The Field Hockey Rule about playing the ball in a dangerous way is sparse. Much of the information about the dangerous propelling of the ball is distributed among other Rules and also has mixed into it Guidance about the playing of the ball with the body – which is,or should be, considering that a dangerously played ball is described as one that causes legitimate evasive action, an entirely different and separate matter.
Rule 9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.
Players are permitted to raise the ball with a flick or scoop provided it is not dangerous. A flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5 metres is considered dangerous.(Placed here for the purposes of this article, but taken from Rule 9.9, which is the Rule prohibiting the intentional raising of the ball with a hit – note there is no lower or minimum height given for “considered dangerous” )
A ball is considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by players.
“Play the ball dangerously” is not described nor is “play which leads to dangerous play” or “dangerous play” because these are subjective judgements made by an umpire. A ball is dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by players. Again, legitimate evasive action is a subjective judgement made by an umpire. We are not told on what criteria such judgements should be based, many umpires describe the process as ‘gut instinct’ and ‘selling the decision’ and seem happy with that if players don’t complain (not that players are allowed to complain, that is considered dissent.)
There are objective criteria that can be used but they apply only to the propelling of the ball within 5m of an opponent; all judgement of a ball in relation to the dangerous propelling of it from beyond 5m of an opponent is entirely subjective. This means that players can only appeal for or against dangerous play decisions when the action in question took place within 5m of the player endangered, or not endangered as the case may be; there is no appeal (video referral) possible to examine an umpire’s personal opinion that the propelling of the ball in other circumstances was or was not dangerous.What criteria would the video umpire look for? Evasive action is not based on the fact that evasive action was taken but whether or not the evasion was legitimate, and that is a personal opinion.
The lack of objective criteria when the ball is propelled at a player from beyond 5m is unsatisfactory because 5m is an unrealistic ‘cut off’ distance – and it is treated as a cut off distance although it is mentioned only as a distance within which some actions are considered dangerous - there is in fact no limit to the distance from which a ball propelled at another player may be considered dangerous to that player, but ‘in practice’ 5m is, illogically, rigidly adhered to.
The basing of “dangerously played ball” on “legitimate evasive action” i.e. the judgement of the action of the player propelling the ball being determined by the reaction of the player possibly endangered by that ball, is also illogical: there are a number of circumstances where there will be no reaction at all from the defender, the defender being unaware that the ball has been propelled in their direction and others where the velocity of the ball and the distance it was propelled from (even considerably beyond 5m) makes evasion impossible.
In addition to those problems there are problems of ‘attitude’ to the positioning of defenders, particularly when positioned between the goal and a shooter in the circle. Some umpires see evasive action as an attempt to ‘con’ the umpire into believing that a ball was propelled dangerously or see successful evasive action as a demonstration that the ball was not played dangerously – “…the player had time to get out of the way of it so not dangerous” is an often expressed view. The fact that a dangerously played ball is defined by legitimate evasive action so evasive action can be legitimate and a reason to declare a ball dangerous doesn’t seem to lodge in the minds of these people, they don’t see any contradiction between their view and the Rule Guidance given in the Rules of Hockey. The same umpires also often take the view that a player who has failed to take evasive action has remaining in the path of the ball with the intention of using the body to play it – even when there is clearly an attempt to play at the ball with the stick – such players are said to place their body behind the stick with the intention of playing the ball with the body if they miss it with the stick. (As an aside to that, the same umpires may hold the view that defenders are obliged to defend their feet with the stick, so should position the stick in front of the feet – but having positioned the feet behind the stick, if a foot is hit with the ball, there is then from the prior ‘argument’ assumed to be intention to play the ball with the foot). These conflicting ‘catch 22′ style attitudes alone are sufficient grounds for the provision of objective criteria for the judgement of a dangerously played ball, when the ball is raised at velocity at defenders, rather than the sole use of purely subjective judgement (or, more commonly, the following of specific instruction or even just ingrained habit or ‘dogma’).
Rule 9.9 prohibits the intentional raising of the ball with a hit but contains Guidance on the raising of the ball towards an opponent, who is within 5m, with a flick or a scoop. That Guidance would be more appropriately placed in Rule 9.8. (as above)
Rule 9.9 Players must not intentionally raise the ball from a hit except for a shot at goal.
