Posts tagged ‘Rules of Hockey’

August 11, 2018

Field Hockey: Lizzie Watkins. Regrets are not enough

I posted this article more than six years ago and took it down after about six months exposure. I re-post an edited version, with videos added,  because this needs to be asked:-           What has been done since May 2012 to make hockey a safer sport? 

Answer, absolutely nothing. On the contrary, players are now permitted to play the ball and even take shots at the goal on the volley when the ball is above shoulder height – which they were not permitted to do six years ago. The only thing to have changed for the better is that the incredible notion that an ‘on target’ shot at goal could not be considered to be dangerous play, seems to have faded away during the last couple of years (that was an invention that should have been squashed by Circular from the FIH Executive immediately it appeared in 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, but nothing at all was done to dispel this silly meme or the stupidly devised ‘spin off’, that a raised shot that was wide of the goal was dangerous play, neither of which had any Rule support)

Nothing has been done to limit the way in which a ball may be propelled towards another player from beyond 5m and even the existing restriction on raising the ball towards an opponent within 5m (given in the Explanation of Application of Rule 9.9) is widely ignored. The video below shows an incident during the 2018 WWC in which an attacker raised the ball towards a defender positioned within 5m of the attacker, causing her injury, and the umpire awarded a penalty stroke. I have no idea why the Japanese defender was penalised at all.


The umpire saw no reason to intervene during the play shown in the above video.


The fact that the death of Lizzie Watkins was not caused by an opponent raising the ball towards her with a hit, scoop, flick or deflection (there seems in fact to have been a deflection up off her own stick) appears to have been accepted as an indication that all is well, rather than as terrible warning that even fit high level players are at risk from ball injuries when the ball is raised by an opponent with a stroke or deflection – just as other participants are.

Reports on the death of Lizzie Watkins in a field hockey incident.



Aside from a mention earlier in the week on the WA Website that Lizzie was “Rushing to tackle” there has been no hint from those involved that the incident occurred during a penalty corner or that a drag-flicked shot was made. Later reports state that the incident occurred during open play.

There was also a regrettable incident, in a European Hockey League match in October 2011

From the Belfast Telegraph.

Geofrey Irwin

Godfrey Irwin might be said to be lucky. He was defending the goal during a penalty corner. The ball was propelled, with a drag-flick, high ‘through’ the out-running defender, who took evasive action.

Irwin, unable to track the ball from the moment it was propelled, because it was screened from him, had no chance to evade it. He knew the ball was traveling towards the goal but not the exact path of it.

He was wearing a mask but instinctively turned his head to protect his face and was hit on the back of his head just below his ear. A few centimeters higher and the strike could have been fatal to him.

He walked from the pitch unable to continue playing but unaware of the seriousness of his injury. (He had a fractured skull and a perforated ear drum and was later taken off work for a year by his doctors)

The game resumed with a penalty-stroke against Cookstown – for the ‘offence’ Irwin committed  –   being hit with a dangerously propelled ball.

I agree with Errol D’Cruz (Field article above) the penalty corner is now too dangerous to be continued in its present format (a statement I here base on the drag flick shot in the Irwin incident rather than the death of Lizzie Watkins, which D’Cruz mistakenly thought occurred during a penalty corner), but there is also a need for a definition of a dangerously played ball based on objective criteria, such as: 1) at a player and 2) within fifteen metres, 3) at a velocity that could cause injury, and 4) at above sternum height.

The emergence of the lifted reverse edge hit, so that it is now the preferred method of shooting at the goal in open play, makes such controls essential because the edge hit is generally not as well controlled, especially regarding height, as hit made with the flat of the face of the stick.


Players should be given the facility to judge for themselves when they can evade the ball without ‘giving away’ a goal. At present players are being forced to self-defence when a high ball is played directly at them, because evasion of the ball is generally not seen as ‘legitimate’ by umpires unless the shooter is within five meters of the defender when the ball is propelled (and often not even then – see the first presented video above). When a ball may be propelled at 75mph / 150kph or more, five metres is a ridiculously short distance on which to base ‘dangerous’ – evasion is often not possible from more than twice that distance. To talk of skill level in determining if a ball of that velocity is (or even can be) dangerous is absurd.

Endangerment should be based on the propensity of the ball to inflict injury on any person it hits, not on the supposed ability of the person endangered to avoid being hit. The physiology of international level athletes, when it comes to the effects of ball impacts on flesh and bone, is the same as that as any other human being, and the difference in reaction times, between Olympic level athletes and the average healthy individual of the same approximate age, are statically insignificant.

17th May 2012
I see from the news reports in Perth, Australia….

…that there is movement for the resurrection of a previous campaign to introduced protective helmets for field players.

I am sure that this would make the present situation re the dangerously played ball worse rather than better. Past experience has shown – as with the introduction of helmets and HD foam equipment for goalkeepers and the face-mask at a penalty corner for other defenders – that an increase in protective equipment results in a more cavalier attitude to endangering those wearing it.

I am also sure sports equipment manufacturers will be adding their support to the proposal, but I feel that the essential first step is to redefine the dangerously played ball so that a goal cannot be scored with a shot that has been lifted high and ‘through’ a defender. If a goal cannot be scored with a shot made ‘at’ an opponent in a dangerous way, but instead the shooter will be penalised, then attackers will stop making such shots.

This is the shot that hit Irwin on the head while he was positioned in front of the goal-line. At this point there has already been dangerous play; the ball was raised to above knee height directly at a defender who was within 5m of the shooter, compelling his evasive action.

Even if helmets are introduced that alone will not be sufficient action to reduce incidents of injury, it may indeed have the opposite effect. Changes to the Rules concerning the dangerously played ball will be needed even more if field-helmets are introduced.

Press article and comments from Perth Now

A DOCTOR is on a collision course with hockey officials over the sport’s lack of protective headgear after a young player died in Perth on Sunday.

Lizzie Watkins, 24, died after being hit in the head during a match at Curtin University when the ball deflected off her stick.

Melbourne doctor Denise Fraser said she would reactivate a campaign to make players wear protective headgear so such a tragedy would not be repeated.

“I am a hockey parent and I see a lot of kids hit with the hockey ball,” she said.

“A hockey ball … is not like a football or a soccer ball. It is more like a cricket ball, and when you are facing a cricket ball, you wear protective headgear.

“Goalkeepers wear head protection in hockey but the other players don’t. I have written to Hockey Victoria before and all they say is, ‘Thank you for the letter’. The rules don’t change.”

Hockey Australia chief Mark Anderson defended his sport’s safety record, saying the death was the first of its kind.

“We certainly believe hockey is a safe sport,” Anderson said.


Actual hockey player of Perth Posted at 3:14 PM May 11, 2012

This reply to the Doctor’s comment made in the above letter to the newspaper is typical of the other extreme – and based entirely on assertions that are false.

    As she said “hockey PARENT” never played the game to see wearing a helmet would get in the way more than anything and cricket players like goal keepers have the ball directly have the ball pelted at them at speed at head height. On the field the ball is meant to be kept below the knee unless flicked over head. People who don’t play the sport should keep stupid comments like that to themselves. If she’s that worried she can make her own kid wear one see how that goes for them…….. PS Wasn’t the ball that killed her was the ticking time bomb in her brain that got knocked enough to rupture. Get all facts before commenting.

Frank Watkins later e-mailed to inform me that his daughter had no skull weakness or especially vulnerable area like an embolism in her brain, she was physically a normal healthy individual.

My reply to the newspaper comment. Martin Conlon of United Kingdom Posted at 1:08 PM May 17, 2012

    Actual Hockey player of Perth has obviously never defended a drag-flick at a penalty corner. The Rules do need to be changed, the dangerously played ball is at present an almost entirely subjective decision by an umpire and a common approach among umpires at present (sic)  is that there is no such thing as a dangerous shot on goal. Defenders need to know when they can evade the ball because it WILL be called as dangerous (just as they can with a first hit shot during a penalty corner that is raised too high) and attackers need to know that they will not be allowed to score with a ball that is directed overheight at (‘through’) a defender. If attackers were prevented from scoring with high shots made ‘through’ defenders the problem of the dangerously played ball would rarely arise. The number of near-misses and minor head and face injuries occurring at present, particularly during the penalty corner and when other shots at the goal are made is unacceptable. I am however skeptical of the merits of protective helmets. Past experience has shown that allowing protective wear – like the face-mask at the penalty corner – simply increases the degree of danger players protected with equipment are expected to accept.

Actual hockey player of Perth  Posted at 10:21 AM May 19, 2012

   Penalty corners are another story all together I believe in the higher grades the posties should have to wear a mask and with saying that everyone that plays hockey know the risk and still choose to put themselves in the line of fire. Rules state everything goes in the D IF you are having a direct shot at goal if you choose to stand there knowing full well that’s the rule they are there at their own risk. It’s not a wimpy sport if you can’t deal with it don’t play it and stay at home and knit.

Although the above views could reasonably be described as inaccurate and extreme they are not at all uncommon. I have heard the ‘acceptance of risk’ meme even from senior umpires, when common sense should ‘tell’ everyone that no player is obliged to accept the risk of dangerous play from an opponent, because dangerous play is an illegal action. Illegal actions can never be ‘accepted’ as a legitimate risk. Everyone of course accepts that there is a risk of injury or worse from purely accidental actions – actions like the one that killed Lizze Watkins – and that it is impossible to legislate for incidents of this sort. But raising the ball at an opponent from within 5m is legislated for and such action is always to be considered dangerous play – there is no leeway for a different interpretation and no exception to this Rule (the only additional proviso is applied only during a penalty corner when the ball is raised towards an out-running defender; in those circumstances the ball is considered dangerously played when it is raised at the defender at knee height or above – I think that this exception should be struck from the Rules and the raised ball propelled at an opponent from close range should be considered dangerous play in all circumstances. The Exception given in the UMB, that a ball raised towards an opponent at below half-shin pad height is not dangerous, contradicts the Rule and should also be struck out – as should other Rule contradiction in the UMB such as “forget lifted”)

The gentleman wrote  PS Wasn’t the ball that killed her was the ticking time bomb in her brain that got knocked enough to rupture. Get all facts before commenting”. I agree that it is helpful to have all the facts concerning the fatal incident, but with nothing else that he has written. I wonder where he got his ‘facts’ about the ‘ticking time bomb’, the nature of the incident and also his opinions about the Rules of Hockey “Rules state everything goes in the D IF you are having a direct shot at goal. The Rules of course state nothing of the sort, but if theses opinions are generally held, or held even by a minority,  then  hockey is not a safe sport. And it is not in ‘safe hands’ if administrators and Rule makers do not accept that it is potentially a very dangerous sport.

