Shot made when the ball is in the air.


This post was put up on FHF more than a week ago and has had little response. This is typical of threads in this subject area, the dangerous shot at the goal, even though such shots are not a trivial matter or an infrequent occurrence and this is a highly contentious area of Rule because of what is called ‘interpretation’. Recent changes to the Rules concerning the playing of the ball at above shoulder height make AnnGoalie’s questions highly relevant.

The incredible first reply to it was from redumpire (David Ellcock), previously an umpire of many years experience in the English National Premier League and an experienced accredited FIH Indoor Umpire, Mr. Ellcock is now regularly appointed as a Tournament Director for International events and in that capacity frequently debriefs umpires following International matches. His reply to the questions put is therefore woefully inadequate because he knows very well the criterion umpires should be applying when making judgements about a dangerously played ball – be it a shot at the goal or otherwise. Not only does he not take the opportunity to answer AnnGolie adequately, he allows some obvious misconceptions about the dangerously played ball to be inferred without correcting them. Pah!


This matter is not “really complex”; there are a number of different possible scenarios but few of them overlap and there is one simple overriding question:-

“Was a player endangered (injured or put at risk of injury) because of the way the ball was played (raised) at him or her?”

Another way of putting the same question is:-

“Was a player forced to self defence to try to avoid injury because of the way the ball was propelled (and raised) towards him or her?”

Even that question need not be asked if the ball was raised towards a defender within 5m of the hitter – that, according to what is given with Rule 9.9 (which refers to flicks and scoops but common sense should include raised hits and intentional deflections) is dangerous play.

Whether a ball already up in the air, which is not raised further, should be considered a raised ball could be debated, but again common sense can be employed if the outcome is similar to that of a ball that has been raised from the ground, especially if it is directed at an opponent at above shin guard height. This is not a complex matter, a raised ball is considered dangerous because it is put into the air and is therefore at a height where it might cause serious injury, a ball already in the air when hit can sensibly be treated in the same way.

The only self-defence mentioned in the Rules  is ‘legitimate evasive action’ (it defines a dangerously played ball) but forcing a player to defend his or her head or upper body with the stick, from a ball propelled at high velocity , in order to avoid injury, should be considered as much an offence as the forcing of evasive action. The propelling action which causes both types of self defence may well be the same – the outcome will be identical – the endangerment (putting at risk of injury) of an another player.  There will also of course be occasions when self defence is not successful and the endangered player is actually hit with the ball and injured – that too must be considered dangerous play – not a ball-body contact offence.  

Ann Goalie writes: –

“Others however charged it as a shot on goal, and therefore anyone in the way of the ball should try to stop or not stand there (own risk idea).”

A shot at the goal which is ‘on-target’ is to be treated no differently than a shot that is going wide of the goal and neither of these shots should be treated any differently than any other ball which is raised towards an opponent in a way that endangers that opponent. Outside of the first hit-shot made during a penalty corner that a ball is a shot at the goal is an irrelevance from a dangerously played ball Rule point of view. The notion that an ‘on-target’ shot at the goal cannot be considered to be dangerous play is itself a dangerous idea and an absurdity.

There is Rule support for a shot at the goal being considered dangerous, it is hidden away in the Rule concerning the taking of a penalty corner (which is where the commonly applied “above knee height” criteria for the dangerously played ball also originates):-

13.3.k 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 ownaccord below 460 mm before crossing the line.

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


Obviously (or maybe not so obviously) the wording provided there is no danger and it is permitted to raise the ball to any height but this must not be dangerous would not be necessary in Rule 13 – 13.3 (l) or the explanation provided to  13.3, (k) if it was not possible for a shot at the goal to be dangerous play. 

Now that is complex – we have to seek out specific prohibitions to ascertain that a shot at the goal can be dangerous because of inane (insane) practice that developed on the back of uncorrected rumour, started within umpiring circles in around 2006 and ‘accepted’ by 2008. The assertion that a shot at the goal cannot be considered dangerous play is still, as in this FHF thread, often left uncorrected by those who not only should know, but do know, better. Even the hint of such a notion should be firmly squashed whenever it appears. The other, possibly even more pernicious nonsense, is the “own risk” or “asking for it” assertion – which is also a ‘cannot possibly be dangerous play’ statement. Nij produced a fuller but rather bitty version of it in one of his posts:-

That might seem to be complex because it proposes an exception to the Rule but it is in fact tortuous gobbledegook. The proponents of it think it produces more exciting and spectacular hockey and it possibly does, but at the cost of forgetting about player safety completely and stopping pretending there is an emphasis on safety and also forgetting about responsible play and consideration for the safety of others – which are supposed to be part and parcel of a ‘family sport’.