A raised hit must be judged explicitly on whether or not it is raised intentionally. It is not an offence to raise the ball unintentionally from a hit, including a free hit, anywhere on the field unless it is dangerous.
Players are permitted to raise the ball with a flick or scoop provided it is not dangerous. A flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5 metres is considered dangerous. (Note there is no lower or minimum height given for “dangerous” to be considered)
A defender who is clearly running into the shot or into the taker without attempting to play the ball with their stick must be penalised for dangerous play.
The above clause (which, for an unknown reason, is the only one given twice in the Rules of Hockey) clearly doesn’t belong in Guidance to a Rule about a dangerously played ball ( a ball propelled in a dangerous way) or a Rule about the intentional raising of the ball with a hit. It would be more appropriately be placed in Rule 9.11. the ball/body contact Rule. Self-endangerment could in any case be described as irresponsible or reckless play, rather than dangerous play, to distinguish it from play that endangered another player, particularly with the ball. If a defender’s action does endanger both parties then it is both reckless (and/or irresponsible) and dangerous.
Clearly the raising of the ball with a hit referred to in Rule 9.9 cannot be considered to be dangerous play every time it occurs even if it is done intentionally and this has given rise to an ‘in practice’ contradiction of the Rule Guidance, which is expressed succinctly in the Umpire Manger’s Briefing for FIH Tournaments as “forget-lifted – think danger“. In another passage the UMB states “a ball raised to half-shin-pad height is not dangerous” (which is generally true only if the player hit is standing at the time). Again ‘in practice’ a raised hit, outside the circle or across the circle, intentional or not, is not penalised unless it is hit at above knee height towards a player positioned within 5m of the striker or is hit at a player’s upper body and causes evasive action or hits the player (and sometime not even then).
Legal intentional raising of the ball with a hit, that is when the raised hit is an on target shot at the goal, has developed a mythology of its own. In fact at the 2008 Olympics a verbal UMB seems to have issued to the match umpires (and television commentators),
which declared that no ‘on target’ shot at the goal, be it raised hit or flick, could be considered dangerous play. The same advice was given to the umpires and television commentators at the 2010 World Cups Such instruction makes a nonsense of course of (the already regularly ignored) ‘legitimate evasive action’ as a definition of a dangerously played ball.
The real issue with the raised hit is the raising of the ball into the circle from outside the circle and the raising of the ball across rather than at the goal in the circle. The latter is not a big problem at the moment, it happens too often to be accidental, such hits are commonly raised to just below knee height, but are generally dealt with by umpires reasonable well when it is obvious they are dangerous. It may however become more of an issue with the event of the ‘Own Goal’ and the possibility of more ‘hit and hope’. ‘Accidentally’ raised hits across the face of the goal – if they are not raised to above knee height they are not going to be penalised if current ‘practice’ is any guide – that will not be good enough for a supposed emphasis on safety and certainly unfair.
The present Rule is inadequate to deal with the illegally intentionally raised hit because of the effect of the advice given in UMB’s and because it is very difficult to be sure that a players has raised the ball intentionally- without certainty there can be no penalty, although there appears to be no difficulty in being certain that what looked like an accidental or forced ball/body contact was ‘in fact’ intentional or made voluntarily .
The easiest way to deal with intentional raising of hits into the circle is to prohibit any raising of the ball directly into the circle with a hit (with a small leeway for surface imperfection and ball skipping e.g. ball height off the surface). At the same time the ban on the propelling of any ball directly into the circle from a free awarded in the opponent’s 23m area should be withdrawn (which would in turn free the Self-Pass from then unnecessary restrictions imposed because of the ban on playing a free directly into the circle – but that is in a previous article). It is sufficient for safety of the direct pass into the circle that the ball be taken back outside the hash circle .
We don’t need ‘belt and braces’ on the free within the 23m area, when there is no corresponding restriction on playing the ball into the circle in open play – except that it should not be intentionally raised – especially when such raising of the ball is so often ignored.