The drag-flick came into being as a way of circumventing the restriction on the first hit shot during a penalty corner, The FIH should address the circumvention of a Rule which was (and is) intended to curb dangerous play, not ignore it. (Aside from prohibiting the use of a drag-flick when taking a penalty stroke, the drag-flick is not mentioned in the Rules of Hockey, it is not even listed in the Terminology).

July 5, 2018

We don’t want any change

I was prompted to write this article in response to this posting by Ernst Baart

Ernst writes “First off… I love our game as is! I think any future changes should be minimal. Especially changes affecting the core of our sport. Hockey is great the way it is. We should not change it. If people don’t get it, that’s their loss… Instead of changing the way we are, we should focus on teaching the sports fans about our game to help them understand and love the game as is.”

Okay, no argument with his passion, but how is (what as, why is) ‘our’ game, ‘seen’ in any one particular way? Is it? No, absolutely not. The view of it, and how it should be played and the Rules of it interpreted and applied, is far from an homogeneous one. In fact that is a huge understatement, this area is a battleground and the above declaration of “as is” is meaningless unless “as is’ refers only to the perception Ernst, as an individual, has of it.

I want to see enormous changes, some of of them rolling back present practice, which I see as mistaken (I do not want to see current practice ‘consolidated’ – the ‘in’ term for refusal to see error in application – I want to see it dismantled) and other changes, new ideas, which I believe would be significant improvements, put in place. In my view the present application of the ball-body contact Rule, as seen in the following video, has to be changed for the good of the game:-



And the application of the Obstruction Rule needs to be changed too. Ernst dismisses my suggestions as ‘square wheels’ and has said to me that he has no time to respond in detail (indeed respond at all) to any of them. (He responds in comment (shown after the cartoons below) that this is a personal issue with my attitude and behaviour, he won’t engage in discussion with me because I am too confrontational in my writing style, in other words he can find no rational way to refute my arguments for change, but will not allow himself to be persuaded by them by actually properly considering them.)

I listen to (read) the “no change” proponents and note that in the majority of cases the first thing they do is propose the changes they want made. Inside every conservative, rebel or revolutionary there is a potential dictator. For example. If people don’t get it, that’s their loss… Instead of changing the way we are, we should focus on teaching the sports fans about our game to help them understand and love the game as is.” Dictatorship is in human nature (survival of the fittest). But who is “We”, perhaps I should use ‘us’ and ‘we’ to express my own opinions where that might appear more powerful. (“We” is apparently the large number of people Ernst has spoken to who also don’t want any change – maybe one of them could explain why not)

Howls of anguish at changes made and calls for no more change are not a new phenomena, there are still people complaining about the change from natural grass to synthetic surfaces for all top level hockey (they do however offer capital expense as a reasonable argument against, even if that discounts the huge maintenance costs of grassed surfaces ), but let us suppose that instead of launching a number of trials and Mandatory Experiments, which led to Rule changes in the period 1990 -1999 (the rule-book was rewritten and reformatted in 1995/6) the FIH HRB took notice of the “No changes ” mob and to date did nothing post 1991. Suppose that instead of major changes – like the introduction of the receiving exception to the Obstruction Rule (in 1993) and the abolition of Off-side, (completed by 1997) which were far from popular reforms at the time, but (or because) they made a huge difference to the way in which the game was played, the FIH Executive went ahead and adopted them into Full Rule – the (sic) FIH HRB to date recommended no changes from the Rules and Guidance to players and umpires as they were in 1991. What would hockey be like? What, that we now generally applaud as good hockey, would be entirely missing from the game?

I chose 1991 as a time to go back to because I have the 1991 rule-book (so I can check my memory of playing to those Rules) and because it is a date before nearly all the current top level players began playing hockey but most of them had been born by then, and also because by 1992 the all composite hockey stick had been accepted, a ‘landmark’ change that, ironically, is now one that is almost unnoticed “we have had composite sticks since the beginning of time” (just as we have always had synthetic surfaces to play on) is a young (rich) and misinformed view and these changes are rarely recalled in Rule change lists.

In 1985 I had to make a virtue out of a near necessity when designing a wooden stick with a set back head (the set-back was the aim of the design, the heel bend of the stick-head having been made as tight as it could get, could not be improved upon), the kink in the shaft, a by-product of bending laminated timber into the shape of a set-back stick head with an up-turned toe, had to be made a significant advantage, (a problem not appreciated in the early thinking about a set-back head). As it happened it did turn out to be of real advantage, after a great deal of tweaking of shape (a tapered thickness) for balance, in the stopping of the ball (and in scanning the field and balance).

If you are not sure what the advantage is of not having to put the left hand to ground when holding the stick with it, try this:- Put the left hand in contact with the  ground with the handle/shaft of the stick horizontal and on or nearly in contact with the ground and across the front of your feet as if presenting a stick block to the ball. Now try to lift your left foot off the ground. Put the stick to ground in the same way but to your right hand side- now try to lift your right foot off the ground. You may have discovered that putting your hand to ground while holding a stick not only puts your head at the knee level of opponents – and a knee to the head hurts – it will pin one or the other, and sometimes both, of your feet, especially if you have not much bent your knees. In addition to that your scan vision will be non-existent or very limited. Not having to put the hand to ground to block the ball over a considerable length of the shaft was a very significant advantage.

The set-back head  produced later by Talon as a composite stick (called a Recurve), did not have a kinked shaft because that stick, being a moulded product, could be manufactured without one (and anyway I held a patent on the kink feature which Talon were decent enough, unlike others, not to breach). The introduction of the composite stick was not an easy process, TK struggled mightily to get it accepted, only (the same vested interests who fought against the introduction of my design, also fought very hard against the introduction of the composite stick) and, even when eventually approved for general use, composite sticks were initially not permitted to be used in international level matches. In making that announcement in his home country, Australia (in 1990), the then Chairman of the FIH Equipment Committee, the late Frank Zind, also declared that ZigZag sticks could not be used in international matches or on artificial surfaces (in Australia) even though these sticks had been in use without any such restriction for five years at the time. Thus began my long love affair with FIH bureaucracy and the investigation into who could and could not make the Rules to which the game is played (Not, as it turned out, Frank Zind, his ZigZag bans were just a personal invention ‘hung’ on his Chairmanship of the FIH Equipment Committee – a body that could not and still cannot dictate or amend the Rules of Hockey).

So we start and are stuck with (after that long introduction), the 1991 mainly glass and carbon-fibre reinforced, wooden stick – maximum weight 28oz (now 26oz). I’ll make observations and suggestions about other Rules issues as I present them.

Off-side changed a lot during my playing ‘career’. When I started there had to be three defenders goal-side of an attacker for that attacker to be on-side at any time his side was in possession of the ball. The number was reduced to two around 1967 and the Rule made similar to the way it now is in soccer – two defenders goal-side of the foremost player at the time a pass was made. Then in the mid-1990’s the off-side line was moved from the half-way line to the 25 yard (23m) line (making correct umpire positioning difficult). Off-side was abolished in 1997 (with promise of the introduction of Rules to constrain the actions of attackers close to the goal – which never materialized – no compensation for this tactical loss to defences was ever enacted ) I would now like to see the introduction of a small goal zone, as well as a rewrite of part of the Rule concerning the playing of the ball at above shoulder height (forbidding the playing of the ball at above shoulder height when in the opponent’s circle) – as the least the FIH RC should offer for the loss to defences of the advantages of Off-side Rule.…ewrite-rule-9-14/


Recounting the number of changes made to the Penalty Corner Rule would require a separate article. I would like to see it replaced with a time limited Power Play conducted within a defended 23m area. There has been talk of doing this for more than thirty years but no widespread trial or Mandatory Experiment has been conducted. The nearest to an official trial was carried out in the Australian Lanco 9’s but the fact that it was 9-a-side and the goal were made 1m wider for this tournament, made making any comparison of scoring stats worthless and that trial close to a waste of time. The only other suggested replacement, a 14m penalty hit, was trialed in South Africa and had to be abandoned because scoring rates got close to 100%.

Edge hitting was considered ‘back-sticks’ (not face-side so not permitted). The forehand edge hit has more recently been banned after having initially being permitted but umpires almost routinely ignore the offence of forehand edge-hitting even when it is used to raise the ball when not shooting at the goal (the prohibition by the way specifically includes forehand edge hits made as shots at the goal). My view on edge hitting is that it should be permitted to either side of the body but height limited to no more than waist height or 1m. There is supposed to be an issue concerning control of only the forehand edge hit, but I once umpired a match between an England U16 team and senior county players, at Bisham Abbey, in which several attempts to shoot at the goal from a left inner position with a reverse edge hit by an U16 England player, went out of play high in air over the right side-line. This level of control of the reverse edge hit was not uncommon among young players when the stroke was first introduced – but for some reason the FIH insisted on persevering with it – the ‘trial’ went on for three years and edge hitting was then accepted into Full Rule in spite of still vigorous opposition to it on ground of danger. I have no doubt that with sufficient practice the forehand edge hit could be properly controlled. Look at reverse edge hitting now, good isn’t it? Look at those long head sticks from the turn of the 20th century, how did anyone play hockey with them? But they did. – just not, because of changes (nothing fast and ‘brilliant’ but a gradual evolution), hockey as it had come to be when I started playing in the mid 1950’s (By the ‘standards’ of the 1980’s the 1950’s stick-head was ridiculously long, but by the standards of the 2000’s the 1980’s stick-heads were ridiculously short. However despite (with a little practice) the much improved ball control they offered , many players refused for years to adopt the modern longer (hook and semi hook) heads – a good illustration of the ‘no change’ mentality, even when clear advantages could be demonstrated.

