
• moving or interposing themselves or their sticks
• shielding the ball with their sticks or any part of their bodies
• physically interfering with the sticks or bodies of opponents.

And there was a one word alteration to the ‘New Interpretation’.

(Having received it) the player with the ball may move off with the ball in any direction (except bodily into the tackler). (my bold)

It is impossible to describe that change as either a simplification or a clarification. It changed an instruction to take a certain action – to move away (from opponents?) (presumably with the ball) – to wording that provided no instruction or prohibition, except prohibiting moving bodily into a tackler, an action already prohibited under Rule 9.3. It was (and remains in later form) an obscurantism.

Within three years of publishing the ‘new interpretation’ the late George Croft, then Hon. Sec. of the Hockey Rules Board, felt obliged to point out to players and umpires in the Preface of the 1998 Rules of Hockey that there still was, despite what some might think, an Obstruction Rule. A similar comment would not be out of place in the current rule-book.

In 2002 the following was included as clarification in the Advice to Umpires section of the rule-book and was also presented in the first of the published Umpire Managers Briefing for Umpires at FIH Tournaments (the UMB).

Umpires should be aware of players who are in possession of the ball who:
• back into an opponent;
• turn and try to push past an opponent;
• shield the ball with body, leg or stick and stand still when under pressure;
• drag the ball near their back foot when moving down the side-line or along the back-line;
• shield the ball with the stick to prevent a legitimate tackle.

All of which had become standard tactics at the time. The prohibition on ball dragging (shunting, crabbing) now needs expansion and the inclusion of these actions (and others) away from the side-lines and base-lines. But instead, in 2004 following a reformatting of the rule-book, using a different page size, the entire Technical Interpretations and Advice to Umpires sections were deleted. An act of vandalism referred to as a simplification. The following then became the entire Rule and Explanation.

Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.
Players obstruct if they:
– back into an opponent
– physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent
– shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent.

“may move off” was replaced by the equally vacuous “is permitted to move off with it” which was only an improvement because it stipulated moving off with the ball (immediately passing the ball away had always been an alternative option)

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction). This also applies if an attacker runs across or blocks defenders (including the goalkeeper) when a penalty corner is being taken.

The last clause confusingly mixed a player blocking or interposing while tackling for the ball, with the entirely different offence of Third Party Obstruction.The clause is badly set out and should separate these different types of obstruction into two paragraphs.

The pages of the ‘new interpretation’ were reduced to a single short sentence, the bizarre:- A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction. (instructions to a moving player were abandoned for obvious reason i.e. in practice they were exactly the same as the instructions to stationary players and should never have been presented as if there was a difference between them. It’s bizarre because no explanation for it is offered, and it led very quickly to the idea that a stationary player in possession of the ball could not obstruct an opponent – hence the development of the practice of ‘holding’ the ball in a corner of the pitch or up against a side-line or even a base-line – which in saner times would have been penalised with a penalty stroke if done by a defender in his or her own circle).

In 2009 The clause which begins “A player with the ball is permitted…” was extended to include moving to position between an opponent who was trying to play at the ball and the ball (this addition to the Rule Explanation is largely ignored in current umpiring practice). My previous comment about preventing an opponent playing at the ball also applies to this extension

2009
9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

Players obstruct if they :
– back into an opponent
– physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent
– shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it. (my bold)

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction). This also applies if an attacker runs across or blocks defenders (including the goalkeeper or player with goalkeeping privileges) when a penalty corner is being taken.

The above Rule, which is current, is one of the reasons I do not want to see a Rule change moratorium. It needs restoration. Useful clauses that have been removed, what they are they should be obvious, need to be returned and further clarified.

Similar work needs to be done on the Ball Body Contact Rule (including the Forcing Rule), the Dangerously Played Ball Rule, the Raised Hit Rule, the Ball in the Air Rule (including the playing of the ball at above shoulder height and Use of Stick Rule), the Free Hit Rule, the Umpiring Rules and the replacement of the Penalty Corner, among others.

September 22, 2019

Obstruction Basics 3 The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Rules of Hockey.

Obstruction.

Twists and turns good spin turning. Spatial awareness, timing, early wide movement away from opponents.

or


Turning into, shunting across, blocking.
Physical contact.
Boring, near static play. Which do you prefer?

 

Proper application of the Rule makes the difference.

September 19, 2019

Obstruction Basics Part Two

Rules of Hockey.

Responsibility and Liability. Turning into physical contact. Turning to shield and then shunt (crab). Running past the ball to shield it. Blocking off by stepping over the ball and turning.

September 16, 2019

Behind the play – not on-side of opponent

Rules of Hockey

Description of circumstances in which an opponent is not his or her own goal side of the ball or the player in possession of the ball and is trying to tackle. Such a tackler cannot be obstructed by the body of the player in possession of the ball (stick obstruction and fending off the opponent’s stick with a leg or arm/hand remain a possibility)

 

September 14, 2019

Not an offence – by who

Rules of Hockey

A look at related Rule and the forcing of ball contact in the last ten years or so. About thirty random examples from hundreds I have on video.
Watch the skill with which top players deliberately break the Rules and the aplomb with which top umpires allow them to do so.

September 13, 2019

Video referrals One.

Rules of Hockey

Ball body contact and encroaching mistakes.

Some very strange ‘interpretation’ of the ball body contact Rule , advantage and the Advantage Rule.

September 10, 2019

Learning from Mistakes.

Rules of Hockey.

After several years of producing incident clips from hockey matches I have seen the same umpires makes the same mistakes repeatedly. There is no evidence they know they are making mistakes, no acknowledgement of them, and certainly no learning so as not to repeat them time and time again.

I blame the FIH Rules Committee for inadequate Rules and the FIH Umpiring Committee for poor umpire coaching.

September 6, 2019

Guide Tape Dangerously Played Ball

Rules of Hockey.

Prior to 2004, the year when the stand alone Rule prohibiting the raising of a ball at another player was deleted (it was transferred to Rule 9.9. as Explanation and a 5m limit added to it – opening the way for the uncontrolled drag-flick shot, generally made as a first shot during a penalty corner). I used to write frequently to hockey forums to point out that the drag-flick shots then made, especially when made high towards opponents, were illegal.

I used to point to the absurdity of a severely height restricted first hit shot during a penalty corner and the lack of any height control at all over a drag flick, which could be made at the same or a greater velocity, than an undercut or edge hit, when any raising of the ball towards an opponent was prohibited. The Rule was simply ignored. The deletion of the Rule may well have been made in response to my pointing out it was not being enforced and that there did not exist any emphasis on player safety.

Now (and for at least the last ten years) I have suggested a height limit approach to both the raised hit made outside the opponent’s circle (even into open space – shoulder height) and a ball raised at an opponent (with any stroke or deflection – sternum height) from beyond 5m, even as a shot at the goal, as an additional means of applying both Rule 9.8.(dangerously played ball) and 9.9 (the intentionally raised hit). I have also suggested the restoration of the prohibition on raising the ball into the opponent’s circle with any hit, but all these suggestions are ignored.

There continues to be no evidence of concern for player safety, in fact quite the opposite, attempt has been made to remove legitimate evasive action as a reason to penalise for dangerous play. This is seen as progressive rather than stupid.

August 22, 2019

Dangerously played ball.

Rules of Hockey.

9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.

A ball is also considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by opponents.
The penalty is awarded where the action causing the danger took place.

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.

The above paragraph is about raised hits, the following one is about flicks and scoops (which are by definition raised)

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. 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.

I assume, following the advice of the UMB, applying common sense to the application of the Rules, the combination of the above two clauses, that a hit that is raised towards an opponent within 5m must also be considered to be dangerous play. Why would this not be the case when raised hits generally exceed the velocity of flicks and scoops? The paragraph does state that a raised hit may be considered dangerous.

The mention of a shot in the above clause is strange as in general play a ball could be raised at an opponent from anywhere on a pitch, it looks as if that phrasing was just ‘copy- pasted’ directly from the Penalty Corner Rule, which is careless drafting.

Most of the remaining Rules about a ball that has been dangerously raised with a hit or flick are contained in the Penalty Corner Rules. What is missing is the playing of the ball in a way, usually a scoop, that will result in a falling ball, a circumstance that may lead to dangerous play or be in itself dangerous if a scoop is made at an opponent. I am not going to comment further on a scoop or aerial pass in this article because I want to focus on an anomaly in the Rules concerning flicks and hits towards opponents.

Penalty Corner

3.3 l if the first shot at goal is a hit (as opposed to a push,flick or scoop), the ball must cross the goal-line, or be on a path which would have resulted in it crossing the goal-line, at a height of not more than 460 mm (the height of the backboard) before any deflection, for a goal to be scored.

The requirements of this Rule apply even if the ball touches the stick or body of a defender before the first shot at goal.

If the first shot at goal is a hit and the ball is, or will be, too high crossing the goal-line it must be penalised even if the ball is subsequently deflected off the stick or body of another player.

The ball may be higher than 460 mm during its flight before it crosses the goal-line provided there is no danger and provided it would drop of its own accord below 460 mm before crossing the line.

m for second and subsequent hits at the goal and for flicks, deflections and scoops, it is permitted to raise the ball to any height but this must not be dangerous.

A defender who is clearly running into the shot or into the taker without attempting to play the ball with their stick must be penalised for dangerous play.

I have head match commentators and others state that it is a dangerous play offence for a defender to close on a striker during a penalty corner especially if the defender runs from within the goal. That is utter nonsense. Any defender who intentionally runs into the ball or the body of an opponent commits an offence, but a defender who closes on an opponent with the intention of playing at the ball with his stick is not committing an offence. If an outrunning and closing defender is hit with the ball that is a separate matter and then the Rule as published must be applied. It is wrong to conflate outrunning with getting hit with the ball. When a defender is hit with the ball that is frequently the fault of the player who propelled the ball.

Otherwise, if a defender is within five metres of the first shot at goal during the taking of a penalty corner and is struck by the ball below the knee, another penalty corner must be awarded or is struck on or above the knee in a normal stance,the shot is judged to be dangerous and a free hit must be awarded to the defending team

Readers may have noticed some anomalies in and between the above Rules.
1) The Rule governing the first hit shot at goal during a penalty corner is far more severe than the Rule governing any other shot taken at any time during a match. There is a height limit of 460mm which applies whether or not another player is actually endangered with the ball. A ball raised above 460mm will be penalised – for what penalised is not made clear, it seems to be just for failure to comply with the Rule.

2) On the other hand a hit shot which is raised below 460mm into an outrunning defender during a penalty corner, even if that runner is within 5m, will result in the award of another penalty corner. This directly conflicts with the Explanation of rule Application given in Rule 9.9 concerning the raising of the ball towards another player. The Penalty Corner Rule it seems overrules the open play Rule. However:-

3) Although there is no mention of knee height in the general open play Rules it has become common practice to regard any ball raised towards an opponent in open play as not dangerous if it is not raised to knee height or above. So Penalty Corner Rule is being applied outside of the penalty corner and is again considered the superior Rule – that has to be wrong. We have added to this the advice to umpires in the UMB which states that a ball raised into an opponent at below half shin-pad height is not dangerous – also a contradiction of Rule 9.9. Which, because it take no account at all of the circumstances in which such a ball might be played, is a dangerous nonsense.

4) The height restriction on a first hit shot during a penalty corner extends to and beyond the goal-line. The height restriction on a flick (drag-flick) extends to 5m; beyond that distance a flick shot can be judged dangerous only if it causes legitimate evasive action. But many umpires are of the opinion that evasive action taken by a player who is more than 5m from the ball cannot be legitimate because such players should easily be able to evade the ball (evading a ball that is travelling in excess of 100kmh is not at all easy). Legitimate evasive action is evading the ball to avoid being hit with it (and defines a dangerously played ball) so suggesting easy evasion as a reason for not penalising the raising of the ball at a player does not make sense especially when legitimate evasive action is not distance limited. The problem is of course that “legitimate” is not defined and is therefore a subjective judgement.

5) There is no mention of ball velocity in the Rules and no other objective criteria beyond knee height and 5m. There should be. It should be considered dangerous play to propel the ball at high velocity at another player at sternum height or above, from any distance. High velocity could be considered as a velocity that could cause injury to a player if hit with the ball at the height it was raised. The umpire can ask himself “If that hit me at that height would it injure me?”

6) The Penalty Corner Rule states:- for second and subsequent hits at the goal and for flicks, deflections and scoops, it is permitted to raise the ball to any height but this must not be dangerous. That of course means that no flick or scoop shot should be made at the goal in a way that endangers another player. Hits are only separated into second and subsequent because the first hit shot is dealt with separately in the preceding Rule clause. Do we ever see drag-flick shots endanger or injure defenders? Hell yes, and the umpire then, contrary to Rule, penalise the defender.

