Posts tagged ‘Legitimate evasive action’

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 13, 2018

Legitimate evasive action


Edited 15th December 2018

It has been suggested to me that the evasive action being taken by the defender shown in the photograph is not legitimate because the ball was not raised at or above his knee height. This suggestion uses ‘necessary‘ rather than ‘genuine‘ or ‘necessary as well as genuine‘ to define legitimate. The meaning ‘legal’ is obviously not appropriate, the defender does nothing illegal in trying to avoid being hit with the ball. But the fact that this needs to be pointed out highlights a problem; there is no clear meaning given to the definition of a dangerously played ball we have been provided with in Rule 9.8.

Rule 9.8. Explanation. A ball is also considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by players.

The recently added “also” is there because there are also two objective criteria provided in Rule 9.9,  which are 1) the raising of the ball towards a player 2) who is within 5m – the “knee height or above” part comes from the Rules of the conduct of a penalty corner – so even within the objective criteria for ‘dangerous’ there is some ambiguity about appropriate application.

I prefer to think of a legitimate evasive action as one that has been taken genuinely. That is a player takes evasive action because he or she believes that if they do not do so there is a high probability that the will be hit and injured with the ball. I take that view because the reverse edge hit, particularly when it is used to make a hard shot at the goal, is generally used with the intention of raising the ball. Players will often opt to use a reverse edge hit when they could just as easily, or even more easily, have used a standard upright forehand hit, because a raised ball hit towards a defender is more difficult for the defender to track and play than one that is hit towards them along the ground. If a defender within 5m of a striker believes that striker is going to raise the ball at him or her at high velocity (and is going to use a reverse edge hit to do so) it is reasonable to suppose the defender has a genuine reason to be taking evasive action even before the ball is struck (after the ball is struck will be too late).

A problem with using ‘necessary’ as a criteria for ‘legitimate’ is that evasion that was not only genuine but also necessary when it was taken can become unnecessary because of subsequent events. A ball raised towards the head of a defender on the goal-line, which is evaded by that defender as soon as he or she realizes what its path is, may be intercepted by the stick of another defender or deflected by the stick of a second attacker. The evading defender has no way of anticipating such intervention (which may make the evasion unnecessary) or of halting his or her evasion, which may have been a reflex action.

Another problem is that a defender may be taken by surprise and not realize that evasion is necessary until it is too late to evade. This may be coupled with the edge hitter not having an accurate idea of the height to which the ball will be raised. The example in the video below is of an illegal reverse hit, illegal because the ball was raised intentionally with a hit but was not a shot at the goal from within a shooting circle, and also because it was raised dangerously. The striker obviously had no idea (or intent) that the ball would rise as sharply as it did (but he did intend to raise the ball) and the defender had no chance to evade the ball entirely with his reflexive attempt to defend his face (the bruise on his neck, caused by the raised ball, can be seen).

It is sobering to know that had that edge hit been a shot at the goal from within the circle of the defender, many umpires would have penalised the defender and not the striker.

The player shown being hit with a raised shot in the picture below was penalised (he was hit to the side of his knee despite his evasive jump)  – a penalty stroke was awarded instead of a free ball to the defending team, which would have been the correct decision following the breaches of Rule 9.8 and 9.9. by the attacker.  A defender cannot be said or required to accept the risk that an opponent will endanger him by means of a breach of either of these Rules. The acceptance of risk, normally associated with participation in a dangerous sport, can only be applies to the accptance of the risks caused by legal actions – raising the ball towards an opponent within 5m is not a legal action.

The striker of the shot shown in the first photograph presented at the top of this article, probably intended that the ball fly into the goal just under the cross-bar and was disappointed at the ball elevation achieved as well as the direction of the shot (it was off-target). The point is, if a striker cannot always be sure about what height and direction the ball will be raised with a hard edge hit, it is unreasonable to expect a defender to have any idea of the path the ball will take, and when a defender sees a forward ‘shape up’ to strike an edge hit towards him or her from close range it is reasonable to consider any evasive action taken as being legitimate. (It is worth noticing that the evading defender was protecting his head with his arms and even a team-mate of the shooter, well to the right of the defender, also took evasive action – neither player could have had an accurate idea of either the height or direction the ball would be propelled until moments after it was hit) The umpire awarded a penalty corner following that foul by the attacker and not as he should have a free ball to the defending team.

And that brings us to another problem, unless he or she is a mind-reader, an umpire can have no idea if evasive action taken by a defender towards whom a ball has been raised, is genuine or not (and often even if it was necessary). Legitimate evasive action is therefore an inappropriate criteria on which to base an important judgement like ‘dangerously played’. There is here a subjective judgement – legitimate – being used to define another subjective judgement – dangerous – and, as has been pointed out, ‘legitimate’ cannot be judged with any certainty at all.

In this following  instance, as it happens, the ball was raised to above knee height at the defender from within 5m of his position. The fact that a shot at the goal was being attempted should not (cannot) prevent an umpire applying criteria for dangerously played that is generally accepted in other situations in open play. There is no exemption from the dangerously played ball Rule for the taking of a shot at goal (no matter what a Russian FIH Umpire and an Australian television commentator said to the contrary during a World Cup match in 2010)

Nor, I believe many drag-flick experts will be astonished to be informed, is there any distance limitation put by Rule on legitimate evasive action. LEA has to be judged as much, if not more, on ball velocity and ball height as it is on distance from the player the ball is propelled at. Flicking the ball at a defender’s head, at 120 -150kmh., is not always okay just because it is done from about 13m – in fact very seldom so. 5m is not a distance beyond which a dangerously played ball becomes an impossibility, it is the distance within which a ball raised at an opponent must always be considered to be dangerously played at that opponent. This is an Emphasis on safety – Consideration for the safety of other players – Playing responsibly – all that generally ignored stuff in the rule-book.