Posts tagged ‘Shot at the goal’

November 20, 2019

The lifted ball coaching document.

Rules of Hockey.

A contentious umpire coaching document from 2001

By John Gawley. 2001 Level 3 Umpire Coach.

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

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

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


John Gawley died in early 2018

Original text in blue.


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


a. stop or catch the ball with the hand

There is nothing to prevent players using their

hands to protect themselves from dangerously

raised balls.

b. intentionally stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry

the ball with any part of their bodies

It is not automatically an offence if the ball hits the foot or

body of a player.

Players should not be penalised when the
ball is played into them. It is only an offence if the ball hits the

foot or body of a player and that player:

• moved intentionally into the path of the ball, or

• made no effort to avoid being hit, or

• was positioned with the clear intention to stop the ball

with the foot or body or

• gains benefit.

Removed 2007 restored 2015)

c. use the foot or leg to support the stick in a tackle.

d. intentionally enter their opponents’ goal or stand on their

opponents’ goal-line

e. intentionally run behind either goal


13.1.3 Raised ball
Players shall not:-

a. intentionally raise the ball from a hit except for a shot at goal

b. intentionally raise the ball so that it lands directly in the circle

Not every ball entering the circle off the ground is forbidden.A ball which bounces into or lands in the circle after a short distance must be judged solely on the intent or danger.

A ball raised over a player’s stick or body when on the ground, even in the circle, must be judged solely on danger.

c. approach within 5 metres of a player receiving a falling raised ball until it has been played and is on the ground

d. raise the ball at another player.

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

A player shall not raise the ball at another player

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

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

Tackling Lift

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

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

Tactical Lift

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Which contradicts his earlier statement about endangering goalkeepers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Judgement of what is dangerous must necessarily be subjective.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

…..and also correct application of the Rules.

Penalty Corner

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

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

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

The Scooped Ball

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

(which is better than the present version)

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

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

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

Which course of action is Gawley advocating there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 31, 2018

Running down the barrel


An absence of cognitive dissidence.

Cognitive dissonance is the mental discomfort (psychological stress) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values. This discomfort is triggered by a situation in which a belief of a person clashes with ‘new’ evidence perceived by or presented to that person. (The evidence from the Rules of Hockey is not new but it has been blanked out by following what others are doing – following selected parts or peer gossip and invention – rather than by fully reading and understanding what is given in the rule-book)

When confronted with facts that contradict personal beliefs, ideals, and values, people will find a way to resolve the contradiction in order to reduce their discomfort. Often the way found is to dispute the validity or authority of the evidence (I am frequently asked at what level I umpire or umpired, as if that could change what is given in the Rules of Hockey, which I frequently quote)  or to point to practice by others that confirms the held belief or simply – and most commonly – to ignore it, shut it out, pretend it isn’t there.

A commonly held belief, that is wrong, is that umpires are responsible for interpreting the Rules of Hockey. In fact they are responsible for applying interpretations (meanings and purpose) of Rules provided by the FIH Rules Committee to the actions of players during a hockey match – that is interpreting the actions of players vis-a-vis the Rules of Hockey and the Explanations of Application provided with them. This has nothing to do with the interpretation (meaning, use) of the wording of Rules and Explanations, which is determined long before an umpire sets foot on a hockey pitch to apply it. The distinction is lost on many players and umpires, but only the FIH RC can provide Rule Interpretation, and umpires as well as players are obliged to follow what is provided in the rule-book by way of Rule Interpretation in all matches played under the auspices of the FIH.

The above references to interpretation do not include changes to interpretation inadvertently made to Rules during translation from English to another language. It is common practice to disdain the 'black and white' of the rule-book as inadequate, based on ignorance of umpiring by rule-makers, umpires have even previously been told by senior umpire coaches (like the one in the video below) that they should throw their rule-books away, because the Members of the FIH RC have no umpiring experience (which is untrue).

It is worth enduring the following painful video (a little over five and a half minutes long) to get a picture of the process of the undermining of the authority of the FIH Rules Committee, by those who should be supporting it, and the mistaken notion umpire coaches have that it is part of their job to determine interpretation - rather than to pass on the provided interpretation. Umpire coaches should be seeking clarification from the FIH RC when this is necessary, not providing interpretation to the FIH RC for the Rules the FIH RC have written as if they do not understand what they themselves meant.

