Posts tagged ‘illegal intentionally raised hit’

November 20, 2019

The lifted ball coaching document.

Rules of Hockey.

A contentious umpire coaching document from 2001

By John Gawley. 2001 Level 3 Umpire Coach.

This document is no different than much of what is produced by Umpire Coaches these days, as anyone who gave close attention to the videos and ‘Interpretations’ produced by the FIH Umpiring Committee as umpire coaching on the Dartfish web-site, (now taken down) will be able to testify.

There are high level umpire coaches like Jan Hadfield who can still be seen on You Tube video advising umpires to throw their rule-books away, and declaring the FIH Rules Committee to be packed with political appointees who have never played hockey and know nothing about it. Gawley did not belong to that tribe he was an Establishment figure.

The document refers to the Rules, where they are included, as they were in 2001 and those familiar with the current Rules will notice that a significant number of changes have been made since. I first reviewed this document about ten years ago but little nothing has been done to improve the officiating of the dangerously played ball since then.


John Gawley died in early 2018

Original text in blue.


No player should ever be put into a position of self-defence against a ball put into the air at any height, be it 15 or 50 centimetres. A player having to face a ball approaching in the air should have a clear view of the full flight of that ball and also have time either to move out of its way, or to play or attempt to play it in a legitimate and safe manner.

While it is true that no player should be forced to defend himself to avoid injury due to a ball propelling action by an opponent, the above lofty opening statement about player safety is almost meaningless without reference to distance from the ball and ball velocity, while the upper limit given (50cms, frequently referred to as knee height) is mentioned only in the Penalty Corner Rule as the height below which a ball propelled towards an outrunning defender will not be considered dangerous and the out-runner will be penalised (this is of course an absurd Rule, but as it contains the only height criterion related to dangerous play, knee height, this has been adopted ‘in practice’ for use in open play to determine a dangerously played ball within 5m of an opponent.) Gawley started his paper with this ambiguity concerning danger, then an invention of his own about a player having full sight of an approaching ball (usually an impossibility for an umpire to determine) and then an apparent contradiction of existing Rule and regarding evasive action

So far as Goalkeepers are concerned, they deliberately put themselves “into the firing line” but are equipped to do so. Nevertheless, even they can be forced into self-protection rather than protection of their goal by dangerously-raised balls.

A contentious statement with no explanation or justification offered. Hitting the ball into a goal-keeper who is prone on the ground has long been seen as an unacceptable practice, but a standing and fully equipped goalkeeper is supposed to be able to cope with any ball raised towards him from any distance and at any velocity. Defenders protected with only gloves, an extra box and a face-mast are another matter entirely, and obviously in open play even theses extra protections will be absent. We will come back to this matter later.


Lift at an Opponent If the ball is intentionally put into the air at an opponent at any height anywhere on the pitch in contravention of Rule 13.1.1 f: (“Players shall not play the ball dangerously or in such a way as to be likely to lead to dangerous play”) and Rule 13.1.3b (“Players shall not intentionally raise the ball so that it lands directly in the circle”) the player who raises the ball is in breach of the Rule. Furthermore, the shot may be dangerous or likely to lead to danger.Such a shot may legitimately be defended by the hand in accordance with Rule13.1.2 a. (“Players shall not stop or catch the ball with the hand. There is nothing to prevent players using their hands to protect themselves from dangerously-raised balls.”) That statement stands despite the fact that Rule13.1.3 a (“Players shall not intentionally raise the ball from a hit except for a shot at goal”.) permits a shot at goal to be made at any height. A raised shot has to be made at goal, not deliberately at a defender standing either in goal or between the goal and the striker.-

Gawley there quotes a number of Rules some of which no longer exist (I have greyed all amended or deleted Rule below) and one (raising the ball into the circle) which seems to be of no direct relevance unless the ball is played in a dangerous way .

13.1.2 Use of body, hands, feet by players other than goal-


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.

Removed 2007 restored 2015)

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
Players shall not:-

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.

Bewilderingly, Gawley left out the two most relevant Rules extant at the time.

A player shall not raise the ball at another player

and the Rule regarding ball body contact. but more on that latter Rule later

I made myself unpopular on Internet hockey forums from the late 1990’s onward, as the (sic) recently introduced drag flick began to dominate the type of first shot taken during a penalty corner, by pointing out the existence of  Rule 13.1.3.d, which was obviously being ignored when a shooter raised a flick, at upwards of 100kph, towards the head of a defender on the goal-line. (Very spectacular and entertaining). The Rule was unconditional and there were no exceptions to it. After 2003 this Rule disappeared (I cynically suppose in the interests of player safety) and bizarrely resurfaced as Explanation to Rule 9.9. (the intentionally raised hit) but specifically mentioned flicks and scoops (not hits or deflections) and with a 5m limit added to it. One of the oddities of the present Rules is that raising the ball to any height towards an opponent, who is within 5m, with a flick or a scoop, is a foul, but doing so with a hit or deflection is not specifically prohibited (it is to be hoped that the common sense, so often called for in the UMB, is applied here, but the UMB also contradicts the absence of a minimum height in the Rule, giving instead – “below half-shin pad height is not considered dangerous”).

