Indoor and Outdoor Rules of Hockey 2017.


Field Hockey Rules 2017.

The Rules of Hockey for the outdoor game were published on 18th of November. As there isn’t any change to the Rules concerning Conduct of Play and other amendments are clarifications or ‘housekeeping’, mostly concerning penalties, I will post comment about the new Outdoor Rules here, above the article I wrote on the Indoor Rules, to avoid duplication.

The FIH Rules Committee have written:- The Rules of Hockey 2017 do contain a number of adjustments that feature in the already published Rules of Indoor Hockey 2017, as applicable to the outdoor game. The FIH believes that it is crucially important the both sets of rules are aligned as closely as possible and, in keeping with that philosophy, has included these adjustments in the Rules of Hockey 2017.

But they have not included some important “adjustments”.

Two additions to Rule Explanation for Conduct of Play have been added to the Indoor Rules since January 2015, as detailed below in my initial article. Neither have been included in the Outdoor Rules when the outdoor equivalents of both could most certainly have been usefully included as:-

1) A restoration of the Forcing Rule 

2) Ball shielding to prevent a legal tackle attempt being (once again) penalised as obstruction. – with additional clarification because what has been written for the Indoor game (below) is extremely vague.

“The FIH believes that it is crucially important the both sets of rules are aligned as closely as possible”.
Do they? So what made the inclusion of these two Rules Explanations – adapted for the outdoor game –  impossible?


For a sample list of desirable Outdoor Rule changes and introductions, concerning only dangerous play, that were not made for 2017 (some of which have been awaited for more than thirty years), see the article   A Broken Promise.


Indoor Rules 2017.

Written on 11th November and edited on the 19th November 2016.

 As the Outdoor Rules do not conflict with the Indoor Rules in general areas of Conduct of Play a look at the Indoor Rules for 2017, issued on 11th November 2016, may give some hints of Rules changes to come in the outdoor game. There are only two additions to Rule Explanation in Conduct of Play. The first offers a glimmer of hope, the second looks like a desperate “do something about it” to umpires, without indicating how to do the ‘something’.  

Indoor has its own version of ‘forcing’ called ‘driving’ and ‘spinning’ and these have been defined in additional Rule Explanation in the Dangerous Play Rule:-


Playing the ball deliberately and hard into an
opponents stick, feet or hands with associated
risk of injury when a player is in a ‘set’ or stationary
position; and players collecting, turning and trying to
play the ball deliberately through a defending player
who is either close to the player in possession or is
trying to play the ball are both dangerous actions
and should be dealt with under this Rule. A personal
penalty may also be awarded to offending players.
Maybe there is a chance that forcing will be made explicitly part of the outdoor Dangerous Play Rule or even restored as a stand alone offence as previously. I hope the latter because not all forcing is dangerous play – but all of it is foul, cheating.
I found the addition Obstruction Explanation below interesting, but it was included in the last Indoor Rules issued for 2016 and the instruction, vague as it is, has not, judging by the matches played at the Rio Olympics, ‘peculated’ through to the outdoor game in the last year.

Umpires should place particular emphasis on
limiting time spent in situations where the ball
becomes trapped in the corners of the pitch or close
to the side-boards (especially towards the end of
matches) when the player in possession effectively
shields the ball such that an opponent is prevented
from being able to play it Early interventions by the
Umpires will make teams aware that this type of
play or tactic is of no benefit to them.


Vague?  Yes. How emphasise? How limit?  On what grounds intervene – perhaps by applying the Obstruction Rule?


The FIH Rules Committee apparently do know what an obstruction offence is but don’t mention obstruction, “when the player in possession effectively shields the ball such that an opponent is prevented from being able to play it”  is not a bad definition of obstruction.

Why not put that in the Outdoor Rules, much as it was previously? For example:- An opponent is obstructed if a player in possession of the ball shields it so that a legal tackle attempt is prevented when that opponent would otherwise have been able to play directly at the ball

But I don’t hold out much hope of restoration of a sensible Rule or correct and fair Rule application because the above addition to the Explanation of application of Indoor Rule 9.12. is a fudge. There is no mention of an offence or of applying penalty.

