Rewrite: Rule 9.8 Dangerously Played Ball


A suggested rewrite of the Rules of Hockey.

Edited 29th March 2017

The current 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.


Action: Amendment.

Reason. There is only a partial Rule here because there are no criterion for either of the two offences mentioned when the endangered player is more than 5m from the player who propels it, that there is a breach of the Rule in these circumstances is entirely the personal opinion of an individual umpire. In addition to that the Explanation of application given in Rule 9.9. is generally ignored if the ball is raised at or into an opponent at below knee height (despite the ‘backhand’ declaration in the UMB – which also conflicts with what is given with Rule 9.9 – that a ball raised into a player at below half-shinpad height is not dangerous). This situation gives players inadequate guidance about what is or will be considered to be a dangerously played ball or play leading to dangerous play. It is vital that players should know these things.

I’ll start with Players must not play the ball dangerously. That is easy even if “dangerously” is poorly defined. Having spent some time pondering whether to use or in a way that leads to dangerous play , an after the fact of dangerous play decision or to use the previous wording or in a way that is likely to lead to dangerous play which allows the umpire to make a decision prior to dangerous play actually occurring, if he or she judges that dangerous play is probable, I have decided on a third option  – to use both. Why choose only one or the other when both are required?  – so or in a way that leads to or is likely to lead to dangerous play has been added to the proposal.

What objective criterion is used for the determination of ‘dangerously played ball’  is adopted from other Rules, particularly those of the Penalty Corner and Rule 9.9. so I will continue by gathering together the relevant parts of those other Rules.

From Rule 9.9.

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. If the ball is raised over an opponent’s stick or body on the ground, even within the circle, it is permitted unless judged to be 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.

It should be noted that the last Rule clause above does not require legitimate evasive action, so such evasive action is not a requirement for a breach of Rule 9.8. just something that must be taken into consideration if it occurs; neither is there any mention of a height limit.

From Rule 13.3.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.

From Rule 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.

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.

Otherwise, 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.

Again there is mention, in the above Rule clause, of the possibility of a dangerously played ball without the requirement that there be legitimate evasive action taken; there are in fact objective criterion for a dangerously played ball a) at or above knee height and b) into a player who is within 5m of the first shot.

The first clause of Rule 13.3.l addresses any shot at the goal made with a stroke other than a hit –for flicks, deflections and scoops, it is permitted to raise the ball to any height but this must not be dangerous and second or subsequent hit strokes, the first hit stroke having been dealt with (more severely with a low maximum height for a goal to be scored) under Rule 13.3.k. but does not state how a shot at the goal made during a penalty corner may be considered dangerous play, leaving only legitimate evasive action – an entirely subjective judgement by the umpire (not the player taking the evasive action !!) – when the ball is raised at or into a defender when that defender is more than 5m from the ball.

The Rules state clearly that a shot at the goal must not be made in a dangerous way i.e. must not be dangerous to other players  – not cannot be dangerous i.e. impossible for an on target shot to be dangerous.

The must not be dangerous imperative would not be included in the Rules if it was not possible for any on target shot at the goal to be dangerous. In this situation – where there is declared to be an overall emphasis on safety – only an idiot would interpret “must not be” to mean “not possible to be”, an ambiguous construction of the words “cannot be”. The Rule states“must not be” rather than”cannot be” for good reason – to avoid such ambiguity. Those who have ‘interpreted’ “must not be” to mean “cannot be” don’t understand the language.


The suggestion.

All of these proposals are suggestions and not ‘cast in iron’, useful comment and alternative suggestion is welcome.

It is evident, despite persistent claims to the contrary, that a shot at the goal can be considered to be dangerous play and that it would be sensible to adopt from Rule 13.3.l “but this must not be dangerous” concerning all shots at the goal in any phase of play, in the same way that “defender (sic) is within five metres….and is struck on or above the knee in a normal stance, the shot is judged to be dangerous” is already so adopted: so I will do that.

The other necessary step is to provide an objective criterion for ‘dangerously played’ when an opponent the ball is played towards is more than 5m away from the striker at the time the ball is propelled. I believe that sternum height (which is about elbow height) is a suitable height for ‘dangerous’ (being in the area of the heart) when a ball is propelled at or into another player, if that is done with a ball velocity that could injure that player – and I suggest that most shots made at the goal from more than 5m of defender, when those defenders are positioned between the shooter and the goal, are made at a velocity that could injure: there will be exceptions, lobs for example, in which case the umpire applies common sense and subjective judgement (we have to assume that all umpires have common sense and are capable of subjective judgements based on reason). 

I am not suggesting that the ball may not be propelled at the goal at above elbow height, even at very high velocity, but that it should be considered to be dangerous play if a ball is propelled at (the position of) another player at elbow height or above – and not wide of or above defending players.

I believe that the combination “knee height and 5m” is an unnecessarily severe safety measure for competent players (but not for U12 and younger or for novices) and generally ignored anyway, so I have reduced that distance to 2m. That change requires the creation of a third zone, but I can’t  at the moment think of a way to avoid that. 


Players must not play the ball in a way that endangers other players or in a way that leads or is likely to lead to dangerous play.

A ball will be considered dangerously played when it is propelled or deflected towards another player, even as a shot at the goal, when the other player is a field player or player wearing only a helmet as additional protection and is :-

a) within 2m and the ball is raised, at any velocity, into that player at knee height or above (this is a forcing offence as well as dangerous play).

b) within 5m and the ball is raised, at a velocity that could cause injury, into that player at between knee height and elbow height.

c) at any distance and the ball is raised, at a velocity that could cause injury, into that player at above elbow (sternum) height.

