Rules of Hockey.
Rule 13 :- the misnamed Free Hit – because the penalty is not necessarily taken with a hit. (A free ball that is raised directly, which may be done with a flick or scoop, cannot be hit; the intentional raising of the ball with a hit outside the shooting circle is prohibited by Rule 9.9)
The raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit.
Additions and alterations made to this article Ist July, 2015
New link added 7th July, 2015.
The continued misnaming of the free ball is however the least of the problems that have beset this penalty since 2009 when the self-pass was introduced into mainstream FIH hockey. The self-pass is not of itself a problem, what is a problem is the raft of requirements and restrictions that accompanied it and also the prohibition of the taking of a free ball, awarded in the opponent’s 23m area, as a direct pass into the opponent’s circle.
The FIH Rules Committee have belatedly, May 2015, made changes to try to address some of the issues that have thus far been brought to their attention.
I shall make comment within a copy of the the document below. (Document original in bold blue text) and wander into other related areas.
Rule 13: Free hits awarded to the attack within 5 metres of the circle
The former requirement that a free hit awarded to the attack within 5 metres of the circle is taken at the nearest point 5 metres from the circle has been deleted.
Of all the measures that accompanied the introduction of the self-pass, that the ball be taken back 5m from the circle line was the only one that made good sense, it was a measure that should have been introduced at the same time the 5m hash circle line was added to pitch markings (2001). Even without the self-pass, allowing the attacking team the possibility of a free ball immediately outside the circle created the potential for ‘a scrum’ as both sets of players tried to be as near to the ball as they could be without being penalised.
The new Rule indicates that free hits awarded to the attack within 5 metres of the edge of the circle are now taken from where the offence occurred (i.e. there is now no requirement to take the ball back outside the dotted 5 metres line around the circle). The Rules surrounding the entry of the ball into the circle still apply, as per Rule 13.2: –
Rule 13.2. still contains this real blocker to quick play and game flow:-
From a free hit awarded to the attack within the 23 metres area, the ball must not be played into the circle until it has travelled at least 5 metres or has been touched by a player of either team other than the player taking the free hit.
This measure was, it is said, introduced for safety reasons but that does not make much sense because there is no restriction on playing the ball directly into the circle in any other phase of play and, because of a quirk in the order in which Rules have been introduced and deleted, a ball that has been unintentionally raised into the circle with a hit in any other phase of play will not be penalised unless dangerous (define dangerous? Quote “At the higher levels almost nothing will be considered dangerous” a daft but widely held and supported view which has been ‘cascaded’ down to club hockey) – so it is not uncommon to see head high crosses made with a hit into the goal-mouth area and to see players hitting at a high ball in such situations. Is this not potentially dangerous?
Just as bizarre is that this restriction on the free ball exists alongside the present penalty corner and the drag-flick shot. The other attempt at restraint and player safety, which makes far more sense, the height restriction on the first hit shot taken during a penalty corner, introduced in the 1980’s, is now circumvented and is almost irrelevant, except for the fact that it is rigourously applied and can be pointed to and “Why is that there then?” can be asked of those who pretend that raising the ball towards other players is not a potentially dangerous action, or worse, that defending players are at fault either for being “in the way” or not possessing the skill to defend themselves on every occasion. When the ‘chip hitters’ of the 1980’s with their new carbon fibre reinforced sticks began hitting the first shot at a penalty corner (with the ball then stopped within the circle) through outrunning defenders and into the goal just below the cross-bar, it was seen that drastic action had to be taken before someone was killed. These days, now using the full composite stick, drag-flickers are often doing the same thing and nobody seems to have noticed or perhaps more accurately, to care very much.
In all of these video examples, most of which focus on the hit raised into the circle, there is displayed an application of the Rules which is slanted against the defending team, even to the extent of ignoring a Rule in the third video (forehand edge hit), and “an emphasis on safety” is entirely absent. Players just don’t seem to know (perhaps because they are rarely penalised for doing it) that intentionally raising the ball with a hit (commonly an edge hit) is, unless shooting at the goal within the circle (which is itself a safety issue when there are defenders between the shooter and the goal), contrary to the Rules of Hockey. Umpires on the other hand don’t seem to be able to recognise either danger or intent.
The following video clip fits well with the last part of the previous one. Penalty corner awarded (of course there was a ball-leg contact ???) I would have been considering a red card and have asked for a video referral to be certain , the offences by the attacker (there was deliberate contravention of Rule 9.9 and a dangerous deliberate physical contact offence) certainly merited at least a 10min yellow.
