Field Hockey Rules: The Good Old Days 4

Rules of Hockey 1959-60 

10 General Details. These were the Rules of what we now refer to as 9 Conduct of Play.  I have not bothered about the technical descriptions of field, stick, goal etc. and not concerned myself with the offside Rule (which I would not want to see restored). There is a great deal of necessary guidance and information missing from this version, but some of the Rules, particularly those relating to ball-body contact, advantage and obstruction, contain good sense, which is missing from the modern Rules.

Strange as it may seem I preferred a game in which opponents were not likely to be swinging a stick-head towards my ears and I never have understood why hockey players make a ‘golf swing’ to hit a hockey ball – it’s unnecessary and often, because it takes so long, counter-productive, as well as potentially dangerous – and although there is a Rule prohibiting dangerous use of the stick, I recall many an occasion in which it was not applied when it should have been, even when swings at the ball were made at above shoulder level, long before any playing of a ball at above shoulder height was permitted.

I have attempted to place the Notes to each Rule immediately beneath each Rule, in the manner adopted after 1995, rather than as a block on the page opposite to the page on which the Rule was set out, as it was the practice prior to 1995. Photocopies of the original pages have been placed at the end of the article.


(a) The face of the stick only may be used for playing the ball.
No player shall take part in, nor interfere with, the game unless he has his own stick in his hand.

(b) When striking at, or approaching, the ball, no part of the stick shall be raised above the shoulder, either at the beginning, or at the end of a stroke, in such a way as to be dangerous, intimidating or hampering to an opponent; and the umpire shall penalise a player
who raises his stick in a way likely to lead to these offences.

The Rule did not forbid the raising of the stick above shoulder height when approaching the ball etc. that is just a fallacy that persists. But it imposed penalty if these actions were dangerous, intimidating or hampering to other players. My experience of it was different however; umpires tended to penalise any raising of the stick-head above shoulder height, even when there was no other player who was close enough to be endangered by this action…..

(The fact that a player could be penalised for ‘sticks’ when taking a free ball – when all players were required to be 5 yards from the ball and therefore could not possibly be endangered with a stick swing, conflicts with the instruction not to penalise sticks unless dangerous and if no unfair advantage was gained or no opponent was disadvantaged, but I have not yet seen a version of the Rules of Hockey that was not conflicted in some way and the 1959-60 version contains very few conflicting statements, possibly only this one). 

…….that is acted as if they read only the first part of the Rule sentence and also chose an easy objective judgement over a slightly more difficult subjective one – a theme that runs through much of current hockey umpiring. I never had any difficulty complying with whichever version an umpire was applying. The trick to keeping the stick-swing low is to keep the elbows down and close to the body and to use the wrists and body rotation to whip the stick-head through the ball. A much faster way of hitting a ball, than a long high back-swing, (with usually at least one elbow up level with the head) – and there is no loss of power, particularly when a hit is carried out in combination with a hitch-step.

A ball above the height of a player’s shoulder shall not be played by any part of the stick.

This rule should in my opinion still apply when a player is in the opponent’s circle.

10 (c) The ball shall not be undercut ; nor shall it be played in such a way as is either dangerous in itself, or likely to lead to –dangerous play. The scoop stroke, which raises the ball, is permissible provided that it complies with the foregoing provision of this Rule and except as specially provided in Rule 13 (b). (A Free Hit – It was not permissible to raise a free ball with any stroke except in the women’s’ game, in which a height restricted flick – in those days referred to as a scoop – was permitted)

The ball may be hit whilst it is in the air provided that the player does not contravene paragraph (b) of this Rule.(The raising of any part of the stick above shoulder height in a dangerous way)


10 (c) This Rule is intended to prevent injury to players, and umpires should be very firm in penalising undercutting or scooping the ball in a way dangerous in itself, or likely to lead to dangerous play.

It is noticeable that there is no definition or description of what constitutes dangerous play or play likely to lead to dangerous play, but it is clear that it involved raising the ball towards another player, particularly with an undercut hit.

A lot of injury has been caused in the last three decades by relying on the subjective judgement of umpires in this area. if attackers shooting at a goal which defenders were defending knew that a height defined high shot at goal, which was also made towards a defender, would always result in penalty against the shooter, for dangerous play, they would find alternative ways of scoring goals, in the same way that penalty corner strikers learned how to hit a low shot in the 1980’s, before the drag-flick was invented to circumvent the Rule restricting ball height from the first hit shot. That the FIH RC have done nothing to control drag flicks and reduce the dangers caused by them, is disgraceful. They should be too embarrassed to proclaim that there is an emphasis on safety, because that is simply untrue.

Where possible, the player should be penalised who, by lifting the ball, leads up to dangerous play, or causes a breach of the Rules by other players, and not the player who, for example, is induced to give sticks through the lifting of the ball by an opponent.

