Vast Majority Consensus


I want to make some observations about consensus, ‘vast majorities’, and social norms and I believe the best way to ‘set the stage’ is to relay comment made about an incident shown in one of the video clips I posted on YouTube; my reply to that comment and the ensuing discussion, because Michael Magolien, the umpire who made the initial comment, then supported it with arguments which have previously been refuted many times over, in forum posts and in this blog (with no effect, except possibly ‘entrenchment’. There are a couple individuals who have told me in forum posts they hold the views they do only because those views oppose my views – which makes them sad cases really). Michael admits during our exchange (below) that he contradicts his own beliefs (he agrees with mine) when applying Rule “as others are doing” or (the same thing) as he has been instructed to do, but will nonetheless continue to umpire in the same way.

The above video opens with an umpire erroneously penalising a defender who has had the ball raised into his legs from within 5m. The umpire even says, (as an afterthought, when he began to reflect on his decision, while talking to the video umpire) “although it was raised” (betraying Rule knowledge that conflicted with his penalising the player hit with the ball).

During this first incident the commentators were prattling on about ‘great skill’ because the ESP player who raised the ball, ran a few meters with it in control on his stick, with his head up – and intended to hit the MAL player when he raised the ball at him with a flick. Running with the ball in control on the stick with the head up (holding the ball in peripheral vision) is an exercise of novice level. It’s not possible to play hockey well without this skill, so no player who does not possess it to a high degree has earned the right to be playing hockey at international level. Intentionally raising the ball at an opponent from close range is not a legitimate skill, it is an offence (commentators appear to be required to forget any Rule knowledge they may once have had)

Incidentally, illegal raising of the ball towards another player has nothing at all to do with the criteria for an over-height first hit-shot made during a penalty corner – i.e. knee height or above (penalising for dangerous play only when the ball is raised towards a close opponent, at or above knee height, is a ‘convention’ which is a result of ‘herding’ – a meme) there is no minimum limit for “raised towards” in the Explanation provided with Rule 9.9., which is the relevant Rule in open play.

The video incident Michael Margolien made comment about is the last one in the clip, in which the other umpire makes a similar decision, awarding a penalty corner against a ESP player who has had the ball intentionally raised into his legs by a MAL player, from very close range. Both umpires might  have made different decisions if the ball had been raised to above knee height (and it is only ‘might’ there are plenty of examples of players being hit with a ball raised significantly above knee height from within 5m and being penalised for failing to avoid being hit, even when evasion was not possible), but there is no reason in the Rules of Hockey to differentiate between a ball that has been raised at knee height or above from one that has been raised into the shin of an opponent.

(The statement in the Umpire Managers’ Briefing  – for FIH Umpires at Tournament level – that a ball raised to below half shin-pad height (20cms ??) in a controlled way is not dangerous, has been in the briefing for a number of years. The FIH Rules Committee have declined to incorporate that statement into the Rules of Hockey, specifically the Explanation of application given with Rule 9.9., so it is not a criteria in any Rule. But a player into whom the ball has been raised at below knee height – even if significantly above half-shin-pad height – is likely, as we see here, to be penalised, even if the contact was intentionally forced by an opponent. Other recent articles in this web-blog contain videos examples of intentional, above knee height contact forcing, resulting in penalty against the player hit – fortunately this has not become common unless the incident could have been a shot at the goal and the umpire a disciple of weird inventions).


Michal Margolien 3 weeks ago
The defender should be responsible for their feet (last section of the video), especially since there was an attacker right behind them.


ZigZagHockey 3 weeks ago

You are saying that if a defender fails to defend a forcing offence (yes forcing is still an offence if ‘other Rules‘ are contravened) and is hit with the ball then the defender should be penalised. That cannot be so, it is illogical. The attacker was in clear contravention of what is given in Explanation of application to Rule 9.9.; that is the attacker committed a dangerous play offence – and it looks to me as if he did so deliberately.
I must add that if it is considered that a defender is obliged to defend his feet and legs (which should not in any case be ‘attacked’ with the ball), then the player in possession of the ball is obliged, by the same reasoning, to have the skill to make a pass without hitting his opponent with the ball. It is unreasonable and unfair to demand a difficult skill from a defender but not to require basic competence from an attacker who is in possession of the ball.

I neglected to point out in that reply, that only a few minutes previously, the MAL players had demonstrated that they possessed the skills necessary to avoid playing the ball into opponent’s legs, when they wanted to avoid doing so – and to instead play hockey (which was very attractive – spectacular).