Playing or playing at the ball when it was above shoulder height was prohibited. I liked the later amendment which allowed a defender to try to save a high shot at the goal with the stick, but not the penalty imposed (mandatory penalty corner) if the shot happened to be off-target.

I am convinced, because there have been fatalities as well as a large number of serious injuries caused by sticks, that players should be prohibited from raising the stick-head to above shoulder height when they are attempting to play at the ball or have played at the ball with a follow-through and there is in either case an opponent present within playing distance of the ball. The Rule as it was initially framed prohibited any raising of any part of the stick above the shoulder in any circumstances, even the taking of a Free Hit – it was far too severe – but to delete it entirely instead of suitably amending it was a mistake (and a case of the usual extremes). Most of my suggested change is modification, rather than throwing out all current practice and starting again at an opposite extreme – a pattern of Rule – or ‘interpretation’ – change we should all be familiar with (see the deletion of the Forcing Rule in the video above or the current application of the, once too severely applied, Obstruction Rule).

Aerial pass. In 1991 attention was paid to the relative positions of players – in the area it was perceived the ball would fall – at the time the ball was raised. if opposing players in the fall area were too close to each other for safety, the player who raised the ball could be penalised for play likely to lead to dangerous play (the player who raised the ball to fall in a potentially dangerous area was considered responsible for doing that – why not?). This was advice given to umpires which was never made Rule, but it should have been and still can be, with the proviso that if the same team player retreats from the landing area (3m?) before the ball arrives, to allow the receiver to accept the ball, there is then no need to penalise the offence. Deflections could be treated in much the same way except that there would be no intentional play likely to lead to dangerous play and failure to retreat would properly be penalised at the landing point. At present players are forbidden to approach an initial receiver but there is nothing said about moving away to allow the ball to be received – an oversight that could easily be rectified. Accidental deflections by defenders into their own circle would probably be more fairly dealt with by a free ball from the place of the deflection or a free ball to the attacking team centrally on the 23m line.

In 1991 when the ball accidentally lodged in the equipment of a goalkeeper or the clothing of a player a bully restart was ordered to be taken at the place the incident occurred, unless that was in a circle, in which case the bully was taken in line with the incident and 5m from the circle. There was nothing wrong with that Rule. The award of a penalty corner for such an incident involving a defender in the circle is in my view unnecessarily harsh. Similarly the award of a penalty corner for accidental deflection which sent the ball directly up high into the air was fairly dealt with by a bully restart (and now both need nothing more severe than a restart for the attack on the 23m line). The same is true of a ball intentionally played over the base-line by a defender – a restart for the attack on the 23m line is fair for something that is not even an offence.

The self-pass did not exist. I suggested this idea in 2001. It was introduced in the EHL in 2007 and as an Experimental Rule in 2009 and confirmed into Full FIH Rule in 2011. It has never been applied as I envisioned it would be, being almost destroyed as an effective tactic within the opposing 23m area by the Rule prohibiting the playing of the ball directly into the circle from a free ball awarded in the opposing 23m area and also by a number of 5m requirements and restrictions associated with that which effect both the taker and opponents.

I proposed the Direct Lift at the same time as the Self Pass, but it was introduced a couple of years after the Self Pass was established. It’s a Rule that is very difficult to make a mess of applying – it is at the receiving end where the Rule application has unraveled See aerial Pass above.

The other Rules associated with what is misnamed the Free Hit have become a complicated mess when the free is awarded in the opponent’s 23m area, especially when it is taken as a self pass. The prohibition on playing the ball directly into the circle is inane. What is needed is a prohibition on raising the ball into the opponent’s circle (in any phase of play) with a hit that propels the ball out of the direct possession of the hitter. In 1991 with very limited exception (over an opponent’s stick on the ground or over an opponent on the ground), any raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with any stroke was prohibited – raising the ball into the circle over an opponent’s stick placed flat on the ground was also often penalised, umpires not allowing permitted exceptions. Exceptions to Rules generally have a very poor history of observance in Rule application. An exception to a Rule is often either completely ignored (for example Rule 9.11 – not an offence unless) or becomes the Rule (Rule 9.12 – may be facing in any direction, which is now applied not only to a player receiving the ball, as it should be, but also, incorrectly, to a player in controlled possession of the ball, who is shielding it from opponents)

In 1991 we had Long Corners. Now because of the mess made of the Fee Hit Rule we have instead a restart for the attack on the 23m line, fortuitously, this is an improvement.

There are probably some Rules which were extant or not in 1991 or after, but are not now extant, that I have not remembered (the Own Goal came and went and we had the ‘gains benefit’ debacle which lasted from 2006 until 2015: but ball-body contact is generally penalised even when there is no intent and/or no advantage gained by the player hit with the ball), but as what there is under the heading of changes is substantial and this article is already longer than I had intended (when aren’t they) I will close the list. There is no reason to go beyond briefly pointing out that many of the changes made since 1991 have had consequences far beyond what was intended at the time they were made.

(Who, for example, would have imagined in 1993 that allowing a receiver to receive the ball while close ‘marked’ by an opponent, without immediately being penalised for obstruction, would rapidly lead (within five years) to the Obstruction Rule not being applied at all?. There is even an umpire coach in the USA who is currently promoting the idea that moving backwards towards and into the playing reach of an opponent, while shielding the ball from that opponent, cannot be obstruction unless the ball holder by doing this causes physical contact.(His justification is that this is the way FIH Umpires are applying the Rule, which is an inverted rational and no justification at all) But in these circumstances it will, of course, usually (always) be the defender who will be penalised for any such contact.

Reminder list.   Wooden sticks.  Off-side.  Severe Obstruction Rule application. No edge hitting. No raising of the stick above the shoulder when playing or attempting to play the ball. No playing at the ball above shoulder height. Aerials could be considered likely to lead to dangerous play. Lodged ball = bully. High deflection = bully.  Raising the ball into the opponents circle prohibited.  Long Corners. No self-pass. No Direct lift from free ball. No zone restriction on the taking of a Free ball.

Are we happier now than we would be if no changes had been made post 1991? We don’t  know the answer to that question, at least not completely. If participants were not made aware of the possibility of a legal edge hit or Self-Pass how could they miss either not being introduced? I am pleased Ernst thinks the Self-pass “a brilliant idea” but I have no way of knowing if any other suggestion I have made is good or a complete dud – it will depend on the application of it – in my view the way the Self pass is currently restricted makes that change an improvement to game flow but not as significant an improvement as it should do.

The frustration of having what seem to many people to be reasonable and important suggestions for change delayed for years or completely ignored or turned down without reason, can make them very unhappy, as can the useless and irritating chant “No change” when change is desperately needed.

The other side of the coin is the making of useless and irritating Rule changes, often it seems, without applying foresight or common sense or apparently just for the sake of change (A needless change, the name from Long Corner to Corner, followed a couple of years later by the senseless retaining of the name Corner for a 23m restart for the attacking team, is one such minor self inflicted wound) The Own Goal and the (dramatically opposite) ban on playing a ball from a free ball, awarded in the opponents 23m area, directly into their circle (and the necessarily attached 5m requirements and restrictions), are also examples of such irritations.

The cry of “No change” has, unfortunately, some foundation in reason, but not enough to erect a monumental shrine on it. We need changes, I am convinced the survival of the game depends on radical changes being made to it. Many participants (including me) who were playing in 1990, cringe when watching the present ‘product’, are appalled by some aspects of it, and are also dismayed that it is now coldly referred to by administrators as a product and that umpires now ‘sell’ decisions, instead of simply ensuring that they make decisions that are both correct and fair.

The FIH Rules Committee continue to ask for suggestions for the improvement of the game from all participants. Undoing much of the damage done to the Rules and interpretation since 1994 (or even 2004, the last major rewrite) could be a vast improvement.


See comments below:-

July 1, 2018

Headless chicken.

The Hockey Revolution or running around in circles like a ….

The announcement of the appointment by the FIH Executive of the latest CEO was made in March 2018 as follows:-

The tone of the announcement of the departure of Mr.Weil from FIFA was quite different:

Projected revenues of $5.65 billion over a four year cycle, which is an average of $1.4125 billion per year. Let’s put that in perspective. This is the income and expenses page from the audited accounts of the FIH in 2016. The figures below are in Swiss francs which at present are about on a par with the US dollar. 1SF = $1.01


The full accounts can be seen here:-


I need now to turn to the advertisement by the FIH of the post that Mr.Weil applied for. Please search carefully for any mention of how hockey is to be played.

(I originally posted a picture of the ad but it was deleted – which is possibly an FIH reaction to this article (but I don’t know that). The ad did have a FIH logo on it so the pretense for the deletion (which would have required communication between the FIH and WordPress) may be a copyright issue. I have been unable to post the picture a second time, so I present instead the text of the ad – don’t think the deletion unbelievably petty, it’s standard behaviour, even not contacting me to let me know what they were doing is normal FIH communication. The FIH desperately need – or needed – a Communications Director, maybe they still do).

Marketing 8: Cornmunicatilons Director — FIH 8 May

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) is seeking to appoint a Marketing and Communications Director who is ready to enter the fast-
paced world of hockey and demonstrate the FIH core values of being: inclusive, optimistic, progressive and dynamic-

With 137 member Nationa| Associations and millions of fans around the world, hockey enjoys a strong global profile and following. You will become part of a talented team aiming to build upon this exposure with a mission to grow the game globally through targeted development work as part of F|H’s dynamic 10-year ‘Hockey Revolution’ strategy.

With further game-changing developments in the pipeline. including the introduction of a new portfolio of events in 2019, it is certainly an exciting time to be joining the FIH.

