Edited 7th February 2013
I would like to make some observations about a Internet field hockey forum post :- (which is now pinned to the top of the Umpiring Section of that forum as an example of moderation in debate)
But first, here it is as written in full.
Dangerous shot on goal.
Every internet forum has had these debates, and the strong opinions have led to a deal of nastiness.
There are two extreme positions:
– if it is a shot, it cannot be dangerous (any danger is the defender’s fault for being there);
– the danger rules are being ignored, with too many dangerous shots allowed as goals, or injured defenders penalised with a PS.
On the occasions when the flame wars have subsidied enough to let reasonable contributors reach a consensus, that consensus has been:
- it all depends on the shot, the speed and distances involved, the skill-level of defenders and attacker, the state of play, the importance of the competition, and many other factors known only to those who were there…
– at the highest levels of hockey, very little is judged as dangerous, on the assumption that defenders have the skill to take on almost any shot
– … but umpires might still follow the guidance to Rules 9.9 and 13.3L, that a shot striking someone within 5 metres above the knee, can be considered dangerous
– at beginning and social levels of hockey, inexperienced players must not be left feeling unsafe, and wild shots should be penalised to encourage attackers to care for safety
– … so umpires can reasonably extend the ‘within 5′ to 7, 10, or even 14, and sometimes rule it ‘dangerous’ even if the ball misses everyone
– at the majority of hockey in-between, it is back to the umpire’s judgement, based on experience, what they’ve read on the Internet, and discussions in the bar
– … so after a game with such a decision, you’ll have this debate with a fellow umpire and a couple of other players .
I seems to be entirely reasonable doesn’t it? In fact it is a quite skilfully put together mix of truth, opinion, falsehood and contradiction, which ends with a picture of umpires and players happily chatting at the bar, an image that provides the necessary ‘feel good’ factor and general agreement of ‘everyone’ the author wants to impart.
A second look.
Every internet forum has had these debates, and the strong opinions have led to a deal of nastiness.
True, I have been on the receiving end of a great deal of this ‘nastiness’.
There are two extreme positions:
This is an extreme position.
- if it is a shot, it cannot be dangerous (any danger is the defender’s fault for being there);
An example from the 2010 WWC
The following statement is not an extreme position, it is the truth.
- the danger rules are being ignored, with too many dangerous shots allowed as goals, or injured defenders penalised with a PS.
Penalty stoke awarded
This one was ‘only’ a penalty corner. I have no idea what offence the defender was supposed to have committed.
The following sentence give the impression that reasonable contributors hold neither of the views given above – false – and that there is a consensus of opinion among reasonable people, (which by definition excludes those who hold the given ‘extreme’ views ) – this too is a false statement. On the occasions when the flame wars have subsided enough to let reasonable contributors reach a consensus, that consensus has been:
- it (whether or not a ball has been played dangerously) – all depends on the shot, the speed and distances involved, the skill-level of defenders and attacker, the state of play, the importance of the competition, and many other factors known only to those who were there… Nice mix, part true, part false, part irrelevant – and some parts missing. A closer examination:-
- it all depends on the shot, the speed and distances involved. That’s a promising start but it needed to be more precise. ‘It’ depends on the height of the shot, the speed (velocity) of it, the distance away from a player from which it was propelled, and, most importantly if it was at a player and forced self-defence.
-the skill-level of defenders and attacker, the state of play, the importance of the competition, All irrelevant as to whether or not a ball has been propelled in a dangerous way – has endangered a player.
- and many other factors known only to those who were there.
“the shot, the speed and distances involved” are also factors known only to those who ‘were there’. Other factors, such as obstruction, impeding, intimidation, sight-blocking, nature of stoke (forehand edge hit for example), can all be mentioned in written guidance for players and umpires, as acts that can lead to a dangerously played shot: it is not necessary to “be there” to know the kinds of actions that are prohibited and therefore should be watched for (umpire) or not intentionally carried out (players). For prevention prior knowledge of these things by players and coaches is essential – this is most consistently provided by written guidance in the issued rulebook , not after the event (of dangerous play) post-match in a bar, although such discussions can be helpful in individual cases.
- at the highest levels of hockey, very little is judged as dangerous, on the assumption that defenders have the skill to take on almost any shot. The near extreme view but only because it does not say “no shot” but “ very little” without explanation of the “very little” that is judged dangerous ( I think it is a shot that is going wide of the goal that may be judged dangerous – the same shot on target not so – a situation which I don’t understand and have been unable to obtain a logical explanation for), and the reason given is here different: no longer the outrageous “the defender’s fault for being there” which is usually offered(the defender cannot be called ‘at fault’ for attempting to defend and it is only possible to defend a shot at the goal from a position between the goal and the shooter), but the seemingly reasonable “on the assumption that defenders have the skill to take on almost any shot” ; the “almost” not expanded upon and what would be considered beyond the skill of players of the highest level not explained. Note that the attackers are not expected to have the skill to avoid propelling the ball high at a defender or to accept responsibility for doing so.