Tackling Lift

There is nothing in the Rules to prevent any player in possession of the ball from lifting it over the stick of an opponent to resist a tackle, be it in the outfield, in the circle, or entering the circle, provided that the condition of Rule 13.1.3 b (“Players shall not intentionally raise the ball so that it lands directly in the circle.”) is met. The last point is important: where the ball is lifted in such a manner over an opponent’s stick and enters the circle while still in the air, there is NO offence.-

The above paragraph is no longer relevant unless the ball is hit and I can’t see that it had much relevance at the time it was written. Using “resist a tackle” instead of ‘evade a tackle’ is to me a strange choice of wording.

Tactical Lift

When a ball is deliberately raised in a legitimate manner anywhere on the pitch the umpire should decide upon its merits as advised in the Rules Interpretations of the Rule Book. This form of play is used for tactical purposes, often to reverse the opposing defence. In general, it is fair to say that players who raise the ball in this manner, usually by scooping, consciously try to avoid danger to anyone in the flight path of the ball. The umpire is therefore seeking reasons why such a raised ball SHOULD be penalised. A player receiving a dropping ball should be given time and space in which safely to do so without real or threatened interference from an opponent. (Rule 13.1.3 c “Players shall not approach within 5 metres of a player receiving a falling aerial ball until it has been played and is on the ground.”) Note that the ball, having been intentionally lifted in this way, may not fall into the circle.

A strange paragraph, but one reason a scoop pass could have been penalised is if it was played in a way that was likely to lead to dangerous play, for example, lofted to fall on a contested position . The “likely to lead to” wording is, I think, superior to the present “leads to” but a revised Rule could and probably should contain both descriptions i.e. “leads or is likely to lead to dangerous play”.


On the other hand, the ball is often raised accidentally, usually by a stick interfering with the flight of the ball, rather than by any deliberate attempt to play it. In such circumstances, the ball is likely to fly upwards in an unpredictable trajectory, thus being both dangerous in itself and likely to cause danger. A ball hit some 15 cm in the air into a crowded circle is an example. The Umpire, therefore, is likely to be seeking reasons why this raised ball should NOT be penalised but should wait to determine whether this actual danger.


The above paragraph has some strange statements in it. An accidental deflection that causes the ball to fly up will generally result from an attempt to play at it by a player. A ball hit into a crowded circle is not generally the result of an accidental hit but it may be unintentionally raised.

The UBM now contradicts what is given in the Rules regarding an intentionally raised hit (forget lifted – think danger, wrongly ignoring any disadvantage so caused) and as it is often impossible to know if such low raised hits (or sometimes even high ones) are raised accidentally or not, it would be simpler and fairer and safer, to prohibit any raising of the ball into the circle with a hit (A Rule which I believe was last extant in the 1960’s. I have recollection of playing under such a Rule in my school days) .


No matter where on the field the ball is raised, and no matter what the circumstances of the lift, the umpire must always judge whether a player has been genuinely endangered in any of the ways described. Umpires should be on their guard against players who simulate ducking out of the way of raised balls simply to try to “con” them into thinking that such a ball is dangerous. Similarly, umpires should not be misled by defenders, often in goal, who allow themselves to be hit by the ball so as to be able to claim that the shot was dangerous.The same standards of judgement must be applied wherever and whenever the ball is raised.

The above statements are a ‘can of worms’. A ball which has been raised at or above a particular height towards a player who is within a particular distance, at a velocity that could injure that player if he was hit with it, must be considered to be dangerous play. But we don’t have such criteria in place so we are left with umpires guessing about ‘ducking cons’ or defenders deliberately putting themselves bodily in the way of the ball. Gawley’s words above were a ‘green light’ for umpires to penalise any defender who was hit with a raised  ball (despite the existing Rules) and no-one could argue with the subjective opinion of an umpire no matter how crazy or contrary to Rule it might appear.

It is therefore important that umpires recognise, and agree before each game according to the level and playing conditions of that game, what is the likely distance inside which those particular players are likely to have to defend their own persons instead of playing the ball properly. Other factors need to be considered for raised shots at goal, however:-

No, that is wrong, umpires should not be altering Rule criteria before each game.

