Field Hockey Rules: The Good Old Days 1

I came across a copy of the Rules of Hockey dated 1959 for sale (at an exorbitant price) on eBay a while ago and could not resist buying it, because I started playing hockey in September of that year and it was the version of the Rules to which I would first have been exposed. The first page lists three Amendments made in 1960, minor adjustments which these days would be called ‘housekeeping’ or clarification, so clearly the Rules for 1960 were considered to be near enough the same as they were for 1959 and it was not felt necessary to go to the expense of reprinting the cover for the year 1960.

The committee that has been, since 2011, called the FIH Rules Committee was then called the International Hockey Board and that was the forerunner of the FIH Hockey Rules Board. In 1990 soon after I became involved in the hockey stick trade, the late George Croft, who was then Hon. Sec. of the HRB pointed out to me (we were both members of Surbiton Hockey Club and saw each other regularly) that all the hockey sticks on sale at the time were heat stamped with a badge claiming that a stick complied with the requirements of the International Hockey Board, a name that had ceased to describe the Rules Committee decades before. Following that conversation I had a stamp manufactured stating that my ZigZag designs complied with the requirements of the Hockey Rules Board. It is ironic, considering the orchestrated furore about the legality of them, that my sticks were the only ones on the market that were correctly stamped, and that they always did comply with the requirements of the Hockey Rules Board, as set out in the Rules of Hockey : and still do.

International hockey in the UK in 1959 and for some years after, meant matches between what are now referred to as the Home Countries. There were no other International matches played in the UK during my school days. Television was in its ‘infancy’, only one of my friends in my street had a television at home in 1957, and computers had not even been imagined, so I did not get much exposure to high level hockey (once a year at Hurlingham). There wasn’t even much football shown on television in those days, not that I would have sat down indoors and watched a match when I was eleven years old, I spent my evenings, weekends and holidays, outside with other kids, running around and  getting my knees dirty. There were trees to climb and bomb-sites to explore.

The British gentlemen would have considered it fair and right and proper that the UK had four votes on the committee and the rest of the world were allowed four after 1957. The ‘foreigners’ were after all playing to different Rules prior to that date and the British were not going to change their ways. We may think of the modern era of hockey as commencing after 1861 with the adoption of a standard ball and pitch, but the modern unified game did not really begin until 1948 or even some years after 1957, the year in which the FIH were granted parity on the Rules Committee. I believe the Rules to which Olympic Tournaments were played prior to 1960 would have been negotiated and agreed for each occasion.

In 1960, what we now know as Rule 9. Conduct of Play, was termed 10 General Details and to these were added Notes on the Rules. I think the wording of some of the General Details and Notes to be better than the wording we now have. I will post Rule 10 along with some other information, which might be interesting to those who would like to know how the Rules originated and developed, in another article. The rule-book, which includes a very brief potted history of Rule changes since 1938, The Rules Governing the International Hockey Board, The Constitution of the Board and some separate notes for the women’s game, contains only 39 pages. It originally sold for one shilling and three pence (15p when there were 240p in a pound) and I have just paid almost £13 for a copy. In the Good Old Days a hockey stick cost £4.50 (a really expensive one was £12) but wages were also very low at the time. 1 started work in 1964 and then earned the princely annual salary of £555. before tax.

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