Field Hockey Rules: Dangerous play and the falling ball

Comment made about any article in this blog from individuals who deliberately hide their identity will be treated as what it is – spam or trolling – and trashed.

Edited 16th April 2017.

The following five FIH Statements/Rules (all contained in the current rule-book) have led to disagreements in two threads on the fieldhockeyforum website in the past week which has resulted in both of the threads being locked by a forum moderator who does not believe in allowing disagreements to reach resolution. The subjects of the argument are firstly, “who is responsible for causing dangerous play when a ball is lofted to fall onto the position of opposing players who might contest for it?” and secondly, following from that, where should penalty be awarded?

This topic has been argued over at least ten times in the past five years but there is no sign of resolution – or even of suggestions to resolve the conflict – both ‘sides’ are as polarized as ever. There are two reasons that this impasse has come about – a poorly written Rule and stupidity – but they distil down to one reason – stupidity: there is no good reason why any Rule should be so poorly written that a polarization of opinion is caused and certainly none for the FIH RC doing nothing about that.

One reason that the Rule is now badly written is historical i.e. Guidance for players and umpires and also Rules Interpretations (the latter previously i.e. prior to 2004. in the back of rule-books) has been deleted and not replaced with adequate (or any) Explanation of Rule application: this process was called simplification and clarification. The vacuum has been filled with ‘umpiring practice’ – some of it from the Umpire Manager’s Briefing for Umpires at FIH Tournaments (the UMB – a document produced by the FIH Umpiring Committee), some of it from various personal opinion.



Responsibility and Liability

Participants in hockey must be aware of the Rules of Hockey and of other information in this publication.
They are expected to perform according to the Rules.

Emphasis is placed on safety. Everyone involved in the game must act with consideration for the safety of others.



Conduct of play : players
Players are expected to act responsibly at all times.

9.10 Players must not approach within 5 metres of an opponent receiving a falling raised ball until it has been received, controlled and is on the ground.

The initial receiver has a right to the ball. If it is not clear which player is the initial receiver, the player of the team which raised the ball must allow the opponent to receive it.

9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.

A ball is also considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by players.

The penalty is awarded where the action causing the danger took place.

(This bizarre forum discussion gives an idea of the diverse views  This is a quote from the thread which displays the type of rational or logic employed in argument  “(Raised) shots at goal are not aerials, they’re not ‘falling raised balls’, even if they do happen to be falling by the time they reach the keeper.”  The word aerial does not appear in the Rules of Hockey but any ball raised off the ground in any way can be considered to be an aerial ball (the literal meaning is “in the air”, as opposed to being ‘on or along the ground’).

The raised shot at the goal is subject to Rule 9.9 when raised towards an opponent within 5m and the first hit shot during a penalty corner is height limited with there being a requirement that second or subsequent shots, however made, be not dangerous; so the idea that “Aerial Rules do not apply to shots at the goal is incorrect, as is the notion that a falling ball that is a shot at the goal (a lob for example) is not a falling ball and is not subject to Rule 9.10. ALL falling balls, no matter how raised, are subject to Rule 9.10. (but the FIH RC could usefully put forward some guidance about ball height)

The two camps base their arguments on one of two approaches to what is written in the Rules. One side claims that the Rules ought to be read as written and interpreted literally, that is according to the literal meaning of the words used. The other side claims a common sense or common practice approach (called interpretation) and use phrases like ‘the spirit of the Rule’. These two approaches should not be in conflict, but they are because there is a lack of common sense.

The idea that umpires can make up Rule or Interpretation if they cannot remember the Rule is more absurd than the statement that a falling ball is not a falling ball, as per Rule 9.10, if a shot at the goal. This kind of invention is also contrary to explicit instruction from the FIH Executive that nobody, no individual and no body, other than the FIH Rules Committee can amend Rule or the Interpretation of Rule. Rule becomes Rule after the FIH Executive approves a recommendation for amendment from the FIH Rules Committee – and not in any other circumstances – even the FIH Executive themselves cannot unilaterally propose and then enact Rule change concerning the playing of the game.


The particulars of the danger from a scoop pass argument are:-

danger is caused by the player who lofted the ball to fall onto a position occupied by opposing players who might contest for it.

This is the more difficult option to umpire because it is necessary for the umpires to take account of where players were positioned at the time the ball was raised (it is about as difficult to judge as off-side used to be)


danger is caused by a player of the same team as the player who lofted the ball being close to an opponent in the area where the ball will fall and not moving 5m away from that opponent before the ball is within playing distance.

This is relatively easy to umpire; a decision about where the free ball should be taken from does not need to be made afresh in each case: it is always from the place the ball was landing. The player who raised the ball is ‘forgotten’ if the ball is raised safely and is safe in flight (does not cause legitimate evasive action)

The fly in the ointment or the need for an exception.