Here below Gawley repeats some of his earlier assertions but also contradicts himself. It is a very complicated and contentious section.


The goal is there to be shot at. The goalkeeper is well-protected and has no grounds for protest about high shots at goal.

Which contradicts his earlier statement about endangering goalkeepers

So far as any other defenders are concerned, if they stand in the goal to defend high shots, they must accept the penalty if the ball hits them contrary to Rule 13.1.2 b (“Players shall not intentionally stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their bodies.”).

That appears to assert that any defender in the goal who is hit with a high ball can be considered to have used his body intentionally to stop the ball. That makes things very easy for umpires (and difficult and dangerous for defenders), umpires can ignore the Rules concerning a dangerously played ball or raised hit and there is no need for any subjective judgement about the intent of the defender, the objective “Did the ball hit the defender on the body?”  is good enough. So much for the emphasis on the safety of players and consideration for the safety of other players and playing responsibly.

They can be said, perhaps, to have arrogated to themselves the duty of goalkeeper without having goalkeeper’s privileges. High shots include hits, flicks and scoops.

The above statement gives credence to the ‘acceptance of risk’ meme and even to the “Asking for it” attitude. It’s nonsense of course. A game must be played to its Rules and the Rules enforced. No player can be obliged to accept risk of injury when opponents do not comply with the published Rules, and umpires who do not enforce the dangerous play Rules should be suspended and coached.

The fact that there are no objective criteria to describe a dangerously played ball propelled from beyond 5m of a defender is a disgrace.  Legitimate evasive action, a subjective judgement, has obviously been completely undermined. Gawley does not even mention its existence in the Rules

He then reverses himself and suggests different ‘dangerous’ distances apparently based on skill levels contradicting the FIH statement that all hockey is (must be) played to the same Rules.

Having said this, it must nevertheless be remembered that no player should ever be put to the necessity of self-defence, and that includes goalkeepers.

Does that not include evasive action? Below he jumps from goalkeepers to defending players but it is not clear at what point he has done so.

Although properly protected, goalkeepers can still be injured by balls projected at them from so short a range and in such a manner that they are unable to adopt a naturally protective posture. In high level games, with physically fit, young, skilled players, it is possible that the minimum safe distance for a rising shot is about than 3 metres. In less skilled games, that distance will probably be not less than 9 metres and could be more. In all cases, the distances may increase dependent on other circumstances, not least whether the players defending the goal have a clear view of the whole flight of the ball from the moment that it is first propelled upwards.

Umpires cannot arbitrarily change ‘dangerous’ distances before a particular match without consulting with the Captains and Coaches of the competing teams and giving good reason for their suggestion. The clear view idea while ideal, is in practice unworkable because an umpire can have no idea in normal circumstances (obvious deliberate sight blocking aside) what a individual player can see or not see in any particular situation.

Judgement of what is dangerous must necessarily be subjective.

That is not a true statement, there are many situations where objective criteria can easily be applied. We have had for example an objective criterion, to determine the accepted height of a first hit shot at the goal during a penalty corner, since the 1980’s. There is no good reason there cannot be an upper height limit on any ball propelled at high velocity an opponent from distances beyond 5m. I have for some years been proposing that this height could be sternum height. There was a lot of early resistance to this suggestion because the height of a shot at goal is not (and should not be it was said) limited. But these days the majority of drag flicks seem to be kept low and scoring rates have increased, not declined, so that objection should have gone away.

Perhaps the soundest advice for the umpire is to consider that any raised ball is dangerous unless proved otherwise.

Better that it is considered that any raised ball may be potentially dangerous. (requires judgement) because it is certainly not the case that all raising of the ball is dangerous play. Currently an umpire will not consider a raised ball dangerous (or potentially dangerous) unless it actually endangers an opposing player – pretty much the opposite to what Gawley suggested. The exception seems to be rebounds u off defenders in the circle, which are ‘automaticaly’ penalised with a penalty corner (when previously a bully on the 23m line would have been awarded)

In general, it is probably fair to say that a rising ball that would not be permitted on the grounds of safety in the outfield should not be permitted, for the same reasons, in the circle, whether for a shot at goal or, indeed, for clearing a shot at goal – a goalkeeper’s kick, for example. The exception is that the intentionally raised hit is permitted in the circle for a shot at goal; otherwise the same parameters apply.

Any raising of the ball towards other players or when contesting for the ball with other players is potentially dangerous. A task of the umpires is not to allow potentially dangerous play become actually dangerous. This is generally managed by good whistle timing, rather than inaction and seeing how things turn out.

