Edited 23rd June 2012
Since the retirement of the late George Croft as Hon. Sec. of the Hockey Rules Board, the game has been changed beyond recognition, by which I mean that some of the Rules and Rule Guidance to which the game is supposedly played are no longer recognized, there is sometimes ‘lip service’ to the existence of them, but they are no longer applied as written and certainly not as intended – or even as given in the last amendments published by the HRB in 2009 or the FIH Rules Committee in 2011.
The first of them is of course the Rule concerning the playing of the ball in a dangerous way.
Rule 9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.
A ball is considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by players.
The penalty is awarded where the action causing the danger took place.
Added to Rule 9.8 is this from Rule 9.9. which is the Rule on intentional raising of the ball with a hit.
A flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5 metres is considered dangerous.
and then this from the Rules concerning the penalty corner.
13.3.l. for second and subsequent hits at the goal and for flicks, deflections and scoops, it is permitted to raise the ball to any height but this must not be dangerous
if a defender is within five metres of the first shot at goal during the taking of a penalty corner and is struck by the ball below the knee, another penalty corner must be awarded or is struck on or above the knee in a normal stance, the shot is judged to be dangerous and a free hit must be awarded to the defending team.
From the above Rule clauses two conclusions have apparently (because they are common practice) been arrived at. 1) It will never be considered dangerous play to propel a ball at a (standing) opponent at below knee height. 2) An ‘on-target’ shot at the goal cannot be dangerous.
It is easy enough to see where the first conclusion comes from and there is circumspect advice in the UMB that “Low balls over defenders sticks in a controlled manner that hit half shin pad are not dangerous” which gives partial support for it, but it is not generally correct: each instance should be viewed in a subjective way taking into consideration intent, recklessness, etc.
The second conclusion, that an ‘on-target’ shot cannot be dangerous, is simply outrageous and a direct contradiction of the intent of the Rule in situations where the goal is defended by players positioned between the shooter and the goal, because it renders irrelevant ‘legitimate evasive action’, which is the only definition of a dangerously played ball there is. If a defender was forbidden to positioned between a shooter and the goal there would be no need for the term ‘legitimate evasive action’ because the positioning could not be legitimate so evasion from the position adopted could not be legitimate – and that seems to be the approach taken to players who attempt to defend a shot at the goal.
The obvious solution is to apply the same kind of objective criteria to any ball that is raised as is applied to the first raised shot at a penalty corner if the ball is hit – not the same criteria but the same kind of criteria ie. objective criteria - but with some refinements. It is prohibited to raise a first hit shot at the goal at a penalty corner above 460mm (an objective criteria) in any circumstances , the ball need not be at a player to be penalised, it could be at an empty goal. But for a dangerously played ball there must be the possibility of endangerment, so the first criteria suggested is that the ball is propelled at (towards) a player. (In effect replacing a Rule which was altered in 2004 A player must not raise the ball at another player and was – strangely – moved to the Guidance embedded with Rule 9.9 and had a 5m limit attached to it)
The second consideration is distance. There are already in place the above Rules relating to 5m, but there is a erroneous perception from them that a ball cannot be propelled at a player in a dangerous way from beyond 5m. Given human reaction times, once players are aware that the ball is moving in their direction, just beyond 5m is hopelessly inadequate as a safe distance from which to raise the ball at a player at above knee height.
Taking 0.2 sec as an average reaction time between awareness (sight) and response (any detectable movement), a ball with a velocity of 70mph (not fast by top-level drag-flick standards) will travel approximately 6.32m in that time.
In 0.5 secs. about the time required to respond with the stick to the flight-path of a ball, such a ball will have moved approximately 15.79 m. It is reasonable to suggest that a ball propelled high and at high velocity at another player from within 15m. should be considered potentially dangerous – and that is what is being considered, potential endangerment.
Next is height. The reason the UMB suggests that half shin pad height is not dangerous is because players should be wearing shin-pads, but even if they are not, a hit with the ball on the lower leg is not likely to be immediately life-threatening or to cause permanent injury. But if a player is hit around the heart or in the throat or head that situation changes. These are areas of the body above elbow height, so elbow height, besides being an easy to see reference point (like knee height) is the suggested height for ‘dangerous’.