7) The tactic of hitting or pushing the ball along the ground towards the goal during a penalty corner, an action which is indistinguishable from a shot, and then deflecting that ‘shot’ in a planned way, high into the goal from close range is another circumvention (the first being the drag flick) of the intent of the restrictions on the first shot at goal made during a penalty corner. I have seen defenders who have been hit with such a close range deflection penalised with a penalty stroke even though they had no chance at all of avoiding being hit with the ball deflected high into their body. A way need to be found of curtailing this development which is often far more dangerous to defenders than raising the ball to above knee height at an out-running defender who is within 5m.

The following video shows an example of what I consider to be a dangerously played ball. I have received comment via YouTube that the award of the penalty corner was correct because a defender can be seen to place his hand on the attacker. That is true, but that action, although an offence did not disadvantage the attacker in any way, and should have been ignored following Rule 12.1.  I hope my critic, who thinks I have a very awkward view of the Rules, is not an umpire but I suspect he is.

I have a collection of video clips, there are dozens of them, where an attacker has made what I believe to be a dangerous hit or flick into or towards a defender and a goal or a penalty has been awarded against the defender. I have only one example in which an umpire penalised a dangerous shot which hit a defender. The bias against defending is very pronounced.

August 19, 2019

Spin turn coaching and Rule

Rules of Hockey

The meaning and order of words.

The above video which contains two examples of online coaching of the spin turn to elude an opponent, one by a brilliant international player and the other by two youngsters. They are the same, and wrong in two vital aspects. Firstly no account is taken of a realistic tackle for the ball and secondly, the Obstruction Rule, which should determine how a spin turn is coached once the basic footwork is established, is completely ignored. In other words there is no advanced coaching, it does not go beyond the inactive dummy stage – so that is what is generally seen in hockey matches.

The Rule is not well written. I will here explain why I make that statement.

Firstly,clauses are incompletely or poorly worded.

Players obstruct if they back into an opponent.

Does that mean back towards an opponent (into the playing reach of an opponent) without making contact) or backing into physical contact? The following clause gives a clue.

Players obstruct if they physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent.

Backing into physical contact is physically interfering with the body of an opponent and there seems no reason to repeat the prohibition, ergo the first clause is not about making physical contact. But it could be claimed (and is) that this is a subjective interpretation of the wording and the matter is still not clear. So backing with the ball, taking the ball into the playing reach of an opponent could be legitimate except it is difficult to see how that could be done without shielding the ball from the opponent to prevent a tackle attempt, which is illegal. That brings me to the next problem clause.

Players obstruct if they shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

Under the heading Obstruction in the UMB umpires are advised to ask themselves the question “Is there movement to prevent a tackle attempt?” and then obviously to take action according to the answer to that question The shielding clause given with the Rule Explanation is not clearly about the prevention of a tackle attempt, when it should be. I think it needs to be reworded to replace “from” with “to prevent”:-

Players obstruct if they shield the ball to prevent a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

I believe that follows the intent of the FIH RC when they drafted this ball shielding clause.

The 2004 and 2009 amendments, (the first a rewrite of the Rule and the deletion of all the previous Rule Interpretation previously contained in an Interpretations section in the back of the rule-book), were not properly integrated with previous clauses, so we are taken back to the subject of moving bodily into and/or moving to position between an opponent and the ball when that opponent is attempting to play at the ball.

This is the result of the 2009 amendment (the part from the word ‘or’ onward was added). The first part reinforces that moving bodily into an opponent – physical contact – is not permitted. ‘Backing into’, which is separately listed, can therefore reasonably be seen as a different action i.e. moving into an opponent’s playing reach without making physical contact. The contact Rule clause is otherwise unnecessarily repeated three times in this Rule alone.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

That at first sight looks reasonably clear but there is an ambiguity that those who think the Obstruction Rule should be deleted (and such people certainly exist) take advantage of to misapply the Rule or not apply it at all. I highlight the problem below:-

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent

OR

into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

Put like that the clause is not clear, it can be interpreted in several ways because there is separation of “except into a position between the ball and an opponent” when there should not be.

The 2009 amendment was simply an extension of the adjoining clause using the word “or”. It is possible to add ‘alternatively’ to get “or alternatively” but the meaning and clarity is not much changed. It is also possible to use “or differently” “or similarly” Which is best? Would a separate clause be the best option to avoid the ambiguous “or”? I believe so. Therefore I suggest, using the negative form previously employed in the Rules as well as change to the wording which does not alter the meaning or intent of the Rule:-

A player with the ball is not permitted to move with it in any way, that will cause (result in) physical contact with an opponent.

A player with the ball is not permitted to move into a position which places any part of his body between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play at it (clearly demonstrating an intent to play at the ball).

Are clear Rule clauses too blunt for liberal tastes?

The remaining Rule clause is about an opponent running to position between a player and the ball and about the blocking off of that player from the ball. This is incorrectly described as ‘third party obstruction’ (as if it was could only mean third party obstruction). The description is incorrect because such obstructive actions can be the simple obstruction of one player by another, who has moved to position between the ball and an opposing player who would otherwise have been able to play at the ball, but it may instead be third party obstruction, where the obstructed player need not be within playing distance of the ball at the time of the blocking off (by the third party) in order to be obstructed. These quite distinct actions require separate clauses and ‘third party obstruction’ needs an adequate separate description.

In the above incident the GER No.10 is clearly preventing an ARG player approaching a GER team-mate in order to challenge her for the ball. Obviously a third party obstruction. But not according to the coaching provided with the video by the FIH Umpiring Committee who give a quite difference interpretation to this incident in a coaching video presented via Dartfish.com.According to that there was no obstruction because there was no attempt made to play at the ball.

I suspect the interpretation, given within the video (pause the video to read it) was devised to follow the decision made by the match umpire (unfortunately a common occurrence), which was to allow play to continue, instead of awarding the appropriate penalty corner (or penalty stroke) and personal penalty.

August 18, 2019

Spin turn coaching

Rules of Hockey

This coaching video is on the right track, moving to position between an opponent and the ball is an obstruction offence. But I take issue with the action given as correct. The player with the ball turns to position between her opponent and the ball after she has moved to within the defender’s playing reach – this too is obstruction – the positioning of the leg of the ball holder prevents the defender from attempting a legal tackle when she would otherwise have been able to do so and obstruction can be made with any part of the body, it need not be a full body block.

The turning movement needs to be started before coming within the playing reach of a player intent on tackling, unless the tackler can be eliminated by his or her own angle of approach and momentum. This is rarely possible when the tackler has adopted a defensive stance and is watching the ball closely.

The turn should be used to achieve a more lateral movement, rather than a predominantly forward movement into the reach of the defender, so that the ball is put and then kept beyond the playing reach of the opponent who is being eluded.

The example given as correct play is not obstruction only because the ‘tackler’ in this case is just acting as a dummy and is not actually attempting to play at the ball. There can be no obstruction offence unless it is forced by a tackle attempt. (forced not ‘manufactured’). In a competitive match the two players would probably have collided in some way and that should be seen as the fault of the spinning player unless the tackler just uses a barge rather than trying to play at the ball with the stick.

August 17, 2019

Unqualified umpire.

Rules of Hockey

The original video link does not work (I have no idea why) so I have substituted another, later,           example of wilful blindness from a match official. This one at international level.

It’s unusual to see an unqualified umpire officiate a top level domestic league match (some readers might disagree with that statement) but this one really is a stand out ignoramus.

He ignored obstructions that breached every described obstructive action in the Explanation given with the Obstruction Rule, including backing into physical contact.
Then he ignored the deliberate raising of the ball into a close opponent and rounded of this charade by immediately awarding a penalty corner against the team of the player hit with the ball, despite the ball having rebounded off the defender and back into the possession of the attacker (so the defender could not possibly have gained an advantage from the forced contact). As the contact was clearly not intended by the defender (he tried to avoid being hit) and the attacker was not disadvantaged there was no offence by the defender to penalise, and even if there had been an offence by the defender (intent to use his leg to stop the ball for example), there would have been no reason, following Rule 12.1. Advantage, to penalise.

The march was played in 2018. I have no idea who the “umpire” is or which clubs the competing teams were playing for. But it is obviously past time the FIH produced some accurate Rules coaching videos for umpires and players – that is videos very different from the deeply flawed initial efforts which for some years were published via Dartfish.com by individuals appointed by the FIH Umpiring Committee.

August 14, 2019

“This is Obstruction” Coaching video 2004

Rules of Hockey

At end of the 2003 season Hockey Australia produced an umpire coaching video on obstruction which I have incorporated into the above video. There can be no doubt that the second incident shown included both obstruction and physical contact offences by the player in possession of the ball, but the first incident, featuring an ARG player in possession showed play that has never been considered obstructive.

It is true that umpires have generally been more inclined to ‘see’ obstruction when the ball is carried to the left of the body, but regardless of which side of the body the ball is carried, if it is kept to the front of the feet it is highly unlikely there can be an obstruction offence.

Moreover, body obstruction of an opponent who is behind the play (i.e. is not her own goal-side of the ball and the player in possession of the ball), is an impossibility, no matter how close to the ball that player may be.

It is still possible in such circumstances for a ball holder to be guilty of obstruction if an attempt by a tackler to play at the ball with her stick is fended off by the stick of the ball holder or by her leg or hand/arm to prevent contact with the ball which would otherwise have occurred, but a ball holder having her body positioned between an opponent, who has been by-passed, and the ball, cannot be guilty only because of that positioning, of an obstruction offence. Clearly the coach did not understand the Obstruction Rule. I wonder what he would have made of this current approach to blocking and ball shielding to prevent a tackle by an opponent? Bewilderment? Probably.

Going back to the first video above, had the player in possession been running towards her own goal she would have been obliged to keep the ball beyond the playing reach of any closing tackler, but she was moving towards her opponent’s goal and even if she did pull the ball back (which she did not) that action would not have been an obstruction.

The tightening up of the Obstruction Rule with the addition of “(sic) A player shall not move…. into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.” which occurred in 2009, was a “too little too late” attempt by the FIH Rules Committee to prevent the type of play, common by then, seen by the BEL player in the final action of the first video above. As can be seen in the video this addition, which reinforced what was already in the Rule, was completely ignored by umpires. In fact in these circumstances umpire are far more likely to penalise the tackler for attempting a tackle from a position where it it is not possible to play at the ball without making physical contact – a position which the ball holder has deliberately ‘engineered’ with just such an outcome in mind.

Amazingly defenders will sometimes hold the ball against their own base-line in the circle and then attempt to shunt sideways along the line and out of the circle while shielding the ball from opponents with stick, leg and body to prevent a legitimate tackle, without being penalised with a penalty stroke, which would be the correct decision in such circumstances, there being nothing accidental about such actions.

obs 9a

Here is some interesting coaching from 2014. The coach is instructing player to place the ball behind their left shoulder when carrying the ball to their left hand side in order to use the body to protect the ball. He is in other words coaching them to breach the Obstruction Rule. I wonder did he know that?

August 10, 2019

Use of Stick Rules should be amended.

Rules of Hockey

Players shall not:
13.1.1 Use of stick and playing equipment
a. play the ball intentionally with the back of the stick
b. take part in or interfere with the game unless they have their stick in their hand
c. play the ball above shoulder height with any part of the stick
d. lift their sticks over the heads of players
e. raise their sticks in a manner that is dangerous, intimidating or hampering to other players when approaching, attempting to play or playing the ball
f. play the ball dangerously or in such a way as to be likely to lead to dangerous play
A ball is dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by players.
g. hit, hook, charge, kick, shove, trip, strike at or personally handle other players or their sticks or clothing
h. throw any object or piece of playing equipment on to the field, at the ball, at another player, or at an umpire.
13.1.2 Use of body, hands, feet by players other than goal- keepers
a. stop or catch the ball with the hand
There is nothing to prevent players using their hands to protect themselves from dangerously raised balls.
b. intentionally stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their bodies

It is not automatically an offence if the ball hits the foot or body of a player. Players should not be penalised when the ball is played into them. It is only an offence if the ball hits the foot or body of a player and that player:
• moved intentionally into the path of the ball, or
• made no effort to avoid being hit, or
• was positioned with the clear intention to stop the ball with the foot or body or
• gains benefit.
c. use the foot or leg to support the stick in a tackle.
d. intentionally enter their opponents’ goal or stand on their opponents’ goal-line
e. intentionally run behind either goal

13.1.3 Raised ball
a. intentionally raise the ball from a hit except for a shot at goal
b. intentionally raise the ball so that it lands directly in the circle
Not every ball entering the circle off the ground is forbidden.
A ball which bounces into or lands in the circle after a short distance must be judged solely on the intent or danger.
A ball raised over a player’s stick or body when on the ground, even in the circle, must be judged solely on danger.

c. approach within 5 metres of a player receiving a falling raised ball until it has been played and is on the ground.

d. raise the ball at another player.

The above were the Rules concerning stick use and certain other potentially dangerous actions until 2004. There was an emphasis on player safety within them. That emphasis is now almost entirely missing. Note how many of the above Rules have been deleted or amended in a way that weakened them.

I would like to see a prohibition on the raising any part of the stick above shoulder height by a player in possession of the ball when an opposing player is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play at it and a similar prohibition when two or more players are competing for a loose ball.