Note, however, that this advice is concerned mainly with high shots in OPEN PLAY. In these circumstances, there are usually few players in the circle and,as often as not, the shot is made in a one-on-one situation. During Penalty Corners, where numbers of players are required by the Rules to operate within the circle, other considerations apply, all concerned primarily with Safety.

The Offside Rule was deleted in 1997. I can see no grounds for Gawley’s assertion that the circles would be generally less congested in open play than they would be during a penalty corner after this date. It’s true that the circle is always congested during a penalty corner and when counter attacking tactics are used, there are occasions when the opposing circle will not be congested, but to apply the dangerous play Rules differently in open play and the penalty corner simply on the grounds of possible or probable circle congestion is unjustified.


During open play, rising shots at goal are permitted provided the defending players have time to defend the goal rather than themselves. No player should EVER be permitted to raise the ball, anywhere on the pitch, that is dangerous to other players.


The following is probably the most bizarre statement I have read in a coaching document, but I have often seen it trotted by the “Asking for it” bunch, but without the final four words unless they were endangered.

If defenders other than goalkeepers dressed in protective clothing or helmeted “kicking backs” (who have goalkeepers’ privileges in the circle), elect to defend their goal, then a shot that would have been permitted against a fully-equipped goalkeeper should be permitted against them. And if they stop or play the ball with their bodies or sticks above their shoulders, they should be penalised unless they were endangered.

This problem will go away as the position of Player with Goalkeeping Privileges has now (2019) been discontinued. I am of the opinion that teams should be compelled to field a fully equipped goalkeeper – as they once were. The problem of attackers treating any player defending the goal as if they were a fully equipped goalkeeper – and umpires allowing them do do so – persists however. Some participants seem to regard any defence of the goal as an offence rather than what it is – a necessary and difficult skill. A skill that hockey would be a lot poorer without.

>RAISED SHOTS AT GOAL AT PENALTY CORNERS AND FROM CORNERS- Players in the Circle The Penalty Corner demands a maximum of 5 defenders behind their back or goal-line and places no limit on the number of attackers round the circle, though in practice the attackers usually number six or seven. There can thus be twelve or so players in the circle during the conduct of a Penalty Corner. For a Corner,and for other forms of Hit-in and Free Hit to the attackers where there has been a delay in play so as to allow players to gather in and near the circle, there is no limit to the numbers of players who may be in the circle. Eighteen players were counted on one occasion.Hits to the attack from the area of corner flags (corners, hits-in & free hits) are rightfully taken in open play, They are considered here with the Penalty Corner as likely to cause crowding within the circle.It can thus be seen that any ball raised into or within the circle in such circumstances has a great potential for danger. Such crowding underlines the need for umpires to judge whether players in the flight path of a raised ball have time properly to react to it. This is not to say that all raised balls in the circle are dangerous, nor that balls raised unintentionally into the circle are necessarily dangerous, but merely to indicate the potential for danger and hence the need for acute awareness and observation by the umpire.-

…..and also correct application of the Rules.

Penalty Corner

The defenders (including the Goalkeeper) are prohibited from deliberately raising the ball from a hit within the circle, or indeed outside it – Rule13.1.3 a applies. The attackers, however, MAY deliberately raise the ball from a hit or other type of shot in the circle, but only for a shot at goal – not for a hit across the circle, for example. The one caveat to this permission is that the FIRST hit at goal at a Penalty Corner must comply with Rule 15.2 l (“If the first shot at goal is a hit, the ball must cross the goal-line at a height of not more than 460mm (the height of the backboard) for a goal to be scored, unless it touches the stick or body of a defender.“) Generally, the ball that is raised in the circle has a possible element of danger. But remember that any player may raise the ball over the stick of an opponent to resist a tackle. Once the first hit at goal in a Penalty Corner has been made, all subsequent hits may be at any height consonant with safety, as already described.

As already described” I missed that description because it is not in the paper.

However, still with the Penalty Corner, any other stroke to raise the ball may be made at any time, with no limit being placed on the height of the ball at any part of its flight. The only caveat on these forms of shot – usually scoops or flicks -is that of safety. And let us remember that the Penalty Corner Rule -specifically those sections applying to the first hit and the need first to stop the ball on the ground – ceases to apply if the ball goes beyond 5metres from the circle before re-entering it (Rule 15.2 (“If the ball travels more than 5metres from the circle, the penalty corner rules no longer apply”).-

The Scooped Ball

The ball that is flicked or scooped from near the inside edge of the circle so that it goes high over all heads and falls so that it will enter the goal just below the crossbar is not very likely to be dangerous when falling; the player(s) in the goal-mouth will see the ball raised, will see it during its flight, and will have time to decide how to defend the falling ball. They therefore have no excuse for playing the ball with their sticks whilst it is above their shoulders, for hitting the ball away in a dangerous manner, nor for using any part of their body to stop the ball. Only if the flick or scoop is at very short range, or if there are players in the line of sight between striker and goal, might the striker be penalised, and then usually only if the ball is still rising or if it is so low throughout its flight as to be obscured, for the receiver, by other players.

