Rules of Hockey. Muddling the Advantage Rule with ‘gains benefit’
A post from an umpire describing a decision not to penalise a player for an unintentional ball-foot contact.
Defender clears ball from in front of goal to team-mate just outside circle – it’s through a clear channel with no red attacker within 3 or 4 metres of the ball’s path. But it happens that a defender’s foot is in the way, which the ball clips then bounces on with no change in direction, and not much reduced pace – to the defender it was going to anyway.
“Foot” “PC” they are all shouting.
“No offence. Keep playing” I call.
The game ends 5 minutes later, with a mini-symposium for the entire attacking team: “Rule 12.1 says only to penalise when opponents are disadvantaged by an offence. That ball was going to blue with no red anywhere near. I saw the foot, but then the ball went to blue with still no red anywhere near. So we played on.”
Okay the decision was correct and the call was correct but the reference to Rule 12.1., which is the Advantage Rule is bewildering, because it is utterly irrelevant. When there is no Offence the umpire cannot decide that the side offended against were not disadvantaged by an Offence and pretend (or believe) that to be the reason he allowed play to continue. It was not, he was using ‘gains benefit’ (to create an Offence, seeing ball-foot contact as the gaining of a benefit) and even more strangely, then using ‘did not disadvantage opponents’ (to allow play to continue), In other words he ‘created’ an Offence because the Advantage rule cannot be employed if there has been no Offence (to not disadvantage opponents) and then allowed play to continue because no benefit was gained – opponents were not disadvantaged, and he then passed that approach on to the players in his post match “mini-symposium”. It was a cold day they probably ‘switched off’ quicker than you did.
Here is the Advantage Rule.
12.1 Advantage : a penalty is awarded only when a player or team has been disadvantaged by an opponent breaking the Rules.
If awarding a penalty is not an advantage to the team which did not break the Rules, play must continue.
The wording of the Advantage Rule was unhelpfully changed from 14. Advantage : a penalty shall be awarded only when a player or team has been clearly disadvantaged by an opponent’s offence to the present Rule.12.1. in 2004, as part of the rewrite to clarify and simplify the Rules. It was unhelpful because the result has been vagueness and confusion about what is a Breach of Rule (a breaking the Rules) but not an Offence, and what is an Offence – a breaking of the Rules that may be penalised by an umpire (the difference between a Breach of Rule and an Offence in this case is the intent of the player. Simply put, in the scenario above, there was no Offence because there was no intent to make ball-body contact – not because opponents were not disadvantaged or because an unfair benefit was not gained)
When discussing the value of real estate or the likely success of many businesses the by-word is LOCATION and it is expressed in these three criterion, LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. With a ball-body contact Offence the criterion are INTENT, INTENT, INTENT. there are at present no others, if a player does not play the ball with the body voluntarily, that is by choice, that is intentionally, there can be no ball-body contact Offence.
Intent is mentioned in only two Rules. Rule. 9.9. which concerns the lifted hit, and Rule 9.11. which concerns ball-body contact.
The current Rule.
9.11 Field players must not stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their body.
The correct call was made in the scenario described above because we have this Rule Explanation to the Rule.
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.
It is not an offence if the ball hits the hand holding the stick but would otherwise have hit the stick.
A text which needs simplification and clarification because it too has been made much less clear than in was prior to 2004. (The word ‘always’ should for example have been deleted from this It is not always an offence at the same time the ‘gains benefit’ clause was deleted, because the only exception to intent as a means of offending was removed. The Guidance should have reverted to the way it was written in 2003.)
The Rule and Rule Guidance in 2003 was
13.1.2 Use of body, hands, feet by players other than goal-keepers.
A player shall not:-
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. On many occasions when a ball hits the foot or body of a player an offence will not have taken place and play should continue.
The Rule Guidance then went on to describe exceptions to 13.1.2.b. (which considerably ‘muddied the water’, there being no reference, for example, to an attempt to use the stick or to a player unable to make an effort to avoid being hit – unsighted etc.)
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
All of those exceptions required further explanation but the only one that allowed that an offence could be committed even when there was no intention to play the ball with the body was ‘gains benefit’.
‘Gains benefit’ turned the Rule ‘on its head’ because any ball-body contact could, in the subjective judgement of the umpire, be said to have gained a benefit for the team of the player hit with the ball. And so, because it was consistent to do so (and was very easy) all contact was seen as being of benefit to the team of a player hit with the ball, a benefit gained, and so an Offence – and therefore subject to the Advantage Rule – which is where the umpire in the opening scenario is getting his muddled and outdated ‘reasoning’.
