Field Hockey Rules: Raising the ball into the circle.

Rules of Hockey. Raised hit. Raising the ball into the circle.

Edited 25, March 2017.

The potential for danger of the ball raised into the circle has long been recognised, probably for almost as long as hockey has been played in the modern era. Prior to the introduction of the ban on the raised hit in the late 1980’s (except when taking a shot at the opponent’s goal from within their circle), it had been for many years illegal to raise the ball into the circle. There were over time several variations of this Rule and it also went through the extremes, but it was never prior to the current version an offence only if done intentionally or only if danger actually occurred – the long established prohibition of raising the ball directly into the circle with a hit was a simple Rule that was easy for players to understand and observe and for umpires to apply, but for some unknown reason it could not be left alone :-

1) There was a long-standing prohibition on raising the ball into the circle with a hit.

2) then (usually for single year each time) a free-for-all on deletion of that Rule (or another). 

3) then a very hedged reintroduction of prohibition of any raising of the ball into the circle, which was complicated (there were exceptions) and therefore very badly applied – usually too strictly (it was not as daft or as complicated as the present ban on playing a ball directly into the opponent’s circle from a free awarded in their 23m area, but the same absurdity was present

4) finally (I have reduced the number of steps because some changes were just a recycle or a ‘see-saw’ of a previous version) the present situation where the ball should not be intentionally raised into the circle with a hit (because all intentionally raised hits outside the opposing circle are prohibited), but there is nothing at all said in the Rules of Hockey about flicks and scoops into the opposing circle nor about raised deflections. 

The problem with the present Rule is wilful blindness to intention within ‘umpire practice’, ‘enshrined’ in the UMB with the phrase “forget lifted – think danger“,  which also ‘forgets’ that opponents in the circle may be disadvantaged by an illegally raised hit from outside the circle, even when they are not endangered by it – and that is precisely why attacking players raise the ball into the circle.

(generally the ball is raised with a slap hit, although edge hits – both (an illegal ‘hard’) fore and reverse edge hits are employed – as well the full power forehand top-spin ‘banana’ hits which were once popular with penalty corner strikers. We now have only “forget lifted”. To remember “think danger” would be to be able to keep in mind two possibly conflicting thoughts and still be able to behave rationally).

The video clip below is of a hit being made into the circle and what resulted from it. This incident demonstrates that it does not matter what the Rules are if they are not applied. Have a look at the video and see if you agree with the final outcome, which was the recommendation of the award of a penalty corner, after a video referral by the defending side, questioning the initial penalty corner award, was rejected. I have no idea what the question put to the video umpire was, but there are several grounds upon which a properly framed referral should have been upheld.

 

 

One.  The ball was raised intentionally with a hit in the area outside the opponent’s circle. Rule 9.9. prohibits this action.

Players must not intentionally raise the ball from a hit except for a shot at goal.
A raised hit must be judged explicitly on whether or not it is raised intentionally.

It is also an offence to raise the ball unintentionally from a hit, including a free hit, anywhere on the field if it is raised in a dangerous way. Technically the ball was not raised dangerously by the attacker – there was no opponent within 5m and evasive action was not necessary and was not attempted by the first defender – but clearly self-defence from a raised ball that could have injured him was forced on the second defender and it would be reasonable to consider such raising of the ball as play (by the striker) resulting in dangerous play.

Let us suppose the umpire though the ball may have been raised accidentally.

 

Two.   The ball was hit hard with the fore-hand edge of the stick, a prohibited action.

9.6 Players must not hit the ball hard on the forehand with the edge of the stick.

Let us suppose the umpires did not see the edge hit and thought a slap-hit with the face of the stick had been used.

.

The ball was deflected off the stick of one defender and hit a second defender on the body.

Three.  Being hit with the ball is not necessarily an offence by the player hit (which is ‘dealt with’ by the following Rule and the (now conflicting) Explanation of application)

9.11 Field players must not stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their body.
The player (who stops or deflects the ball with the body) only commits an offence if they gain an advantage or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way.

