Posts tagged ‘Raising the ball into the circle’

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.

November 29, 2018

Authority and unwanted Rules


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

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

A raised hit must be judged explicitly on whether or not it is raised intentionally.
(a misuse of the word “explicitly”, I think what was meant was “exclusively”)

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

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

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

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

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

 The UMB contradicts the Rule instruction to consider intent and tells an umpire to consider only danger caused if the ball is raised with a hit.

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

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

By-the-by in 1998 It was announced in the Preface of the Rules of Hockey that the (sic) new format of the rule-book included all the material which had previously been contained in umpire briefings – and so in future separate briefing papers would no longer be required. The fight continues, about a year ago I was informed by an FIH official who was replying to me (an official who is no longer with the FIH) that I was in a minority of one in wanting the separately published UMB discontinued – so in other words something that had Executive approval was not long afterwards completely disavowed by administrators despite never have been formally revoked by the FIH.

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

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

It is clear from the wording of the Explanation of application of the Rule that accidental raising of the ball with a hit is not an offence unless endangerment is caused. The UMB therefore effectively advises umpires to regard all raised hits as accidental – and to look only for dangerous play when a ball is raised with a hit,  ignoring any intent to raise the ball; an obvious nonsense given the wording of the Rule – and a very unfair nonsense. The exception to the Rule, accidentally raising the ball with a hit not being an offence, has replaced the Rule and intention to do so is simply disregarded.

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

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

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

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

Do we want or need intentionally raised hits that are not shots at the goal to be penalised? No obviously not, not unless they are also dangerous play, but that is not how the Rule is presented or how it should be applied. It’s a rotten Rule which was put in place in the late 1980’s to prevent hits that at the time had become popular, because of the introduction of the ultra stiff carbon-fibre reinforced stick, which facilitated, in expert hands, a clip or chip from one end of the pitch to the other. The reason given at the time for banning such hitting was because it led to boring play rather than the real (possibly seen as ‘wimpy’) reason, which was that it was dangerous or potentially dangerous play.

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

Would restoring the ban on any raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit (and perhaps a height limit on other strokes and deflections) lead to fairer umpiring? It should do. It should at least lead to more consistent umpiring. Few umpires confuse raised with not raised, but most are apparently (and unsurprisingly, given they are effectively told to ignore it) very poor at determining intent.


Dangerous play.

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

Players are permitted to raise the ball with a flick or scoop provided it is not dangerous. A flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5 metres IS considered dangerous.(my upper case bold)

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

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

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

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


It is only the FIH Rules Committee that can introduce new Rule or amend existing Rule or Interpretation. The FIH Executive issued a Circular to National Associations in 2001 that made that perfectly clear. The wording of that Executive Circular could usefully have been added to the preamble in the Preface of the Rules of Hockey under the title Authority, just as the emphasis on safety (ha ha) is included each year under Responsibility and Liability. In that Circular it was stated that no other person or official or body (committee) has authority to amend the Rules or the Interpretation of the Rules. The opinion of umpires seems to be entirely the other way about. As part of an exchange of views on Facebook following comment about umpire briefings (the UMB) posted with the first video shown above, I received this in reply.

Michael Margolien Briefing obviously overrides rules.

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

He could not be more wrong, umpires and even umpire managers are not the FIH Executive (and even the FIH Executive cannot unilaterally introduce or amend a Rule – it approves such changes made by the FIH Rule Committee – who are also unable to unilaterally impose new Rule).

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

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

(I am reminded that edge hitting was ‘legal’ in Argentina for several years before it became so in the rest of the world and that the focus on speed and fitness in Australian hockey led to the Australian HA pressing hard for the introduction of squads of sixteen and rolling substitutions (this has lately been extended by breaking matches into four period of 15 minutes rather than two of 35 minutes). Edge hitting and a game of four quarters might now be considered to be good things, although I am not happy to see shorter more ‘frantic’ matches and I feel that playing time should have been increased to 80 mins (4 x 20) to reflect the influence and advantage of three breaks in play, and rolling substitutions and larger squad sizes. The changes are not balanced, they are all in one direction. Hockey is being ‘packaged’ like confectionery. Year on year the portion given is reduced and the price (our annoyance at changes) increases. The current ignoring of the Obstruction Rule and the increase of physical contact in play and several other aspects of ‘modern’ hockey may not be regarded as improvements in the longer term and I certainly do not want to see the FIH RC changing these Rules to reflect how International Level umpires (especially in Europe, Australia and the Americas) are currently interpreting them (with the Asian teams being dragged reluctantly along the same path)

The Royal Dutch Hockey Board are as I write, instructing umpires that legitimate evasive action does not apply to a defender defending the goal while positioned on the goal-line during a penalty corner. That instruction has been brought to the attention of the FIH Rules Committee. I am interested to see how they are going to react to this invention by the KNHB. (As I review this article, three years later in 2021, they have done nothing at all to correct the KNHB)

Umpire briefings must follow the extant Rules, not attempt to lead them. The ultimate authority, Congress, who appoint the FIH Executive, decides how the game will be played. The FIH Executive in turn appoints a Rules Committee which is given sole authority to issue Rules and the Interpretations of those Rules – which the Executive must then approve before they become official – so that the game is played in the way desired by Congress. What is not clear is exactly how much influence Congress actually exert in the drafting of new Rule or how they do so. A Congressional Inquiry into the Rules of Hockey might provide a way forward.

Umpires (unless they lobby the FIH RC as individuals or via their National Associations) have no direct part in making Rules or Interpretations of (the wording of) Rules while umpiring (despite what the Australian Umpire Coach Jan Hadfield might think). Their task while umpiring is to apply the Rules as instructed by the FIH Rules Committee. (so with the assistance of the FIH Umpiring Committeewho are said to liaise with the FIH Rules Committee – they interpret player actions during a match for compliance with the wording of published Rules and Interpretations). If umpires don’t understand how a Rule should be Interpreted then they need to ask (probably via their National Association) the FIH Rules Committee to issue clarification; these days that can be done fairly quickly. Rule clarification from authority cannot be only the personal opinion of a TD or UM , issued on an ad hoc basis just prior to or during a Tournament, especially when that opinion conflicts with FIH RC instruction (For example the bizarre invention, which appeared during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, that an ‘on target’ shot at the goal could not be considered to be dangerous play or the equally absurd declaration in a video briefing prior to Rio 2016 that defenders on the goal-line cannot expect the protection of the Rules – which presumably means the Rules concerning the dangerously played ball).  Nor can it be instruction issued solely by any National Umpiring Association, none of these individuals or bodies have this authority.

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

April 5, 2018

Raising the ball into the circle.


Raising the ball into the circle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Now we have a ‘clean slate’.

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

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

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

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

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

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