I have never seen a low flick penalised as dangerous because its path was obscured by other players. Gawley mentions sight blocking several times in this paper, but aside from third party obstruction, when such sight blocking might occur, it has never been part of the Rules of Hockey.

Umpires should remember that the same conditions for dealing with a dropping ball apply for shots at goal as elsewhere on the pitch i.e. the player receiving the ball must be given time and space (5metres) in which to receive it safely.-


Having accepted the caveats noted above for the Penalty Corner, let us broaden thought to embrace the crowded circle. The same considerations previously mentioned still apply, i.e. the goal is there to be shot at, and defenders who arrogate to themselves the duty of goalkeeper must accept the penalty if they prevent a goal other than legitimately with their sticks.

The above ‘arrogation’ statement, along with the assertion that defenders who are defending the goal when hit with the ball, have used their bodies to stop the ball intentionally. Have removed all rationality in many umpires who have read and accepted them.

But, given the crowding already discussed, it is even more important that players defending any raised ball, regardless of its height, should have a clear view of the ball’s trajectory and have time either to remove themselves from its path or to play or try to play the ball legitimately.

Removing themselves from the path of the ball (to avoid injury) is legitimate evasive action. Rule 13.11 f extant when the paper was written gives:-

Players shall not play the ball dangerously or in such a way as to be likely to lead to dangerous play      

(which is better than the present version)

A ball is dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by players.

Gawley then repeats his warning about defenders using their body to stop or deflect the ball.

If they do not have such time, the ball raised at them must be considered dangerous and penalised immediately. But umpires should be on their guard against players who deliberately allow themselves to be hit by the ball so as to be able to claim that the lift was dangerous.

Which course of action is Gawley advocating there?

It is the rising ball that is most likely to cause most danger, either because it can strike a player’s body, where its energy is likely to be absorbed, or because it can touch part of a stick and fly off unpredictably, with no loss of energy, to hit another player.

When the circle is crowded, such as at Penalty Corners and for hits from near the corner flag areas, there is a high potential for danger from any raised ball. Umpires must be alert to the risks involved but should not over-react merely because the ball is in the air or the body of a defender in the goal is struck by the ball. They should instead consider whether players have the necessary time and distance to avoid physical contact with the raised ball in favour of playing or attempting to play it legitimately, and not flinch from applying the appropriate penalty if avoiding action could have been taken.

Again a U-turn ignoring the possibility of legitimate evasive action.

The necessity for the first HIT at goal at a Penalty Corner not to cross the goal-line at a height greater than 460mm should also be borne in mind (this no longer applies, now the hit will be penalised immediately if it is raised above 460mm – or should be)/span>d.

A rambling and confusing document with two Summaries. I have no idea how Gawley expected umpires to officiate after having read his advice, but the slant – because of repetition – seems to be towards penalising defenders who had been hit with a raised ball (especially when the raised ball is a shot at the goal) even when they have attempted to take evasive action.

The current coaching of umpires is no better, if anything Gawley set the current trend of ambiguity, obscurantism and outright contradiction of Rule, but I don’t think he meant to do so.

March 12, 2018

A suggested rewrite of Rule 9.9.


A suggested rewrite of a Rule of Hockey

Rule 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.

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.


Action. Amendment to reverse the present criteria. Reinstatement of previous Rules.

Reason. The Rule contradiction forget lifted-think danger from the UMB, which is now a “convention” or meme that over-rides the Rule.

The current Rule is a badly enforced mishmash of unrelated or only loosely connected statements. For example, the statement, taken from the Penalty Corner procedure Rule, about a player running into the ball, is out of place in a Rule prohibiting an intentionally raised hit. Mention of dangerous play as a result of raising the ball into an opponent with a flick or a scoop is also out of place. The proposed amendment will remove the subjective judgement of intention entirely and replace the subjective judgement of dangerous play with objective criteria for non-compliance or dangerously played.

Neither of the intentionally raised reverse edge hits shown in the following video clip, which were made within 30secs of each other, were penalised. (The ball was raised with similar strokes, when the first one was not penalised how could the second one be, if the umpiring was to be consistent?). After consulting with her colleague the umpire at the defending end incorrectly awarded a goal to SA.



All of these proposals are suggestions and not ‘cast in iron’, useful comment and alternative suggestion is welcome.