The Rules concerning the playing, particularly the raising, of the ball towards another player should be restored (the Explanation given with the current Rule 9.9. already prohibits this action but it is apparently (but not really there being no limit put on legitimate evasive action) contained within a 5m limit, and this clause is anyway widely ignored.)

Raising the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit, irrespective of intention, should be a prohibited action and raising the ball into the opponent’s circle with any other stroke or even an accidental deflection should be height limited (elbow height ??)

July 16, 2019

Dangerously confused

Rules of Hockey.

9.2 Players on the field must hold their stick and not use it in a dangerous way.
Players must not lift their stick over the heads of other players.

That would be better put Players must not lift any part of their stick across the heads of other players (or even better over and across the heads of other players), because the published clause does not mean that a player may not raise any part of the stick above the height of the head of an opponent – which is what the previous shoulder height limit meant. What is written is not precisely what is meant (or not the way the Rule is commonly applied), which is potentially confusing.

9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.

A ball is also considered dangerous when it  causes legitimate evasive action by opponents. The penalty is awarded where the action causing the danger took place.

Umpires almost always order the awarded free ball following dangerous play to be taken from the place where danger occurred – that is not what is written in the Rule Explanation. This has relevance to the penalizing of incidents following, in particular, a scoop pass (or a high deflection) and a falling ball. Sometimes danger occurs where its primary cause happened, sometimes it does not and the placement of the free ball should reflect that difference. 

The video contains a number of different kinds of ‘dangerous ball’ incidents. Some are confusing in (sic)their own right, others cause confusion when compared to similar types of incidents that lead to different (penalty?) outcomes or no penalty at all.

The first incident occurs so quickly that I use only slow-mo of the action and a still. A player in possession of the ball raises the ball at an opponent within 5m and forces him to self defence, Height is not a consideration in these circumstances (raised and within 5m is the Rule criteria) but for completeness, I mention that the ball was raised to above knee height (there is a possibility that there are some participants that believe the ball must be raised to knee height or above for there to be a dangerous play offence – even though this has never been the case, it is a meme)

The ball rebounded a considerable distance from the stick of the defending BEL player and he had to sprint to catch it before it went out of play or was collected by a NED player.

The umpire did not intervene, there was no penalty awarded for this foul, which was the result of deliberately raising the ball with a powerful flick that directed the ball straight at an opponent (the intention of the player who propelled the ball was unknowable – what he did, the action he took, was clear.) The fact that an opponent successfully defends a dangerously played  ball (as defined in the Explanation of Rule 9.9) does not make that raised ball a safe one, there has still been an offence.

The second incident shown is of an obviously accidental deflection off the stick of a defender who was trying to intercept/stop the ball. The ball loops gently into the thigh of a NED player (but again, despite what Charlesworth, said in commentary, height was irrelevant) who I think could have avoided it easily if he had wanted to. A penalty corner was recommended following video referral by the NED team. There was clearly no intent by the defender to raise the ball at the NED player and it is difficult to see how the NED player was disadvantaged by this unintentional breach of the  Explanation given with Rule.9.9.

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.

Note a flick or a scoop is an intentional stroke used to raise the ball and an accidental deflection may not have been intended to be included as a criterion for offence. But again, a hit stroke is not mentioned – even though Rule 9.9. is about intentionally raised hits – and a raised hit is likely to be at least as dangerous to others as a flick or scoop may be. So we have a dilemma –  between intent of action and type of stroke – why were flicks and scoops mentioned in the Explanation but hits and intentional deflections omitted? The original Rule, by not mentioning a stroke at all, included all means of intentionally raising the ball towards an opponent. But then the original Rule did not include a distance limit either – it was a safer Rule – a ball could be considered to have endangered an opponent from any distance where there was legitimate evasive action. The original Rule with the addition of distance specific height limits would be a much better current Rule.

There is a huge difference between the outcome of this incident (the accidental deflection) and the outcome of the previous incident (deliberately raising the ball towards an opponent with a powerful flick) but I am not suggesting either decision was wrong – just incomprehensible, if actual endangerment and fairness are criteria for the award of a penalty for dangerous play.

The third incident is a high velocity raised edge hit into the circle. I have no doubt at all that this hit was raised intentionally. The BEL player attempting to tackle made a show of avoiding being hit, but I don’t think there a was any possibility of that happening. Nonetheless the raised hit was a foul which disadvantaged the BEL team.

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.       

Although the previous incident was an accidental deflection rather than a miss-hit I think the following has relevance.:-

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.

We can go around in circles on this. Was the softly deflected ball in the previous incident likely to cause any hurt or injury to the NED player ? If not, then any evasive action should not be described as legitimate. ButA ball is dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action”. What does “causes” mean? What does legitimate mean? (Genuine? Legal? Necessary?) What if evasive action is not taken when the player towards whom the ball is travelling is 1) aware of its path and 2) the ball is not moving fast enough to cause hurt or injury and 3) evasive action could very easily have been taken? Does that not fit with an intention to use the body to stop the ball?

The raised edge hit, judged explicitly on the intent to raise it, was obviously an offence and should have been penalised. It was far more dangerous than the gentle accidental deflection for which a penalty corner was awarded. But umpires have lots of problems with intention because it does not have physical form and it cannot be measured i.e. it is not an objective criterion.

I have problems with edge-hitting; this (picture) is apparently a legitimate edge-hit:-

That looks like back-sticks to me and I think that if edge-hitting is to be permitted – and it obviously is – then the back-sticks Rule ought to be abolished. Then players could hit the ball ‘back-hand’ with a more upright stance and there would be less likelihood of the ball being raised accidentally or raised more than is intended.

The next incident the raise looping deflection into the circle looks, at live speed, to be a ball squeezed up between two sticks coming together on either side of it i.e. a no fault or at least, a no determinable fault, incident. I do not believe that at live speed anyone could have seen exactly what happened. I cannot understand the umpire (who possibly did not see the contact at all) immediately awarding a penalty corner.

Of course the BEL team disputed the award, but the video umpire had no chance of sorting out who was responsible and had no choice but to say “I see no reason to change your decision” If the umpire had initially ordered a free to BEL and the NED team had referred, he would have had to have said the same thing.

In saner times, such deflections resulted in the award of a bully five yards from the circle. Even high deflections up off the protective equipment of a goalkeeper resulted in the award of a bully. For fairness as well as safety these sorts of incidents still should result in the award of a bully restart on the hash circle.

The most dangerous aspect of this incident was ignored. That was the actions of the two players who rushed in to get beneath the falling ball and compete for it by taking a swing at it. The NED player ‘won’ that contest but thankfully he shot wide of the goal (thankfully because a penalty corner had already been awarded) Both players could reasonably have been awarded a yellow card, not least because they continued playing after the whistle had been blown, but also for dangerous play.

The final incident is an ‘air shot’ and I am really confused about it, not least because of this incident:-

Olympic Final Rossario. At the time it happened I was critical that the obstruction was not penalised, but there was also, obviously, dangerous use of the stick by the player in possession of the ball – that too was ignored. The match was restarted with a side-line ball to the NED team???. The injured ARG player had to retire for treatment and took no further part in the match.

Apparently it is not dangerous play to hit a player in the face with a high follow through after hitting the ball (the defender shouldn’t get in the way ???), but it is dangerous play to miss the ball when attempting to hit it, even when no one is endangered by the stick swing. Oh players ducked, but they were not at risk of being hit with the stick on that swing path: the evasion was not legitimate. The striker had firm control of the stick-swing path, it was his timing that was off.

The Rules about a dangerously played ball ought to be among the clearest and fairest in the rule-book, in line with the supposed emphasis on safety. In fact they are a confusing mess, heavily reliant on ‘legitimate evasive action’ which has no clear meaning, and missing objective criteria on height limits and ball velocity.

There isn’t a Rule about dangerous use of the stick which goes much beyond “Don’t use the stick in a dangerous way.” What does that mean? Here is an old video clip of an example of play which I see as obstruction and dangerous use of the stick (a view I have been roundly ridiculed for)

A tackler approaches from front left of the player in possession of the ball (PIP). The PIP turns about the ball to shield it from the approaching tackler, when the tackler is within playing reach of the ball, and then hits at the ball. The stick back-swing of the PIP catches the defender on the head as he attempts to adjust position to play at the ball. The tackler could not reasonably have attempted to go around the other side of the PIP (and into the follow through of the stick after the ball was struck).

The umpire penalised the tackler.

The PIP was obviously aware of the approaching defender and that he was very close when he turned to shield the ball from him (that’s obstruction).

I see the PIP’s use of the stick in the circumstances as dangerous play and I believe we need a Rule which prohibits the raising of any part of the stick to above shoulder height when there is an opponent within playing reach of the ball or within the range of the potential stick-swing of a PIP who is hitting at the ball.

The alternative in these circumstances i.e. when a PIP turns to shield the ball from an approaching opponent, is to say that the opponent may not attempt to play at the ball when it is shielded from him because he is not in a position to play at it. (Under current Rule if no attempt is made to play at the ball there can be no obstruction. An obstruction offence must be forced by means of a tackle attempt). We then arrive at a situation where a ball shielding player cannot be guilty of an obstruction offence because he cannot be tackled – because he is shielding the ball from (obstructing) the player intent on tackling – which is pretty much, looking at current ‘practice’, where we already are.

The combination of ball shielding (obstruction) and reverse edge hitting are a frequent cause of dangerous play and of injury.

July 11, 2019

Forced onto

Rules of Hockey

The deconstruction of the Ball-Body Contact Rule and the Forcing Rule.

Players shall not hit wildly into an opponent or play or kick the ball in such a way as to be dangerous in itself, or likely to lead to dangerous play or play the ball intentionally into an opponent’s foot, leg or body.

A player shall not stop or deflect the ball on the ground or in the air with
any part of the body TO HIS OR HIS TEAM’S ADVANTAGE.

There is no suggestion in the above Rules (which were in place for decades prior to 1995) that a player who has had the ball intentionally played into their foot, leg or body has committed an offence – on the contrary, an offence was declared to be committed by the player who intentionally played the ball into an opponent.

After 1995 there was some ambivalence about whether or not a player hit with the ball on the foot (so not with a raised ball) had committed an offence, it seems to be suggested (without explanation) that there is an offence but that offence should not be penalised

Post 1995.
Players shall not raise the ball intentionally at another player.

Post 1998 

Players shall not raise the ball at another player.

(A Rule that was ignored for years after the introduction of the drag-flick as a first shot during a penalty corner. It was deleted as a Rule in 2004 – in line with the emphasis on safety??? – and with the addition of a 5m limit, illogically became part of the Explanation of Rule 9.9, which concerns the intentionally raised hit, when the ball is raised with a flick or scoop)

Umpires should be clear in their minds about the ball hitting the
foot, which may not be an offence, and the foot kicking the ball,
which may be an offence.
It is not intended that undue benefit be gained from such contact.

The previous SHOUTING (use of upper case) that (unintentional) ball body contact should not be penalised unless an advantage was gained by the team of the player hit (as is common now, umpires often penalised contact when there was no reason to do so) softened considerably to “It is not intended that undue benefit be gained from such contact”

Ball body contact.

Players shall not intentionally stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their bodies.

It is not an offence if the ball hits the foot or body of a player unless that player:
• has moved into the path of the ball,
(intentionally and without an attempt to use the stick to play the ball ?) or
• made no effort to avoid being hit,

(having clear intention of being hit?)  or
• was positioned with the clear intention of stopping the ball.
(presumably with the body. How positioning with intention to stop the ball with the body could be determined is a mystery.)

Players should not be penalised when the ball is played at them from a short distance.
(How short a distance?)

The comments required in parentheses give an indication of how poorly written these clauses were.

After 2004 the word “intentionally” disappeared from the Ball Body Contact Rule Proper (Rule 9.11) and ‘benefit’ becomes prominent in the Explanation clause. The only other clause in the Rule is a clarification on the ball hitting the hand holding the stick.

Post 2004

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

It is not an offence if the ball hits the foot, hand or body of a field player, unless that player or their team benefits from this.

No offence is committed if the ball hits the hand holding the stick but would otherwise have hit the stick.

After 2004 there is a clear change of attitude – and a contradiction. A player hit with the ball because of forcing has now offended, all-be-it unintentionally. Unintentional ball-body contact is now also an offence, a forcing offence merely takes precedence over the contact offence – but the forcing must be clear and intentional – i.e. clearly intentional – a burden umpires proved unable to bear, rarely if ever seeing intent to force contact. This “difficulty” was a reason given for eventually deleting the Forcing Rule. The following Rule was deleted in 2011. The way was then open for players to ‘win’ a penalty with an action that was previously an offence even though the announcement of the deletion stated that any forcing action could be penalised under other Rules. (So why the deletion?)

9.13 Players must not force an opponent into offending unintentionally.

Playing the ball clearly and intentionally into any part of an opponent’s body may be penalised as an attempt to manufacture an offence. Forcing an opponent to obstruct (often emphasised by running into an opponent or by waving the stick) must also be penalised.