The absurdity of the assumption made about the skill of a defender can be demonstrated with an analogy:-
A motorist drives his car through a pedestrian-crossing while there is a pedestrian in his path and when prosecuted for dangerous driving defends doing so by claiming that the pedestrian, who was already on the crossing as he approached, should not have been there because he knew car drivers used the road. Not a defence. His next line is that the pedestrian knew that he was in a position where he could be hit by a car and also had or should have had the skill to jump out of the path of his car and avoid injury and was therefore responsible for his injury – caused it – : not a defence.
Here is an an example of what I consider to be the taking of legitimate evasive action at the highest level, the Gold Medal match of the Olympic Games. The umpire awarded a goal, I have no idea why; the shot was clearly made directly at the position of the ‘post player’ at about head height and endangered that player.
The prior positioning of a defender is reason not to propel the ball high (which needs defining) at that position i.e. at her/him but to take an alternative action. The positioning of a defender in front of the target goal does not indicate acceptance of an irresponsible – reckless – and/or dangerous action by an attacker, i.e. illegal actions. The defender accepts, as all players do, the possibility of injury because of accidental actions, miss-hits or deflections for example, but such accidental actions may still be penalised as dangerous.
The skill of the defender is irrelevant, what is relevant is the propensity of the ball to injure the player (any player) it is propelled at – which depends on the velocity, the height and also the distance from the player from which the ball is propelled – that in turn forces a player to self defence, either by trying to evade the ball to avoid injury or trying to play it with the stick, (success in either is irrelevant, the ball is still played at her/him in a dangerous way). The forcing of self-defence is critical in the judgement of a dangerously played ball – it actuall defines it – but it was omitted in the original post.
- … but umpires might still follow the guidance to Rules 9.9 and 13.3L, that a shot striking someone within 5 metres above the knee, can be considered dangerous
Guidance to Rule 9.9 reads “is considered dangerous” not “can be” (the FIH Rules Committee have declared such a stroke to be dangerous) and there is no height mentioned – so presumably a ball propelled at any height could be considered dangerous – it would certainly be incorrect to say that a ball propelled at a player below knee height cannot be dangerous. Nor is there any suggestion within the Rules that a player who is beyond 5m of the ball cannot be endangered by the way in which the ball is played. Guidance to 13.3.l, specific to the penalty corner, does not cancel out the guidance to Rule 9.9 – although the presence of both obviously causes some confusion.
Guidance Rule 9.9. A flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5 metres is considered dangerous.
- at beginning and social levels of hockey, inexperienced players must not be left feeling unsafe, and wild shots should be penalised to encourage attackers to care for safety. True, the same can be said of all levels of hockey.
- … so umpires can reasonably extend the ‘within 5′ to 7, 10, or even 14, and sometimes rule it ‘dangerous’ even if the ball misses everyone. True, think, as an extreme example, of a shot taken on the volley at a falling ball near the edge of a crowded circle.
- at the majority of hockey in-between, it is back to the umpire’s judgement, based on experience, what they’ve read on the Internet, and discussions in the bar
- … so after a game with such a decision, you’ll have this debate with a fellow umpire and a couple of other players .
Note, no mention of the Rules of Hockey but in the absence of any guidance but that given to Rule 9.9., and with the definition of a dangerously played ball being “a ball that causes legitimate evasive action” , when umpires often interpret evasive action from players who are known to be skilled as an attempted ‘con’, the present rules relating to a dangerously played ball are hopelessly inadequate and players and coaches will seek explanation.
We are left with the subjective judgement of umpires, and that too is often hopelessly inadequate for the proper and fair protection of defending players facing an attacker in possession of the ball, especially when the umpire subscribes to the first of the “two extreme positions” – as many do.
Example: current FIH Umpires have stated on Internet hockey forums that defenders in front of the goal causes danger by their positioning, and position so with the intention of using their body to play the ball if they miss it with the stick. It is not known on what evidence or authority these assumptions are based. There is also absurdity in the claim: when there are two ‘post players’ positioned during a penalty corner are both of them causing danger at the same time, when they are more than 3m apart or is it only the one the ball is propelled at who is to blame?
Example of practice: The umpire in the following clip informs a defender in a match during the 2010 Women’s World Cup that an on-target shot at the goal could not be dangerous, and awarded a penalty corner against the defender (for being hit?) The shot, a raised edge hit from about 5m, struck the defender on the thigh.
Such umpires (and those who coach them) are dangerous to players because of these (extreme) views, they do nothing to discourage the dangerously played ball – in fact they encourage it. We can only speculate about what would have followed if during the penalty corner the umpire insisted on awarding, despite the ‘petulant’ protests of the Spanish players that the initial shot was dangerous, a defender had been injured, as Irewin of Cookstown was (fractured skull), in the EHL game shown above.