Players must not, except for a shot at the goal from within the opponent’s circle, raise the ball to above shoulder height with a hit.

Shoulder height is an absolute limit, irrespective of any danger, for any raised hit in any part of the field outside the opponent’s circle.

It is not an offence to raise the ball with hit except when hitting the ball:-

a) from a free ball or any re-start

b) so that it will fall, beyond the immediate control of the hitter, directly into the opponent’s circle.

c) inside the opponent’s circle when the hit is not intended as a shot at the goal.

d) in a way that will contravene Rule 9.8. The dangerously played ball.

e) with an edge hit from either side of the body that raises the ball above sternum height at an opponent within 20m (knee height when at an opponent within 5m).

The prohibition on a hard forehand edge hit is deleted.


Intention to raise the ball in a way that is non-compliant (i.e. above shoulder height or dangerously as defined by sternum and knee height limitations within the relevant distances) is irrelevant, it is a breach of the Rule even if done accidentally: a deliberate breach of the Rule should attract a more severe penalty than an accidental mishit.

Exception. A player who is in controlled possession of the ball, both before and after hitting it, e.g. is dribbling with the ball, may raise it up to knee height with a hit while entering the opponent’s circle in order to evade opponents but:-

The practice of putting the ball up and then hitting a shot at the goal on the volley before the ball falls to ground or as it bounces up from the ground, on the half-volley, following a lift made specifically to achieve such bounce, is to be discouraged and in no circumstances may the ball be raised to above sternum height with such a volley or half-volley hit

The practice of running with the ball while bouncing it on the stick – up to shoulder height – is not prohibited until and unless it is done at above elbow/sternum height within the playing reach of an opponent who is in position to contest for the ball. If it is continued to that point it should be considered dangerous play or play likely to lead to dangerous play and penalised. (This is a restoration from previous Advice to umpires) Ball bouncing at knee height or below is permitted even in contested situations. It is not permitted to bounce the ball on the stick to above shoulder height in any circumstances. Bouncing the ball on the stick and then making a bounced pass raised above shoulder level to other player (or the player in possession lofting the ball ahead in this way to run onto on the far side of opponents) is a breach of the Rule (such passing is legal with a flick, scoop or lob and therefore not necessary with a hit stroke).

A distinction needs to be made between dribblers carrying out what are termed 3D skills, especially as they enter the opponents circle and then take a shot while the ball is still in the air, and what might be termed a hurling style hit shot. This is a matter for common sense and subjective judgement made with an emphasis on the safety of players. If the ball is hit while it is in the air, particularly when taking a shot at the goal, it must not be raised if there are defending players other than a fully protected goalkeeper between the striker and the goal on the flight path of the ball. This falls within the already demanded play with consideration for the safety of other players and playing responsibly: opponents should not be forced to self-defence from a raised shot.

A shot made at the goal that is not made towards the position of an opponent is not in any way restricted unless made with an edge hit.

A shot raised to head height that is directed within the shoulder width of an opponent is to be considered at that opponent even if it will miss that player’s head – such a shot, if evaded, will be considered legitimately evaded and deemed to be a dangerously played ball. A hit shot or deflection raised to knee height or above and towards an opponent who is positioned within 5m of the striker must be penalised as dangerous play even if it is a shot on goal. A hit shot or deflection, even if it is a shot on goal, raised to sternum height or above and at high velocity (at a velocity that could injure) towards an opponent who is positioned within 19m of the striker (flank edge of circle to far goal-post) must be penalised as dangerous play if it forces an opponent to self defence. There is an emphasis on safety, players must play with consideration for the safety of other players. It is important that reckless and dangerous shooting that is also towards opponents be eliminated from the game.

March 2, 2018

Hitting the ball illegally


Aside from ‘back-sticks’ there are two types of illegal hit according to the Rules of Hockey.
1) A hard forehand edge hit.
2) The intentional raising of the ball with any type of hit stroke unless shooting at the opponents’ goal from within their circle.

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

This does not prohibit use of the edge of the stick on the forehand in a controlled action in a tackle, when raising the ball in a controlled way over an opponent’s stick or over a goalkeeper or player with goalkeeping privileges who is lying on the ground or when using a long pushing motion along the ground.

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.

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.

Both of the above Rules require an umpire to make a subjective judgement. Rule 9.6. requires the judgement  of ‘hard’ and Rule 9.9. of ‘intentional’ and therefore despite some very clear objective criteria, in much the same way as the Obstruction Rule and the ball body contact/dangerous play Rules, 9.6 and 9.9 are seldom applied as they should be, if at all.