I have often commented that if a ‘practice’ is not in the Rule book it is not a Rule, but a half-way situation was created by the Rules Committee in 2011. The ‘deletion’ of the forcing Rule was not a deletion at all, but a ‘bait and switch’- the FIH Rules Committee stated, in the Preface of the 2011 Rules of Hockey, when commenting on the ‘deletion’, that all actions of this sort can be covered by other Rules, so in effect there are still a number of forcing Rules (not just one as previously), but they are not referred to as forcing offences and the Forcing Rule Proper has disappeared. This is not a ‘simplification and clarification’ – especially as not all actions which could previously have been penalised as ‘forcing’ under the Rules of Hockey in 2010, can be penalised under any other current Rule – it is a mystification, obscurantism. There is no forcing Rule in the Rules of Hockey but (most) forcing actions are still an offence.

Those not aware there was a forcing Rule in 2010, which has been transferred to “other Rules” since 2011, have no means of knowing, from the 2017 Rules of Hockey, that all forcing actions are offences: the fact cannot be verified without reference to a rule-book that is more than six years old, and by then establishing that no other relevant changes to the Rules have been made since 2011. The idea of carrying forward, from previous versions of the Rules of Hockey, information that has been deleted at some point, isn’t viewed very favorably by most participants – even when the deletions – carried out, it is always claimed, with simplification and clarification in mind, have resulted in some very oddly written Rules and bizarre interpretation and practice.

Michal Margolien 3 weeks ago

I do understand your reasoning and I like it 🙂 However, this is how hockey umpiring is interpreted and umpired these days and is being consistently blown (aka players expect it).


ZigZagHockey 3 weeks ago

Michal, I would prefer that you offered argument against my reasoning other than declaring ‘that is how it is interpreted these days”. why do we have bizarre interpretation; that is interpretation that does not logically interpret the wording given in the Rule and Explanation of Application? Convince me to change my mind, give me reason to do so.


Michal Margolien 2 weeks ago
I’m not trying to convince you to change your mind because I agree with your reasoning! 🙂 But on the pitch I will be consistent with other umpires and will blow it as an offence.


ZigZagHockey 2 weeks ago
What is the point of consistency when it is incorrect, when what you are penalising is not an offence by the player you penalise but by the opponent? Why be consistently wrong?

I made little progress as an umpire for two reasons. I was forty-seven years old before I joined an Umpiring Association, although I had been umpiring since the time I was at school. That was because during the period I was playing, umpiring and playing at the same time was actively discouraged to avoid conflict of interest if an umpire could be appointed to officiate in the same league in which he or she was playing – which was daft because such conflicts should have been easily avoided by an appointments official (now that officials use computers they are avoided). But also because I absolutely refused to make decisions that were contrary to the Rules of Hockey just because other umpires were doing so.

I also did not make decisions based on what players expected, for the same reason – after all ‘player expectation‘ is shaped and conditioned by the decisions umpires have previously made. Using ‘player expectation‘ as a reason for making a decision is therefore circular reasoning and not a valid excuse for not applying the Rules correctly.

It has always annoyed or amused me to hear the fatuous excuse ‘player expectation’, as it has usually come from those who frequently and loudly declare that players do not know the Rules of Hockey. Okay, that may be so, but how can players know the Rules of Hockey if umpires are applying something else? They can only learn what is in the rule-book and then become aware that this is not adhered to.

I don’t regret not being a high flying umpire, I made the choice to play on into my early fifties – and enjoyed playing, and I was in any case asked to officiate in many high level games, which I think I did without disgracing myself or annoying players more than they deserved.


Michal Margolien 2 weeks ago
I very much agree with you!


ZigZagHockey 2 weeks ago
Okay Michal, I don’t want to see a ‘train crash’ of your umpiring career but, you cannot agree with me and in good conscience continue dong what you know to be incorrect. What are you going to do about that?

I suggest you talk about Rule application to other umpires,‘ especially the ones who are officiating with you during the season. Best of luck.


Michal Margolien 2 weeks ago
Martin, well I guess that this discussion should be with the HRB and not between the two of us 🙂

As long as this is the vast majority consensus interpretation with the HRB, umpire managers, umpires and the hockey world in general, this issue is not that important to me in my life to fight for it but I cross my fingers for you.