9.10 Players must not approach within 5 metres of an opponent receiving a falling raised ball until it has been received, controlled and is on the ground.
The initial receiver has a right to the ball. If it is not clear which player is the initial receiver, the player of the team which raised the ball must allow the opponent to receive it.
This Rule which prohibits approaching a player receiving a ‘falling raised ball’ neglects to mention dangerous playing of the ball at all or even describe what is meant by a ‘falling raised ball’ – all balls which are raised in any degree will fall to ground.
‘In practice’ a ball which has been raised high enough to be considered ‘falling’ in a way that may lead to dangerous play, is typically one that has been raised (considerably) above head height at the apex of its flight, and generally, it will have been propelled between 15m and 70m in a horizontal direction, but could just go straight up and down again, without significant horizontal travel, as rebounds or deflections sometimes do. The stroke most commonly used to raise the ball over long distances at heights above head height is referred to as a scoop stroke and the ball itself as an ‘aerial ball’ ( a term that has never been used in any rulebook).
There are two ways in which a player ‘throwing’ an aerial ball may endanger opponents. The first to to play the aerial ball in such a way as it is raised that an opponent is obliged to take evasive action (this could better be put ‘forced to self-defence’) – the endangered player would normally have to be within 5m and not attempting to play the ball intentionally with the body (which means he or she should be attempting to play the ball with the stick) to be considered endangered. Exceptions might be when the player hit, was a player from the same team as the player propelling the ball, who was not watching the ball as it was raised or an opposition player who was unsighted as the ball was raised, perhaps by another player moving in front of him.
Endangerment from the drag-flick shot at the goal, which is a specialized development of the scoop used as a shot at a penalty corner, is frequently the result of either accidental (own side) or deliberate (opposition) sight blocking – sometimes its a combination of the two, when the flicker deliberately uses the body of an out-runner as a means to shield sight of the ball and the path of the shot from the players positioned behind the out-runner- often endangering both the out-runner and (if the out-runner evades the ball) the player positioned behind him. That is how Geoff Irwin of Cookstown, who was positioned on the goal-line, had his skull fractured in a EHL game last season: he didn’t see the ball before it hit him.
The second way the scoop may endanger is if it is ‘thrown’ so that it will land in an area where opposing players are already positioned within 5m of each other, most commonly when the contesting players are side on to each other and the ball is falling between them rather than well wide to one side of them (which is unlikely to be dangerous in itself or to lead to dangerous play). In such situations the scooper has created a potentially dangerous situation – that is play that leads to dangerous play – (I preferred the previous wording “play likely to lead to dangerous play” because the danger need not actually occur for the scoop to be penalised, the umpire intervening at the right moment to prevent dangerous play developing ). Where the ball is falling into a contested area the umpire can wait to allow the players of the same team as the scooper to retreat and give room to the the opposition receiver (in which case there is no need to penalise the aerial), but must intervene and penalise the player who lifted the ball, if the same team player fail to give the required 5m space. In these circumstances there has been no encroachment offence (or if there is further encroachment it is irrelevant) as the opposing players were already too close when the ball was raised, so the lifter of the ball has played it dangerously, if there is retreat by the same team players in the area in which the ball is falling there is no need to stop the game to penalise the lifter’s offence – timing of the whistle is critical to safe outcome and game flow – but better too soon than too late.
An encroachment offence following an aerial pass occurs when the aerial is played into clear space or to an individual receiver in space and then after the ball is in the air but before the ball has been controlled to ground opponent/s close to challenge for the ball.
With the introduction of the Direct-Lift from a Free-ball, especially as it coincides with the introduction of the Own Goal, the use of an aerial from outside the 23m area directly into the circle may (probably will) lead to some dangerous situations. The suggestion that the Direct-Lift be not permitted directly into the circle has been ignored (which is strange when no propelling of the ball into the circle is allowed at all from a Free awarded within the 23m area). The scoop into the circle in open play will not be anything like the same as the scoop used in a set-piece – just as the result of a drag-flick at a penalty corner is not much like the use of a scoop in open play.