The successful applicant will lead the FIH Marketing and Communication steams. reporting directly to the FlH CEO-Marketing 8‘ Communications is responsible for all marketing campaigns, communications activities, digital and social

Job Description

Marketing 8: Communications Director— FIH (International Hockey

The International Hockey Federation (FIH) is seeking to appoint a

Marketing & Communications Director who is ready to enter the fast-
paced world of hockey and demonstrate the FIH core values of being
inclusive, optimistic, progressive and dynamic-

With “137 member National Associations and millions of fans around the

world. hockey enjoys a strong global profile and following. You will become part of a talented team aiming to build upon this exposure with media activities, international relations, event on—site media operations, image and branding

Overall responsibility:

Responsible for planning, development and implementation of all the FlH’s marketing strategies, marketing communications and public relations activities both external and internal.

Directs the efforts of the marketing and -communications staff and -coordinates at the strategic and tactical levels with the rest of the Leadership Team.

Key Responsibilities, Tasks and Activities:

– Responsible for creating, implementing and monitoring the FIH marketing and communications strategy to raise the profile, engage and grow the sport.

– Responsible for widening the FlH’s international influence through high quality stakeholder engagement. PR and international relations activities

– Responsible for ensuring that. hockey is a leading sport that meets ambitious targets in terms of online presence, fan experience and digital communities

– Drive strategy behind website, social media and new technology platforms to ensure that we remain number one choice for hockey content

– Implement. highly recognizable brands that deliver a compelling glo-bal image and signifi cantly in-crease market share

– Direct campaigns for FIH event.s and activities through FIH owned channels and partner channels

– Develop ongoing consumer insights programme to inform decision making and measure progress

– Broaden relationships with media and other key internal and external stakeholders to ensure seamless and positive communication between the FIH and these groups

– Responsible for the achievement of Marketing and Communications -goals objectives, within budget

– Work with the leadership team to develop and maintain strategic perspective (based on marketplace needs and satisfaction) in organizational direction a.nd decision–making

– Ensure effective management within the marketing, communications and digital function

– Lead and manage agencies and freelance resources

Requirements, Education and Experience:

– Demonstrated experience, skills and knowledge of marketing, communications and digital at a strategic level.
– Comprehensive understanding of power of -content (video, data, etc)

– Strong: track record of establishing: an-d managing brands

– Proven experience of risk and reputation communication management and working with international media. both re–
actively and proactively

– Experience developing and managing budgets

– Experience overseeing the design and production of print materials, digital materials and publications

– Commitment t.o working with shared leadership and in cross-functional teams

– Strong: oral and written communications skills

– Ability to manage multiple projects at a time

– Travel is required

Skills and Knowledge:

– Leadership qualities, with character and a sense of humour and well presented

– Capable of setting high standards of professionalism;

– Strategic thinker, capable of -contributing to- the big: picture

– Highly creative

– High level of honesty and integrity, discrete and ethical

– Strong negotiation, -conflict management and problem solving skills

– Positive, flexible and optimistic approach, able to quickly adapt to the changing: nature of work
– Well-organized, strong time management skills

– Provide managerial and administrative leadership, capable of building a high performing team

The FIH is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes applications from all qualified candidates. We thank all applicants, but only those considered for the position will be contacted-

FIH ad

After that lengthy introduction I now turn to the release, on the 29th June 2018, of interview notes, from the FIH Press office, which prompted me to write this article. I don’t have much to say following this.

Reflecting on his first three months in charge, new International Hockey Federation (FIH) CEO Thierry Weil gives his first interview in which he reflects on his move from the world’s largest international sports federation, FIFA, to head of a sport that has been working hard to innovate and grow in recent years.

One of his first observations has been the passion that people within the FIH have for their sport. This, he considers, is both a blessing and challenge. He explains:“From the President to the Executive Board to the office staff, there is a passion for the sport that comes from lifelong involvement. For some people, they have been in hockey their entire lives and their parents were involved in the sport before them.”

For Weil, this is somewhat at odds with the concept of a ‘Hockey Revolution’. ‘The term ‘revolution’ means dramatic change, so for me, as an outsider, a revolution within the sport is an exciting prospect but it’s not easy to implement because the passion for the sport makes it difficult to introduce too much radical change.‘

‘The Hockey Revolution is an ambitious mission but it opens a lot of possibilities in view of new initiatives and different approaches.‘

But being an outsider and a newcomer to the sport has its advantages. ‘I can ask stupid questions or have crazy ideas that would actually fit in with the idea of a Hockey Revolution. They are the questions that those within the sport would never dream of asking. It means I can have conversations that at least will open people’s minds to new ideas.‘

For Weil, the three words that drew him to the role of CEO were ‘FIH Pro League‘, and his views on this are outlined in the second part of this interview to be published shortly. However, not surprisingly for someone brought up in the world of football, while the FIH Pro League is a thrilling initiative, it is the World Cup that remains the number one event.

‘I see the World Cup as the pinnacle. It is the biggest event. The Olympics is also big but the World Cup is an FIH event and so must be the top. And it has so much commercial value —two World Cup events in a year is great commercially as well as for the sport’s profile.‘

Reflecting on the Hockey Revolution, how dramatic will it be under its new leader?

‘The Hockey Revolution is an ambitious mission but it opens a lot of possibilities in view of new initiatives and different approaches,‘ says Weil. “I think that the way to increase the popularity of the game is to make it simple to play
and easy to understand.‘

Weil cites two areas, aside from the FIH Pro League and the Hockey Series, in which the game can grow commercially: the development and spread of the short-form version of the game, and the introduction of exhibition matches in
cities, so that people can just turn up and watch the sport as they are walking around town.

These initiatives will help increase the fan base and participation rates, which in turn will have a positive knock-on effect on FlH’s ability to find commercial partners. To back up these ambitions, in 2018 and 2019 FIH will invest more than ever in its dynamic broadcast and content strategy, with the aim of raising the quality of coverage. This will include features that will help spectators understand the game better.

Three months in and Weil is a huge fan of the sport. He says hockey has great potential to grow, develop and lead the way in innovation. At its heart is the fact that it is both a team sport and a sport that is enjoyed and played equally by men and women, of all ages and ability.

“Hockey has already taken a big step forwards over the past few years,‘ says Weil, and, while it might not be a revolution in the strictest sense of the word, he is excited to be leading hockey into the brave new world of commercial sport.

The FIH obviously hired Mr.Thierry Wield to obtain money, particularly Tournament sponsorship money, for the FIH (that is very clear from the job description). With a total operating income of around $11,000,000 the FIH Executive would  ‘prostrate themselves on the ground’ before a man they thought might be able to perhaps double that amount, and he is a man who is used to securing large sum long term sponsorships. But it bears repeating that FIFA had a $500,000,000 sponsorship shortfall in the last four year cycle and an operating loss of $122,000,000 in 2015. We are not told in the articles what the total sponsorship revenue of FIFA was in that or any other, year.

What Thierry Wield is not, and this is also very clear, is somebody who knows anything at all about field hockey. His remarks about the passion participants have for the game and the fact that it is played over a great age range by both genders, are the level of research that could be done in a few hours on Google or Wikipedia by an elementary school pupil writing a project essay. It is likely that prior to his application to be CEO of the FIH he had never seen a hockey match played. Yet he appears to want to be involved in making hockey simple to play (even though that is not part of his job description) obviously other people must undertake this task if it is considered necessary – but who?. Is it necessary or desirable to make hockey easier to play? I don’t think this is a priority, like tennis, hockey requires a basic level of competence which players must work hard to achieve if they are to enjoy playing the game. The development of a high level of skill is an ideal that is aspired to by younger players (there are ‘stars’ to emulate), not an impediment that stops them taking up the game. Players who do develop the necessary skills are proud of their achievements and want constantly to improve upon them. The presence of these skills is one of the main reasons people follow hockey.

Thierry Wield has picked up the ‘Hockey Revolution’ jargon but has no more idea what it means than any of the rest of us who have been subjected to the term have. I have absolutely no idea what it means, other than going around in circles.  I must profess to ignorance but other than ‘Back to hockey’, the development of ‘Walking hockey’ and ‘One Thousand Hockey Legs’ (the latter two both initiatives by individuals), I can’t point to a new example of the ‘Hockey Revolution’ in action that the FIH could be proud of or one that is creating revenue. The Pro Hockey League is floundering and Hockey 5’s is not yet established (will Hockey 5’s really be the face that hockey presents to the world at future Olympic Games? I believe that any suggestion that soccer be presented as a five-a-side game at future Olympics would ‘take off’ like a lead balloon and hockey should reject it for the same reasons soccer would). Five-a-side is a useful tool for introducing the game at school level (it’s economical because it uses small pitches and that makes it viable /attractive for the wide-scale introduction of hockey into schools. particularly State schools, which is something that desperately needs to be done) but I would not like to see 5-a-side replacing the present full pitch game.

How do we make the game easier to understand? Simple: ensure that it is played to the Rules of Hockey published by the FIH Rules Committee, while also ensuring that those Rules are consistent and sensible – but that is were I came in about twenty-five years ago. Describing the task is easy, achieving it is proving very difficult.

April 20, 2018

Why facts don’t change what we think and believe.

Confirmation bias and perseverance of opinion despite conflicting facts.

Changing opinion and practice an ineffective approach

I liked to believe that I was communicating with hockey participants when I wrote blog articles in which I explained how application of the Rules of Hockey was different from what was given in the FIH published Rules, and I also believed that by communicating this fact, change to much of what is now common practice could be brought about.

I was communicating, but not in a way that would put into effect the changes, I was able to demonstrate with facts, what changes needed to be made to align the practice with the Rules.

In fact pretty much the opposite has happened. Those who held views I demonstrated, by reference to the Rules (facts) and video (showing umpires doing the opposite) to be in error, became even more entrenched in their views and in their turn they attacked me, via social media, as an isolate with either outmoded or bizarrely advanced ideas (suggested rewrites) about the Rules to which the game should be played .

The effect of this was to isolate me, I was (am) called confrontational, argumentative, unyielding etc.etc. and I came to believe I am when writing, although, in ‘real life’, I am an easy going and sociable person. This attacking naturally caused me to become confrontational and argumentative in my writing (or more so) and thus, not a poor communicator (my messages are clear enough), but an ineffective one.