It is obvious that the dangerously played shot can no longer remain entirely a subjective decision – that is entirely the opinion of an umpire without reference to any objective criteria, if the ball is propelled at another player from more than 5m. - it all depends on the shot, the speed and distances involved and so it should but this statement is not acted upon, there is no means of making these judgements. It’s not difficult: when the ball is propelled high at a player we have one objective judgement “at a player”; added to that we could have a subjective judgement, but one to which the player defending can contribute, “at a velocity that could injure” – the defender then takes the decision to attempt to play or evade the ball. (Players are presently forced to attempt to play at the ball when a shot at the goal is made ‘through’ them, because evasion just leads to the award of a goal). Then we could have another objective judgement, height. I suggest “at above elbow height”; and finally, ‘distance’, another objective judgement.
Velocity and distance will together determine ‘time to react’ in a defensive way. Velocity and height will together determine the nature of the danger, the degree of injury that could be inflicted.
A high velocity ball propelled at a player at above elbow height would then be considered dangerous play – even if it was a shot at the goal from within the circle.
Within a day of my writing the above article someone on the hockey forum from which the original comment was taken, posted this:-
” There are already posts in other places discussing how this is completely untrue and unworkable and that the option they put forward is the only workable option.”
Which illustrates the problems we have with interpretation and opinion and bias. I have suggested an alternative approach: I did not say it was the only possible one or that the original post was completely untrue – but that it was false or mistaken in parts. I noted where it was true and where false.
It is this kind of biased, untruthful and irresponsible response (from an umpire who has previously declared he would award a penalty stroke against a player hit on the head while defending the goal on the goal-line) that leads to polarization of opinion instead of sensible debate and compromise – not that player safety should ever be compromised by the opinions of an umpire .
What criteria should be used to describe a dangerous shot is certainly open to further discussion: once it has been accepted that the present criteria – subjective judgement alone - is inadequate, which it obviously is if these decisions are prejudged i.e. are not in fact subjective at all, but predetermined irrespective of the facts in each case. Sensible discussion will however not take place.
The link below is to a typical example of an attempt (in 2010) to discuss dangerous play in connection shots raised at a penalty corner that hit a defender at head height. There are two examples given from the same tournament. It is clear from the replies given that a high shot going wide of the goal that hits a defender will be considered dangerous – but a shot that is on target will not be. No reasons for this difference of interpretation are offered, it just seems to be taken for granted. This suggests that umpires consider it an illegitimate action for a defender to defend the goal from in front of the goal or as they would put it “the defender accepts the risks”. But intentionally raising shot at – through – an opponent will endanger that opponent and is dangerous play, which is contrary to Rule, and so not an accepted risk. When the ball is intentionally raised at a player in a way that forces self-defence that player is entitled to expect the umpire to penalise the player who raises the ball at him.
Few Internet hockey forum threads have got much further than that one and there have probably been around fifty attempts since 2006 on that particular forum to explore the issue. Umpire coaches and senior umpires simply refuse either to engage at all or to give a reasonable answer to the questions raised. Those that do respond often do so just in order to prevent any discussion – as is the case in the example above. The respondent to the second incident mentioned in the thread was by the umpire involved (who also tried to ‘kill’ the topic with her first post). She acknowledges that she was wrong to award a penalty corner after a shot that was going wide of the goal hit a defender at head height, but there is no doubt at all that she would have awarded a penalty stroke if the shot had been ‘on target’ and the defender hit in the same way. Presumably the defender and not the attacker would have been seen in that case to have caused the dangerous play.
Following the death of Lizze Watkins, in Australia in May 2012, there was a call for provision for the wearing of helmets for field-hockey playing from a doctor in Perth, whose daughter plays hockey, reported in a newspaper article. The doctor said she saw and treated many hockey related head injuries from ball contacts. She also said she had written to the hockey authorities many time suggesting Rule change but was just ignored. An ill mannered reply was made to her reported comments from a hockey player. I am not in favour of the introduction of helmets for field players in hockey (I think they would lead to an even more cavalier attitude to dangerous play – as the introduction of face masks for penalty corners has) but I agree there needs to be rule change – so I replied to his comment pointing out the danger of the present interpretation in regard to the raised shot at goal, especially the drag-flick at a penalty corner. This is what he wrote in reply.
Martin Conlon penalty corners are another story all together I believe in the higher grades the posties should have to wear a mask and with saying that everyone that plays hockey know the risk and still choose to put themselves in the line of fire. Rules state everything goes in the D IF you are having a direct shot at goal if you choose to stand there knowing full well that’s the rule they are there at their own risk. It’s not a wimpy sport if you can’t deal with it don’t play it and stay at home and knit.
Rules state everything goes in the D. This guy does not know the Rules and should not be allowed to play until he has demonstrated that he does. The scary thing is I have in the past received similar comments on this subject from practicing umpires, and even those coaching novice umpires: dangerously clueless people who should not be entrusted with overseeing a hockey match.
Later article at http://wp.me/pKOEk-PB
Link to Index of Rules http://wp.me/p3tNmd-3