Basically the idea is that if a defender intentionally positions between a shooter and the goal (the only positions that can be adopted if the goal is to be defended) then that defender voluntarily forfeits the right to the protection of the Rules concerning a dangerously played ball and accepts the risk that he or she may be hit with the ball – and that is utter crap because it means a defended shot at the goal cannot be dangerous play (false) but also a shot at the goal which is defended can be dangerous play. Because there can be no endangerment if there is no-one there to be endangered, so endangerment from a shot at the goal can occur only when the goal is defended (generally true) – it is not possible for both the statements in bold italics to be correct.

Everybody who steps onto a hockey pitch with the intention of taking part in a competitive hockey match accepts the risk that they may be accidentally hit with the ball and injured or they may be injured in some other way – by accident. It is not possible to make Rules to cover accidents like unintended deflections and miss-hits of the ball – but penalty should still be applied if an accidentally miss-hit ball forces self-defence from or injures an opponent. ‘Acceptance of risk’, goes no further than that, it certainly does not include an attacker intentionally propelling a raised ball towards and ‘through’ an opponent positioned between the shooter and the goal. That is not an accepted risk because propelling the ball at an opponent in this way is intentionally forcing that opponent to self-defence to avoid injury – and that is a dangerous play offence. An offence by an opponent is not an acceptable risk, it’s an unacceptable action, that is why it is penalised (or should be).

Bizarre as it may seem to Nij and others of his ilk, players who are shooting at the goal are supposed to make every effort to avoid propelling the ball at an opponent – to not play recklessly – to not avoidably put an opponent at risk of injury or to injure an opponent. This is why stick-work and other eluding skills are developed, hockey is supposed to be largely a game of skill rather than one of power and brute force. There is not a free-for-all situation where a defender who is hit with the ball can then be said to have caused their own endangerment because of positioning between the shooter and the goal. Endangerment is caused by the player who propels the ball on an elevated path towards another player, no matter what the position of that player was at the time the ball was propelled. The correct response to shooters who assert that the defender was “in the way” or that the defender knew that there was a possibility that the ball could be (might be) raised towards them, is “So what?” and “But you knew where the defender was when (before) you made the shot and you still made it at the defender – that’s your fault.” Acceptance of risk is confined to the acceptance of risk from legitimate but unfortunate play, that is to accidents, not to the outcome of intentionally taken actions such as the ‘targeting’ of a defender or to reckless play.

The post by Gingerbread needs a comment because although he ‘nods’ towards the dangerously played ball Rules he misquotes by omission and turns the Rule on the player running towards (into) the ball on its head.

The rule explanation Gingerbread refers to reads:

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.

The first paragraph hangs on the words “without attempting to play the ball with their stick” – which Gingerbread leaves out entirely. The Rule is intended to prevent defenders deliberately using their bodies to stop or deflect the ball or to deter them from charging physically into the shooter. Closing down on the intended shooter to reduce the shooting angle and other options or the making of a tackle attempt are not prohibited. I don’t agree with his assertion that, a defender who moves into the path of the ball, who misses a raised shot with the stick or deflects it with the stick into his or her own body, has always offended – it depends on the direction of movement (across or along the path of the ball) the nature of the shot, height and velocity are relevant; as well as intention or the gaining of an advantage by the player hit.

Otherwise indicates that the defenders have not intentionally used their bodies instead of their sticks. The penalising of a defender for being struck below the knee during a penalty corner is a strange contradiction of Rule 9.9 as it applies in open play. I don’t like this penalising because it encourages strikers at penalty corners to be reckless with their shooting, because it costs them nothing, and to intimidate out-runners with low level but high velocity shots into their legs, instead of looking for a way around the out-runners. Just ‘blasting’ the ball ‘through’ a running defender is hardly attractive or skilful hockey – and this action is not injury free for defenders.

I hope that if Ann Goalie ever comes across this article some of her questions will have been answered. On the matter of an attacker deflecting or hitting the high initial shot of a team-mate towards the goal, the criterion are the same – endangerment of an opponent, the forcing of self-defence, injury. At present it is legal to hit the ball towards the goal even from above shoulder height – I wish it was not and have written in another articles about that. The falling ball creates its own set of problems with the encroachment Rule and identifying an initial receiver; that becomes complex largely because that particular Rule (9.10) is badly written.


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