The reaction to anything I have written in the last few years has been, by enlarge, (I have a few supporters) to disregard it simply because I and not somebody else wrote it* – very few are taking any notice of the changes suggested, certainly not sufficient numbers to put them into effect.

* I vividly recall that Ric Charlesworth wrote an article, prior to the Athens Olympics (where he was coach to the Australian women’s team), on the raised flick shot at the goal, in which he asked for clarity from the FIH about dangerous play. It was widely acclaimed to be the writing of a brilliant innovative thinker and he got widespread support, there was even a Rule change, which lasted for a couple of years before fading away under ‘interpretation’. What he wrote was almost word for word (this was pointed out to me by someone who kindly sent me a copy of his article) what I had been writing on the same subject for several years before that.  All I got for my efforts was abuse.

Those who skim what I have written (they admit they do not properly read anything I write), disagree with it pretty much as a reflex or even in advance of skimming, without explanation (without offering any tangible reason for their disagreement) and without offering any argument against my proposals or in support of an alternative change. They have no ideas of their own to offer (even when they accept that some change is necessary): that is very frustrating.

The following article has given me an insight into what I have been doing wrong, but not what in practical terms to do about it

An article by Elizabeth Kolbert.

Elizabeth Kolbert has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1999. She won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction for the Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.

In 1975 , researchers at Stanford invited a group of undergraduates to take part in a study about suicide. They were presented With pairs of suicide notes. In each pair, one note had been composed by a random individual, the other by a person Who had subsequently taken his own life. The students were then asked to distinguish between the genuine notes and the fake ones.

Some students discovered that they had a genius for the task. Out of twenty-five pairs of notes, they correctly identified the real one twenty-four times.Others discovered that they Were hopeless. They identified the real note in only ten instances.

As is often the case With psychological studies, the Whole setup was a put-on.Though half the notes were indeed genuine—they’d been obtained from the Los Angeles County coroner’s oflice—the scores Were fictitious. The students Who’d been told they Were almost always right Were, on average, no more discerning than those Who had been told they Were mostly Wrong.

In the second phase of the study, the deception Was revealed. The students Were told that the real point of the experiment Was to gauge their responses to thinking they Were right or Wrong. (This, it turned out, Was also a deception.)

Finally, the students Were asked to estimate how many suicide notes they had actually categorized correctly, and hoW many they thought an average student would get right. At this point, something curious happened. The students in the high-score group said that they thought they had, in fact, done quite well, significantly better than the average student, even though, as they’d just been told, they had zero grounds for believing this. Conversely, those Who’d been assigned to the loW-score group said that they thought they had done significantly worse than the average student—a conclusion that Was equally unfounded. “Once formed,” the researchers observed dryly, “impressions are remarkably perseverant.”

A few years later, a new set of Stanford students Was recruited for a related study. The students were handed packets of information about a pair of firefighters, Frank K. and George H. Frank’s bio noted that, among other things, he had a baby daughter and he liked to scuba dive. George had a small son and played golf. The packets also included the men’s responses on what the researchers called the Risky-Conservative Choice Test. According to one version of the packet, Frank was a successful firefighter who, on the test, almost always went with the safest option. In the other version, Frank also chose the safest option, but he was a lousy firefighter who’d been put “on report” by his supervisors several times. Once again, midway through the study, the students were informed that they’d been misled, and that the information they’d received was entirely fictitious. The students were then asked to describe their own beliefs. What sort of attitude toward risk did they think a successful firefighter would have? The students who’d received the first packet thought that he would avoid it. The students in the second group thought he’d embrace it.

Even after the evidence “for their beliefs has been totally refuted, people fail to make appropriate revisions in those beliefs,” the researchers noted. In this case,the failure was “particularly impressive,” since two data points would never have been enough information to generalize from.

The Stanford studies became famous. Coming from a group of academics in the nineteen-seventies, the contention that people can’t think straight was shocking. It isn’t any longer. Thousands of subsequent experiments have confirmed (and elaborated on) this finding. As everyone Who’s followed the research or even occasionally picked up a copy of Psychology Today knows,any graduate student with a clipboard can demonstrate that reasonable-seeming people are often totally irrational. Rarely has this insight seemed more relevant than it does right now. Still, an essential puzzle remains: How did We come to be this way?

In a new book, “The Enigma of Reason” (Harvard), the cognitive scientists Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber take a stab at answering this question. Mercier, who works at a French research institute in Lyon, and Sperber, now based at the Central European University, in Budapest, point out that reason is an evolved trait, like bipedalism or three-color vision. It emerged on the savannas of Africa, and has to be understood in that context.

Stripped of a lot of what might be called cognitive-science-ese, Mercier and Sperber’s argument runs, more or less, as follows: Humans’ biggest advantage over other species is our ability to cooperate. Cooperation is dificult to establish and almost as difficult to sustain. For any individual, freeloading is always the best course of action. Reason developed not to enable us to solve abstract, logical problems or even to help us draw conclusions from unfamiliar data; rather, it developed to resolve the problems posed by living in collaborative groups.

“Reason is an adaptation to the hypersocial niche humans have evolved for themselves,” Mercier and Sperber write. Habits of mind that seem weird or goofy or just plain dumb from an “intellectualist” point of View prove shrewd when seen from a social “interactionist” perspective.

Consider what’s become known as “confirmation bias,” the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them. Of the many forms of faulty thinking that have been identified, confirmation bias is among the best catalogued; it’s the subject of entire textbooks’ worth of experiments. One of the most famous of these was conducted, again, at Stanford. For this experiment, researchers rounded up a group of students who had opposing opinions about capital punishment. Half the students were in favor of it and thought that it deterred crime; the other half Were against it and thought that it had no effect on crime.

The students were asked to respond to two studies. One provided data in support of the deterrence argument, and the other provided data that called it into question. Both studies—you guessed it—were made up, and had been designed to present what were, objectively speaking, equally compelling statistics. The students who had originally supported capital punishment rated the pro-deterrence data highly credible and the anti-deterrence data unconvincing; the students who’d originally opposed capital punishment did the reverse. At the end of the experiment, the students were asked once again about their views. Those who’d started out pro-capital punishment were now even more in favor of it; those who’d opposed it were even more hostile.

If reason is designed to generate sound judgments, then it’s hard to conceive of a more serious design flaw than confirmation bias. Imagine, Mercier and Sperber suggest, a mouse that thinks the way we do. Such a mouse, “bent on confirming its belief that there are no cats around,” would soon be dinner. To the extent that confirmation bias leads people to dismiss evidence of new or underappreciated threats—the human equivalent of the cat around the corner—it’s a trait that should have been selected against. The fact that both we and it survive, Mercier and Sperber argue, proves that it must have some adaptive function, and that function, they maintain, is related to our “hypersociability.” Mercier and Sperber prefer the term “myside bias.” Humans, they point out, aren’t randomly credulous. Presented with someone else’s argument, we’re quite adept at spotting the weaknesses. Almost invariably, the positions we’re blind about are our own.

A recent experiment performed by Mercier and some European colleagues neatly demonstrates this asymmetry. Participants were asked to answer a series of simple reasoning problems. They were then asked to explain their responses,and were given a chance to modify them if they identified mistakes. The majority were satisfied with their original choices; fewer than fifteen per cent changed their minds in step two.

In step three, participants were shown one of the same problems, along with their answer and the answer of another participant, who’d come to a different conclusion. Once again, they were given the chance to change their responses. But a trick had been played: the answers presented to them as someone else’s were actually their own, and vice versa. About half the participants realized what was going on. Among the other half, suddenly people became a lot more critical. Nearly sixty per cent now rejected the responses that they’d earlier been satisfied with.

This lopsidedness, according to Mercier and Sperber, reflects the task that reason evolved to perform, which is to prevent us from getting screwed by the other members of our group. Living in small bands of hunter-gatherers, our ancestors were primarily concerned with their social standing, and with making sure that they weren’t the ones risking their lives on the hunt while others loafed around in the cave. There was little advantage in reasoning clearly, while much was to be gained from winning arguments.

Among the many, many issues our forebears didn’t worry about were the deterrent effects of capital punishment and the ideal attributes of a firefighter. Nor did they have to contend with fabricated studies, or fake news, or Twitter. It’s no wonder, then, that today reason often seems to fail us. As Mercier and Sperber write, “This is one of many cases in which the environment changed too quickly for natural selection to catch up.”

Steven Sloman, a professor at Brown, and Philip Fernbach, a professor at the University of Colorado, are also cognitive scientists. They, too, believe sociability is the key to how the human mind functions or, perhaps more pertinently, malfunctions. They begin their book, “The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone” (Riverhead), with a look at toilets.

Virtually everyone in the United States, and indeed throughout the developed world, is familiar with toilets. A typical flush toilet has a ceramic bowl filled with water. When the handle is depressed, or the button pushed, the water and everything that’s been deposited in it gets sucked into a pipe and from there into the sewage system. But how does this actually happen?

In a study conducted at Yale, graduate students were asked to rate their understanding of everyday devices, including toilets, zippers, and cylinder locks. They were then asked to write detailed, step-by-step explanations of how the devices work, and to rate their understanding again. Apparently, the effort revealed to the students their own ignorance, because their self-assessments dropped. (Toilets, it turns out, are more complicated than they appear.)

Sloman and Fernbach see this effect, which they call the “illusion of explanatory depth,” just about everywhere. People believe that they know way more than they actually do. What allows us to persist in this belief is other people. In the case of my toilet, someone else designed it so that I can operate it easily. This is something humans are very good at. We’ve been relying on one another’s expertise ever since we figured out how to hunt together, which was probably a key development in our evolutionary history. So well do we collaborate, Sloman and Fernbach argue, that we can hardly tell where our own understanding ends and others’ begins.

“One implication of the naturalness with which we divide cognitive labor,” they write, is that there’s “no sharp boundary between one person’s ideas and knowledge” and “those of other members” of the group.