ZigZagHockey 2 weeks ago

I see the FIH Rules Committee (no longer called the HRB), who write the Rules, as opposed to what has been created by umpires’ managers and hence by umpires. But it seems they too prefer a quite life and sorting out the differences is not important to them.

And there the conversation ended. I need to insert two more videos (both posted on YouTube in 2011) and describe a match incident which will illustrate points related to the above conversation. The first video:-

The above incident was discussed at length on a hockey forum and the consensus (with no dissenters) was that the umpire blundered. There is clearly no intent to use the foot, advantage gained was not in the Rules at the time (but applied as if it was  – which was the result of bullying by a single individual FIH official and not at all a majority decision), but there is clearly no advantage gained by the defending team, so there was no offence and a corner should have been awarded, not a penalty-corner. Just as obviously (even though this would be relevant only if there has been an offence – so not relevant in this instance) the attacking team were not disadvantaged because of the contact. Had the umpire concerned previously been in a forum discussion about a similar incident there can be little doubt that he too would have said during that discussion that the award of a penalty corner was incorrect and a corner correct. So what is going on when these kinds of decisions are made, why do umpires make decisions they know to be incorrect?

Such decisions are not uncommon. I recall another, in an international match involving the Argentinean Women’s team (against Germany I think), where the ARG goalkeeper kicked the ball into the back of the legs of an ARG defender positioned within 1m of the base-line. (Had the ball not hit the defender it would have gone to another ARG player, positioned wide, near the edge of the circle and the base-line.) After hitting the defender the ball spun on the ground and then trickled out of play over the base-line; no attacker got close enough to take advantage of the loose ball (but not much effort was made to get to it as all the players expected a penalty-corner to be awarded). A penalty corner was awarded. I believe that if the umpire concerned saw that incident in a game officiated by someone else, and thought about it, her view would have been that the award of a penalty-corner was not correct. Even if she had *(bizarrely) considered the ball-leg contact to have been an offence, there would have been no reason to award anything other than a corner, because the opposing team were not disadvantaged by the contact (they in fact gained advantage because of it – correctly a corner should have been awarded and the award of that corner would have been an advantage to the attacking team in the circumstances i.e compared with what would probably have happened if the defender had not been hit with the ball ).

* The award of a penalty-corner when a goalkeeper kicks the ball into the back of the legs of one of her own team is a bizarre decision. The player hit never intends to be hit with the ball and it is extremely unlikely that there will be any advantage gained by the defending team – the only other criteria for offence – quite the contrary, so what possible offence could there be? I have video clips of this happening in four different matches and on each occasion the umpire awarded a penalty corner, instead of, correctly, there being no significant injury to the player hit, allowing play to continue.  When the player hit is injured, then what? A bully is probably the fairest decision – there will be a no fault stoppage. I can see these assertions, particularly the last one, causing apoplexy in certain quarters, but I make them nonetheless, because unless an attempted clearance kick by a goalkeeper is dangerous to another player and also disadvantages the opposing team, there is no reason for the umpire to intervene.

A problem seems to be that umpires at the highest levels are receiving very simplistic coaching aimed at producing consistent decisions (which are supposed to be subjective rather than objective decisions, but cannot be subjective because of the nature of the instructions given). What the top umpires are doing is then cascaded to other levels – but a cascade is not a suitable method of passing down what are supposed to be subjective (i.e. personal judgements)  based on two criteria – intent or advantage gained – which both require judgements to be made. Simplistic coaching, based largely on a meme such as “a defender’s foot contact in the circle is an offence for which a penalty corner must be awarded” and “a ball-body contact will be of advantage to the team of the player making it.” does not make allowance for the exceptions, the numerous instances where a ball-foot or ball-body contact in fact disadvantages the team of the player who made it – and is not by any criterion an offence.

A simple instruction, which possibly fits in many cases, becomes, when blindly followed, a cause of blunder. The only hope is that a blunder will be pointed out immediately by an umpire coach or TD (but too late for the team that suffered because of it) and the umpire will learn from the experience and do better next time. Too often however a blunder is ‘whitewashed’ or denied and the decision endorsed and the mistake is repeated – and possibly even pointed to as an example of good practice – maybe in a hockey forum.(Some of the decisions and the ‘Interpretations’ explaining them, posted as umpire coaching on, fall into this category of mistake. Obstruction 3 and Obstruction 6 for example.