Penalty corner awarded for dangerous play by the goalkeeper !! ???
Goal awarded. ???
The forehand edge hit seen in the following video is not very hard and the ball does not endanger other players, but the deliberate raising of the ball in this way is an offence. The umpire (perhaps following the controversial UMB advice “forget lifted – think danger“, controversial because it contradicts the Rule wording ) ignores the offence and (after consultation with his colleague to confirm that there was a ball/leg contact – which in this case was not an offence) awards a penalty corner. A great many hits raised into the circle that hit defenders (disadvantage them) result not in a 15m free to the defence but to a penalty corner – the wrong action being seen as accidental and the no-fault action being seen as an offence.
It would make far more sense, and be safer for players, if any raising of the ball directly into the circle with a hit pass was prohibited (and hits that caused a bouncing ball to be played into the circle were a matter of umpire judgement concerning potential danger) and the present unnecessary restriction on the free ball was removed ; so a ball hit along the ground directly into the circle from a free awarded in the opponent’s 23m area would not be automatically penalised irrespective of any danger caused. There could also (perhaps only when a free ball is being taken) be a limit (elbow height?) placed on the height of any ball played into the circle with any stroke other than a hit to reduce the potential for shots at the goal taken while the ball is still above shoulder height, which in my opinion should be prohibited in any case. Let’s have safety Rules, but not the present token in Rule 13 that just messes up the free ball and slows the game.
Danger arising from a ball played along the ground from beyond 5m of the circle is in any case generally going to be caused by the action of a player receiving or trying to intercept it and that is a situation that can arise from any ball played into the circle in any phase of play. If danger does arise because of a deflection within the circle, deliberate or otherwise, it can and should be dealt with by umpires as a matter separate from the playing of the ball into the circle if that is done along the ground. If umpires are able to make “dangerous” (or more usually “not dangerous”) judgements when a ball is ‘accidentally’ (ha ha) raised into the circle with a hit, they can certainly do so when the ball is hit along the ground during the taking of a free ball 5m or more from the circle.
Demanding that the taker of a free within the opponent’s 23m area move the ball 5m with a self pass or pass it to another player, who was initially 5m away, before it can be played into the circle led I think to the self-pass being used far more often then it would otherwise have been. But the self-pass is also restricted in much the same way as the direct pass – there is a demand for 5m of ball travel before the ball may be played into the circle (a requirement imposed so that there is consistency between Rules); so the aim of the taker of a self pass from a position close to the circle most often becomes to ‘win’ further penalty (a penalty corner) rather than to skilfully dribble through a ‘stacked’ defence and create the space to make a pass or to take a shot – the latter a clearly very difficult task in such circumstances (the task of defenders is much easier with the 5m ball travel requirement in place because they know that a self-passer cannot play the ball beyond them into the circle even if creating the opportunity to do so). The deletion of the forcing Rule in 2011 coupled with umpires habitually penalising all ball-body contact makes for an easy decision for the taker of a self-pass about what to ‘reasonably’ attempt when a free ball is taken close to the opponent’s circle and also for some very unattractive hockey.
If the player taking the free hit continues to play the ball (i.e. no other player has yet played it):
- That player may play the ball any number of times, but
- – The ball must travel at least 5 metres, before – That player plays the ball into the circle by hitting or pushing the ball again Alternatively:
- – Another player of either team who can legitimately play the ball must deflect, hit or push the ball before it enters the circle
- – After this player has touched the ball, it can be played into the circle by any other player including the player who took the free hit.
That the ball be played – passed to – a second player, before being played into the circle is an option that is clearly available and it is odd that it is so seldom used. It would have been interesting to see the result if, instead of a 5m ball travel requirement, a pass to a same team player was compulsory before the ball could be played into the opponent’s circle, but then the requirement that same team players be 5m from the ball at the commencement of a free awarded in the opponent’s 23m area would become a much more critical obstacle than it is at present – perhaps we don’t need to look too far to see why the option is not more often explored.
That a self-pass taken while properly retreating opponents are still with 5m of the ball should be treated as an advantage played and normal play should resume as soon as the ball is moved by the taker is something I have been advocating since the self-pass was introduced into the European Hockey League back in 2007. The present interpretation and application is farcical because it is inconsistent and so often clearly plain wrong. Making correct decisions is not assisted by the conflicting coaching videos presented by the FIH Umpiring Committee via Dartfish .com (caused by trying to keep up with the many changes of ‘interpretation’ but without removing videos showing previous ‘outmoded’ inventions – the direction in which a defender was permitted to retreat from a self-passer, for example) or by the long video explanations that have been presented by various National Hockey Associations such as those of Australia and the USA. Application of part of a Rule about the taking of a free ball should not require a twenty minute video (that does not cover all the possibilities).