Because the specialist scoop shot called the drag-flick is a shot at the goal the endangerment of players moving to close down on the shot and attempting to block/intercept it with their sticks seems to be completely overlooked (for reasons which are entirely unclear, it is the defenders rather than the flicker who are the more likely to be penalised if a defender is hit with the ball – even at well above knee height- in such circumstances) and nor, irrationally, do defenders defending rising shots made to above head height get the same clear space protection as those fielding a falling ball, especially in the outfield – senior umpires have even declared (Dunn) that the space requirement for a falling ball does not apply when a lob or scoop shot is made at the goal because “aerial Rules do not apply to shots at goal” (which is contradicted by Gawley).
Rule 9.11 Field players must not stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their body.
It is not always an offence if the ball hits the foot, hand or body of a field player. The player only commits an offence if they voluntarily use their hand, foot or body to play the ball or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way.
(From Rule 9.9) A defender who is clearly running into the shot or into the taker without attempting to play the ball with their stick must be penalised for dangerous play. (irresponsible or reckless play – “Players are expected to act responsibly at all times.”
It is not an offence if the ball hits the hand holding the stick but would otherwise have hit the stick.
Rule 9.11. has been included in this article about the dangerous propelling of the ball because guidance from another Rule on the propelling of the ball contained a Guidance clause which properly belongs in this Rule. In passing it is worth mentioning again that the restoration of the word ‘intentionally’ to Rule 9.11, so that it reads : Field players must not intentionally stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their body. would do away with the need for :- It is not always an offence if the ball hits the foot, hand or body of a field player. The player only commits an offence if they voluntarily use their hand, foot or body to play the ball…
The following clause which is tacked onto that :- ….or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way. is a complete mystery. I have no idea what it means and have never met anyone who could satisfactorily explain it.
Is it the positioning that is the offence? If so, why does an umpire permit such positioning, at a penalty corner for example? Is it the prior intention of stopping the ball with hand, foot or body that is the offence? If so, how is such intention determined if the defender is 10m – 15m from the shooter and has no certainty about the direction and height at which the ball will be propelled? The only sensible explanation I can come up with is that this clause was intended to prevent/penalise breaking down of play with the body from short range i.e. from within playing distance of the ball: actions such as falling across the path of a ball holder, effectively ‘tackling’ with the body – which is obviously potentially dangerous to opponents and irresponsibly reckless.
In passing it is necessary to point out yet again that there is no ‘gains benefit’ clause to give exception to the first clause of the present guidance, so if a player unintentionally or unavoidably makes a foot/ball contact that prevents the ball going into the goal there is still no offence: that situation needs to be addressed. Provided there has been no prior dangerous play or forcing of contact by attackers, a penalty stroke is just in such circumstances. I am, however, very much opposed to a reintroduction of the ‘catch all’ gains benefit, where any contact made was (and still is) seen as of benefit and penalised accordingly, that just made a nonsense of the Rule: the sort of nonsense that is still being made of : -The player only commits an offence if they voluntarily use their hand, foot or body to play the ball
Procedure for Penalty Corner
k. if the first shot at goal is a hit (as opposed to a push, flick or scoop), the ball must cross the goal-line, or be on a path which would have resulted in it crossing the goal-line, at a height of not more than 460 mm (the height of the backboard) before any deflection, for a goal to be scored.
The requirements of this Rule apply even if the ball touches the stick or body of a defender before the first shot at goal.
If the first shot at goal is a hit and the ball is, or will be, too high crossing the goal-line it must be penalised even if the ball is subsequently deflected off the stick or body of another player.
The ball may be higher than 460 mm during its flight before it crosses the goal-line provided there is no danger and provided it would drop of its own accord below 460 mm before crossing the line.
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.
The height restriction on a first hit shot at a penalty corner is there for reasons of player safety, but even so the FIH HRB (now the FIH Rules Committee) do not say straight out that a hit shot raised to pass over the goal-line at above 460mm is dangerous play, but only that a goal cannot be scored with such a shot, and it should be penalised – but for what penalised if not dangerous play? Non-compliance with objective criteria for the scoring of a goal? That is not an offence any more than hitting the ball at the goal from outside the circle is.