A ball that is played at a player in any of the above ways will be considered to have endangered that player even if the player evades the ball or manages, having been forced to self-defence, to play it safely with the stick.

In the event of evasion to avoid injury or forced self-defence caused by a dangerously played ball, the umpire should immediately penalise the player who propelled the ball, in line with the declared emphasis on safety unless:-

a) the dangerous action was entirely accidental, for example an unintended deflection, and the team of the endangered player can play on with advantage.

b) the endangering action was careless or reckless play, but the opposing team can play on with advantage; in these cases penalty (personal) can be delayed, but should not be forgotten.

A ball that is raised into a fully equipped goalkeeper can endanger him or her but, much depends on the protective equipment the goalkeeper is wearing, how the ball is propelled and from what distance. Endangerment must in this case remain an entirely subjective decision.


A velocity that could cause injury is not an entirely a subjective judgement because ball velocity will be comparable with the ball velocity of a powerfully made hit or drag-flick at the high end or, at the low end, a lob or a short flick (a flick that would not carry in the air beyond 5m) and so be largely an objective judgement, but there is a substantial element of subjective judgement involved. 
Below are two, all too rarely seen examples of an umpire, the New Zealander Kelly Hudson, correctly penalising a dangerously raised ball.

But even while discussing the injury to the player hit on the head the television commentators could not stop themselves saying “The attacker was entitled to take the shot” and “She (the defender) did stop a shot at the goal“. Both were fixated on the possibility that the defender had committed an offence. We need to be clear about ‘entitlements’ and what is and is not an offence. Yes, the attacker was entitled i.e. not prohibited, from taking a raised hit shot at the goal provided the shot made did not endanger another player, so in this case the attacker committed a dangerous play offence because what she did is prohibited (but at present only clearly so during the taking of second or subsequent shots made during a penalty corner).

The acceptance of risk is often advanced as a reason to penalise defenders who are , and let us be clear about this, entitled to take up defensive positions between a shooter and the goal (there is no other way to defend the goal). Yes, there is a risk and one that is accepted by defenders, that such positioning may result in them being hit with the ball. That does not mean that such positioning is done with the intention of being hit with the ball and nor does it mean that if the defender is hit with the ball the defender has committed an offence.

For offence there are three conditions to be met and acceptance of risk is not one of them. First, the ball must not be played at the defender in a dangerous way (if the ball has been played dangerously at a defender, for example raised towards the defender from within 5m, we need go no further, a free ball must be awarded to the defending team). Defenders do not have to accept that opponents may breach any Rule with impunity just because they are shooting at the goal – that is not an acceptable risk. Then (if the shot is not considered to be dangerous play) we have either intentional use of the body to stop, deflect or propel the ball and/or an advantage gained by the team of the player hit following ball-body contact. When there is neither intent nor an advantage gained there is no offence and in most situations (i.e. where there is no injury) play should continue without any intervention from the umpire.

Umpires very rarely apply Rule 9.11. correctly. Time and time again we hear a video umpire declare “Yes there was a ball – (sic) foot/leg/body – contact you may award a penalty corner.” without making any reference to intent or to advantaged gained. This is plain wrong, ball-body contact alone is not sufficient to declare an offence has occurred. Teams should not be asking for video referral just to establish if there was a ball-body contact, but only where there is a known contact to establish if it also gave an unfair advantage to the team of the player hit. It is also wrong, in fact absurd, to act as if a shot made at the goal cannot be dangerous just because it is on target: “on-target” does not mean “not dangerous” no matter how the ‘interpretation’ of words is twisted – and opponents are not targets. 

I have no doubt that had the above incident occurred in a men’s game, especially one of such importance and when their team were losing, that the attacking team would have been demanding at least a penalty corner because the defender’s head stopped a goal-bound shot. Women have much more sense, but it is to the credit of the Dutch team that there was not a hint of appeal for penalty against the injured defender, it was fully accepted that the fault was that of the attacking striker: that of course is how it should be – and well umpired too.






2 Comments to “Rewrite: Rule 9.8 Dangerously Played Ball”

  1. Love the rule change, but from extensive masters and club experience of shitty players and tactics, believe this one addition should be a part:

    “A defender who is clearly AND DELIBERATELY running into the shot or into the taker without attempting to play the ball with their stick must be penalised for (manufacturing) dangerous play.”

    • I disagree that this needs repeating, it is already the only guidance given twice within the Rules of Hockey and anyway simply duplicates Rule 9.11 intentional use of the body to stop or deflect the ball. If deliberate use of the body to stop the ball is not penalised it is not because of an absence of Rule or poor Rule but weak umpiring.

      The present mandatory penalty corner award when an outrunning defender is hit below knee height is simply a licence for a penalty corner striker to intimidate and endanger outrunning opponents with careless and reckless shooting while making no attempt whatsoever to avoid hitting the ball at an opponent.

      This Rule was introduced after the Athens Olympics because of a one off tactic by the South Korean team (facing Sohail Abbass of Pakistan) and should have been dealt with at the time with a penalty stroke by the match umpire. Instead we had a Rule chnange and now have legitimate defending called ‘suicide running’ – and worse, the beginning of the absurd notion that an on target shot at the goal cannot be considered dangerous play.

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