This borderlessness, or, if you prefer, confusion, is also crucial to what we consider progress. As people invented new tools for new ways of living, they simultaneously created new realms of ignorance; if everyone had insisted on,say, mastering the principles of metalworking before picking up a knife, the Bronze Age wouldn’t have amounted to much. When it comes to new technologies, incomplete understanding is empowering.

Where it gets us into trouble, according to Sloman and Fernbach, is in the political domain. Its one thing for me to flush a toilet without knowing how it operates, and another for me to favor (or oppose) an immigration ban without knowing what I’m talking about. Sloman and Fernbach cite a survey conducted in 2014, not long after Russia annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea. Respondents were asked how they thought the US. should react, and also whether they could identify Ukraine on a map. The farther off base they were about the geography, the more likely they were to favor military intervention.(Respondents were so unsure of Ukraine’s location that the median guess was wrong by eighteen hundred miles, roughly the distance from Kiev to Madrid.)

Surveys on many other issues have yielded similarly dismaying results. “As a rule, strong feelings about issues do not emerge from deep understanding,” Sloman and Fernbach Write. And here our dependence on other minds reinforces the problem. If your position on, say, the Affordable Care Act is baseless and I rely on it, then my opinion is also baseless. When I talk to Tom and he decides he agrees with me, his opinion is also baseless, but now that the three of us concur we feel that much more smug about our views. If we all now dismiss as unconvincing any information that contradicts our opinion, you get, well, the Trump Administration

“This is how a community of knowledge can become dangerous,” Sloman and Fernbach observe. The two have performed their own version of the toilet experiment, substituting public policy for household gadgets. In a study conducted in 2012, they asked people for their stance on questions like: Should there be a single-payer health-care system? Or merit-based pay for teachers? Participants Were asked to rate their positions depending on how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the proposals. Next, they were instructed to explain, in as much detail as they could, the impacts of implementing each one. Most people at this point ran into trouble. Asked once again to rate their views, they ratcheted down the intensity, so that they agreed or disagreed less vehemently.

Sloman and Fernbach see in this result a little candle for a dark World. If we or our friends or the pundits on CNN—spent less time pontificating and more trying to work through the implications of policy proposals, We’d realize how clueless we are and moderate our views. This, they write, “may be the only form of thinking that will shatter the illusion of explanatory depth and change people’s attitudes.”

One way to look at science is as a system that corrects for people’s natural inclinations. In a well-run laboratory, there’s no room for myside bias; the results have to be reproducible in other laboratories, by researchers who have no motive to confirm them. And this, it could be argued, is why the system has proved so successful. At any given moment, a field may be dominated by squabbles, but, in the end, the methodology prevails. Science moves forward, even as we remain stuck in place.

In “Denying to the Grave: Why We Ignore the Facts That Will Save Us” (Oxford), Jack Gorman, a psychiatrist, and his daughter, Sara Gorman, a public-health specialist, probe the gap between what science tells us and what we tell ourselves. Their concern is with those persistent beliefs which are not just demonstrably false but also potentially deadly, like the conviction that vaccines are hazardous. Of course, what’s hazardous is not being vaccinated; that’s why vaccines were created in the first place. “Immunization is one of the triumphs of modern medicine,” the Gormans note. But no matter how many scientific studies conclude that vaccines are safe, and that there’s no link between immunizations and autism, anti-vacinators remain unmoved. (They can now count on their side sort of. Donald Trump, who has said that, although he and his wife had their son, Barron, vaccinated, they refused to do so on the timetable recommended by pediatricians.)

The Gormans, too, argue that ways of thinking that now seem self-destructive must at some point have been adaptive. And they, too, dedicate many pages to confirmation bias, which, they claim, has a physiological component. They cite research suggesting that people experience genuine pleasure, a rush of dopamine when processing information that supports their beliefs. “It feels good to ‘stick to our guns’ even if we are wrong,” they observe.

The Gormans don’t just want to catalogue the ways we go wrong; they want to correct for them. There must be some way, they maintain, to convince people that vaccines are good for kids, and handguns are dangerous. (Another widespread but statistically insupportable belief they’d like to discredit is that owning a gun makes you safer.) But here they encounter the very problems they have enumerated. Providing people with accurate information doesn’t seem to help; they simply discount it. Appealing to their emotions may work better, but doing so is obviously antithetical to the goal of promoting sound science. “The challenge that remains,” they write toward the end of their book, “is to figure out how to address the tendencies that lead to false scientific belief”

“The Enigma of Reason,” “The Knowledge Illusion,” and “Denying to the Grave” Were all written before the November election. And yet they anticipate Kellyanne Conway and the rise of “alternative facts.” These days, it can feel as if the entire country has been given over to a vast psychological experiment being run either by no one or by Steve Bannon. Rational agents would be able to think their way to a solution. But, on this matter, the literature is not reassuring. ⋄

So now what do I do? Give up? That’s not my style but nor is brown-nosing. There cannot be however much advance towards change without net-working of some sort. But how? One problem is that I do not know of one other person who has suggested Rule changes to the main areas of Rule, Conduct of Play and Penalties, someone I could join with, someone who is unhappy with the way hockey is being officiated, who has said that and will continue to say that. This apparent contentment with the absurd is astonishing to me, that however seems to be the situation. But is it?…hink-and-believe/

October 5, 2016



I was asked (in October 2016) why I have “this obsession” with the Obstruction Rule, a question which struck me as odd at the time because I recalled having an opposite attitude to ‘umpiring practice’ in regard to obstruction when I first started to write about this Rule around 1998. My ‘obsession’ is with persistent illogical and unfair Rule interpretation and application (or the absence of application) and that carries across a number of Rules.

In a previous article, now deleted, I described going, in 1968, to a Hockey Festival in Bad Homberg, Germany and coming across the most extreme interpretation of the Obstruction Rule and what was called ‘turning’ that I had ever encountered:-

In a game I was watching, a ball was played from deep on the left flank for the left-winger to chase. This was in the days when there was an off-side Rule and the through-pass put the chasing left-winger well clear of opponents and on his way to the goal. The pitch was of shale and a bit uneven and the ball popped up causing the winger who was then close to it to over-run it. He turned to collect the ball and the umpire immediately penalised him for ‘turning’ and awarded a free to the opposing team. There was not another player within 15m of him. I was astonished, but the winger, (and everybody else on the pitch) accepted the decision as if it was correct, they were used to this interpretation and behaved as if it was proper.  (This sort of thing explains in part why many players now never bother to learn the FIH published Rules – they are an irrelevance in such circumstances and knowing what the Rules are just causes annoyance with the umpiring that is encountered).

I also had experience of an extreme interpretation of shielding in one of my own games. I was running in possession of the ball towards an opponent and as he made a forward lunge in an attempt to tackle me I side-stepped to my right and took the ball past him. We passed each other closely but without touching, his lunge caused him to be off-balance, with no chance of contact with the ball or of recovery of position. I was penalised for running between my opponent and the ball – apparently I should have passed by him beyond his theoretical playing reach, rather than his actual playing reach from his off-balance position. 

The Obstruction Rule up until the early 1990’s was strictly enforced, by some ridiculously over-strictly, but it was generally not as daft as what I encountered in Bad Homberg; it did not almost prevent the playing of the game. I later learned that these interpretations were peculiar to an individual who had control of umpire selection in that area of Germany and it was ‘local’ and applied only at club level.

The video clip below, which was produced in 2003 by the Australian HA, was probably the work of someone used to the pre-1992 application of the Obstruction Rule, but even by the understanding and common application (‘practice’) of the Rule in 1992 it is completely wrong. There is no obstruction shown in this part of the video clip. It has always been impossible to obstruct with the body a player who is not own goal-side of the ball and who is behind the play i.e. behind both the ball and the player in possession of the ball, as the player in red in the video is positioned. (and at no point does the blue player pull the ball back, as the commentator/coach declares she does – and so what if she did? – nor does she illegally shield it from her opponent with her body, it is always in front of her feet as she moves towards the opponent’s base-line).

I don’t know what players and umpires made of this video when it was first produced. Those who saw it probably just ignored it because by 2004 the Obstruction Rule was for all intents and purposes ‘dead’.  I then, quite quickly, found myself on the ‘other side of the fence’, going from having attacked the absurdity of turning or shielding when there was no-one turned on or the ball shielded from, to having to attack the equal absurdity of these fouls, often combined with physical contact, not being penalised at all, in fact the obstructed player often being penalised for a ‘phantom’ contact tackle.We now have an equally extreme opposite ‘umpiring practice’ of application of the Obstruction Rule: many umpires seem unaware of the existence of it.

Compare the above ‘obstruction’ with the below 2016 penalising of a ‘tackler’, bearing in mind that there has been no change to the Rule except a tightening up and clarification concerning positioning between an opponent and the ball by a player in possession of the ball, added to Explanation in 2009  – and there has been no announcement of any change of interpretation at all made by the FIH Rules Committee (or the FIH Hockey Rules Board) and no change made to the wording of the interpretation of the Rule since 2001 (and that was ‘housekeeping’ – removing the words “if necessary” which did not in any way alter the existing interpretation, so there has been no change of any significance since 1993, when the receiving exception was introduced).



My persistence in pointing out the 2009 amendment to the Explanation of application of the Obstruction Rule, on the Internet forums at and was rewarded with bans from both. George Brinks told me by email in 2009 that the Obstruction Rule was ‘dead’ and my insisting on writing about it was driving people away from his forum and he had therefore to ban me.

Below, is my notification of my permanent exclusion from – a typical umpire ‘interpretation’ by Magpie (a previous moderator), a convenient corruption of what I wrote (which was impure invention) and a ban without any justification whatsoever.


Neither of these forum moderators were interested in (probably didn’t even read) what I was actually advocating, they just incorrectly assumed I was pushing for a return to the pre-1993 era interpretation of the Obstruction Rule. The following clips indicate what I consider to be both legal and attractive hockey – I am not at all opposed to turning on or with the ball as long as it is not obstructive play.


The art of evasion with the ball, by turning with it or about it, is about timing, spatial awareness, footwork, ball-control (stickwork) and, to a lesser extent, speed – and when properly done, which is a difficult combination of skills, it makes for attractive hockey. Not at all what we are generally getting at present.