Commentary and additional guidance: –
The intention of the Rule change is to assist game flow, such that the attack is able to take a quick free hit from the point of the offence, rather than have to take the ball back to the dotted 5 metres line.
The wrong change has been made, taking the ball back a couple of meters is no more onerous and takes no more time than same team players getting 5m from the ball as required. It is the demand for 5m of ball movement and the prohibition on a direct pass into the circle that stops the quick pass and ‘kills’ game flow.
All players other than the player taking the free hit should be at least 5 metres from the ball. If a player is within 5 metres of the ball, they must not interfere with the taking of the free hit or must not play or attempt to play the ball. If this player is not playing the ball, attempting to play the ball or influencing play, the free hit need not be delayed.
A player within 5 metres of the ball at the taking of the free hit is not allowed to engage with play prior to the ball having travelled at least 5 metres.
As long as that player is properly retreating as soon as aware the penalty has been awarded against their team then he or she is not interfering with or delaying the taking of the free – all that the Rule demands of defenders in the situation, – advantage can then be played (opponents in contravention of a Rule requirement but not disadvantaging the side in possession of the ball). Otherwise the umpire probably needs to intervene, either immediately if the interfering is critical or at the first ‘dead-ball’ opportunity if play can continue despite interference.
I think that in any case the introduction of the self-pass into FIH hockey (after two years in the EHL) should have been accompanied by the introduction of a second whistle. Compliance with 1) a stationary ball 2) in the correct place, had already become issues of concern and the only other way to properly deal with contraventions is with resets or reversals (and umpires are far from consistent in this area – even in the coaching videos). Ignoring the Rule requirements demanded of the side awarded a free ball “so that they are not disadvantaged by having to comply with the Rule” (a justification for such inaction offered by a senior umpire) cannot be an option.
A first whistle to stop play and indicate penalty – a second whistle to resume play immediately the umpire is satisfied that the ball is stationary and within reasonable distance (playing distance or less than 2m?) of the place of the offence (ensuring rapid compliance from the team awarded the penalty) would be an easy simplification of the present situation.
The two paragraphs, directly below, particularly the first, bewilder me, I am left wondering from which language they were translated. The second seems to be saying that the defending players who are 5m from the ball when a free ball is awarded must remain 5m from the ball until it is played by the taker, an unnecessary repetition. A simplification and clarification of both paragraphs would be appreciated.
However, at a free hit the ball cannot enter the circle until it has travelled at least 5 metres if the same player continues to play the ball or it has been touched by another player of either team. Defenders who are inside the circle within 5 metres of the free hit are therefore not interfering with play and may also shadow around the inside of the circle a player who takes a self-pass, provided that they do not play or attempt to play the ball or influence play until it has either travelled at least 5 metres or alternatively has been touched by another player of either team who can legitimately play the ball.
Skipping past the first sentence and the first part of the second :which I cannot make sense of :-
Who can define “influence play”? Why add another layer of difficulty, permitting ‘shadow marking’ but not ‘influencing play’ ? What is the difference between them? Why would a defender ‘shadow’ a player in possession of the ball if doing so does not in any way influence their play ?
Players inside the circle who were 5 metres or more from the point of the free hit are not allowed to move and remain in a ‘set’ position within 5 metres of the ball when the free hit is taken.
What is perhaps not appreciated from the wording of the above paragraph is 1) that defending players who are more than 5m from the ball may move towards the player in possession of the ball and close to attempt a tackle or block with the stick, immediately the ball is played by the taker 2) these Rule compliant defenders may be moving towards the ball from several different directions while 3) defenders who were within 5m of the ball must allow the taker to move the ball a distance of 5m before interfering or trying to influence play (however ‘influence’ is defined) and these player/s too may be in any position surrounding the taker, not necessarily between the taker and the goal. In addition to this the umpire has to be aware of the positions and movement of same team players, who are also not permitted to be within 5m of the ball before it is played. It is this complexity, some players having to move away while at the same time some of the same team can be closing on the ball, with the umpire also having to judge exactly how far the ball has been moved (and that need not be in a straight line), which makes being aware of the positions of players when an aerial pass is made ‘a piece of cake’ in comparison – much more space and time – and umpires have declared that to be “too difficult”.
