Field hockey Rules: The Good Old Days 2

Continuation of : – The Constitution and work of the International Hockey Board.

The First step to the Advantage Rule.

The Advantage Rule, which is now Rule 12.1, but also ‘scattered’ elsewhere in the Rules of Hockey is at present greatly misunderstood, particularly when there has been a ball-foot contact.

Unless the ball-foot contact is intentional it cannot be an offence if opponents are able to play on with advantage, because the only other criteria for offence is advantage gained by the team of the player who made the contact. (It is not possible for both teams to gain advantage, one over the other, at the same time, i.e. from a single incident). If there is no intent and play can continue with an advantage to the opposing team the umpire is not applying the Advantage Rule if he or she allows play to continue, there is simply no reason to intervene because there has been no offence, there being no advantage gained by the team of the player who made the contact.  Where there is no offence the Advantage Rule cannot be applied i.e. an advantage allowed to the opposing team, play just continues.

That might seem counter-intuitive but sometimes logic does appear to be that way to those who are not familiar with it. If any and all ball body contact was an offence (which is how many umpires treat such incidents) then allowing opponents to play on if they gain an advantage following a ball-body contact by an opposing player would be a logical application of the Advantage Rule. The fact that advantage gained is a criteria for a ball-body contact offence can cause correct application of the Advantage Rule to appear odd (illogical) when it is not. What is illogical is seeing any and all ball-body contact as an offence when that is clearly not the case.

Here is an example of illogical application of the Advantage Rule. ‘Gains benefit’ was being applied at the date of this match even though it should not have been – the clause pertaining to it having been deleted some years previously (in 2007).

Neither of the ball-foot contacts seen in the two incidents was a offence, both being entirely accidental (and unavoidable) – and there was no advantage gained by the MAL team from either contact; quite the contrary, in the second incident, the opponents obtained an advantage (which the umpire acknowledged), as the ball was slowed and deflected directly to a ESP player following the MAl player’s leg contact.

The errors in the second incident were 1) considering any ball-body contact to be an offence 2) the impossibility of simultaneous advantage being allowed to both teams (the MAL team did not gain an advantage) – causing 3) misapplication of the Advantage Rule. The error in the first incident was penalising an unintentional ball body contact and/or seeing a benefit gained when there was none (but that is my opinion, a subjective opinion).

It is telling that despite Rule 9.9. the commentators saw nothing wrong with the deliberate raising of the ball into an opponent, considering it a legitimate skill.

To continue….

The start of the penalising of ball body contact is also mentioned in the ‘potted history’ of Rule changes contained in this Rule book. I’ll come to that ‘potted history’ later.

On ‘potted histories’ I find it annoying and bewildering that there is no accessible archive of the previous versions of the Rules of Hockey, even the FIH web-site provided only a potted history (I am not sure it is still there), there isn’t even access to the Rules of Hockey issued on and since the major rewrites of either 1995 or 2004.

Left handed play

Among the first alterations in the rules was one prohibiting left-handed play, which was explained in the notes as left-handed play in the way of left-handed batting at cricket.

I have no idea how left-handed play was regarded in cricket at the time, but I wonder if it was legal in hockey to play the ball with both sides of the stick-head in the early days. There is no reason to suppose the game was always played using only the a left-side face. Other similar games which became established in the Britain and Ireland in the same period, hurling and shinty, were and are both played with both sides of the stick. There can be no doubt that the clever circumvention of the prohibition on left-side play led to the invention of the short-head stick and to the development of what is known as the ‘Indian dribble’, but the introduction of edge hitting has made a nonsense of the present prohibition on using the right side of the stick-head to play the ball. Allowing the ball to be played with both sides of the stick-head (and restricting edge hitting with a height limit) would now be a safer option and it would make good sense – and it would not lead to the loss of the Indian dribble or a reduction of stick-work skills but to an expansion of them.

I read on a USA website recently that physical contact was at one time permitted in hockey. That is possible, maybe even probable but I had never seen any thing or heard anything about this possibility previously. If physical contact was allowed at one time I think it would have been ruled illegal very soon after 1900 if not some time before that.

Introduction of the Penalty Corner 1908.

At the time any raising of the ball by undercutting it was an offence and, although there was no height limit for a first shot at the goal during a penalty corner, a ball raised with an undercut hit would have (or should have) been penalised.  The ‘tweaking’ of the Rules of the Penalty Corner began almost immediately and it is now, by far, the part of the game with the largest number of Rules and Rule clauses and the one to which the largest number of changes have been made. I believe the introduction of it was a bad mistake because it has always been too dangerous to defending players. It’s long past time it was replaced with a power play within the 23m area: even some international players have called for the abolition of it (Fox and Middleton for example, both England Captains)

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