Muddled because having applied ‘gains benefit’ to create an Offence it would make no sense to apply the Advantage Rule because opponents were not disadvantaged by the Offence created because a player hit with the ball had gained an unfair benefit. Gaining an unfair benefit is to disadvantage opponents; disadvantaging opponents is to gain an unfair benefit – the terms are only as different as the words intentionally and voluntarily are different in this context.
Outdated because the ‘gains benefit’ clause was deleted after 2006 (when it would, more sensibly, have been amended to prevent the abuse of it, by making it applicable only in specified limited circumstances).
And prior to that, muddled and outdated because after 2003 the word ‘intentionally’ was removed from the Rule and one instance of ‘intentionally’ in what was then called the Rule Guidance was replaced with the word ‘voluntarily’ and the other deleted, but still, all that is now left to determine if there has been a ball-body contact Offence is intent
The word ‘voluntarily’ has since 2004 been given some very bizarre interpretation. Interpretation that has nothing at all to do with having and making a choice about being hit with the ball, but relating to the concept of acceptance of the risk. The risk that a player trying to use the stick to play the ball or even trying to evade the ball, may be hit with it. However, accepting the risk that one might be hit with the ball while playing, is not even remotely the same as choosing to be hit with the ball or being willing to be hit with the ball and is certainly not an indication of intent to play the ball with the body.
The result of the word changes (combined with previous attitudes and current inventions of the meaning of words) is the present ‘clear and simple’ muddle. Umpires, like the individual who wrote the opening scenario, are applying the Advantage Rule when there has been no Offence because they are still thinking in terms of ‘gains benefit’ exception clause creating an Offence and even disingenuously substituting the words ‘disadvantaged opponents’ or ‘materially effected play’ in place of (the deleted) ‘gains benefit’ in order to do so.
How is this mess to be sorted out?
We could start with a shortened version of this:-
2003. Players shall not intentionally stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their bodies.
Field-players shall not intentionally make contact with the ball with any part of their body.
and then return an amended exception clause, as exception to:- 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. which is needed, to deal with the the gaining of an unfair benefit/advantage because of an unintentional ball-body contact.
It is not an offence if a field-player makes an unintentional body contact with the ball unless that player:-
a) directly prevents the scoring of a goal because of ball-body contact – always provided of course that the shot at the goal is not dangerous play.
b) being a player in possession of the ball – not a player attempting to receive or intercept the ball – makes a ball-body contact that directly disadvantages an opponent (in the kind of way that a third-party obstruction might disadvantage an opponent by denying fair opportunity to play or challenge for the ball)
and perhaps also
c) makes a ball-body contact (except that intentionally forced or dangerously caused by opponent action) when in the opposition’s’ circle.
.That does away with the penalising of a player for being hit with the ball – unless the umpire sees clear intent from the player hit to play the ball with the body – excepting the specified instances of the gaining of an unfair advantage because of unintentional contact.
The third incident in the video compilation below shows (regrettably not very clearly because of video quality in that part) a goalkeeper kicking the ball in an attempt to clear it from the circle. She instead, in a way similar to the defender mentioned in the opening scenario, hits one of her own players with it – no danger, the ball is played along the ground, a complete accident, no intent on the part of the player hit, play-on possible, so the umpire awards a penalty corner – bizarre. It’s not however the most outrageous ‘automatic’ penalty, there are examples of ball-holders very clearly deliberately forcing a contact, when such forcing was an Offence, and still being awarded a penalty corner, not even anything to do with the unfair gaining of an advantage by the player hit, just bad habit and lack of thought from the umpires concerned.
The clip contains twenty-five incidents, there would be no difficulty in assembling another hundred equally poor ball-body contact decisions from current top level hockey. For the good of the game players and umpires have got to put the era of “Get something” and ‘finding a foot’ firmly behind themselves and get on with playing hockey and allowing it to be played instead of looking to ‘create’ or invent Offences where none exist.
The umpire in the opening scenario did correctly call “No Offence, play on” and should be commended for that, many umpires – perhaps most – would have ‘automatically’ awarded a penalty corner for such an unintentional foot contact by a defender in the circle (it’s easy and it is now expected). As someone said to me at a game on Saturday “I know it’s not what the Rule says, but that’s just the way it is.” immediately after an umpire had done just that. I guess the fact that I was banging my head against the fence and making a keening noise prompted the remark.
Related post Deletion of gains benefit. http://wp.me/pKOEk-1nQ
Umpiring outside the Rules http://wp.me/pKOEk-1mk
Link to Rule Index http://wp.me/p3tNmd-3