The ‘holy cow’ is the shot at the goal, some get apoplectic at the suggestion that any shot at the goal be considered dangerous to defenders “Who have put themselves in the way” etc. etc. (as if defending the goal by positioning in front of it, the only place from which it can be defended, was an illicit action). The term ‘legitimate evasive action’ would never have been coined if evasive action could not be legitimate (which means the defender was legitimately positioned in the first instance) and if such evasion did not describe a dangerously played ball. Where there is no defender to be endangered there can be no dangerously played ball. The very existence of the term ‘dangerously played ball’ means it is possible to endanger a player by propelling the ball (at them). There is no exclusion of the goal from ‘dangerously played ball’. It wouldn’t make much sense if there were, probably in excess of 90% of the balls that are played in a way that could be described as dangerous to others, are shots at the goal. Far fewer shots at goal are penalised than should be. Why? Firstly, because it is legal to raise the ball to any height with a hit at the goal and there is an (encouraged) perception that defenders cause danger to themselves by their defensive positioning, and that shooters are not responsible for the consequences of high shots made towards defenders positioned between them and the goal. Naturally these notions are not to be found anywhere in writing in any FIH issued document, but ‘in practice’ that is how it plays out.
The principal reason things are viewed that way is because “a dangerously played ball” is (in theory) an almost entirely subjectively determined judgement made by an umpire. In fact, in order to achieve consistency between umpires particularly at FIH Tournament level, umpires follow briefing instructions and do not make case by case judgements about such matters as ball/body contact by defenders in the circle – defenders are routinely ‘automatically’ penalised for any such contact. One has only to listen to the question and answer about a foot contact by a defender in the circle during a video referral to remove all doubt on this point – there is never a question about the intent of the player making contact with the ball, just “Was there any contact?”. In a short time players come to expect this automatic penalising of any ball/body contact, even to demand it and to play to obtain (force) such contacts by opponents in the circle. This became so much the practice that having a Rule that stated that forcing ball/foot contact was an offence became an embarrassment and a way was found to delete it (while pretending only to transfer such forcing to “other Rules”). Technically even the forcing of self-defence ceased to exist as an offence and was, presumably, transferred to the dangerous play Rule. Not a ‘big deal’ it might be said, except that the forcing of self-defence is a far better description of the dangerous played ball than ‘legitimate evasive action’ and not long ago was central to thinking about safety and the control of the raised ball. (see John Gawley’s The Lifted Ball Umpire Coaching document).
That coaching document, first written in 2001, is laughed at now (except the bits that have been ‘cherry picked’ for compliance with current ‘thinking’) not because of the conflict in its content (it is very conflicted) but because it has not been revised since 2005, but a dangerously played ball has been defined as one that “causes legitimate evasive action by players” at least as far back as the earliest rulebook I possess, which is for the year 1976.
Revision of the definition of ‘a dangerously played ball’ is long overdue, but the FIH Rules Committee have not yet got around to noticing the existence of the drag-flick as a shooting stroke at a penalty corner and seem at present more concerned with changing the descriptions of the way the pitch marking are measured – not the actual measurements just the descriptions of those measurements – and other similar vital concerns.
Most of the following suggestion was first made about twelve years ago, but as no-one else has offered an alternative, I repeat it and add to it, for completeness, clauses to cover the aerial ball.
A dangerously played ball ( meets the objective criteria below and) is a ball propelled in such a way that it forces a player to self-defence or hits that player despite an attempt to evade the ball or to play at it with the stick. .
A player who is hit may have been unable to take defensive action either because of the distance from which the ball was propelled and/or velocity of the ball or because the player was impeded or was unaware that he or she was endangered, being unsighted or unable to track the ball at the critical moments.
Objective criteria:- The ball
a) is propelled at a player, (A ball passing the side of the head within the shoulder width of the player will be considered ‘at’). and
b) is traveling at above the elbow height of the player (The player standing in a normal upright playing stance) and
c) has been propelled at a velocity that forces self defence to avoid injury.