This is an example of the forcing of self defence and the forerunner of the Forcing Rule.

Hitting the ball in the air is not permissible if the stroke is in itself dangerous.

The practice of carrying or bouncing the ball on the stick is disapproved, because it becomes dangerous play, when the player concerned is tackled by an opponent who is thus forced to play the ball in the air. Whenever it is continued to this point, the oflender should be penalised under Rule10 (k) (Misconduct)

A Guidance which should be returned to Advice to Umpires in the rule-book, and written into the UMB (if there is an insistence on publishing this document to compete with the Rules of Hockey – which it does in several ways).

10 (d) The ball shall not be stopped on the ground or in the air intentionally by any part of the body except the hand. If the ball be caught , it shall be released into play immediately. The foot, or leg, may not be used to support the stick in order to resist an opponent 

10 (d) Before penalising a breach under the first sentence of this Rule, the umpire must be satisfied that the player intentionally used some part of his body (other than his hand to stop the ball, either by :-—

(i) moving into the line of the ball, or

(ii) so positioning himself that his intention to stop the ball in such a manner was clear, or

(iii) making no eflort to avoid being hit.

(d) The ball shall not be stopped on the ground or in the air intentionally by any part of the body, except the hand. If the ball be caught, it shall be released into play immediately. The foot, or leg, may not be used to support the stick in order to resist an opponent.

The emphasis on intentional use of the body (which I have highlighted in bold) to stop the ball for there to be an offence is something that should not have been removed from the ball-body contact Rule.

(e) (i) STATIONARY PLAYER ∶ If the ball rebounds from or glances off a player who is stationary and the umpire is satisfied that this was not caused by any intentional use of the body, there is no breach of this Rule however much the ball rebounds or is deflected ; or however great an advantage to the player or to his side is gained thereby.

(ii) MOVING PLAYER : If a moving player is struck by the ball which he cannot avoid and there is no appreciable rebound or deflection the same considerations as in Clause (e) (i) apply.

(iii) MOVING PLAYER ∶ When the ball is hit at a player who is not stationary but who cannot avoid it, there is a breach if the ball is kicked, carried or deflected ; but the umpire should not penalise unless it results in a substantial advantage to the player or his team. If the stroke was, in the umpire’s opinion, dangerous, the striker should be penalised under Rule 10 (c). (Dangerous play)

The above Guidance, with its emphasis on ‘no offence’ without intent, should be included in the current Explanation of Application of Rule 9.11. (and the later forcing Rule, which has been rendered invisible, by attaching it to “other Rules” which do not cover common breaches, should also be restored). The use of the hand to catch the ball was reintroduced briefly in the early 1970’s and then disappeared, but it was still permissible to use the hand in self-defence. That a permit has now also disappeared, leaving evasive action as the only legal means of self defence other than playing the ball with the stick. The fact that umpires rarely (never?) see evasive action as reason to penalise the player who propelled the ball for dangerous play is an indication of the present ’emphasis’ on player safety.

(e) The ball shall not be picked up, kicked, thrown, carried or propelled, in any manner or direction, except with the stick.

This Rule obviously applies only to field-players, because goalkeeper were and are permitted to propel the ball by kicking it; the current Rule could usefully prohibit a goalkeeper from picking the ball up by gripping it in any manner (between stick and kicker for example).

(f) There shall be no hitting, hooking, holding, striking at or interference with the stick of an opponent.

(f) No interference with sticks is permitted.

(g) A player shall not obstruct by running in between an opponent and the ball, nor shall he interpose himself or his stick in any way as an obstruction to an opponent, nor attack from an opponent’s-left unless he touch the ball before he touch the stick or per-son of his opponent. There shall be no charging, kicking, shoving, tripping, striking at, or holding an opponent by any means whatsoever.

(g) Subject to the application of the “advantage” Rule, umpires should be particularly strict on obstruction and the other forms of interference dealt with in this Rule, even If the ball is still being played on the forehand. It should be noted that obstruction does not necessarily depend on the distance of the players concerned from the ball.

A player even if in possession of the ball, may not interpose his body as an obstruction to an opponent. A change of direction by a half-turn of the body with this result may amount to a breach of this Rule. It should be noted, however, that even a complete turn does not constitute a breach unless an opponent has thereby been obstructed in an attempt to play the ball. Obstruction occurs frequently at the roll-in and
should be watched for carefully. The slide tackle used by some goal-keepers often leads to obstruction.

Simple enough, obstruction is any movement of the body which positions it between a opponent and the ball in a way that prevents the opponent playing directly at the ball. If an opponent has to ‘go around’ to get to the ball he or she has been obstructed. I played hockey at a time when this “ It should be noted, however, that even a complete turn does not constitute a breach unless an opponent has thereby been obstructed in an attempt to play the ball”. was ignored, but I rarely had any difficulty with it. I do however  have great difficulty accepting current common practice, players deliberately shielding the ball to prevent a tackle attempt while by-passing an opponent and being allowed to get away with doing so.