Because of the 2009 amendment to the wording of the Explanation of application, the present (2018) Obstruction Rule is actually more prescriptive of an obstructive action by a player in possession of the ball than the Rule was in 2004 – but ‘practice’ is very different.

The follow clip shows an obstruction decision from a match played in 2013 that is every bit as extreme and bizarre as the ones I witnessed in 1968, but for different reasons and at the opposite extreme. There was an obstruction offence as well as two physical contact offences but all theses offences were committed by the NED defender the umpire awarded the free ball to. Neither of the ARG players committed an offence during this incident – but the NED played appealed for a decision and an obviously clueless umpire complied. The award of a penalty corner to the ARG team would have been an appropriate response from the umpire because the fouls by the NED player were intentional.

This swing from one far extreme to another has also occurred in other Rule areas I have also been accused at various times of being ‘obsessed’ with. I pointed out for a number of years prior to 2004 that raising the ball towards another player at any distance was an illegal action and also dangerous play if it caused evasive action, so at the time many of the drag flicks made should have been penalised –  fieldhockeyforum later (about 2006) effectively banned any discussion of the shot at goal as a dangerously raised ball – eventually, after many threads on the dangerously played ball, especially as a shot at the goal, had been prematurely closed or sin-binned, the ‘final word’, a ridiculous and inaccurate post by Diligent (Chris Horton), one of the forum moderators, has been pinned to the top of the Umpiring Section for years. 

The control of dangerous play had gone from the prohibition of any raising of the ball towards another player, a (poorly enforced) Rule extant in 2003, to the deletion of the Forcing Rule (2011) and collected along the way (2008) the invention that an on target shot at the goal could not be considered dangerous (which although dangerously absurd is ‘practice’ (I cannot yet accurately write “was practice”), and so far more powerful than any Rule published by the FIH.RC could ever be). The following video is an example where this “cannot be dangerous” invention seems to be the only possible explanation why the umpire did not penalise the shooter but awarded a penalty corner against a defender who was hit with the ball.


The ball-body contact Rule has been plagued with alternate reintroductions and deletions of ‘gained advantage’ and ‘intentionally’ (often in other forms such as, ‘gains benefit’ and ‘voluntarily’ or ‘deliberately‘). Sometimes these changes have been made to the Rule Proper and sometimes to the Explanation of application. Sometimes both terms have been used, at other times neither. At present the Rule Proper appears to conflict with the Explanation, so those who for some unknown reason (simply to get their own way in argument?) regard the Explanation as ‘notes’ and not as direction and apply the Rule in an entirely different way to those who read and apply the Rule using all the provided instruction (which is obviously what is intended by the FIH RC when giving such instruction). Yet others ‘cherry-pick’ the Explanation, so the ball-body contact Rule is now applied as severely, and as illogically, as I saw the Obstruction Rule (according to local ‘practice’) being applied in 1968 – to the point of ruining the game (largely because the offence of forcing is no longer applied, as it is supposed to be, using “other Rules”).

Here is a sample of umpire coaching (also by Chris Horton who, incredibly, is a level one umpire coach) published in a County Hockey Umpiring Association Handbook in 2009, a time when ‘gains benefit’ was not in the Rule Explanation. The criteria for offence were a voluntarily made contact or positioning with intent to use the body to stop the ball.

The notes to the foot body rule 9.11 say it is an offence ‘only’ when contact with the ball is ‘voluntary’, but in practice an accidental contact that alters the balance of play is just as much an offence as deliberately playing the ball with a foot or the body.

This is just one example of interpreting rules consistently with your partner and with other umpires the teams will have. Sometimes their interpretation will differ from how the rule seems, to you, to read. But you must umpire play their way, and never apply your own version. If that leaves you uncomfortable then a bit of lateral thinking should soon enough make the same sense of it for you as it does for everyone else.

  So “in practice”, according to the above opinion (and employing “alters the balance of play” in place of ‘gains benefit’), the Rule can be applied in a way that is the opposite of what a reading of the Rules of Hockey would lead any reasonable person to expect. And it is still umpired in that way; isn’t that wonderful? If the above advice to new umpires strikes you as perverse you would be astonished by an account of how ‘gains benefit’ came to be continued to be applied after 2006 despite the fact that the FIH Rules Committee had deleted it on issue of the 2007-9 Rules of Hockey. ‘Gains advantage’, the replacement of ‘gains benefit’, did not appear in the Rules of Hockey until 2016  (effective from May 2015 by order via a FIH Circular) but, ‘practice’ following Umpire Managers’ or Tournament Directors’ instructions was always ‘the Rule’, not what was printed in the rule-book. “Don’t think, just do as you are told”.

Then we have the Rule on the raised hit, which started out as a prohibition on the raising of the ball into the circle with a hit. That prohibition after many see-saw changes, was extended to all raising of the ball into the circle and then deleted (the usual extremes, all or nothing). The present Rule on the intentionally raised hit (which should not have been introduced in its present form, all that was needed was a height limit to prevent the long high chip hit) has been undermined to the extent that it is virtually ignored because of the forget lifted-think danger advice in the UMB (but also ignore any danger resulting from a raised hit) which has become ‘practice’. (I have more than one example on video of a player using a hard forehand edge hit to lift the ball at high velocity into the opponent’s circle – two deliberate offences – and that player’s team being awarded a penalty corner because the ball was deflected by one defender into the body of another).

The ball is not raised very high in this example but it was still raised illegally (intentionally) and with an illegal stroke, and these fouls disadvantaged the opposing team.

The Rule on the falling ball has been messed up by firstly, change to the wording of  the second clause of the Dangerous Play Rule  …or leading to dangerous play ( from ...likely to lead to dangerous play) and secondly, by ignoring this clause. Poor wording of Rule 9.10. (for example, the deletion of “at the time the ball was raised” from the Guidance) has resulted in different views on the placement of a free ball awarded for danger or other contravention following a scoop pass (an aerial), and an attempt to make a ‘one size fits all’ type of decision about that placement for at least three very different scenarios – which is absurd – but ‘practice’. 

And it goes on. I have had sufficient ‘Rule obsessions’ to obsess about a different one every day of the week. All a complete waste of time of course, but that is what games are for, to occupy our time and to prevent us using our intelligence on more important matters.

I no longer enjoy watching hockey, the officiating at the Rio Olympics made me cringe as did much of the play, and I am also at the point when I consider writing abut the Rules of Hockey and the application of them to be a waste of my time.  The apathy and complacency so far encountered in response to what I have written previously hardly makes it worth bothering. I am dismayed that apparently intelligent umpire coaches coach according to “what FIH Umpires are doing” when much of what these umpires do, is not only not Rule compliant, it is extreme and bizarre and wouldn’t get them approval in a watching for promotion from novice to Level One qualification. I am extremely irritated by calls for a period of ‘consolidation’ with no changes to the Rules.




October 31, 2015

Rewrite: Rule 9.12. Obstruction.



A suggested rewrite  of a Rule of hockey. Obstruction

The current 9.12

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

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

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

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

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

Action. Amendment.

Reason. The Rule is a fundamental element of the fair conduct of a non-contact game and is at present almost totally ignored due to deviant interpretation of Rule purpose and word meaning.

Comments and suggestions are invited.

The Obstruction Rule obliges a player in possession of the ball in contested situations to move the ball beyond the reach of opponents (by dribbling or passing) and to possess the ability, the stick-work skills, to retain the ball while keeping the ball open to opponents who are competing for it.

Hockey is not like soccer in this respect: soccer is a game which permits physical contact in challenges for the ball and also allows a player in possession of the ball to use the body to shield it from opponents and even hold them off, to prevent them from playing at the ball – hockey Rules permit neither action, physical contact nor ball-shielding. That naturally means that hockey is more difficult to learn to play properly than soccer is, but, once in possession of the ball, playing hockey without an Obstruction Rule is akin to playing tennis without an net – it requires little skill and the side/player in possession will almost always score. Keeping possession of the ball when there is no obstruction becomes for competent players almost as easy as it is in basketball, but hockey then becomes duller than basketball (which has generally unenforced physical contact Rules) because the time, shooting and zone limits imposed on basketball players, to prevent endless possession by one side, do not exist in hockey.

The suggested rewrite below is basically the Rule as it now exists, it adds only a clarification of “move into” and the concept of an ‘on-side’ tackler to the existing Rule – the latter something which has always been there but never stated – and restores the original “must move away” in place of the present “is permitted to move off”: a clear instruction replacing an empty statement, empty in that it is neither prohibitive or directive and therefore serves no purpose.

The suggestion has been made as explicit as I could make it, even at the cost of repetition. I have tried to avoid ambiguity. The suggested Rule is of about the same length as the original ‘new interpretation’, (the misnomer give to the guidance which contained the exception to the Rule allowed to a receiver of the ball which was introduced in 1993 – it was and is an exception to the Rule not a new interpretation of the criteria for an obstruction offence, which remained and  remains unchanged) which was previously contained in the Rule Interpretations section in the back of pre-1995 rule-books.


Rule 9.12  Players must not shield the ball from an opponent with any part of the body or with the stick in a way that prevents or delays that opponent playing directly at the ball when that opponent would otherwise be immediately able to do so.

Shielding the ball to prevent an opponent playing at it is called obstruction and is an action contrary to this Rule of Hockey..

A player in possession of the ball illegally obstructs an opponent with his body or stick when:-

the opponent is level with or own goal-side of the ball (‘on-side’ of the ball)

the ball is within the playing reach of the opponent who intends to play it

the opponent is demonstrating an intent to play at the ball  

the only reason the opponent cannot immediately play directly at the ball is because the direct path to it is obstructed by (any part of) the body or stick of a player in possession of the ball.

Obstructive ball shielding is therefore an offence that has to be forced by an opponent while demonstrating an intent to play at the ball or while trying to position to tackle, who in so doing shows that the direct path to the ball is obstructed; that is the opponent who is intent on playing at the ball is prevented from doing so only because the ball is shielded by the body or stick of the player in possession of it.