The debacle that followed the deletion of ‘Gains Benefit’ and the introduction of ‘Voluntarily’ in place of ‘Intentionally’ in 2007 is the subject of another fun article. Gains an advantage was restored to the rule-book in 2016 (effective by order of the FIH Executive May 2015)

Preface of Rules of Hockey 2011

The changes in this edition of the Rules essentially seek to simplify the game without altering its fundamental characteristics.

The Rule which used to say that “players must not force an opponent into offending unintentionally” is deleted because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules.

It is difficult to see how a player the ball has been forced into can be said to have offended at all. A forced contact cannot be a voluntary or intentional contact and any advantage gained by the team of the player hit is a result of the player who propelled the ball disadvantaging him or her self. It cannot in these circumstances be fair or proper ever to penalise the player hit with the ball.

The statement that forcing actions can be dealt with under other Rules has not (as it should have) appeared in any rule-book published after the 2011-13 version, so many umpires are now unaware that the forcing ball-body contact ever was an offence (and any such forcing action still is an offence). The “other Rules” under which any forcing action may be penalised have never been specified (but Rule 9.8 and Rule 9.9 are obvious candidates).

None of the many changes (big and small and to and fro) made to the Ball-Body Contact Rule in the past thirty years have made the slightest difference to the way in which umpires have reacted when there has been a ball body contact in contested play. Penalising the player hit with the ball has become ‘automatic’ i.e. done without any consideration of the criteria for offence.

An example of forcing

The NED attacker clearly plays the ball with considerable velocity towards the left foot of the AUS defender in front of him, the AUS defender is backed up by two other AUS defenders so the NED attacker is clearly not attempting a pass with any expectation that the ball will reach another NED player. Such expectation would be unreasonable.

The AUS player defends his foot with his stick but the frame rate of YouTube videos is such that it is impossible to determine if he succeeded or if there was a ball foot contact. If there was contact it was obviously unintentional and gained no advantage for the AUS team. The ball deflects from the first AUS contact and rises into a second AUS defender, again it is not possible to ascertain from frame by frame examination of the video if there was any ball body contact. If there was it was unintentional and did not gain advantage for the AUS team – the ball runs free to the top of the circle and could have been collected by a NED player positioned there.

The possibility of dangerous play – raising the ball towards another player – by the first AUS defender can be discounted, as a recent change to the dangerously played ball Rule makes clear that a player endangering one of his own team in this way should not be penalised as an offence, because that action does not disadvantage opponents (I don’t think the change to be a wise one because attackers often endanger their own team-mates with wild shots at the goal and a injury is an injury no matter who causes it. An emphasis on safety dictates player safety first).

There was no reason for the umpire to award a penalty corner and good reason for him to penalise the NED player for playing the ball at an opponent from close range.
I cannot remember the last time I saw a player penalised for a forcing offence, this offence was not being penalised even long before it was deleted as a separate stand alone offence.

Forcing which is also clearly a breach of part of the Explanation of Rule 9.9 – raising the ball into an opponent within 5m.The ARG player could have played on with advantage but made no attempt at all to do so. Despite these clear reasons not to penalise the player hit with the ball the umpire did so, awarding a penalty corner.

 

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July 9, 2019

The destruction of the Obstruction Rule.

Rules of Hockey.

The explanation of application of the current Obstruction Rule states:-

1) A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

I’ll change the order in which the three clauses are presented, this is the third in the rule-book:-

2) A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction).

The part in parenthesis should (in my opinion) read  this may also be third party or shadow obstruction because such actions may also be ball shielding by a player in possession of the ball (blocking) or carried out as an obstructive tackle coming from behind the tackled player and imposing the body between that player and the ball.

The clause below was the last amended.

3) A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

A player with the ball here is assumed to refer not to a player who is in the act of receiving the ball, but to one who has received the ball and has it under control.

When the exception to the Obstruction Rule, which permitted a closely marked player to receive the ball without immediately being in breach of the Obstruction Rule (that is without having first to create space to receive the ball without obstructing an opponent – usually by means of a lead run), was first introduced, instruction was given about what the receiving player had to do once the ball was in control, given that in these circumstances the receiving player, then in controlled possession of the ball, had an opponent positioned directly or almost directly behind (sic) them, i.e. within playing reach of the ball in what would previously have been considered an obstructed position.

Having collected the ball, the receiver must move away in any direction (except, of course, bodily into the tackler).

That instruction was fairly loose because it gave no indication of the distance the ball holder (having received the ball) must move away or the speed of such movement. But common practice at the time was that the ball needed to be moved immediately and rapidly beyond the playing reach of any marking defender or the ball had to be immediately passed away beyond playing reach. Critical was “must move away” the ball holder having received the ball was not allowed to dwell on it in a stationary position or indeed to dribble it away at, for example, walking speed – because that would not reasonably be considered to take the ball beyond the reach of any opponent intent on making a tackle for the ball.

The above fairly sensible instruction given in the Rules Interpretations did not last long. Two years later we were presented, without explanation for the change, with:-

Having collected the ball, the receiver may move away in any direction (except, of course, bodily into the tackler).

That is neither a directive or a prohibitive statement, it gives no instruction about moving the ball away or moving away with the ball, except not to move bodily into a tackler. It does not oblige the ball holder to move at all. From this moment on the Obstruction Rule began to fall apart as multiple personal ‘interpretations’ of the meaning of the above clause were applied. It is from this body of ‘interpretation’ that the idea that a stationary player could not obstruct arose – and persisted – despite later instruction to umpires to watch for players who “stand still and shield the ball when under pressure

Then we had A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent in the Rule Explanation – is permitted to move means exactly the same as may move (but “off” does not mean exactly the same as “away” – it is, if anything weaker) why the change to the wording was made is unclear, again no explanation was offered.

But, finally, in 2009, we had the addition of an extension to that clause:-

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it. Which is a current Rule Explanation of Application clause.

That means that a player who has received and controlled the ball may not then move into a position between an opponent and the ball, that is with the ball within the playing reach of an opponent who is attempting to play at it (such moving would naturally include backing towards and moving the ball into the playing reach of an opponent while shielding it, because such moving is not excluded)- and of course a ball holder may not remain stationary in a blocking position with the ball within the playing reach of an opponent who is attempting to play at it – see the clause numbered 2) above. The 2009 amendment seems however to have come too late, by the time it was enacted umpires had become accustomed to allowing receiving players to do as they liked once the ball was in control – and they continued doing what had become an easy habit – all the ‘onus’ (to get unobstructed) had long been transferred to the tackling player, the 2009 amendment was largely ignored and remains so.

But nonetheless the Rule as written means that static blocking or a very small movement to shield the ball from an opponent can be an obstructive offence.

Here is a subtle example of obstructive play from the 2018 World Cup- Aus v Ned . There is very little movement by the ball holder but he commits three offences.

The Aus player receives the ball with his stick near horizontal to make a strong secure stop.

He then moves his left leg forward and then plants his right foot to his right making contact with and blocking off the stick of the Ned defender who is trying to tackle – this is an offence.

He moves across until he has completely blocked off the Ned defender with his body. This is moving into a position between the tackler and the ball and is his second offence (the first being stick interference). He makes no attempt at all to move off or move away from the defender with the ball once it is in his control. His obvious first legitimate direction of movement with the ball would have been to his left, as the defender was to his right rear, however he chose not to try and outrun the defender but to try immediately to make space for a shot.

The Aus player now uses a reverse stroke to feint to his right with the ball.

Then moves to his left as he leans back bodily into the tackler (an offence) and pivots off his right foot. In stepping back he traps the stick of the defender between his legs – because the defender had reached for the ball between the legs of the Aus player who was blocking his path to the ball (there is no ‘onus’ on a tackler to position to tackle or to go around a ball shielding opponent – that ‘interpretation’ was deleted post 2003) The tackler here had no opportunity anyway to move around the ball holder’s left side (and to do so would have opened the way for a free reverse edge shot) and if he had attempted to move around the ball-holders right side he would have given him a free forehand shot at the goal – he had in the circumstances to stay behind the ball holder and attempt to play at the ball from that position.

Having tangled himself with the defender’s stick the Aus player became impeded with it and made an off-target shot that went off the end of the pitch. There was therefore no need to penalise his obstructions or the physical contact as these offences did not ultimately disadvantage the Dutch team, but I doubt the umpire would have penalised the attacker anyway (if he had achieved an on-target shot). Very few umpires appear to understand the words

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

As meaning:-  A player with the ball is not permitted to move bodily into an opponent or into a  [blocking/shielding] position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it – which the wording clearly does mean.

Once a receiving player has control of the ball he or she then becomes ‘a player with the ball’ and there is no further exception to the Obstruction Rule; any further ball shielding that prevents an opponent playing at the ball, when that opponent is demonstrating an intent (attempting) to play at the ball and would otherwise have been able to do so, is an obstruction offence.

I was surprised that the umpire did not award a penalty corner against the Dutch team for a contact tackle by the defender, even if that would have been incorrect, as Aus player’s entanglement with the defender’s stick was caused by his own turning action. Some umpires seem to regard any sort of tackle attempt as an offence. (See video below – which is another example, far more blatant, of obstruction by a player in possession of the ball, which was not penalised – but the the shadowing defender was penalised, which was absurd.)

Here we go again. Big butt skills.

June 30, 2019

Penalty Corner Rules should be amended or deleted

Rules of Hockey.

Replacing the Penalty Corner with a Power Play, This article is a near duplicate of one I wrote previously on the subject – which has now been deleted,.

Preliminary suggestions for the procedure for the taking of a power play, which it is proposed will replace the present penalty corner.

Penalty Corner

Rule 12.3. a-e Rule 13.3. a-m Rule 13.4. Rule 13.5. a-g Rule 13.6. Rule 13.7. a-f

Action. Deletion and replacement with a Power Play

Reason. The Penalty Corner, never reasonably safe, has been allowed to become stupidly dangerous and also to have a ‘stranglehold’ on the publicizing of the game, the playing tactics of it and even the development of the hockey stick (for the drag-flick). Video of match ‘highlights’ often contains little more than a showing of the taking of penalty corners – not even showing what led to the award of these corners.

There has been talk of replacing the Penalty Corner for at least twenty years (in fact ever since the drag-flick became as powerful a shot as an undercut hit) and even some limited trials of a Power Play in 9’s Tournaments (in which a substantially wider goal was used) have taken place, but no real will to change anything is evident. Nothing mandatory or worldwide has been imposed; certainly nothing like the extraordinary long Experimental Period given to the introduction of edge-hitting (over much protest at its introduction). There is always the excuse that next year (or this year) is a World Cup (or an Olympic) year and the qualifying tournaments (which must, to be seen as fair, be always in the same format for all teams), and which appear to be near continuous, are always “in the way”. On top of that we now have professional tournaments (perhaps a way in?). The quest and demand for spectacular goals (for television), seems to be an obstacle rather than an opportunity to try something different.

The only information I have about the workability of a Power Play (one where the score ratio is not either 99% or 1% ) has been obtained from reading the Rules of the Australian Lanco 9’s and from watching YouTube videos of game highlights from a few of these tournaments. What I read and saw conflicted in several areas with my own preliminary thoughts and previous writing about a possible format. For example in the Lanco 9’s the number of defenders (three rather than four), the very limited time (30secs) and the permitting of addition attackers to make (a gut wrenching) run from the half-way line, to join in the attack (but apparently prohibiting the defenders to increase their numbers in the same way – but I may be wrong about that) is very different from what I expected or envisaged.

My preliminary ideas included four defenders (including a goalkeeper) v five attackers, ball inserted to outside the 23m line and then passed in, with play then continuing between just those nine in the 23m area, with a time limit from commencement (insert of the ball) of one minute or until a goal was scored or the ball was put out of play or out of the 23m area (with various options for continuation or restart of play after that) or one or other side committed an offence.

Normal open play Rules, no first hit-shot height limit. The use of a new Goal Zone to prevent both goal-hanging by attackers and goal blocking by defenders, no player other than the goalkeeper permitted to remain on the goal-line. This format gives scope for the development of an indoor style passing game during a power play.

All the ‘bits and pieces’, reasons to award, continuation at half and full time etc. etc. already exist for the penalty corner and much can be directly transferred. A power-play even begins in a familiar way, with the ball being inserted from a position on the base-line 10m from either of the goal-posts and the attacking side must then devise a way of making a scoring shot. The significant difference is that the ball is played to a position outside the 23m line rather than to outside the line of the shooting circle. The expectation is that the inability of the attackers to set up an immediate shot at the goal will significantly reduce the endangerment of the defending players.

So what is holding up other trials? Perhaps it is the fact that the present Penalty Corner Rule has a great many clauses and a replacement that splits the two teams into four groups and needs to be timed, requires even more clauses and nobody can be ‘bothered’.

If it isn’t broken why fix it ?” is a common attitude to any suggested Rule change, but the penalty corner is ‘broken’; it has never been acceptably safe and is now unreasonably dangerous and the way the dangerous play Rules are applied within it (some being overridden) is grossly unfair. There may also be (certainly will be) resistance to the disappearance of the drag-flick, but it is mainly (but not entirely) the development of the drag-flick and the fact that absolutely nothing has been done to constrain the use of it, that has made the introduction of an alternative to the penalty corner an urgent necessity.