A subjective judgement because actual speed cannot reliably be determined by eye but an objective one also because the velocity of a ball raised with a flick is comparable with the (seen and remembered) velocity of a ball that was raised with a hit. The velocity at which injury is probable when the ball is at the head or throat of a player is modest. That a ball will, if not defended or evaded, hit a player in either area at all is sufficient evidence of endangerment. Players are unlikely to be incapacitated by hits to the chest area from a ball traveling at less than 50kph, but it is not the intention that umpires should be looking for reasons not to penalise the playing of the ball at an other player at above elbow height – but the opposite – a ball at that height that forces self-defence should be penalised unless there is good reason not to penalise. A ball that is losing velocity and falling as it reaches the defender may often be considered safe enough to be coped with, but if it is rising and/or has sufficient momentum to carry it around 10m beyond the defending player it should be considered dangerous to that player.
d) has been propelled from less than 20m of the endangered player.
The possibility of a drag-flick into the circle in open play becomes a realistic tactical possibility with the introduction of the Own Goal, so this distance – which was initially 15m – is increased to 20m to cope with that possibility.
e) Any ball propelled at a player within 3m at above knee height will be considered dangerous play, irrespective of ball velocity.
Circumstances and therefore criteria change when a player is not standing and facing the ball in a normal playing stance e.g when a player has fallen or has been tripped, umpire judgement of endangerment is required when a player is on the ground.
A ball may also be considered to be played dangerously if it is raised to above head height with a scoop or scoop-like stroke and has been directed so as to land between players within 5m of each other who are likely to compete for possession of it before it hits the ground.
Even when players are positioned close to each other a ball directed to land well to one side, especially on the flanks and towards the sideline outside the players, will generally not be considered dangerously played.
Where the ball is lofted over a defender to an attacker who is 2m or more the defender’s goal side of the defender the ball will be considered to have been played into clear space and therefore not dangerously.
An aerial ball may be stopped and taken to ground by defenders in their own circle and by any player in all other parts of the field – excepting attackers in the opponent’s circle – always provided that there is no opponent within 5m of the player playing the ball in this way.
Hitting or deflecting away of a ball at any height above shoulder height is prohibited as dangerous play.
General open play.
Raising the ball into the circle with a hit is prohibited.
(The current ban on playing a free-ball awarded in the opponents 23m area, directly into the circle should be withdrawn)
Raising the ball directly into the circle with a Direct Lift is prohibited
Bouncing the ball into the circle with a Direct lift will need to be judged on its apparent dangers but should be discouraged.
If the first shot at goal is a hit it is limited to 460mm as it crosses the goal-line. Any first hit shot which will obviously not cross the goal-line below this height to be penalised as dangerous immediate that is apparent
If the first shot at goal is a flick it is not height limited but the dangerously played ball criteria must be strictly applied. In particular the ball must not be propelled at any player at above elbow height.
Goal to be marked at 120cms with a 50mm tape from goal post to goal post around the back of the goal
The automatic penalising of a player with another penalty corner after being hit below the knee with a shot at goal during a penalty corner should be withdrawn, it is unjustified, unfair and encourages intimidation by means of hard raised hits into the legs of defenders. The possibility now also exists that such a hit could be made first time from outside the circle into the legs of defenders and result in a deflected ‘own goal’ – this tactical possibility increases the potential for the dangerous playing of a hit and of the hit that results directly in danger from high deflections.
Apart form the aerial pass, a dangerously played ball is a ball that has been propelled at a player at above elbow height (120cm for senior men) from within 20m. at a velocity that will force self defence to avoid injury.
The order in which most of criteria are presented does not matter, the critical one however, and therefore the first, is at a player. It does not matter how high the ball is propelled or at what velocity or from which distance – if it is not at a player it cannot force either evasion or any other sort of self defence and therefore will not be dangerous.
For the aerial ball from the Direct Lift in particular, it is the proximity of opposing players to the chosen landing point and what the same team players do (or do not do) which will determine whether or not the lofted pass will be considered dangerous at point of lift. In open play the scoop can be dangerous to opponents in exactly the same way as the lifted ball described above and may also be dangerous play if lofted to land among opposing player who were within 5m at the time the ball was raised – and the same team players fail to retreat 5m from the landing point.
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