An obstructive offence may be forced by an opponent immediately that opponent approaches to within playing reach of the ball and demonstrates an intent to play at it.

A player in possession of the ball

who is :-

(a)   faced with an ‘on-side’ opponent who is within playing distance of the ball  and who is attempting to play at the ball, may not move (turn) with or on the ball to position the body and/or the stick between the ball and that opponent with the effect of blocking that opponent’s direct path to the ball and by this means or by moving the ball to the same effect, prevent or delay a legal attempt by an opponent to play at the ball. Moving to maintain a ball shielding position, for example ‘shunting’ sideways to continue shielding the ball from an opponent is not legitimate “moving off” or “moving away”.  

A player in possession of the ball who is:-

(b)   beyond the playing reach of a closing opponent who turns on or with the ball to position the body between that opponent and the ball or moves the ball to the same effect IS NOT allowed the time and space leeway, after the opponent has closed to within playing distance of the ball, that is exceptionally, given to a player in the act of receiving and controlling the ball. The ball must be kept beyond the playing reach of a closing opponent OR before the opponent is obstructed in his or her attempt to play at the ball (has come within playing reach of the ball and tried to play it) the player in possession of the ball must again turn on or with the ball to face opponents or position the ball, so that it is no longer shielded.

A stationary or slow moving ball-holder who obliges an opponent who is intent on playing at the ball to ‘go around’ a ball-shielding position to attempt to play at the ball, when that opponent would otherwise be able to play at the ball directly, is obstructing that opponent. (This is almost the opposite of the ‘onus’ on the tackler to position to tackle by going around a ball shielding opponent, which was contained in the original (1993) Rule Interpretation – the onus on a ball holder not to obstruct was in that interpretation ignored)

Within the criteria given above, an Obstruction Offence occurs when a player in possession of the ball, whether moving or stationary, positions the body in relation to the ball or the ball in relation to the body, so that the execution of a legal attempt to play at the ball by an ‘onside’ opponent, who would otherwise be able to immediately play directly at the ball, is not possible without that opponent having to move around the body or stick of the player in possession of the ball in order to play at it.

A player in possession of the ball :-

must not while shielding the ball with any part of the body including the legs, move into the playing reach of an opponent or move bodily into an opponent, causing contact, or by moving towards an opponent while shielding the ball i.e. by leading the ball with the body, oblige an opponent to give way to avoid body contact (Rule 9.3).

may not interpose his body as an obstruction to an opponent. A change of direction by a half-turn of the body with this result may amount to obstruction. It should be noted, however, that even a complete turn does not constitute a breach unless an opponent has thereby been obstructed in an attempt to play the ball.


The Tackler.

A tackle may not be attempted from a position where physical contact will result (Rule 9.13), but obstruction may be demonstrated; it is in fact a requirement that obstruction is demonstrated for an obstruction offence to occur i.e. to demonstrate that a legal attempt to play at the ball is being prevented by an opponent’s ball shielding.

A player who is within playing distance of the ball and intends to make a tackle, but who is not in a position of balance from which a tackle attempt may be made, is for example, facing or moving or reaching in the wrong direction to play at the ball with a reasonable expectation of making contact with it with the stick, cannot be obstructed except as already noted, when evasive movement is forced to avoid physical contact being caused by an opponent in possession of the ball who is leading the ball with the leg or body and thus shielding the ball. When a ball holder moves into an opponent in either of the ways described in this clause the opponent who is being moved into is no longer obliged to demonstrate that an attempt is being made to play at the ball because such moving into will generally prevent a tackler (who may be forced to retreat to avoid contact) from attempting to execute a legal tackle.


The ‘Receiving’ Exception to the Rule.

Exceptionally, a player who is in the act of receiving and controlling the ball is during this time exempted from the possibility of a ball shielding offence.

A receiving player is permitted to receive the ball while facing in any direction and while either in a stationary position or while moving. Such a receiving player will not be obstructing any opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play at it, even if shielding the ball from that opponent while receiving it. The receiving player, however, having received the ball and controlled it, must in these circumstances then immediately either:-

a) pass the ball away or

b) move away from opponents with the ball to put and keep it beyond their playing reach and/or turn on or with the ball to face opponents, so that the ball is no longer shielded from them.


It will be necessary for a receiving player who elects  to turn on or over the ball, after the ball is in control or as the ball is controlled, to:-

a) make such a turn before an opponent is within playing reach of the ball or after having first taken the ball beyond the playing reach of the opponent or

b) create space for a turn having duped the opponent into moving or reaching in the wrong direction, before there has been any obstruction.


Once an opponent is within playing reach of the ball the only options then available to the ball holder will be:-

a) to either turn on the ball while moving the ball away from the reach of the opponent (which may be achieved with appropriate foot-work and stick-work ) or

b) to move away with the ball to put and keep the it beyond the opponent’s reach, and then to turn on or with the ball  – and/or to pass the ball away.


Once the ball has been received and controlled the receiving player may not,  in a way that shields the ball from opponents who are within playing distance of the ball and demonstrating an intent to play it, dwell on the ball in a stationary position or while so positioned move the ball to shield it with the stick or body and thereby prevent a legal attempt to play at it.

After having received and controlled the ball while facing towards his or her own defence, making feints over the ball while stationary or slow moving or ‘dribbling’, which comprises of ‘weaving’ from side to side without taking the ball beyond the playing reach of the opponent and while maintaining a ball shielding position (thus preventing an opponent from immediately playing at the ball or from positioning to do so), will be considered an obstruction offence.

The receiving exception to the Obstruction Rule facilitates the receiving and controlling of the ball and continuation of play without the receiver who is facing towards his or her own baseline immediately committing an obstruction offence when closely marked by an opponent who is intent on playing at the ball – nothing more.

The ‘Manufactured’ Exception to the Rule.

A player in possession of the ball who plays it to the far side of an opponent (who is, for example, attempting to channel the ball holder or block the ball with the stick or execute a tackle) and then runs into that opponent claiming to be obstructed, has not been obstructed if there has been no movement with the intent to obstruct by the defending player. If there is physical contact the player who was in possession of the ball is in these circumstances the one more likely to have committed an offence. (This was a part of the previously deleted ‘Manufacturing’ Rule which should be restored).


Third-Party Obstruction.

A player who is not in possession of the ball who moves in front of or blocks the path of an opponent to stop that opponent legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing. This form of obstruction is known as third-party obstruction because the obstructing player often carries out this action so that a team-mate (the second party) has more time and/or space to reach and/or play the ball. It can also be regarded as an impeding offence or according to the circumstances as a physical contact offence.

It is not necessary for the obstructed player to be within playing reach of the ball at the time a third-party offence is committed, it is only necessary that but for the offence, the obstructed player would have been able to intercept the ball or would have been in a position to challenge a team-mate of the obstructing player for the ball and was denied that opportunity. This form of obstruction is often carefully planned to create passing space in mid-field and is often deliberately carried out during penalty corners to a) give the stopper and shooting player more time to set up and make a shot and b) to block line of sight to the ball to defenders. It is in the latter case often a very dangerous action. 

For there to be a third party obstruction It is generally necessary for the obstructing player to move to block the path to the ball of the obstructed player and third party obstruction cannot otherwise occur, but exceptionally, a player in possession of the ball may deliberately use a stationary team-mate as a shield by dribbling the ball very close to him or her so as to impose a compliant team-mate between the ball and an opponent who is intent on tackling for the ball – leaving the tackler, with the choice of going around or stopping or barging into the stationary third player i.e. in an obstructed position, unable to challenge the ball holder for possession of the ball.

Stick Obstruction 

The same principle applies to stick obstruction as applies to obstruction with the body. Positioning the stick between the stick of an opponent and the ball is obstruction if that action prevents the opponent playing the ball. It makes no difference if the stick of the player in possession of the ball is in contact with the ball or not. If, for example, the stick is positioned Indian dribble style with the stick-head over the top front of the ball in contact with and covering it, or the stick is used away from the ball to fend off the stick of a tackler as the tackler’s stick is moved towards the ball. Both these kinds of action are obstructive, if direct playing of the ball by an opponent, who is within playing distance of the ball and is attempting to play at it, is thereby prevented.

It might be asked “what is the point of a rewrite” if this:-

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

– back into an opponent

and these two complimentary statements:-

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it. (a pretty good encapsulation of the Obstruction Rule) are already in place?

The answer is that what is written may seen perfectly clear but it is possible, as may be seen in most hockey matches, to either ignore it or interpret it in very different ways, so emphasis on purpose and intent and clarification of wording are required. (What for example, is the difference, and they have to be different to justify the inclusion of both in separate clauses, between back into an opponent and move bodily into an opponent ?).

A second answer is that “for evil to triumph it is only necessary that good people do nothing“. Calling deviant interpretation evil may seem overly dramatic, but I don’t want to see dribbling with the ball in hockey carried out in the same style as it is in basketball – backing into opponents to achieve a scoring position or to a ‘win’ a penalty for a ‘manufactured’ contact foul, but we are already well along that road and unless action is taken to remedy that, these practices will get much worse (although it is difficult to see how some of them could get any worse than they are now).  I am serious when I say that the game has been destroyed; it was not intended that opponents should be ‘eluded’ by shielding and backing in and that sort of play is not attractive or spectacular – i.e pleasant to watch.

The video clips below, two of hundreds of possible examples available, also illustrates why the Obstruction Rule needs to be written more explicitly than it is at present. The player in possession of the ball, who clearly obstructs his opponents several times, was not penalised for these offences in an international level match. The mistaken assumption Cris Maloney et al make (see article is to really believe or be prepared to accept, that if FIH Umpires are not penalising such obstructions then not to do so MUST be correct.




The ‘poster boy’ for the latest interpretation of obstruction (where there is apparently no such thing as obstruction even when there is physical contact caused by the attacker) is the shootout. The strength of this meme was illustrated when, in the BEL v ESP match during the 2018 WWC Michelle Joubert did penalise a shooter for backing in during a shootout – there was uproar – despite Joubert being perfectly correct.