We have an absurd situation, where even if not hit towards an opposing player, a first hit shot during a penalty corner will be immediately penalised if raised above 460mm, but a ball flicked (at around 100mph by experts) at an opponent, that hits that opponent on the head, usually results in penalty against that defending opponent because of an advantage gained for the defending team (the prevention of a goal), instead of penalty against the attacker for dangerous play. That isn’t even rational – never mind reasonable – and the absurdity of it is obvious when it is realized that attackers using drag-flicks often deliberately target defenders on the goal-line with head high shots (usually by firing over-high (above 460mm) flicks ‘through’ out-running defenders) – they are actually coached to do so.

If the drag-flick is constrained, that is objective criteria concerning the propelling of the ball at an other player in a dangerous way, are introduced (there is hope for that now that drag-flickers have discovered that a low flick is as often as successful as a high flick – or more so) it may not be necessary to do more to the penalty corner than ‘tweak’ it a bit (introduce shooting height limits when the ball is propelled towards an opponent) – but discussion of the dangerously played ball has become as heated and as irrational as the gun control debate in the USA is. There is no sign of any drag-flick safety measures being introduced, they are not even discussed, there is a refusal to discuss this issue.

The current Rules: Penalties. Penalty Corner

A reading of the current Rule can be skipped by the reader, but it is necessary to include it here for comparison purposes.

13.3 Taking a penalty corner:

a the ball is placed on the back-line inside the circle at least 10 metres from the goal-post on whichever side of the goal the attacking team prefers.

b an attacker pushes or hits the ball without intentionally raising it

c the attacker taking the push or hit from the back-line must have at least one foot outside the field.

d the other attackers must be on the field, outside the circle with sticks, hands and feet not touching the ground inside the circle

e no defender or attacker other than the attacker taking the push or hit from the back-line is permitted to be within 5 metres of the ball when the push or hit is taken

f not more than five defenders, including the goalkeeper or player with goalkeeping privileges if there is one, must be positioned behind the back-line with their sticks, hands and feet not touching the ground inside the field

If the team defending a penalty corner has chosen to play only with field players, none of the defenders referred to above has goalkeeping privileges.

g the other defenders must be beyond the centre-line

h until the ball has been played, no attacker other than the one taking the push or hit from the back-line is permitted to enter the circle and no defender is permitted to cross the centre-line or back-line.

i after playing the ball, the attacker taking the push or hit from the back-line must not play the ball again or approach within playing distance of it until it has been played by another player.

j a goal cannot be scored until the ball has travelled outside the circle

k if the first shot at goal is a hit (as opposed to a push, flick or scoop), the ball must cross the goal-line, or be on a path which would have resulted in it crossing the goal-line, at a height of not more than 460 mm (the height of the backboard) before any deflection, for a goal to be scored

The requirements of this Rule apply even if the ball touches the stick or body of a defender before the first shot at goal.

If the first shot at goal is a hit and the ball is, or will be, too high crossing the goal-line it must

be penalised even if the ball is subsequently deflected off the stick or body of another player.The ball may be higher than 460 mm during its flight before it crosses the goal-line provided there

is no danger and provided it would drop of its own accord below 460 mm before crossing the line.

l for second and subsequent hits at the goal and for flicks, deflections and scoops, it is permitted to raise the ball to any height but this must not be dangerous

A defender who is clearly running into the shot or into the taker without attempting to play the ball with their stick must be penalised for dangerous play.

Otherwise, if a defender is within five metres of the first shot at goal during the taking of a penalty corner and is struck by the ball below the knee, another penalty corner must be awarded or is struck on or above the knee in a normal stance, the shot is judged to be dangerous and a free hit must be awarded to the defending team.

m the penalty corner Rules no longer apply if the ball travels more than 5 metres from the circle.

13.4 The match is prolonged at half-time and full-time to allow completion of a penalty corner or any subsequent penalty corner or penalty stroke.

13.5 The penalty corner is completed when:

a a goal is scored

b a free hit is awarded to the defending team

c the ball travels more than 5 metres outside the circle

d the ball is played over the back-line and a penalty corner is not awarded

e a defender commits an offence which does not result in another penalty corner

f a penalty stroke is awarded

g a bully is awarded.

If play is stopped because of an injury or for any other reason during the taking of a penalty corner at the end of a prolonged first or second half and a bully would otherwise be awarded, the penalty corner must be taken again.

13.6 For substitution purposes and for completion of a penalty corner at half-time and full-time, the penalty corner is also completed when the ball travels outside the circle for the second time.

b the player taking the push or hit from the back-line feints at playing the ball, the offending player is required to go beyond the centre-line but is replaced by another attacker : the penalty corner is taken again.

If this feinting leads to what otherwise would be a breach of this rule by a defender, only the attacker is required to go beyond the centre-line.

c a defender, other than the goalkeeper, crosses the back-line or goal-line before permitted, the offending player is required to go beyond the centre-line and cannot be replaced by another defender : the penalty corner is taken again.

If a defender at this or any subsequently re-taken penalty corner crosses the back-line or goal-line before permitted, the offending player is also required to go beyond the centre-line and cannot be replaced

A penalty corner is considered as re-taken until any of the conditions of Rules 13.5 and 13.6 for its completion are met

A subsequently awarded penalty corner, as opposed to a re-taken penalty corner, may be defended by up to five players

If a defender crosses the centre-line before permitted, the penalty corner is taken again

d a goalkeeper, or player with goalkeeping privileges, crosses the goal-line before permitted, the defending team defends the penalty corner with one fewer player : the penalty corner is taken again

If a goalkeeper, or player with goalkeeping privileges, at this or any subsequently re-taken penalty corner crosses the goal-line before permitted, the defending team is required to nominate a further player to go beyond the centreline, and they cannot be replaced

A penalty corner is considered as re-taken until any of the conditions of Rules 13.5 and 13.6 for its completion are met

e an attacker enters the circle before permitted, the offending player is required to go beyond the centreline : the penalty corner is taken again

Attackers who are sent beyond the centre-line may not return for re-taken penalty corners, but may do so for a subsequently awarded penalty corner

f for any other offence by attackers : a free hit is awarded to the defence.

Except as specified above, a free hit, or penalty stroke is awarded as specified elsewhere in the Rules.

 

Suggestion.

There are several Rules and many clauses to each Rule, preliminary amendment always leads to expansion of the number of clauses as sorting takes place and then duplication is reduced or eliminated. This instance is no exception. Numbering, syntax, tense, plural and singular etc. etc. will take several readings to sort out and these readings will have to be done at well spaced intervals and hopefully by a number of different individuals to overcome ‘blind-spots’.

There is also the introduction of a goal-zone – employed in a different way to the way it is suggested it be used in open play – and the splitting of the attacking team, in particular, into those involved in the power play and those not. In addition the timing of a power play is a new issue and there is also an effect on match timing. Substitution during a power play is to be permitted and the conditions that have to be met need to be described. For these reasons and also because this is a preliminary proposal, there may be some duplication and while many more Rule clauses have been added, not as many (from the penalty corner) have been deleted, so the suggestion is lengthy.

Whether or not it is necessary to be concerned about defenders breaking early or attackers moving early into the 23m area is debatable. The metre or so sometimes gained by such premature breaking is unlikely to be a significant advantage or disadvantage when a shot at the goal cannot be set up for immediate execution anyway, so such ‘breaking’ is probably not critical to outcome, but I have left these prohibitions and the penalties for them in place for the moment as they make for a ‘tidy’ if pedantic procedure. Numbering of the Rules and clauses needs amending, that is a detail I have not paid much attention to at this early stage (mainly because any subsequent addition or subtraction of clauses throws the numbering out of kilter and it has to be redone).

The proposal can be enacted without using a goal-zone if some other workable way to prevent crowding of the goal-line can be suggested.

Useful comment and suggestions welcome

Power play.

13.3 Power play procedure:

a. A goal can only be scored when the ball has travelled outside the 23m area and has then been played back into the shooting circle by one of the nominated attackers.

b The ball is placed on the back-line inside the circle at least 10 metres from the goal-post on whichever side of the goal the attacking team prefers.

c An attacker pushes or hits the ball to another attacker, positioned outside the 23m line, commencing the power play (The placement of the feet of the inserting player is not prescribed)

d Three defenders will be position behind the base-line and outside the goal-zone, the goalkeeper will position behind the goal-line.

e The other defenders will be positioned on the field and behind the half-way line

f Only the goalkeeper may defend the goal from within the goal-zone during a power play, the other three defenders are not permitted to enter the goal-zone

g Four attackers will be positioned on the field and behind the 23m line, a fifth attacker will insert the ball from the baseline.

h The other attackers on the field must be outside the half-way line.

i No player other than the attacker taking the push or hit from the back-line is permitted to be within 5 metres of the ball when it is taken

j Until the ball has been played, no attacker other than the one taking the push or hit from the back-line is permitted to enter the defensive 23m area and no players beyond the half-line are permitted to cross it.

k After playing the ball, the attacker taking the push or hit from the back-line must not play the ball again or approach within playing distance of it until it has been played by another player.

l. Immediately the ball is played back into the 23m area by a second attacking player positioned behind the 23m line, the attackers and defenders initially positioned behind the half-way line may move up to the 23m line of the defending team, but may not cross it until the power play is completed. (this allows rapid transference to normal play if the ball is put out of play over a side-line by either team or played back over the 23m line by the defending team)

m Only an attacker in possession of the ball may enter the goal-zone during a power-play; that attacker must immediately move out of the goal-zone if possession of the ball is lost or that attacker makes a pass to another attacker.

n No shot at the goal may be made in a way that is contrary to Rule 9.8. Dangerously played ball. (see separate suggestion for a proposed Rule)

13.4

Time and timing

On award of a power play match time is stopped.

There is separate timing of the power play.

Defenders should have no need to ‘kit up’ as they do now but thirty seconds will be allowed for both teams to prepare for the penalty.

The attacking side have one minute in which to try to take advantage of their numerical superiority by scoring a goal. The timing of the minute starts as the ball is put into play by an attacker from the base-line at the commencement of the power play.

If the one minute of time permitted expires while the ball is still in play the power play is terminated, and the defending team will restart play with a free ball to be taken from a position in front of the goal on the 23m line. Match time is restarted when the 23m ball is taken (“taken”, here, below and elsewhere, means a stationary and correctly positioned ball is moved by the player taking the free ball or restart – the introduction of a second whistle would remove all doubt about when a free or restart is taken).

When a power player is considered completed in the following circumstances, time is restarted as described in each case.

a A goal is scored – time is restarted when the restart on the centre spot is taken

b A free-ball is awarded to the defending team – time is restarted when the free-ball is taken.

d The ball is played over the back-line by an attacker – 15m ball to defending team – time is restarted when ball is moved by the player taking the 15m

e The ball is played over the back-line by a defender. A 23m restart for the attacking team opposite the place the ball when out of play – time is restarted when the 23m re-start is taken (this assumes that a ball played intentionally over the back-line by a defender will no longer be considered to be any different for restart purposes than one accidentally played out)

f A penalty stroke is awarded – if a goal is scored from the penalty stroke then as (a). if a goal is not scored then as (d)

g A bully is awarded – time is restarted when the sticks of the players engaged in the bully touch.

h If the umpire orders the resetting of a power play the timing of the initial power play will cease and one minute will then be allowed for the completion of the re-set power play as it commences. Match time will remain stopped until the re-set power play (and any subsequent re-set) is either completed or terminated and an open play restart takes place.

Exception. Where goal difference between the teams is five goals or more, match time will not be stopped when a power play is awarded but the power play will be time limited.

i. If an attacking player plays the ball out of the 23m area for a second time normal play resumes immediately

j. If a defending player plays the ball over the 23m line normal play resumes immediately.

k. When the ball is put out of play over a side-line by either a defender or an attacker the power play is terminated and match timing resumes when the side-line ball is taken.

Time extensions.

l The match is prolonged at half-time and full-time to allow completion of a power play or any subsequent power play or penalty stroke.

m If play is stopped because of an injury or for any other reason during the taking of a power play at the end of a prolonged first or second half, the penalty corner must be re-set.

13.5 A power play is completed when:

a a goal is scored

b a free-ball is awarded to the defending team

c the ball is played over the 23m line for a second time

d the ball is played over the back-line.

e time to complete the power play expires

f a penalty stroke is awarded

g a bully is awarded.

h. when the ball is put out of play over a side-line.