Clearly the player who was hit with the ball did not position with the intention of using his body to stop the deflected ball. But was there an advantage gained because the ball was stopped by the body of this defender? To decide that it is necessary to determine where the ball would most likely have gone if it had not hit the second defender.

What seems probable from the video evidence is that it would have deflected into the possession of a third defender.

The less likely alternatives are that it would have run loose and have been contested for by players from both teams or that  (unlikely) it would have gone off the pitch over the base-line for a 23m ball to the attackers, before any player could take possession of it.

My conclusion is that two umpires (match umpire and video umpire), appointed to this tournament, being among the best available in the world, would not miss either an intentionally raised hit of this sort or the illegal use of a forehand edge-hit, but they might have ignored those two criteria and instead have focused on dangerous raising of the ball, following forget lifted – think danger. But in ‘forgetting’ lifted they also (in this instance) overlooked that opponents had been unfairly disadvantaged by two concurrent deliberate offences

The two criteria for a ball-body contact offence are routinely ignored, so it is not necessary to offer an explanation for that happening in this particular instance. But there is no reason (other than penalising the prior illegal raising of the ball) why either umpire – but especially the video umpire – should not have considered where the ball would have gone if it had not hit a defender – and then decided that there was no advantage gained by the defending team.

In this incident two deliberate offences by the striker of the ball, either of which could be said to have disadvantaged the defending team, were ignored and an accidental ball-body contact, incidental to the raised ball, which was not an offence, was penalised with a penalty corner, so SNAFU (Situation Normal All F***** Up)

.

The solution to the initial problem, the ball raised (deliberately or otherwise) into the circle is not very difficult to work out, but of course any replacement Rule must be properly observed.

The following four suggested amendments would need to be enacted together.

The first step is to remove the prohibition of the lifted hit in the area outside the opponent’s circle. 

The second, to institute an absolute height limit (of shoulder height ?) on any hit ball in the area outside the opponent’s circle (not dangerous play related, dangerous play being a separate issue with other ball height limits imposed -see  http://wp.me/pKOEk-2cq) that ‘deals’ with the long high clip or chip hit (similar to the modern long scoop) the initial ban on the intentionally raised hit was supposed to deal with (it also deals with the extraordinary number of times there is an ‘accidental’ raising of the ball, to considerable height, with an edge-hit made in the area outside the opponent’s circle).

Now we have a ‘clean slate’.  

The third, prohibit any raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit. (this means a hit away from the control of the hitter and excludes low ‘dink’ hits made by a player dribbling with the ball who retains possession of the ball)  

The fourth, a height limit (of knee height ?) on any ball raised directly into the opponent’s circle with a flick, scoop or deflection.

And finally, a (belt and braces) prohibition on playing or playing at the ball when it is above shoulder height within the opponent’s circle.

 

So what happens when the ball is deflected and raised above the limit height into the opponent’s circle – accidentally or otherwise? A free-ball, to be taken from the point the ball was raised, is awarded. 

It’s perfectly possible to instead prohibit scoops or high deflections into the area inside the hash circle, if that would be considered to lead to safer and/or fairer outcomes – if the ball  lands and then rebounds high off the pitch for example. It would also be providential as it would give the hash circle a function again.

The restoration of prohibition of the raising the ball (especially high) into the circle and a prohibition on playing at the ball when it is above shoulder height inside the opponent’s circle, is the very least that should be offered by way of ‘compensation’ and safeguarding following the deletion of off-side in 1997. (see article A Broken Promise  http://wp.me/pKOEk-2ln)

 

The above video is of an example of play which is more akin to hurling than it is to hockey; there are at least three breaches of the Rules of Hockey by the attacking side.

I suppose in the incident below, from the 2012 Olympics (so when any attempt to play the ball at above shoulder height by any player except a defender defending the goal, was illegal), the umpire attempted to allow ‘advantage’ when the ball went up off the goalkeeper. But allowing ‘advantage’ (even when appropriate, which was not the case in this example as the potential for subsequent dangerous play was obvious) should not permit the allowed play-on to ignore other Rules. Again it does not matter what the Rules are if they are not applied or incorrectly applied.

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