The subjective criteria in both of these Rules could and I think should, be replaced with a more appropriate objective criterion to improve application. I see no good reason that all intentional raising of the ball with a hit stroke should be prohibited (unless making a shot at the opponent’s goal from within their circle) – in fact that seems back-to-front to me. I do see reason to prohibit raising the ball at high velocity towards another player who is within 15m of the player hitting (or drag-flicking) the ball and that prohibition could reasonably depend on a height criterion – elbow or sternum height together with ball velocity.

I believe that in the area outside the circle an absolute limit should be placed on the height to which a ball can legally be raised with a hit if not propelled towards an opponent – this would prevent the making of the pitch length hits which were popular in the mid 1980’s (and which led to the imposition of the present prohibition on an intentionally raised hit) and the dangers which accompanied the making of those hits (by players without the necessary skill) would be avoided. I think shoulder height would be a suitable absolute limit. So in the circle a hit shot (or drag flick) at the goal would not be height limited unless the ball was propelled towards another player – in which case it would be limited to sternum height. The word intentionally could be struck out of the Rule, so what is penalised is a prohibited action (an observable incident) not the intention to carry out that action.

Two other amendments are necessary. Raising the ball with a hit to propel the ball away from the hitter’s control (therefore allowing what are called 3D dribbling skills) and into the opponent’s circle to be prohibited (together with abolishing the present restriction on playing the ball into the opponent’s circle from a free ball awarded in their 23m area). Edge hits, both fore and reverse, to be height limited – to either knee height or sternum height – the word ‘hard’ (subjective) could then be struck out. I would go further and abolish the offence of back-sticks, but that may be too much of a change for some to swallow although it would  make no difference at all to the way hockey is now played and would expand stick-work skills by expanding the available skill options.

In the following video there are nine examples of an illegal hit stroke incident shown, only the eighth incident (which comprised of three concurrent offences, a forehand edge hit, intentional raising of the ball with a hit and dangerous play – raising the ball towards an opponent who was within 5m, and injuring him) was penalised. I have written brief description of the action in each incident and a comment for each below.

1) From a 23m restart following the ball going out of play over the base-line, the first ARG player passes the ball backwards to a team-mate who uses what looks to be a forehand edge-hit in an attempt to raise the ball into the circle. The raised ball is accidentally deflected up and out of play over the base-line by a defender. The umpire having not noticed the illegal action of the ARG hitter (or having ignored it) awards another 23m restart for the attackers.

2) This incident occurred during a shootout, with both umpires positioned close to the play, presumably to ensure Rule compliance and fair play. The illegal hard forehand edge-hit was ignored (not seen?) and a goal awarded.

3) A free ball awarded to the ARG team about 1m outside the 23m line was hit hard and raised with forehand edge-hit. The ball struck a defending ESP player positioned just outside the circle, on the leg. The umpires, not noticing or ignoring these two offences (I cannot suggest that FIH Umpires are unaware of these Rules) award a free ball to ARG for the ball-leg contact. It is difficult to see what advantage, if any, the ESP team gained from the accidental ball-leg contact.

4) I am not sure if this hit was from a free ball taken inside the 23m line, but if it was the ball should not have been played directly into the circle at all. The BEL attacker uses a hard forehand edge hit to raise the ball into the circle, clearly to the disadvantage of the NZ team because a NZ player deflects the raised ball into the body of a team-mate. There is no evidence of any advantage gained by the NZ team because of the  ball-body contact  had the contact not occurred it seems probable that the ball would have gone into the possession of the NZ team. The offences of the player making the illegal hit were ignored and a penalty corner was awarded.

5) EHL match. The right flank (light blue) player uses a hard forehand edge hit to raise the ball into the circle – which was to the disadvantage of the defending team. These two offences were not penalised.

6) The picture quality on this video is poor. Not a forehand edge hit but an AUS player intentionally raises the ball with a hit into the circle. The illegally raised ball travels at about chest height towards an IND defender who is about 5m away.  The  IND player parries the ball with his stick and deflects it to another AUS attacker who is positioned near to the baseline (so the IND team are disadvantaged by the illegally raised hit). The second AUS attacker waits in possession of the ball until he is closed down by the same IND defender and then raises the ball into his thigh from close range (less than 2m). The umpire awarded a penalty corner, thus ignoring an intentionally raised hit and two instances of dangerous play by the AUS team.

7) An IND attacker used a hard forehand edge hit to raise the ball towards the goal from the top of the circle (it is not possible because of the frame rate of the original video to see if the ball was struck from inside the circle, but this is irrelevant anyway, the hit was illegal because a forehand edge hit was used to make it). If the ball was hit from outside the circle the intentional raising of the ball with a hit of any description would be illegal. The ball traveled towards a second IND attacker positioned in front of the goal who was  marked by a CAN player. The second IND attacker deflected the ball up into the arm of the CAN player (who could not avoid being hit at that range) this was clearly dangerous play by the IND player. The umpire awarded a penalty corner.