13.6 Feinting by attackers and premature moving into the power play area by attackers or defenders.

Attackers or defenders who are sent beyond the centre-line for a breach of this Rule may not return to participate in a subsequently re-set power play, but may do so for a power play subsequently separately awarded as penalty for any offence under Rule 9 Conduct of play.

b If the player inserting the ball from the back-line feints at playing the ball, the offending player is required to go beyond the centre-line : the power play is re-set but will then taken with only four participating attackers

c. If during a re-set power play, re-set because of feinting by the player inserting the ball, the attacker then making the insert also feints at playing the ball a free ball opposite to the goal and on the 23m line will be awarded to the defending team.

if feinting to play the ball leads to what otherwise would be a breach of this rule by a defender, only the attacker is required to go beyond the centre-line.

d If a defender, other than the goalkeeper, crosses the back-line or goal-line before being permitted to do so, the offending player is required to go beyond the centre-line and cannot be replaced by another defender : the power play is re-set.

If a defender at this re-set power play or any subsequently re-set power play crosses the back-line or goal-line before being permitted to do so, this offending player (unless the goalkeeper) will also be required to go beyond the centre-line and cannot be replaced

If a defender crosses the centre-line or 23m line before being permitted to do so, the power play may be re-set if the umpire considers the action to have disadvantaged the attacking side. A warning or a caution may in any case be given to this player.

e If a goalkeeper crosses the goal-line before being permitted to do so, the defending team will be required to nominate a player to go beyond the centre-line, and that player may not be replaced for the re-set power play. The defending team will defend the re-set power play with one player fewer.

If a goalkeeper, at this re-set power play crosses the goal-line before being permitted to do so, the defending team will be required to nominate a further player to go beyond the centre-line, and that player may not be replaced for the re-set power play. The goalkeeper should be warned that subsequent contravention will result in the award of a green card.

Should any defender cross the goal line or base line before being permitted to do so during a power play previously re-set for the same kind of offence, a warning or caution should be given as well as sending the player behind the centre line or to the bench. For a third infraction a penalty stroke should be awarded.

f If an attacker who is a member of the five initially engaged in the power play enters the 23m area before being permitted to do so, the offending player is required to go beyond the centre line and may not be replaced : the power play is re-set.

g If an attacker who is a member of the five initially engaged in the power play enters the 23m area before being permitted to do so, during a power play previously re-set for a similar offence, a free-ball will be awarded to the defending team.The free ball will be taken from in front of the goal and on the 23m line.

h If an attacker who was initially positioned behind the half-way line moves into the 23m area before a power play is completed a free ball will be awarded to the defending team on the 23m line in a position opposite to the goal.

i if a defender who was initially positioned behind the half-way line moves into the 23m area before the power play is completed the power play may be re-set if the umpire considers that the action disadvantaged the attacking team. Even where the power play is not re-set the player concerned should be cautioned or warned on the first occasion.

A power play is considered as untaken or incomplete until any one of the conditions of Rules 13.5, 13.6, and 13.7 for its completion or voidance is met.

13.7 Illegal entry into the goal-zone

a If a defender enters the goal-zone during a power play and in so doing prevents a goal or denies opportunity to an attacker to score a goal a penalty stroke will be awarded.

b If a defender enters the goal-zone during a power play but this action does not disadvantage the attacking side a re-set of the power play may be ordered at the discretion of the umpire. In the event of a re-set the offender will be sent behind the half-way line and may not be replaced for the defense of the re-set power play. Even if the power play is not re-set the defending player should be cautioned or warned on the first occasion there is such a transgression.

c If an attacker makes illegal entry into the goal-zone or illegally remains in the goal-zone instead of vacating it as quickly as possible, a free ball will be awarded to the defending side, to be taken opposite the goal on the 23m line.

13.8. Substitution during a power play.

Re-set power plays must be executed and/or defended by players remaining from the initial nine participants unless injury disables one or more of them.

Substitution because of injury will be permitted for the re-setting of a power play only from the players who were on the pitch at the time the initial power play was awarded and who are still on the pitch.

When a power play is awarded substitution is permitted by either team immediately the power play commences. No player substituted onto the field of play after a power play is awarded may participate in that power play or in any re-set of it because of breaches of Rule 13.6. but may participate in a subsequently awarded power play for any offence under Rule 9. A player substituted off the pitch at the commencement of a power play may not participate in a re-set of that power play.

That is a fair bit to ‘chew on’ and I doubt that I have covered everything that needs regulation, but a start needs to be made somewhere if any desirable change is to be achieved . I also referred above to a second whistle and a goal-zone, both of which I had previously presented articles about when I first wrote this article.

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/03/30/suggested-introd…ewrite-rule-9-14/

 

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/08/14/a-second-whistle/

 

It is also necessary to consider replacing the award of a penalty corner with a less severe alternative penalty for several accidental occurrences and actions that are not offences (e.g. ball trapped in equipment, or ball deflected up off a goalkeeper or another defender’s stick in the circle). Most of these were previously dealt with by the award of a bully and could now be more fairly result in the award of a free ball to opponents on the 23m line.

Other bits.

The deletion of the prohibition on playing a free into the circle when it is awarded to be taken within the 23m area, is essential to free the game up and improve flow (it is a silly restriction not least because it has no counterpart in open play): as is the deletion of the raft of 5m restrictions surrounding the free ball, especially when it is taken as a self-pass. Only the repositioning of the ball outside the hash circle when an offence is penalised between the hash circle and the shooting circle need be retained (restored), because the advantage of a free close to the line of the shooting circle, without 5m limits, would otherwise be greater than the award of the present penalty corner.

Interim  measures.

The safety of the present penalty corner could be improved if the criteria for a dangerously played ball were added to as suggested in this recent article.

https://martinzigzag.com/2019/06/16/which-rules-shou…leted-part-one-6/

June 21, 2019

Umpiring Rules should be amended

Rules of Hockey

11.1 Two umpires control the match, apply the Rules and are the
judges of fair play.

11.2 Each umpire has primary responsibility for decisions in one
half of the field for the duration of the match.

11.3 Each umpire is responsible for decisions on free hits in the circle,
penalty corners, penalty strokes and goals in one half of the field.

For a few years now I have been advocating that the number of officials officiating a hockey match ought to be increased to five. I give my reasons via the videos in this article. Please watch the videos, navigating back to the WordPress article is a simple matter of closing a tab or using the back button.

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/06/19/the-number-and-p…-match-officials/

The second part of this same article also suggests the introduction of the use of a second whistle to restart play when an umpire has blown the whistle to award penalty or a side-line ball has to be taken.

11.6 Umpires blow the whistle to:
a start and end each quarter of the match
b start a bully
c enforce a penalty
d stop the time after the awarding of a penalty corner
e re-start the time before the taking of a penalty corner
f start and end a penalty stroke
g indicate a goal
h re-start the match after a goal has been scored
i re-start the match after a penalty stroke when a goal was not scored
j stop the match for the substitution onto or off the field of a fully equipped goalkeeper and to restart the match on completion of the substitution
k stop the match for any other reason and to re-start it
l indicate, when necessary, that the ball has passed wholly outside the field.

It amuses me to see this ‘comprehensive’ list of reasons for an umpire to blow the whistle presented, while in other areas the Rules Committee have declared such comprehensive listing to be unnecessary (too wordy) or too difficult.

Tags:
June 21, 2019

Throwing Rule should be amended

Rules of Hockey.

9.16 Players must not throw any object or piece of equipment onto
the field, at the ball, or at another player, umpire or person.

I have several times seen a player throw his stick at a ball, sometimes when it was still in the possession of an opposing forward, inside the circle and going towards or into the goal, when the player who threw his stick was outside the circle.

In about half of the instances the ball was missed and a goal was scored, but in the other instances a goal was prevented. In these latter cases the umpire was able to issue a personal penalty (as he could also in the instances in which a goal was scored) but could not award a penalty-stroke because the action of the offence did not take place in the circle, even if the effect of that action did.

This to me seems unfair. I believe that if a defending player throws his stick at the ball from outside the circle with the intention of preventing a goal, and succeeds in that intent, a penalty stroke (as well as a personal penalty) ought to be awarded. This of course also requires an exception to the Rules regarding penalties.

 

10a Goalkeepers are permitted to use their stick, feet,
kickers, legs or leg guards or any other part of their
body to deflect the ball over the back-line or to play
the ball in any other direction.

I have recently seen goalkeepers in International Level matches freely using their hand protectors to bat the ball away towards one side-line or the other and i supposed that an alteration had been made to the Rule that forbade a goalkeeper forcefully playing the ball away using a gloved hand or a hand protector. Certainly that prohibition has disappeared but this is one of those few occasions when I think the FIH Rules Committee did not go far enough.

I see no good reason why a goalkeeper should not be allowed to swing his arm to present a hand protector to the ball, in the same way he is allowed to swing his leg, to use the kicker, to impart velocity and distance to any ball he is playing away from his goal area from anywhere in the circle. This use of the arm/hand is in fact likely to be safer and more accurate than the use of the leg and leg-guard with kicker. Why shouldn’t a goalkeeper launch a counter attack with a ball propelled high and long with a hand-protector after swinging it forcefully at the ball?

 

June 20, 2019

Ball body contact Rule should be amended.

Rules of Hockey

Suggestion. The Rule needs a different approach. I have written a suggested replacement which I hope will provide that different approach. The emphasis, contained in an exception, is on ball body contact by a player who is in possession of the ball, rather than by a defender who is trying to tackle for or to intercept the ball.

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

There is no offence committed if the ball simply hits the foot, hand or body of a field player, play should continue unless the player hit with the ball intended to use the body to stop or deflect the ball or is injured.

Where there is injury caused by a ball contact and there was no intent to use the body by the player hit (or intent is not discernible) and there has been no forcing of contact or dangerous play by opponents, the game should be restarted with a bully.

Exception.1. Unless there is forcing of contact or prior dangerous play by opponents, for example a shot at the goal made in a dangerous way or the ball is illegally raised into the player hit, the umpire will properly penalise a player hit with the ball, even if the contact is entirely unintentional by the player hit, if that ball contact directly prevents the ball going into the goal of the team of the player hit and thereby prevents the award of a goal. The penalty will be a penalty stroke. The penalty is awarded on the basis of an undue and unfair gain of benefit from the contact.

With instances of unintentional ball-body contact by a player not in possession of the ball there are no other exceptions.

If a player in possession of the ball plays it into the legs or feet of an opponent and is disadvantaged because of that contact the umpire has no reason to intervene. The umpire’s only concern will be that the playing of the ball into a player does not injure, endanger or otherwise disadvantage that player. ‘Losing control of the ball’ so that it runs into the feet of an opponent is not a skill and nor is passing the ball into the feet of an opponent, that is a miss-pass.

If a player intentionally raises the ball into the feet, legs or body of an opponent that player should be penalised with a personal penalty and the team of the player hit awarded a free ball (for opponent’s deliberate dangerous play, a breach of the conditions of Rule 9.9). 

If a ball played along the ground is intentionally forced into the feet of a defender play should continue unless the defender is injured or otherwise unfairly disadvantaged, in either case a free ball will be awarded to the player hit.

Intention to use the body to stop or deflect the ball should be judged in as objective a manner as possible. Intentional contact will, for example, be generally foot to ball rather than ball to foot.

A player who is moving along the flight path of the ball, rather than laterally into the flight path of it after it has been propelled, and who is presenting the stick to try to intercept the ball (an out-runner during a penalty corner for example), has not demonstrated an intent to use the body to stop or deflect the ball.


A player who moves laterally into the flight path of the ball, after it has been propelled, while clearly attempting to use the stick to play the ball and is hit, has not intentionally used the body to stop or deflect the ball. That there was an intent to use the body must be clear and certain before a player hit with the ball may be penalised for use of body. Intent should not be assumed simply because a player hit with the ball was in a position where he or she could be hit.

Exception 2. Should a player in possession of the ball make body contact – usually foot or leg contact – with the ball, and that player or a member of that player’s team retains or regains possession of the ball, and the same team are then able to continue their attack, that may be considered an unfair advantage and a free ball awarded to the defending team at the place the contact occurred or, if that was in the opponent’s circle, a 15m ball should be awarded. It is not necessary, however, in line with the Advantage Rule, to penalise such contact if the opposing team has not been unfairly or unduly disadvantaged by it.

The emphasis is moved from requiring a defender who is ‘attacked’ with the ball to have the skill to defend his or her feet (often an impossibility if the defender is at the time attempting a tackle for the ball), to requiring a player in possession of the ball to have the skill to not lose control of it with the stick and make contact with it with part of their body.

Goalkeepers.

Goalkeepers are not permitted to throw the ball. Goalkeepers are not permitted to pick the ball up – raise the ball off the ground – by gripping it in any way, nor are they permitted to hold the ball to the ground in any way except with the stick (but without thereby preventing an opponent from playing at the ball), by for example, lying on it or by trapping and holding it under a kicker. These latter ball-body contact actions will be considered obstructive play and penalised as such.

The current Rule

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

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.

It is not an offence if the ball hits the hand holding the stick but would otherwise have hit the stick.

 

 

I think this Rule ties with the Obstruction Rule as the most badly applied Rule in the rule-book but the Ball-body contact Rule is more miss-applied (applied when it should not be) and the Obstruction Rule the least applied when it should be applied. In third place I would put the Rules concerning a dangerously played ball – again not applied when they should be.