Without very similar specific experiences to draw on the umpire needs to take time to reflect (not difficult if the ball has gone dead, but there is anyway generally no great rush required when considering whether or not to award a penalty-corner – blow the whistle to stop the game and then think!) and decide if an exception to a general instruction would be correct. This is referred to, in the physiological and social sciences, as using System 2 (slower deliberation and reflection) rather than System 1, (where the decision is made ‘automatically’ and is more reaction and reflex than it is thinking – the decision is made before there has been sufficient time allowed for conscious though – such responses are generally more useful to well trained players reacting to events in play, such as avoiding or stopping a raised ball, rather than to umpires making Rule decisions based on those same actions).

To illustrate this kind of automatic thinking, here is a question from a physiological experiment, which has become the kind of thing asked on some job and college application forms to test the ability of applicants to think clearly (logically). It is not difficult to arrive at the correct answer if the information given (by analogy the Rules of Hockey) is taken note of, in fact it is a very easy problem, but unless candidates have seen it before, the majority, especially when under time pressure, give a wrong answer.

A child’s bat and ball cost a total of £1. 10p.    The bat costs £1.00 more than the ball.     How much does the ball cost?

Now that you have been primed to take care you should have little problem arriving at the correct answer. (allow yourself three minutes, System 2, even if your initial answer occurred to you in less than three seconds, System 1 – and you believe it to be correct). You can if you wish post your answer as a comment. A solution is provided at the bottom of this page.

I embedded written comment in the second video, below, when I posted it back in 2011. It is one of the most outrageous examples of an umpire following player expectation I have seen (but others come close to it). At the time the match was played (2010 World Cup) the intentional forcing of a ball-body contact was still a stand alone offence – and there can be no doubt about the intent of the ENG player. Why would any umpire reward such a blatant breech of a Rule , by an attacker, with a penalty-corner? The umpire who was officiating at that end of the pitch did so. (This particular breech, by the way, because the ball was not raised, contravened no other Rule except the now deleted Forcing Rule). I believe that the vast majority of umpires would say, if asked, that the umpire blundered – given time to think it over, he probably would himself.

The second video:-

I have not used many examples but I believe that the vast majority of umpires (and even those directly involved) would not – on reflection – have awarded a penalty corner in any of the above instances. I don’t think that the vast majority consensus is as Michael has portrayed it to be. How many senior umpires disagree with the instructions they are given, but, as he does, carry them out anyway, so that they can continue to be appointed to umpire at a high level – and to ‘progress’? Probably the vast majority. The cascade system and social or peer pressure to conform to “what others are doing” that it produces, will also hide the fact that the vast majority of club umpires don’t have a clue why they are being pushed in a direction that makes no sense at all, but this apparently is not important enough to them, for sufficient of them, to want to try to do anything about it.

There is hope; the seemingly unassailable Soviet Union and its Communist government collapsed with astonishing speed when the majority of its citizens realized that they despised the style of living that was imposed on them by this system – and that they could do something about that, even if it was very hard to do so – impossible is nothing.


A child’s bat and ball cost a total of £1. 10p.    The bat costs £1.00 more than the ball.     How much does the ball cost?

The response generally given almost immediately, the reflex or intuitive answer (gut feeling) is that the ball costs 10p., but a closer examination of the given costs, starting with the fact statement that the bat costs £1.00 more than the ball shows that to be an error.


if it is assumed that the ball costs 10p and it is given that the bat costs £1.00 more than the ball, then the bat costs £1.10 – but £1.10. is given as the total cost of both together – and a ball price of 10p would give a total of £1.20.

It should now be obvious that the cost of the ball is 5p – that the bat costs £1.05 (£1.00 more than the ball) and then the total is £1.10. which matches the initial fact statement.

The solution can be arrived at by constructing an algebraic equation, by substitution (which was used to demonstrate) or by trial and error, but whichever is used it will take more time to arrive at a solution than a ‘gut reaction’, unless you happen to be very used to doing maths problems and can work out the answer in the same way that you ‘work out’ what 2 + 2 comes to (‘working out’ is here deeply embedded knowledge – learning – together with long experience, or simply memory)


It has to be pointed out however that if an umpire makes a decision based on remembering what he or she did the last time there was a ball-body contact (or worse, follows a decision another umpire made in a previous match) it is very unlikely (impossible) that a subjective decision has been made. Every incident of ball-body contact is unique and requires a separate subjective judgement to be made, this judgement must be based on the actual actions seen in relation to the criteria for offence provided in the Rules of Hockey.





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