Rules of Hockey. Raising ball at opponent. Physical Contact/intimidation. Dangerous play. Ball-Body contact.
This incident sums up for me the ‘loopy’ current attitude to ball-body contact – and what a mess the Rules concerning the dangerously played ball are in.
The attacker, who had only a few minutes before this incident returned to the pitch after a green-card for stick-tackle, is in breach of at least three Rules – depending on whether he is deemed to have flicked or hit the ball at the defender. Take your pick:-
9.3 Players must not touch, handle or interfere with other players or their sticks or clothing.
9.4 Players must not intimidate or impede another player.
9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.
9.9 Players must not intentionally raise the ball from a hit except for a shot at goal.
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.
But apparently none of those Rules apply if there is a ball-body contact by an opponent -no matter how caused. The fact that the ball had hit the leg of the defender apparently entitled the attacker to run into him – after raising the ball at him from about 1m – with stick held high and to forcefully push him over (which could have caused serious injury to the defender), without making any further attempt to play the ball. This must be so because the umpire awarded a penalty corner against the defender’s team and there was no protest about that decision from the Belgium team.
(This ‘argument’ is often advanced:- The umpire has reached a high level of competence and must therefore be applying the Rules correctly, otherwise he would not be appointed – or reappointed – to International level matches. Other umpires are advised/instructed to follow the way high level umpires are interpreting and applying the Rules – rather than following the published Rules. It is also asserted that lack of protest from players proves that decisions are acceptable to players – have been ‘sold’ to them)
Did the defender play the ball voluntarily with his leg i.e. commit an offence? It does not appear so, but that is irrelevant anyway, because there was a prior offence by the attacker, the raising of the ball at the defender from within 5m.
(This is an open-play incident and no lower height limit for such circumstances is given in the Rules. The only advise available is from the UMB, which states that a ball propelled into an opponent at below half shin-pad height is not dangerous: it is reasonable to suppose that a ball that is propelled at a player at above that height will be – or should be – considered dangerous. There is no mention of ball velocity in the Rules of Hockey but at 1m range the ball would have been unavoidable at almost any velocity).
The defender certainly tried to avoid being hit with the ball, so the other criteria – legitimate evasive action – was met.
As seems usually to be the case when the award of a penalty corner is travesty of fairness, a goal was scored from it, the first of the match.
Link to Rules Index http://wp.me/p3tNmd-3.