 “where the ball becomes trapped in the corners of the pitch or close to the side-boards” How could that have happened? A hole in the floor perhaps?


Is the obstruction Rule to be ignored except (when the ball is held, by the player in possession of it, in a shielded position, in a corner or at a side of the playing area), towards the end of a match? Perhaps a bell can be rung or a buzzer sounded a few minutes before the end of each match to let the umpire know it is okay to begin ‘limiting’ obstruction (to 5 seconds or 10 seconds perhaps)?


A  definition of sorts is at least now printed in the indoor rule-book and the word “prevented” has been reintroduced, so I suppose a start has been made – the FIH Rules Committee seem to  have become aware that there are several problems caused by the present wilful blindness towards ball shielding, but they are not yet ready to do anything meaningful to resolve these problems; like drafting, and requiring enforcement, of an Obstruction Rule in which the prevention of a legal tackle attempt, by shielding the ball from an opponent, is a criterion for an obstruction offence.


A look at the picture on the cover of the Rules of Indoor Hockey 2017 (and a similar one on the outdoor rule-book) gives a hint of the current ‘acceptable’ play that is likely to continue – ball shielding ‘with bells on’. Who decided this sort of play is acceptable? Why and how acceptable? Retaining possession of the ball has now very little to do with stick-work or passing skills, excellence in which is what hockey is supposed to be about and how goal scoring chances are supposed to be created.




Neither of the players with the ball can be described as being in the act of receiving the ball – so the Obstruction Rule applies to both  and both have positioned themselves between an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and demonstrating an intent to play at it (although there may be some argument about the intentions of the blocked off player shown on the cover of the Indoor rule-book, there can be no argument about the intention of the player in possession of the ball). Maybe it is the intention of the Rules Committee  to illustrate, as a guide to umpires, a breach of this Rule on the covers of both the Indoor and Outdoor rule-books ?

There are recent videos of hockey matches containing several hundred examples of unpenalised obstructive play; a neglected resource the FIH Umpiring Committee could make good use of. The majority of the very few video clips on the subject, published as umpire coaching, notably via, have so far concentrated on play which is (erroneously) said to be not obstructive, here is an example (in which I have embedded comment), The ‘Interpretation’ provided with the video is given below:-

Interpretation: –

The GER team try and pass the ball out of defence. The GER
player receives the ball and initially moves it out of the playing
distance of the ARG player. When the GER player turns with the
ball, the ARG player is not actively trying to tackle or play the
ball, so there is no obstruction. [….] When the GER player plays the
ball over the stick of the ARG player, it runs out of her playing
distance for an ARG side-line ball. The contact between the two
players’ sticks is accidental and does not affect play.


I think it both amazing and absurd that anyone could declare that the ARG player was not trying to play at the ball, when she was clearly prevented, by the GER player, from reaching the ball by obstructive actions, (1) the GER player turning to position between the ARG player and the ball, followed by 2) stepping over the ARG player’s stick and further blocking her path to the ball, and then 3) side-stepping ‘through’ the ARG player’s stick (blocking it) as the ARG player tried to go around her while reaching for the ball. The initial turn is not seen as quickly leading to an obstruction offence as the ARG player closed on the ball, which was not kept beyond her playing reach and neither are the actions 2 and 3 mentioned in the provided ‘interpretation’. This is willful blindness – seeing only what supports a previously decided agenda and omitting relevant information. I have inserted a marker in the Interpretation [….] where the missing actions should have been described. There can be no doubt that but for the illegal (obstructive) actions of the GER player the ARG player would have been able to play at the ball. It is true that the action by the GER player was quick and accurate – skillfully executed – until she managed to tangle her own stick with the stick of the ARG player (not mentioned), but skillfully executed fouls are still offences and must be treated as such. Carrying out offences efficiently does not turn them into legitimate actions.


2 Comments to “Indoor and Outdoor Rules of Hockey 2017.”

  1. The 2017 outdoor rulebook cover moreso. To my eye, it’s a clear breach of 9.12 by the ball carrier. If not, it’s a breach of 9.13 by his opponent.

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