Field Hockey Rules: Double offence.

Rules of Hockey.

Edited 11th August, 2016

The hiding of the offence of forcing. ‘Winning’ a penalty corner. ‘Finding’ a foot.

Preface Rules of Hockey 2011-2013

The changes in this edition of the Rules essentially seek to simplify the game without altering its fundamental characteristics

The Rule which used to say that “players must not force an opponent into offending unintentionally” is deleted because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules.
(My underlining and bold)

In a short time however, especially with current umpiring practice with regard to ball-body contact, it has been, inevitably, forgotten that there ever was an offence called Forcing and that it is now supposed to be “dealt with” under other Rules. That can be no surprise as the offence is no longer mentioned in the Rules of Hockey and its existence (or the suggested ‘dealing with’ of forcing actions) cannot now be made known to newcomers to the game because that is not printed in the current rule-book but in one issued several years ago. The offence of Forcing has in fact been entirely deleted, it is not ‘dealt with’ at all.


An old coaching adage, that to be considered competent, a player must be able to defend in and around his or her feet, has now been adopted, in a corrupted form, to invent an unwritten ‘rule’. The adage meant that a defenders needed to be adept at stopping an opponent ‘beating’ them by just pushing the ball past them to either side of the feet or between their feet and running away with the ball.

In speech the phrase got truncated to (the included) ‘defending the feet’. That in turn, but perversely, became an invented obligation to defend the feet and then, also to be seen as an offence if a player failed to defend his or her legs/feet; despite that fact that it was still at the time (and until 2011) clearly an offence by a player in possession of the ball to ‘attack’ a defender with it by playing the ball at or into the defender.

There is no Rule support whatsoever for the idea that there is an ‘obligation’ to defend the feet, but the Forcing Rule has been replaced by an ‘interpretation’ (of what?) that inverts what was the Rule, so that the penalty outcome from a forcing action is (quite illogically) the direct opposite to what it was previously.

There is no obligation in Rule to defend the legs/feet (or any other part of the body) from a ball intentionally played into/at a defending player and it is not automatically a foul, by the player hit, to be hit with the ball (see the Explanation of Rule application to Rule 9.11): on the contrary such action should still, where other Rules do cover the forcing action (generally dangerous play or the intentional raising of the ball with a hit), be called as a foul on the player propelling the ball. But there is still a great deal of confusion about that point and the Rule has already been forgotten by some, as can be seen from this hockey forum thread  part posted on and after 10th August, 2016.

The video below is from a match in 2010, a year after the self-pass was adopted into Full Rule. That a retreating defender should get out of the way of a charging self-passer is an invention that is still lodged in the mind of some players – but hopefully not any longer in the minds of umpires (Bondy is right). It was of course the ESP player who should have been penalised, especially as the ball had travelled more than 5m before he committed his fouls and the offence of Forcing was still at the time in the rulebook.    

Unfortunately (despite the above quoted declaration to the contrary by the FIH RC – opening paragraphs) even where there is a willingness to deal with forcing actions, not all forcing can be dealt with by other Rules – but the two actions shown in the first video clip above (from a match in 2014) were so covered. Neither forcing action resulted in penalty against the player who did the forcing, despite both actions being clearly intentional and both a breach of Rule 9.9.

It is an offence to raise the ball into the body or legs of a close opponent, even if it is done unintentionally. Doing it intentionally should result in a card for the offender, not the reward of a free-ball or a penalty corner – but any umpire correctly awarding a card for this offence in the current climate of (dictated) ‘practice’ and ‘player expectation’ (created by umpiring practice) would be considered ‘very brave’, code words for ‘quite mad’. How is it that it is unusual and ‘brave’ for an umpire to apply the Rules according to the wording given in and with those Rules? I have never seen Rule 9.11. (or Rule 9.9.) consistently applied in any hockey match as they would be if the wording of the Explanation of Rule application given with the Rule Proper was followed. 

Hockey is not being played as it should be played nearly enough (see the delightful goal shown in the second part of the video clip for how hockey should be played) . The game is being dumbed down (beating or eluding an opponent is not necessary if the ball can simply be played into the feet of any challenging opponent and that is rewarded with penalty. And retaining possession requires little skill or none at all, if the ball holder can just impose his or her body between an opponent and the ball to prevent a tackle attempt). Hockey may eventually be destroyed by the failures to apply, both the Ball-body contact Rule and the Obstruction Rule as they should be applied: that is in a way that encourages the development of stickwork and passing skills.

The game has also become much more dangerous in the last ten years due to a failure to deter dangerous play and the ‘relaxation’ (or perversion) of Rules concerning play which until very recently was considered dangerous. The most obvious of these is the abandonment of any consideration of dangerous play when an on target shot is made at the goal and the permitting of above shoulder play without adequate safeguards. 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s