The video above is an extended version of a clip I first posted to You Tube in mid-March 2018, upon learning via a video Rule Briefing from the American Hockey Association that the positioning of an umpire close to the base-line and close to the left-side goalpost is, according to their statistical evidence, the best place for an umpire to position to see offences committed in the circle. I always found this position very uncomfortable (and cannot believe in the reliability of such ‘stats’ – I would like to know what they were based on – i.e. what was being seen and what missed) because I felt this positioning cut me off from the play I wanted to see, and I avoided taking it up except when supervising the taking of the now defunct long corner on my ‘own’ side of the goal – and even then I disliked it.

I posted the above video (I have others showing similar ‘blindside’ decisions) because the incidents in it clearly demonstrate the weaknesses of the baseline/goalpost position during the taking of a penalty corner. Three times in this match a shot was made at chest height or above at an out-running defender during a penalty corner, the ball hit the defender on each occasion and then deflected into the goal. Each time the umpire missed that the shot was high and had hit a defender and awarded a goal. Each time the award was overturned on video appeal. Why the umpire positioned near the half-way line did not signal for dangerous play following any of these incidents I do not know, but she didn’t.

At the end of October 2018 I received comment on the video (which began “What are you on about“, and went on to state that I was “absolutely incorrect” to assert that any of the shots made were dangerous play by the shooter (a follow-up message conceded that, on review, the first shot was dangerous, but only because it was going wide of the goal – which gave me a good idea of the Rule knowledge of my critic). My critic did not seem to realize that the shots had been declared dangerous on the recommendation of the video umpire and that the opinions that the shots were dangerous play were not mine, I just agreed with those decisions. He then went onto say that shots two and three were dangerous play by the out-runner who was “running down the barrel” and thus caused the danger. When I disagreed and pointed out that there was no barrel and that a shot at goal with a drag flick was not in any way like a ball shot from a gun in a fixed position with a predetermined ball trajectory, he replied with a selected part of the Explanation of Rule 13.3.l – leaving out the critical “without attempting to play the ball with their stick” (see the video). According to his interpretation any out-runner at a penalty corner who closed on an attacker in the act of shooting was committing a dangerous play offence – the Rule statement to the contrary, (sic) “a shot made at a defender within 5m and at knee height or above must be penalised as dangerous” was simply ignored – avoiding cognitive dissidence.

A little history is helpful here. Prior to 2004 the relevant Rule, which related to all raising of the ball towards another player, not just to the first shot at goal during a penalty corner was this:-

By 2004 I had been pointing out on various Internet hockey forums for some years that many of the drag-flick shots (which were routinely made high until Ric Charlesworth changed this approach) were illegal, simply because they were raised at opponents, and this circumvention of the height limit on the first hit shot by means of a drag-flick should be prevented by having a separate height limit imposed to a) make it a legal shot and b) so that a dangerously raised flick – one that was made too high and at a player- could be identified and penalised as dangerous play. I still hold this view and suggest the sternum height of a standing player as a height limit (120cms for senior men, which can be shown on a goal with a elasticated tape post to post around the back of the goal. This height avoids the problem of the ‘logging’ keeper but keeps the legal ball shot below most areas to which an injury could be life threatening). Shots not directed at a player would not be subject to a height restriction – so high shots wide of or above players would be legitimate.

Unfortunately, in a Pre-Olympic tournament in 2004 the coach of the S.Korean team, playing against Pakistan, devised a stupid way of defending against the drag-flicks of Sohail Abbas. These flicks, once made, were unstoppable by any player except a goalkeeper because above shoulder playing of the ball was not permitted to field players. The Koreans out-running players were coached to charge down the shots in groups of three, using their bodies to stop the ball. Their coach ‘reasoned’ that as raising the ball into the body of an opponent was an offence, an offence which would be committed just prior to the deliberate ball-body contact, this tactic would prevent Abbas from scoring. I don’t know why the match umpire didn’t use common sense and card the offending out-runners on the first occasion this happened, but he didn’t and the tactic was repeated.