It might be thought that a rewording of the Rule might improve the matter*, for example restoring the word “intentionally” to the Rule Proper rather than referring to intent only in the Explanation of Rule Application (the part in italics).
*The matter is an apparent belief that any and all ball foot contact in particular, but any and all ball body contact by a player, is an offence that should be penalised unless there is a very substantial advantage to be gained by the opposing team by not penalising. There is large body of support for this utterly wrong interpretation of the current wording. The truth is that the majority of ball-body contacts are inconsequential and play should just be allowed to continue without interruption. That is the intent behind 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. But current practice is to see all ball-body contact as a gain of advantage and all defensive positioning (on the goal-line for example) as positioning with an intent to use the body to stop the ball if it is missed with the stick. Both of these views have been strongly advocated on Internet hockey forums by senior umpires.

Video examples in this article on the same subject :-

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/07/29/if-only-only-if/

but my researches have led me to the conclusion that a change to either the wording of the Rule Proper or the wording of the Explanation is not the answer. Here is a Rule instruction that was contained in rule-books prior to 1998.

Players should not be penalised when the ball is played at them from a short distance.

It was completely ignored by umpires and the FIH dealt with that by removing the instruction.

The Rule proper was briefly amended to say that for a ball-body contact to be an offence the contact had to be deliberately made and (not or) gain an advantage for the team of the player who used his body to stop or deflect the ball. Umpires ignored that too, they just carried on penalising ball-body contact as they habitually had previously. That change was quickly withdrawn, probably because the difference between what was given in the Rule and umpiring practice was so obvious it was embarrassing.

The following two clips show even clearer examples of no intent, no advantage gained. In the first clip the first and second penalty corners resulted in a shot that hit the outside of the defender’s foot, which was positioned outside the goal-post, before going out of play over the base-line. The second clip requires no further comment.

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Players who have been active participants for about fifteen years will remember (before and after) the replacement of “intentionally” with the word “voluntarily” and the attempt by the FIH Rules Committee, post 2006, to remove “gains benefit” from the criteria for this offence.

This resulted in the Chairman of the FIH Umpiring Committee ‘overruling’ the FIH Rules Committee (an impossibility) and insisting that “gains benefit” be continue to be applied as it was in 2006, even though the term no longer appeared in the Rule in the published rule-book.

(“Gains an advantage”, a much older wording, then replaced “Gains benefit” in the rule-book, but not before 2016, a gap of eight years). This saga gives a good idea of the stranglehold the FIH Umpiring Committee, who do not have the authority to make or amend Rule or the Interpretation of Rule, have on umpiring practice – which many if not most umpires follow as if it is (has to be) correct Rule and correct Interpretation.

“Gains benefit” was a blanket ‘catch-all’ with many umpires following the idea that any ball body contact would always gain an advantage for the team of the player who made the contact – even if the contact was forced – which is why the FIH Rules Committee wanted to remove it. But removing it completely was a mistake, it simply needed amendment in the hope of achieving a more realistic application. There are occasions when an unfair advantage is gained by a ball-body contact, but this is very rarely the case when the contact has been intentionally forced by an opponent and such forcing is anyway an offence, despite the deletion of the stand alone Forcing Rule. Forcing offences are supposed to be dealt with under other Rules.

 

 

 

 

 

June 19, 2019

Falling ball Rules should be amended.

Rules of Hockey

9.10 Players must not approach within 5 metres of an opponent receiving a falling raised ball until it has been received, controlled and is on the ground.

The initial receiver has a right to the ball. If it is not clear which player is the initial receiver, the player of the team which raised the ball must allow the
opponent to receive it.

The above Rule statement makes an assumption that the following earlier version does not make.

A player receiving a raised ball must be given the opportunity to

play it safely. If the receiving player is clear of other players at the

time the ball is raised, no players of the opposing team should

approach within 5 metres until the ball has been received, controlled and is on the ground. Any [opposing] player doing so should be penalised.

If the receiving player is clear of other players at the time the ball is raised

The current Rule appears to assume that no defending player is within 5m of the intended receiver at the time the ball is received and makes no provision for dealing with situations where a defending player is close to – marking – the intended receiver at the time the ball is raised (a circumstance that means that the intended receiver cannot be the initial receiver). What action does “allow to receive” direct an opponent to take? Answer. None at all.

I played in Germany a number of hockey festivals in my younger days and recall vividly the difficulty the British players had in dealing with the interpretation of “If the receiving player is clear of other players at the time the ball is raised” that seemed to apply there. It seemed to work on the basis that a receiver should be in so much space at the time the ball was raised that no opponent could get to within five yards him (even if they tried to do so) before he received the ball – in these circumstances there were few direct passes but many passes into space beyond the receiver for him to run onto (this was easier at the time because there was still an off-side Rule and a high scoop pass could sometimes ‘spring’ an attempted off-side trap). The idea of passing with a high scoop pass directly to a team-mate who was level with an opponent and only six or seven yards away from him, shocked the German players and their umpires would not allow it (we were advised not to try to make direct passes). Any player who made what was seen as a dangerous scoop pass (because of the proximity of opponents to the intended receiver) was penalised at the place from which he raised the ball (which would still correct practice in 2019-20).

Back in the UK in the 1970s as a center-half I could, in contrast, accept a centre re-start pass-back and launch a high aerial to fall into the opponent’s circle between the penalty spot and the goal while the attackers in my team charged in to punish any defender (often only the goalkeeper) who failed to control or direct the ball away with the first touch .  On the following occasion the right-winger tended to be available and expecting a similar pass.

That tactic was ‘hit on the head’ with the reintroduction of the Rule to forbid raising the ball into the circle (which had been extant in my school days) – so the flanks got more service- that specific Rule (prohibiting any raising of the ball into the opposing circle) has been deleted, yet again, following the introduction of the Rule forbidding (but not really – see the UMB “forget lifted”) an intentionally raised hit. But it is now illegal to intentionally raise the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit,  you would  not learn that however by watching any match in which it happened  (forget lifted – think danger). The UMB ‘helpfully’ contradicting a clear and simple Rule instruction, one of several such contradictions that have arisen because of “simplification and clarification”. (It is presently legal to raise the ball into the opposing circle with a scoop or flick but not with a hit – which was the Rule back in the 1960’s).

Anyway offside was abolished but the Rule parameters concerning receiving an aerial ball were not amended in any way. However these days penalty in nearly all circumstances is awarded at the place a high raised pass that causes danger, is landing – the exception is endangerment of an opponent as the ball is raised (but that is not penalised nearly enough)

Nowadays players seem to be allowed to play an aerial pass to a teammate who is perhaps no more than three meters from his nearest opponent and opponents charge right in as the receiver tries to play at the ball – long before it is in control on the ground – usually without penalty.

In this situation there has recently been Rule change to permit the playing of the ball at any reachable distance above shoulder height.

At a time when more aerial passes are played than at any time in the past and the results are potentially more dangerous because of the facility to play at a high ball with the stick, the Rule is ‘fuzzy’ and what there is of it is poorly applied.

In the 1970’s I took full advantage of being able to drop aerial passes like mortar-bombs on hapless defenders who were offered no protection by umpires from the actions of in-running attackers. I expect current players to do the same kind of thing when given the opportunity. But this kind of dangerous play (going from poacher to gamekeeper) can be prevented with clear and enforced Rule. The start point has got to be the conditions under which a direct aerial pass with a scoop or flick will be permitted, but there are a number of common and complicated scenarios that need to be ruled for.


An aerial pass is made with a flick or scoop stroke or an intentional deflection. An aerial pass (‘aerial’ will be used to denote the ball being raised at the apex of its flight to a height beyond the reach of the sticks of players) may not be made by a player directly to a member of the same team (the intended receiver) if the intended receiver is not at least five meters from the nearest player of the opposing team at the time the ball was raised. Penalty a free ball or penalty corner if the passer is within his own 23m area, against the team of the player who made the aerial pass.


When a legitimate direct aerial pass is made, opposing team players may not close to be within three meters of the receiver until the ball has been played twice with the stick of the receiver or has been played away by the receiver beyond the receiver’s immediate playing reach (or two meters). Penalty for non-compliance, a free ball to the team of the receiver at the place the ball fell, with a yellow card if the ball is contested for while it is still in the air.


Where an indirect aerial pass is made (so that the ball will fall to ground a minimum of five meters from the position the intended receiver was in at the time the ball was raised) and the intended receiver will be the first player to reach the position in which the ball will fall, opposing players, even if they were previously contesting to reach that position first, must immediately and quickly withdraw to be at least three meters from the receiver until the receiver has played the ball twice with the stick or has played the ball away beyond his immediate playing reach. Penalty for non-compliance, a free ball to the team of the receiver at the place the ball fell, with a yellow card if the ball is contested for while it is still in the air.


Where an indirect aerial pass is made and an opposing team player will be (is) the first to reach the position in which the ball will fall, then the intended receiver (the same team as the passer) must be the one to withdraw. Penalty for non-compliance, a free ball to the defending team at the place the ball fell, with a yellow card if the ball is contested for while it is still in the air.


An aerial ball may not be played directly into the circle so that it is still above elbow height as it crosses the circle line.


For the purpose of this Rule an aerial pass that hits ground and bounces high into the circle must be treated as if it had been played directly into the circle. 


Where the ball is lofted accidentally and will fall into the circle, having crossed the circle line at above elbow height,  from a deflection for example, a free ball will be awarded against the team of the player who deflected the ball at the place of the deflection.

I probably have not addressed all of the many possible variations and may need to revise the above suggestion at a later date.

 

June 18, 2019

Raised Hit Rules should be amended or deleted.

Rules of Hockey

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.

This Rule was preceded by two others.

First a long established Rule.
A player shall not deliberately raise the ball so that it will fall into the circle

Followed by:-

A player shall not deliberately raise the ball from a HIT, except for a shot at goal.

Which was introduce at a time when raising the ball safely with a hit was perfectly legal, but because (sic) the new ultra stiff carbon fibre reinforced sticks introduced in the early 1980s, facilitate the making of very high pitch length clip or chip hits (from one circle to the other) this quickly led to some very unsafe hitting of lofted balls as well as some ball exchanges that looked more like base-line tennis than hockey. There were also of course an increase in the numbers of instances where there were issues about the receiving of what is now referred to as an aerial ball (a term that has never appeared in any rule-book). It was not necessary to prohibit the raising of the ball with a hit, an absolute height limit of shoulder height would have served the purpose.

We then lost the prohibition on raising the ball into the circle (with a hit) (This was previously a Rule which had forbidden the raising of the ball into the circle with any stroke) because the prohibition was seen as unnecessary if the ball could only be raised with a hit when taking a legitimate shot at the goal.

We then had this written into the UMB.
Blow only in dangerous situations everywhere on the pitch -forget lifted, think danger., which contrasts sharply with:-

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

‘Forgetting’ that the ball that the ball has been illegally raised unless it is also raised dangerously overlooks that an illegally raised ball may have disadvantaged opponents even if it did not endanger any of them – and that is of course unfair.

In any case the UMB should not contradict the Explanation of Application provided with the Rule.  A raised hit must be judged explicitly on whether or not it is raised intentionally.

(I believe whoever drafted that explanation meant to  write “specifically” rather than “explicitly”, because “explicitly” does not make sense in this context).

Umpires generally avoid applying Rule 9.9 anyway (except when the raised ball has very obviously endangered an opponent i.e.  injury is caused) by declaring that they cannot be certain of an intention to raise the ball (just as they declared they could not be certain of an intention to force a ball-body contact onto an opponent when the forcing Rule was extant). The result is that it is now not at all unusual to see players using edge hits and forehand chips and undercut hits into an opposing team’s circle without penalty.

The problems with this Rule can be solved by going back to the original intent – preventing the raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle – but with several differences.

1) Introduce an absolute height limit on any ball raised with a hit in the area outside the opponent’s circle (this could be shoulder height)

2) All raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit is prohibited in all phases of play irrespective of danger or intention. Intention to raise the ball into the opponent’s circle is irrelevant, it is an offence even when there is no intent i.e. it is accidental, the result of a miss-hit or a deflection.

3) Raising the ball into the opponent’s circle with a flick or scoop to be height limited (sternum or elbow height)

4) All raising of the ball in the areas outside the opponent’s circle to follow the criteria for Dangerous Play laid out in Rule 9.8.

5) All shots at the goal to follow the criteria for Dangerous Play laid out in Rule 9.8.

6) A shot at the goal that is not also made directly at an opponent is not height limited.

The above provides a framework for the legitimate and illegitimate raising of the ball with a hit or flick or scoop.

 

 

June 17, 2019

Dangerous Play Rules should be amended.

Rules of Hockey.

9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way
which leads to dangerous play.

Use of stick. It is not possible to get perfect fit with current Rule numbering and past Rule numbering because not only did the numbers change the Rule topics were arranged in different groupimgs, so there is now a need for a bit of back and forth. The current Rules separate stick use and a dangerously played ball into two Rules. I am trying to deal with all dangerous play under one Rule.

9.2 Players on the field must hold their stick and not use it in a
dangerous way.
Players must not lift their stick over the heads of other players.