This leaves a ‘grey area’ between knee height and elbow height once the ball is more than 5m from an opponent, but umpires should be able to apply common sense and subjective judgement in this (as they claim to at the moment) without recourse to a tape-measure.
A degree of subjective judgement is also required about velocity. An umpire cannot know if the ball is traveling at a velocity of 69 mph or 73 mph or any other speed, with great accuracy, but can determine if the ball is traveling at a velocity that could cause injury to any player hit with it at the height it is traveling. A hit to the leg, that would perhaps be temporarily painful but not incapacitate the player hit, might fracture the skull of that same player if they were hit on the head – even a ball of moderate speed can cause severe face or head injury.
So there they are 1) At a player 2) Within 15m 3) Above elbow height 4) At a velocity that could injure. Then both players and umpires would know when evasive action was legitimate.
The down-side, if it can be called that, is that consideration for the safety of defenders makes it more difficult to score a goal more skill is required to keep the ball low or target an area not occupied by a defender. It is much easier (if a foot cannot be ‘found’ to win a penalty corner) just to ‘thrash’ the ball at the goal, preferably with a raised reverse edge hit, and if a penalty corner is ‘won’ to flick the ball high at the goal as powerfully as possible without regard for the positions of defenders (or even to ‘target’ defending players) ; regrettably such cynicism is not uncommon.
There are two other Rules to consider. The first, the Obstruction Rule needs a little amendment (the replacement of “is permitted to” with “must“) but it then needs to be applied, with its Guidance, as it is currently written.
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.
But it would probably be helpful to list obstructive acts – all of which are now generally ignored - in the UMB and the current rulebook as they were listed in 2003 in the Advice for Umpires section then at the back of that rulebook :-
Umpires should be aware of players who are in possession of the ball who:
- back into an opponent;
- turn and try to push past an opponent;
- shield the ball with body, leg or stick and stand still when under pressure;
- drag the ball near their back foot when moving down the side-line or along the back-line;
- shield the ball with the stick to prevent a legitimate tackle.
It would, however, be better all round if the UMB, with its unauthorized additions to Rule Guidance and conflicts with the published Rules, ceased to be published at all – it is worse than an utterly useless document because it is divisive – and furthermore it was supposed to have been discontinued having been subsumed into the rulebook after 2002.
From Content of the Rulebook 2002
In the past, in addition to the Rules Interpretations included in the Rules Book, briefing papers have occasionally been prepared primarily for umpires at international tournaments. However, we all play the game by the same set of Rules so interpretations in the Rules Book should be as complete as possible. Additional papers should be unnecessary. Accordingly, Appendix B (Rules Interpretations) in this 2002 edition has been significantly revised.
It now incorporates the other briefing papers referred to above. At the same time the layout and some parts of the text have been
Everyone is encouraged to read the full revised text of Appendix B.
(So much for good intentions).
Third-party obstruction should be considered under a separate heading and not ‘mixed up’ as it is now with obstruction by a player in possession of the ball.
Lastly, Rule 9.11 needs to be restored and simplified as:-
Field players must not intentionally play the ball with any part of their body.
This simply moves the word ‘intentionally’ back to the Rule where it was and has been for much of the time hockey has been played. This is necessary because some National Associations, Australia for example, seem to regard the Rule Guidance as optional (except when it suits them not to do so – as in the Obstruction Rule, where Guidance which was deleted in 2001 is applied as if current).
One result of this approach to Rule Guidance is the regarding of all ball/body contact as an offence – which is the opposite of what was originally intended, and is still intended if the Rule Guidance is taken proper account of. The skill of making space in the circle to score a goal has been replaced with merely getting into the circle and then ‘finding a foot’ – pathetic.
Several other deleted areas such as Gains Benefit and Forcing as an offence need restoration, with rewording to make them more precise, but the rescue of the game – conducted as now as a form of ‘soccer’ with sticks – depends mainly on the repair or restoration of the three Rules areas set out above.
Link to Index of Rules http://wp.me/p3tNmd-3