In some situations, a high deflection off a defender into his or her own circle for example, it would be grossly unfair to require a same team player to retreat to give opponents 5m of space to control the ball on the ground before approach can be made. Consideration may need to be given, for safety reasons, to prohibiting any raising of the ball (above a given height) into the circles and/or to prohibiting players from any playing of or playing at a ball at above shoulder height when in the opposing circle.

Particulars:– Rule 9.10  Players must not approach within 5 metres of an opponent receiving a falling raised ball is written as if a ball will never be lofted onto the position of two or more players who are closer then 5m apart and contesting players are always positioned at least 5m apart at the time the ball is raised (this is because at one time it was clearly stated in the Rule that it was illegal to raise the ball so that it would fall onto the position of players who were close to each other at the time the ball was raised).

There is no requirement in the Rule for a same team player within 5m of an opponent who is an initial receiver, to retreat 5m or any other distance. Neither “allow” or “not approach” mean “move further away” or “retreat”. This is a point there seems to be some difficulty some participants ‘absorbing’ or understanding but it is difficult to find a way of putting “not asked for”, ”not required” or “not demanded” more simply.

When it is considered how close a tackler may be to an opponent in possession of the ball and not be considered to be attempting to play at the ball for the purposes of the Obstruction Rule, surely an opponent can be permitted to receive and play the ball to ground without interference by a close opponent i.e. receiving can reasonably be ‘allowed’ by an opponent who remains only 2m away (that is beyond playing distance without an unbalancing lunge or a dive for the ball). But is it reasonable to allow a player some distance away to loft the ball to fall between players who are at the time only 2m apart? I will leave other particulars to someone with the tag nerd-is-the-word, a contributor to FHF.

nerd-is -the-word

I have read this argument a few times when it comes to overheads and i just feel the need to point out how ridiculous this argument is, for a whole multitude of reasons:

A) why would defenders bother throwing an overhead rather than just smashing the ball to the other end if all they want to do i realease pressure.

B) what kind of defender finds enough space to throw an overhead (5m+) and picks a crowded area to throw into rather than the space around that crowd.

C) even if a defender chooses to throw an overhead in a random direction, that happens to be into a crowd of two people, why do people talk about the danger being the defenders fault rather than his teammate who had ample time to step away?

D) if teams a throwing their release overheads only 40m ( any more and they very little chance of throwing into a crowd) and then immediately turning over the ball via a fh, then their oposition would take that any day of the week.

E) im going to state this again, what defender chooses to throw the ball into a crowd to release pressure? Not ones that have any clue what they are doing. If danger occurs from these long range flicks then it is ALWAYS because of the players in the landing zone.

It will be no surprise that ‘nerd’ also believes (as evidenced by previous posts to FHF) that defenders in front of the goal cause danger when a shot is raised at their position on the goal-line. I can’t believe, from my previous experiences with this individual’s ‘reading’ and comprehension, that he has read and understood the opening post of the topic thread never mind the whole thread.

The tactic of lofting the ball to fall from great height directly onto the position of an opponent is a well tested one and works tolerably well when the receiving player knows that there are chasing same team players who will pounce on any deflection and ‘leave him for dead’. I last saw it employed a long time ago, to great effect, by Calston Fischer, who ‘showered’ high scoops onto a relatively inexperienced Martyn Grimley during a very rainy European Championship match between Germany and England. The tactic suited the weather perfectly, stopping a skipping ball near ground level was hard enough in the conditions and Grimley was left flat-footed behind the play on several occasions.

‘Nerd’ misses the point of S.Pettit’s remark, which is that there is nothing to deter a player repeatedly lofting the ball into contested positions if penalty for causing danger can never be from the place the ball was raised but always at the point of landing. Besides that, it is a principle of the Rules that a player who commits an offence should never be permitted to benefit from that offence, but (assuming that it is granted that an offence is committed) a gain of ground of 40m+ on every occasion is such a benefit. 

Lofting the ball to fall where it maybe contested for while it is still in the air is anyway a matter of behaving responsibly and also of acting with consideration for the safety of others, as well as a possible breach of the second clause of Rule 9.8. creating (causing) a potentially dangerous situation.

It’s time the FIH Rules Committee had a rethink about Rule 9.8 and Rule 9.10.



The conclusion of yet another thread around the same subject.

But if somebody suggests that the free to the defending side should be taken from where the ball was raised, that is “against whoever put it there” as Kresby states, rather than a 15m being awarded, Diligent is likely to lock this thread as quickly and for the same reason, as he locked the other two related threads.

I am not happy with the notion that only a falling raised ball can lead to a dangerous aerial contest for the ball because it is not true and so does not make much sense. The statement in Rule 9.10. that a raised ball must not be dangerous in flight seems in any case to contradict that suggestion. It is common practice at a penalty corner for attackers to follow-in on a high drag-flick shot looking for a rebound if there is an initial save (see opening post of thread) – the potential for dangerous play in this situation is obvious and that, by Rule, second or subsequent shots must not be made in a dangerous way does not make this attacking practice any safer for defenders.


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