(h) A goal-keeper shall be allowed to kick the ball or stop it with any part of his body, but only whilst the ball is inside his own circle. He shall not be penalised if, in stopping a shot at goal, the ball, in the opinion of the umpire, merely rebounds ofi‘ his body. In the event of his taking part in a penalty bully, these privileges shall be denied him ; and he shall not be permitted to remove his pads or any equipment other than his gloves.

This is an area where the older Rules are draconian, a goalkeeper’s task is difficult enough without a goalkeeper being denied the freedom to play the ball in any way that does not endanger other players.

(h) A goal-keeper is not allowed to strike at the ball with his hand, or breast it out with his body. Umpires are disposed to be too lenient towards breaches of the Rules by goal-keepers. The more usual breaches are running between an opponent and the ball when it is about to go behind, opening the legs to let the ball go through when an opponent is within striking distance, and making a wild stroke at the ball when clearing.

The goalkeper must not be allowed further privileges than those given him by this Rule.

(i) If such an incident occurs during a penalty bully, the penalty bully should be played again.

(k) The penalties for rough and dangerous play, or misconduct, should be noted carefully. Persistent breaches of the Rules may suitably be dealt with under this Rule. If rough or dangerous play becomes prevalent, a word of caution to the offender, or offenders, should effectively prevent the game from getting out of hand.

PENALTIES.—Those for breaches of this Rule inside the circle should be noted in conjunction with Rule 18.  (Penalty Bully)

(i) If the ball become lodged in the pads of a goal-keeper, or in the wearing apparel of any player, or umpire, the umpire shall suspend the game and shall restart it by a bully on the spot where the incident occurred (subject to Rule 9 (d) ). (No bully to be played within 5yards of the goal-line)

This ought now be dealt with by the award of a free ball to the opposing side on the 23m line, the present award of a penalty corner is excessive and unfair.

(j) If the ball strike an umpire, it shall remain in play.

(k) Rough, or dangerous, play shall not be permitted, nor any behaviour which, in the opinion of the umpire, amounts to misconduct.

The restoration of a blanket misconduct Rule is open to abuse but nonetheless I believe it is something that needs to be restored.

(k) The penalties for rough and dangerous play, or misconduct, should be noted carefully. Persistent breaches of
the Rules may suitably be dealt with under this Rule. If rough or dangerous play becomes prevalent, a word of caution to the offender, or offenders, should effectively prevent the game from getting out of hand.

PENALTIES.—Those for breaches of this Rule inside the circle should be noted in conjunction with Rule 18.  (Penalty Bully)

I have often been accused of wanting to take hockey back to the early 1990’s, that is true in part, untrue in other parts, there is quite a bit from the 1950’s I would like to see restored – The first part of 10 (d) for example and all of the Notes to it. – and much of that was in place by the late 1930’s – but I would not want all of the Rules extant in 1960, and thirty years beyond that, to be imposed again. it is however quite surprising that people of that time were able to come out of their caves and could write and could even construct reasonable Rules for a game – but of course people have not lived in caves and have been writing and making Rules of one sort or another, not just for a few decades, but for thousands of years. (There is not much evidence that the peoples of Europe ever actually lived in caves – too cold – but it is a fact that they painted the walls of many and they probably used such caves for ceremonial purposes).

There is no evidence that people were less perceptive or less intelligent or less practical, two hundred years ago than they are now – indeed there is good evidence that people are now flooded with so much information that they ‘screen’ most of it out of their consciousness, even information which is necessary and useful to them does not ‘register’ as it should and is not learned. People commonly  ‘switch off’ part way through a sentence they are supposedly reading, unable to cope with anything that contains commas or contains more than about a dozen words – and who remembers what television programs they watched only two or three days previously or what emails they have read in the past week? About 99% of the communication we are exposed to is simply discarded. We do need to be selective about what is deliberately retained, but is any selection taking place when ill-remembered  or misread forum gossip is regarded as the “latest Rule interpretation” and is applied as if Rule?


The above paragraph was prescient, this article appeared in my in-box the following day:-

Here is a paragraph from it.  (my bold)

Ask psychologists and you will hear that repetition and frequent use strengthen your memory. After all, it’s use it or lose it. Do we only need our long-term memory in times of power outages or bad Internet connectivity? Certainly not! Our knowledge and ability to judge hinges on the information permanently available in our minds, not on Google’s search results.[…] The brain wants to be challenged.

(I would say ‘needs’ rather than ‘wants’ – I find myself revising the text of almost everything I read, it has become a habit. For example, the word ‘only’ in the above quoted paragraph is, in my view, misplaced; it should be positioned after the word ‘memory’.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I constantly amend what I have written, certainly in the days immediately following publication, but often weeks or even months later, and even then I am rarely satisfied with the resulting article).



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