Previous Rule said more about what dangerous use of the stick was considered to be. There was also a separate Rule which forbade using the stick to trip a player.

Rules of Hockey

A player shall not raise any part of his stick above his shoulder,
either at the beginning or at the end of a stroke, when approaching, attempting to play, playing the ball, or stopping the ball.

That was later amended and expanded.

A player shall not lift the stick over the head of or raise his stick in a
manner that is dangerous, intimidating or hampering to another player when approaching, attempting to play, playing or stopping the ball. A ball above the height of a player’s shoulder shall not be played or played at by any
part of the stick. (For goalkeepers see Rule 12.11(c).)

 

A player shall not play the ball wildly, or play or kick the ball in such a
way as to be dangerous in itself, or likely to lead to dangerous play, nor play the ball intentionally into any part of an opponent’s body, including the feet and legs.

The last clause in 2004 became a separate Forcing Rule which for some unexplained reason was deleted in 2011.

 

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As an aside, It was several times in the early part of my playing days permissible to use the hand to catch the ball (the facility was introduced and withdrawn and then reintroduced repeatedly- so there was obviously some ambivalence about allowing it ) as long as neither the hand or arm was moved after the ball was caught and it was then released immediately so that it fell perpendicularly to ground. (just as it was permitted at one time to trap the ball with the instep of the foot or to trap it under the sole. Again the ball had to be released immediately without imparting movement to it and then next played with the stick).
f) A player shall not stop the ball with his hand or catch it.(For goalkeepers see Rule 12.11(c).)

The fact that the FIH HRB are ‘shouting’ the following instruction is an indication that not all umpires were allowing self defence with the hand.

(THERE IS NOTHING IN THIS RULE WHICH PREVENTS A PLAYER USING HIS HAND TO PROTECT HIMSELF FROM A DANGEROUSLY RAISED BALL.)

Use of the hand was last allowed in the stopping of the ball on the ground after insert during a penalty corner. It was discontinued when it was no longer a requirement that the ball be stopped during a penalty corner before a shot was attempted.

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I think this from the earlier Rule to be a more satisfactory wording.

A player shall not lift the stick over the head of or raise his stick in a
manner that is dangerous, intimidating or hampering to another player when approaching, attempting to play, playing or stopping the ball. Nor shall a player A player, play the ball wildly, or play or kick the ball in such a
way as to be dangerous in itself, or likely to lead to dangerous play, nor play the ball intentionally into any part of an opponent’s body, including the feet and legs.

A small adjustment is needed – A player shall not lift the stick over and across the head of .…… the blanket ban on any raising of the stick above shoulder height can then be amended to prohibit raising the head of the stick above shoulder height when an opponent is (at the start of the stroke) or will be (at the end of the stroke) within playing distance of the ball and is attempting to position to tackle for the ball. At present tacklers get almost no protection at all. The current approach seems to be “It’s their own fault.”

This is an example of the Rules going from one extreme to another. In previous times I saw umpires who were daft enough to penalise a player taking a free ball for ‘sticks’ when no opponent could be within five yards of the taker.
Readers may remember the nasty cut an Argentinian defender received to her face during the London Olympic Final when she was obstructed and tried to reach around the obstructing Dutch player to play at the ball – and got a stick-head into her cheekbone as the result of a high follow through when the ball was hit. Incredibly the restart after that incident was from a side-line ball to the Netherlands team. (It is incidents like that that fuel my strong aversion to ball shielding tactics).

The only times players are now penalised for dangerous stick swings is when they make an ‘air-shot’ when within the playing reach of an opponent. Missing the ball is not an offence, so that does not make a lot of sense, especially when tackling players often have to evade a stick swing when the ball is struck with a hit. This is a example of play where legitimate evasive action does have a place.

Dangerous physical contact.

Rule 9.3. indicates that all physical is prohibited, end of.

Where physical contact also endangers an opponent, the umpire should be awarding at least a yellow card and also a penalty corner where that is permissible. Deliberate contact offences with high risk of injury to an opponent are Red card offences.

June 16, 2019

Dangerously Played Ball Rules should be amended.

Rules of Hockey.

9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way
which leads to dangerous play.

While playing or attempting to play at the ball a player will possibly  endanger another player as a result of :- 1) the way in which the ball is propelled 2) the way in which the stick is used 3) bodily contact.

I am not in favour of the recent change that confines endangerment to opposing players, on the basis that a player who endangers a team-mate has not disadvantaged opponents, that does not fit with an emphasis on safety. Staff in hospital emergency treatment rooms are not concerned about who was responsible for an injury during a game, only that there is an injury that needs treatment – that is the attitude umpires need to adopt in order to try to prevent injuries occurring.

A player may even recklessly endanger him or her self by, for example, attempting a tackle with a headfirst dive directly into the feet of an opponent. This sort of recklessness must be discouraged with penalty because it is irresponsible.

(Many years ago I issued a yellow card to a player who was hit on the head with an opponent’s stick while attempting a tackle in this way as the opponent was in the act of hitting at the ball. He needed to go off anyway to have his injury treated but the “Don’t do that” message needed to be sent).

Dangerously propelled ball.

A ball has been dangerously propelled when it puts another player at risk of injury, that is obvious, but the Rules as presently written do not require injury or even the potential for injury for there to be dangerous play. We have this from the Explanation of Application of Rule 9.9.

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.

There is nothing in that Explanation about height or velocity so it is far too severe to be applied literally in every instance and this instruction is thus widely ignored by umpires, the problem with that is that even when flicks and scoops are made at high level and at high velocity towards other players umpires tend to continue ignore this type of endangerment. A second issue with this Explanation is that there appears to be no constraint on any raising of the ball towards another player from beyond 5m. One has only to look at the way in which drag-flicks are propelled during a penalty corner to see how ridiculous this is.

It also needs to be pointed out that a dangerously played ball is defined in Rule 9.8. as a ball propelled in such a way as to cause an opponent to take legitimate evasive action: there is no distance limit given for legitimate evasive action, ergo evasive action is legitimate in any circumstance where a player is obliged to evade the ball to in order to avoid injury, irrespective of the distance of that player from the ball at the time it was propelled. Obviously over distances in excess of twenty or thirty metes a ball will lose velocity and opponents will have ample time to play at it with the stick. But to apply the same criteria to a ball that has been propelled at another player at high velocity, from say six meters, is absurd when the ball may be traveling at a velocity in excess of 120 kph. Umpires are advised several times in the UMB to apply common sense. This is an area where common sense is absent and a Rule change is required.

Ignoring the Rules written by the FIH Rules Committee is connived at by the FIH Umpiring Committee in these two statements in the UMB under the heading Ball off the ground.

Blow only in dangerous situations everywhere on the pitch –
forget lifted, think danger
Low balls over defenders sticks in a controlled manner that hit
half shin pad are not dangerous

These statements directly contradict both Rule 9,9 and the Explanation of what constitutes dangerous play given in the Explanation of Rule 9.9. This is direct contradiction in what is the most important aspect of an umpire’s role – fair play coupled with player safety. There is actually more about dangerous play written in Rule 9.9, which is about an intentionally raised hit, than there is in Rule 9.8. But I will get to Rule 9.9. next.

What needs to be done to rectify the first part of the present Rule 9.8. is obvious, but putting the obvious into clear instructions and then into a Rule is not so easy.

It is also obvious that umpires who apply the ‘standard’ at an opponent within 5m and at knee height or above are not applying the provided Rule about a dangerously raised ball, but adding to it the part of the Penalty Corner Rule which is relates to a first hit shot made during a penalty corner (probably because there is no other objective criterion offered anywhere in the Rules – shoulder height is mentioned in the rule-book, but that height is obviously inappropriate).

They are not going to stop doing that, the habit is too ingrained, so the Rule needs to be reformulated using additional distances, both less than and greater than five meters, and additional heights, both less than and greater than knee height. Ball velocity also needs to be used as a criteria.

We can start at what is supposed to be the current position – any ball raised towards an opponent within 5m is a dangerous play offence (note intent to raise the ball into an opponent is not a consideration for offence if the action occurs).

That is silly, because there is no mention of height or velocity, and it is easy to see why the FIH Umpiring Committee have contradicted it – even though they have no authority whatsoever to do so and should instead have liaised with the FIH Rules Committee to obtain an amendment.

Old Rule is in someways better:-

A player shall not hit [the ball] wildly into an opponent or play or kick the ball in such a way as to be dangerous in itself, or likely to lead to dangerous play.

How often we see a wild strike at the ball that propels the ball ‘through’ an opponent ‘justified’ as a shot at the goal.

So to start,

Any ball raised towards an opponent from within two meters, at above shoe height and at any velocity, will be considered an offence if it hits the opponent – provided of course that the opponent does not clearly intentionally stop the ball with his or her body when the ball would otherwise not have hit it.

In effect the offence of Forcing is restored but not exactly as it was – height is mentioned, intent is not.

Any ball raised towards an opponent from within five meters, at knee height or above and at a velocity that could cause pain or injury to that opponent will be considered a dangerous play offence. This includes shots made at the goal.

Any ball raised towards an opponent from within twenty meters, at sternum height or above and at a velocity that could cause pain or injury to that opponent will be considered a dangerous play offence. This includes shots made at the goal.

I have abandoned legitimate evasive action as a criterion. It is a subjective judgement which is used to define another subjective judgement (dangerous) and as such is inadequate and totally inappropriate. The only person who can really know if evasive action is legitimate, when the ball is propelled directly at him or her, is the player the ball is propelled at. Evasive action is only obviously not legitimate when the ball would not have hit the ‘evading’ player anyway.

Now to consider “or leads to dangerous play”. The current Rule is the result of a change to wording, that used to read (as above) “or likely to lead to dangerous play” which I think was better because it allowed an umpire to judge for potentially dangerous situations and intervene before there was any actual danger – which if done properly is obviously fairer and safer. Now it seems an umpire has to wait until there is dangerous play following an action that leads to it – which does not fit with an emphasis on safety. I see no reason why these clauses cannot be joined, so we get ” leads or is likely to lead to dangerous play” umpires can then determine their own margins of risk of danger actually occurring.

What are the potentially dangerous actions we are considering? The three most common are probably lofting the ball with a scoop or flick stroke so that it falls into an area where it will be immediately contested for by opponents who are already occupying that area – the subject matter of Rule 9.10, which I will get to in a following post. The second, which is seldom penalised,  is ‘blasting’ the ball directly towards an opponent from close range. This does not really need further comment – it’s clear reckless play, done without any consideration for the safety of another player. The third is bouncing the ball on the stick while ‘taking on’ and trying to ‘beat’ one or more opponents – which I will address here.

There is previous Advice to Umpires on this subject, at one time in the back of rule-books, which might now be considered ancient, but which could (with modification) usefully be resurrected.

The practice of carrying or bouncing the ball on the stick is
disapproved, because it becomes dangerous play when
the player concerned is tackled by an opponent, who is then
forced to play the ball in the air. Whenever it is continued to
this point it should be penalised.

Contesting for the ball in the air is discouraged in other Rule and it makes sense to uniformly discourage it. All that needs to be added to the above text is a height to which the ball may be raised and bounced without attracting penalty for actual or potentially dangerous play. Knee height seems to me to be an appropriate height; much above that and an opponent’s swing at the ball is likely to cause a stick inflicted injury as well as likely to cause the ball to go high. High ball bouncing – say at about elbow height – may look spectacular, but it is no more skillful than beating an opponent along the ground and besides it is a hurling skill not a hockey skill and while I am not opposed to importing team formations and tactics from a game like association football, I am opposed to adopting some of the playing techniques of that game, such as physical contact and ball shielding and I don’t want to see inappropriate practice imported from other games.

Different Rules make for different games and a hockey ball is too hard and heavy (compared to a hurling sliota) to have it much in the air in contested situations. Besides, having taken part in hurling matches (where the sliota is in the air for at least 30% of the time), I can tell you that one of the attractions of the sport for most of the participants is knocking ‘seven bells’ out of opponents with the hurl while pretending to be trying to obtain the sliotar, the game is like a mix of hockey and rugby with no discernible limitations on physical abuse as long as, ostensibly, the sliotar is being contested for. Off the ball fighting, enjoyable as that may be, is not allowed, but of course it frequently occurs in that sort of environment – just as it does in ice-hockey, where it is also part of the spectacle hugely anticipated by fans. Both of these sports have ‘best fights’ videos online.

I have seen it asserted that in ball bouncing circumstances in hockey matches (to return to near civilization) that it is a tackling defender who causes danger; that’s partially true, but it misses two points. Firstly, if a defender is not permitted to tackle an opponent who is bouncing the ball because that will be dangerous, that puts the defender unfairly at a disadvantage because of action taken by an opponent – that’s unfair – and no Rule should be inherently unfair. Secondly, the player bouncing the ball will likely breach the second part of Rule 9.8. “or play leading to dangerous play.” The dangerous play led to can be by the player who created the initial potentially dangerous situation or an opposing player.

As this post is now lengthy I will consider dangerous use of the stick and dangerous use of the body in subsequent posts.