8) As mentioned previously, this illegal raising of the ball, use of a forehand edge-hit and dangerous play, were penalised by the umpire. The GER player was completely  ignorant of the Rules or despite knowing he was in breach of three Rules had the ‘brass neck’ to claim that the NZ player had committed a ball-body contact offence.

9) The AUS player intentionally raises the ball with a slap or punt hit across the circle towards the ARG goal.(to the disadvantage of an ARG defender and the ARG team) The ARG goalkeeper tries to kick the ball clear but propels it accidentally into the back of the legs of one of her own team, the ball then rolled out of play. This ball-body contact was of disadvantage to the ARG team, not the AUS team. Mysteriously the umpire, having ignored the initial raised hit offence by the AUS player, awarded a penalty conrner to the AUS team. For what?

It is not easy to understand what is going on concerning the Rules relating to illegal hitting actions, i.e. why they are so badly applied or ignored. The Rules are set out above, below is advice from the UMB.

Briefing Forehand edge
Briefing Ball off ground copy

Page three of the UMB, which is headed, Rules of Hockey 2017, contains a paragraph that ends with a statement that the text in the Rule reinforces the existing interpretation. This is a bizarre statement, it must be the other way about – the interpretation must reinforce what is given in the text of the Rule.

The page headed Ball off the Ground (page 11) contains a first clause that is full of contradiction with the Rules of Hockey – and the umpires are anyway – as in the incidents shown in the video clips above – usually ignoring dangerous play as well as ignoring the fact of offence (that the ball has been illegally raised, often to the disadvantage of opponents).

When an offence disadvantages opponents it must be penalised; it is only when an offence is of no disadvantage to opponents that it can be ignored and play allowed to continue. Not all offences are dangerous play or lead to dangerous play.

Dangerous play is by definition of disadvantage to opponents because for there to be dangerous play an opposing player must be endangered (is it necessary to say that being endangered with the ball is a disadvantage to a player? – I’ve done it anyway).

To advise in a briefing document that ball raising offences be ignored (forget lifted) except when they are dangerous in themselves or lead to dangerous play (think danger) and is not sound umpire management practice because this not only ignores the wording of the Rule it ignores any disadvantage to opponents. 

The umpires seen officiating in the above video clips (except #8) obviously do not understand the Rules. Rules 9.6 and 9.9. are applied (or not applied) in much the same way as Rule 9.12 is, and misapplied in much the same way as Rule 9.11. is misapplied. These umpires are consistently poor in the application of these Rules and there is not much common sense in evidence. There is therefore no good reason not to amend these Rules with the aim of achieving better compliance from both players and umpires.

In the first part of the video below the umpire ‘forgets’ lifted but he does not ‘think danger’ (here play leading to dangerous play). That close to the opposing goalkeeper, who was competing for the ball, the team-mate of the player who illegally raised the ball into the circle could not have been the initial receiver; the ball was potentially dangerous from the moment it was raised (I have no doubt about the flank player’s intention to raise the ball but would prefer a Rule situation where it was not necessary to determine intent – that the ball was raised into the circle should be sufficient to call an offence – as it was prior to the introduction of the Rule prohibiting the intentionally raised hit))

I am anyway firmly of the opinion that no player should be permitted to play or attempt to play at an above shoulder ball while in the opponents circle, especially if it is possible that the type of play seen in the video would not be considered by umpires to be dangerous. We have been taken in one step, by Rule amendment, from a situation where a defender who attempted to play at a shot at the goal that was going wide of the target would have to be penalised with a penalty corner (mandatory) to what looks like a free-for-all.

In the second incident the raised hit across the goal was obviously intended as a pass and not a shot at the goal and was therefore illegally raised. It is not possible (fair or safe) for the umpire to ‘forget lifted’ in such circumstances.

Back in 1997 when the Off-side Rule was finally abolished, the then FIH Hockey Rules Board promised that measures would be put in place to prevent attackers behaving in a dangerous way close to the goal (‘goal-hanging’, not previously possible, was a concern). These measures never materialized; in fact the opposite has happened, what little Rule protection there was for defending players after 1997 has been ruthlessly stripped away. Comment about this (from someone who pointed out he was a qualified umpire) is contained in my article ‘Reckless endangerment’ and illustrates a present common attitude towards players who are defending the goal when a raised shot is made.

Below, another example in which there is penalising of a second offence rather than the first offence and awarding of the free ball in the wrong place (the first offence led to the second offence and was therefore – Rule 9.8 – also dangerous play).