Posts tagged ‘Self Pass’

April 16, 2018

The setting up of a conflict in Rule


The first incident shown in the video clip is from a match played in the 2010 World Cup, so not long after the self-pass had been introduced into mainstream hockey. The incident begins badly, with an absence of common sense and correct Rule application, and then gets worse.

The incident begins with an attempted aerial pass by an ARG player. The ball gets to a good height but falls far short of its intended target. It falls directly onto the position of the CHN #5  in free space, there isn’t an ARG player within 10m of her. She opts to control the ball as it nears the ground instead of taking it with a horizontally presented stick and makes a mess of doing that , so that she has to move her feet and turn her body as the ball bounces on the pitch and it then runs away from her as she plays it with her stick. An approaching ARG player (who could not have seen any ball-body contact from her direction of approach) puts her hand up in appeal and the umpire penalises the CHN player – presumably because she though there was a ball-body contact (she too could not have seen any such contact because the body of the CHN player was between her and the ball).

The view from the camera angle shows that there was in fact no ball-body contact by the CHN player. But even if there had been, in these circumstances there can be no justification whatsoever for penalty. There was obviously no intent to use the body to control the ball and no opponent could legally have approached to within 5m of the CHN player until she had the ball in control on the ground – so clearly there could be no disadvantage to opponents if the ball had glanced off her body on the way down to ground. Even if she had intentionally trapped the ball with her foot there would have been no reason to penalise that action, even though that would have been an offence.

Rule 12.1. is perfectly clear about this:

12 Penalties

12.1 Advantage: a penalty is awarded only when a player or
team has been disadvantaged by an opponent breaking the Rules.

(If only umpires took note of that Rule when there are inconsequential touches of ball to foot by a defender in his or her own circle).

And the subsequent events are possibly worse because there is a lack of clarity, specifically a lack of necessary instruction in Rule 13.2, which needed the application of commonsense to resolve fairly – but that necessary commonsense was absent. This is not the entire Rule but all the relevant clauses are presented. Can you spot the missing, and necessary, instruction or permission?


13.2 Free Hit

Procedures for taking a free hit, centre pass and putting the
ball back into play after it has been outside the field:

a the ball must be stationary

b opponents must be at least 5 metres from the ball

If an opponent is within 5 metres of the ball, they
must not interfere with the taking of the free hit or
must not play or attempt to play the ball. If this player
is not playing the ball, attempting to play the ball or
influencing play, the free hit need not be delayed.

c when a free hit is awarded to the attack within the
23 metres area, all players other than the player taking
the free hit must be at least 5 metres from the ball

h from a free hit awarded to the attack within the
23 metres area, the ball must not be played into the
circle until it has travelled at least 5 metres or has been
touched by a player of either team other than the player
taking the free hit.

What is missing is instruction, to the defender caught within 5m of a quickly taken self pass, on permitted subsequent actions. The FIH HRB just presented the above text to umpires and left it to them to sort out what a defender could or should do in these circumstances. This despite the self-pass having been used in the EHL in the previous two years. They must have been aware of the problems, Internet hockey forums were inundated with questions about 1) whether or not the defender had to get 5m from the ball before being allowed to play at it  2) the direction in which a defender could or should retreat 3) What constituted influencing. The answers (opinions without Rule backing) offered, conflicted and were therefore, overall of no help at all.

The lettering of the clauses of the current Rule 13 is different, but despite some very significant changes in umpiring interpretation of the taking of a self-pass since 2009 there is no change to the above Rule wording. Only when the newly introduced (enacted from May 2015) shadowing from within the circle is described is there any indication that a defender may engage and make a tackle only when the ball has been moved 5m by a self passer. 

At an attacking free hit awarded within 5 metres
of the circle, the ball cannot be played into the
circle until it has travelled at least 5 metres or it
has been touched by a defending player. On this
basis, defenders who are inside the circle within 5
metres of the free hit are therefore not interfering
with play and may also shadow around the inside
of the circle a player who takes a self-pass,
provided that they do not play or attempt to play the
ball or influence play until it has either travelled at
least 5 metres or alternatively been touched by a
defending player who can legitimately play the ball.

The early interpretation devised ‘on the hoof’ by umpires, was that a defender could not retreat in the direction the attacker wanted to go (which led to attackers taking a self-pass charging directly at the nearest defender ‘winning’ a series of free balls and eventually a penalty corner) and that a defender caught within 5m of the ball by a quickly taken self-pass had to get 5m from the ball before being allowed to contest for it (which also led to attackers running at defenders, who were forbidden to engage them) The direction of retreat ‘interpretation’ was changed (forgotten) within a year, but obliging defenders to get 5m from the ball before engagement was permitted lasted substantially longer than that in some locations before gradually fading away.