As a result of these incidents in a single match an emergency change to the Rules (for the Athens Olympics) was made by the FIH RC, this was confirmed during a complete (and unrelated) rewrite of the rule-book, which changed the Penalty Corner Rule and introduced a mandatory penalty corner when an out-runner was hit with the ball below knee height. Rule 13.1.3.d. (above) was deleted as a stand alone offence and became, with the addition of a 5m limit, part of the Explanation of Application of the new Rule 9.9. – a Rule about the intentional raising of the ball with a hit when not taking a shot at the goal (so completely unrelated to high drag-flicks during a penalty corner). Part of the new penalty corner Rule 13.3.k. then conflicted with (contradicted) part of the Explanation of the new Rule 9.9, but never mind, umpires would use common sense – wouldn’t they?

We still don’t have a height limit on a ball raised at an opponent (with any stroke); from beyond 5m. Dangerous play from beyond 5m is left to the opinion of umpires, and based on a subjective view of the legitimacy of any action taken by a defender to avoid being hit with a raised ball – bizarrely raising the ball towards an opponent high and with high velocity from beyond 5m is not prohibited by Rule even if it is done intentionally.

This ‘cock-up’ has similarities with the later (2011) deleting of the Forcing Rule with the announcement made in the rule-book at the time that “any forcing action of this sort can be dealt with (penalised) under other Rules”a statement which has long been forgotten because it was not included in any rule-book after 2011 – Why not?. Could it be that the FIH were later made to realize that there were no other Rules which were applicable if the ball was not raised so the “any action of this sort” clause was a misstatement?

In 2008 at the Beijing Olympics a match commentator broadcast the view that an on target shot at the goal could not be considered to be dangerous play, and during the incident being commentated about that was the line the match umpire took. The commentator seemed to be quoting from briefing he had received. The Tournament Director at Beijing was the Dutchman Peter von Reth (the same guy who in 2007 attempted to overrule the FIH RC concerning the deletion of “benefit gained” and who ‘contained’ a change in umpiring practice even though the FIH RC did delete the ‘gains benefit clause – and it was not restored to the Rule until May 2015 as ‘gains an advantage’ – so umpiring practice should have changed after Jan 2007, but didn’t).

The Dutch are at it again; in 2018-19 the KNHB have instructed umpires that legitimate evasive action does not apply to a defender defending on the goal-line during a penalty corner. A notion that is as inventive and wrong as the 2008 on-target shot nonsense was and is, and the notion of a defender “running down the barrel” is (this is, in fact, an alternative version of the “on target” invention).

Why isn’t there cognitive dissidence re: “running down the barrel” when a defender who has closed to within 5m of the shooter and is then hit by a ball raised towards him at knee height or above by the shooter, should according to Rule be awarded a free ball for dangerous play by the shooter? The contradiction between the assertions made about “running down the barrel” and this Rule could not be more obvious and it is not a complicated concept. An out-running defender closing on the player intending to shoot during the taking of a penalty corner, with the intention of preventing a shot or making a tackle for the ball with the stick, is not committing an offence: although I have heard more than one television commentator assert that this closing down action is of itself an offence, especially if done from within the goal (this added detail seems to lend credibility to this nonsense). The replacement of the penalty corner with a power-play in the 23m area is long overdue: it was overdue in the 1980’s when Fischer and Boverlander were making their fearsome ‘banana hits’.

Even now we have umpires who insist that an on-target shot at the goal cannot be dangerous play, that out-runners are the sole cause any danger to themselves even if a shot is raised high and directly at them and that defenders on the goal-line will not be afforded the limited protection from a dangerously played shot that is given by legitimate evasive action (the sole definition of a dangerously played ball from beyond 5m, even though it shouldn’t be the sole criterion). Prior to this time umpires used “positioning with intent” and “acceptance of risk” (risk from illegal actions cannot be accepted) to try to justify their unfair penalising of defenders. Some even declared – demonstrating their poor knowledge of playing hockey – that when a player was positioned behind his or her stick when attempting to stop the ball that was an intention to use the body if the ball was missed with the stick. (Have they not seen a defender trying to defend his feet to prevent a ball contact being forced by an opponent? Where are his feet positioned? Behind his stick of course).