The CHN player in the above video was penalised with the award of a penalty corner to ARG because she did not at any time get 5m from the ball. The facts that the first attempt by the CHN player to tackle was made after she had retreated in front of the advancing ARG player at least 7 metres and that the ARG player had moved the ball about 10 metres when the CHN player made her successful tackle made no difference at all in this particular interpretation.

The CHN player requested video referral concerning the award of the penalty corner but was still upset about being penalised for a foot contact she (rightly) insisted did not occur, but the umpire informed her that there was nothing she could do about that because it was the other umpire’s decision (This was untrue, there was no reason the umpires could not have conferred to get things right and order a restart with a bully – Block must have known her colleague’s decision made no sense at all and was unfair. She could even, for the sake of fairness, have been correct about the taking of the self-pass by the ARG player: the ball was not made stationary before the self-pass was taken and it was not taken from within playing distance of the alleged offence – which gave the ARG player an unfair advantage – the CHN was denied the opportunity to move 5m from the ball before the self-pass was taken).

Unfortunately, I have lost the soundtrack to the video, but the umpire then ‘fed’ to the CHN player (who did not understand English very well) the question she should put to the video umpire, which was – “Was the CHN player (at any time) 5m from the ball?” The video umpire of course rejected the referral based on that question (as the umpire must have known she would) and confirmed the penalty corner.

The second incident in the above video clip shows an ESP player obstructing a NZ player (which was ignored) and the NZ player being penalised, presumably for making contact with his stick while trying to tackle. The ESP self-passer then charged the NZ player with the ball and deliberately played it into his feet (a Forcing offence at the time) The NZ player was penalised again, maybe because of his direction of retreat, maybe because he did not get 5m from the ball, maybe for the ball-foot contact. He didn’t know which or understand what was going on. Who could? He should not have been penalised at all.




The video clip above shows a self-pass incident in which the defender was penalised for “not 5m” but I think that under current interpretation the umpire would have seen no offence. The defender shadowed the self-passer for the last meter or so, but did not make any attempt to play at the ball until it had been moved 5m (was in the circle).  So everything is okay now. Right?  No, far from it. The Rule wording about what a defender caught within 5m of the ball when a self pass is taken, must or should do, has not changed since 2009 (i.e.there isn’t any) only the interpretation has (where have we seen that phrasing before? In the Obstruction Rule which has been interpreted out of existence.) there is still no clear written direction for the defending player to follow, unless shadowing from within the circle.

If the FIH Umpiring Committee and the FIH Rules Committee liaise and agree on the interpretations of the Rules, as they both declare they do, why do the Rules of Hockey not reflect the results of this liaison? Rule 13.2. was substantially amended in mid 2015 but none of the current interpretation of the permitted actions of a defender caught within 5m of the ball during a self-pass is included in that amendment. It is just ‘known’ to umpires.

I would like to see an early taken self-pass (a self pass taken before retreating defenders have been given any opportunity to retreat – never mind get 5m from the ball) treated as an advantage played (because that is what it is – there is no other reason to take a self-pass early but to gain an advantage from doing so) and for defenders in these circumstances to be permitted to engage the self-passer as soon as the ball is moved (the umpire need only ensure that defenders genuinely quickly retreat as soon as they are aware their team has been penalised, by penalising players who make no attempt to move away from the ball and/or the place of the offence when a free is awarded against them. This would be easier than judging whether or not various 5m restrictions had been observed by players from both teams. The introduction of a second whistle to restart play would be an aid to fair play).

From time to time we have been told via the Internet forums that “every umpire in the world” or “all FIH Umpires” are applying certain ‘interpretations’. Among them:-

A player positioned on the goal-line causes danger.

An ‘on target’ shot at the goal cannot be considered to be dangerous play.*

Defenders accept the risk they will be hit with the ball if they position between the goal and a shooting attacker.*

Aerial Rules do not apply to deflections.

Aerial Rules do not apply to shots at the goal.

Two* of those statements are partially true, but they are true only if the ball is not propelled towards a defender in a dangerous way: the others are false. All of them have been applied by umpires as if they are written into the Rules of Hockey, without any such thing ever having been written in the Rules. But how can we tell what the FIH Rules Committee and the FIH Umpiring Committee have agreed about concerning the interpretation of the Rules when they don’t tell us in writing in the rule-book? Are we to somehow absorb and know ‘interpretation’ by seeing ‘practice’? Cart before the horse. It is not sufficient that umpires know the Rules, it is a Rule that all participants are aware of and abide by the Rules. The FIH need to facilitate the required awareness.…conflict-in-rule/