The following video is a diversion from the topic but it serves well to illustrate the above point, the difficulties umpires have with the judgement of timing, distance and the movement of players (the application of the Obstruction Rule also provides a multitude of examples of misjudgement of distance and timing). The umpire concerned had a clear view of the only two players involved and could see where they both were when the ball was raised (a critical thing to note) and where they were when it landed – and where in relation to the initial positions of the players it landed – but he did not make note and he made the wrong decision. How on earth would he cope correctly and consistently with the complications and speed of a quickly taken self-pass from just behind the hash-circle line when there maybe ten or more moving players within 8m of the ball? The answer is, “He will not.” I doubt anyone can.
This is one of my reasons for advocating an “advantage played” approach to the taking of a self-pass when retreating opponents are still within 5m of the ball – the judgements of distances while the ball is being moved and the connected timing issues would simply become unnecessary, they would be irrelevant.
Here is an example of the kind of farcical situations that arise when both defending player and umpire need to decide both 5m from ball and 5m of ball movement – and this example involves just two moving players. Both a foreshortened view and distance from the incident may make either one of these judgements very difficult for the umpire. Is the solution, to ensure certainty, to mark a hockey pitch with a 5m grid or to abolish the need for 5m of ball movement or something else?
It is in any case the choice of the taker to play the ball before opponents have been given opportunity to comply with the Rule requirements; why should they be penalised again because the penalty taker will not allow them to comply with the requirements of the Free Hit Rule?. The original reason for the ‘need not delay’ clause – which was that attackers would not be disadvantaged by waiting for Rule compliance from opponents and also so that game flow would not be compromised – has become inverted and its main use now is as a means of ‘winning’ a penalty corner by force .
Other than indicated above, any playing of the ball, attempting to play the ball or interference by a defender or an attacker who was not 5 metres from the ball, should be penalised accordingly.
Fine – if a defender does not, on award of penalty against his or her team, immediately retreat to attempt to get 5m from the ball, it is right that they be penalised and more so if they instead of retreating, close on the ball-holder – that too is an encroaching offence.
But I don’t think it necessary that same team players be 5m from the ball provided the ball is taken back beyond the hash circle to take the penalty the part of the Rule that has just been deleted. 5m distance was a necessary requirement for a same team player when a free ball could be taken from just outside the circle, but when the ball is withdrawn 5m it then becomes ‘belt and braces’ and umpires have another unnecessary set of 5m compliance to watch for. (That same team players should retreat 5m from the taker of any free ball awarded to their team was introduced into the Rules of Hockey in 1997 and was very quickly abandoned because it was clearly of disadvantage to the team awarded a free – it still is even if confined to free balls awarded in the opponent’s 23m area – why should this means of disadvantage have changed since 1998?)
The Rules Committee will continue to monitor the application and interpretation of this Rule change, based upon feedback from Tournaments, National Associations, Officials and other parties.
That’s good, I count as “other parties”; everybody does.
FIH Rules Committee 23 May 2015
I have focused in this article, as far as raising the ball with a hit is concerned, on the playing of the ball into the circle, the self pass and various 5m requirements, because it is to these areas that the most recent changes to Rule 13 are related, but Rule 9.9. also needs revision. There really isn’t any good reason why intentionally raising the ball with a hit in the area of play outside the shooting circles should be completely prohibited. (which is why we have the conflicting forget lifted – think danger in the UMB)
Back in the 1980’s, when carbon fibre was first used as a reinforcement for wooden hockey sticks, its use on sticks enabled the chip or clip hitting of the ball over great distances (75m or more) at great height (the ball reaching a height of fifty or so feet ). Problems arose when club level players tried to emulate the skills of the elite players: the dangers were obvious to all (pre-match ‘warm-ups’ of a goalkeeper could consist of trying to hit the ball under the cross-bar from behind what was then the 25yd. line). Besides that it was sometimes the case that there wasn’t much hockey being played in the area between the circles when two international teams (or domestic teams with international players) had chip-hit experts in their ranks – it was spectacularly boring, perhaps only the fact that there was then an Off-side Rule prevented a complete absence of mid-field play following a 16 yard hit or a free awarded in the defended 25 yard area (after a short pass to circumvent the prohibition on raising a free hit, extant at the time). The FIH HRB response was an unnecessary ban on all raising of the ball with a hit except when shooting at the opponent’s goal from within their circle. A better course of action would have been to place an absolute limit (a limit applied irrespective of any danger caused) on the height a ball could be raised to with a hit in the area outside the opponent’s circle. Shoulder height would probably have been an acceptable and workable absolute limit for a raised hit that did not endanger another player.
That then would have ‘opened the door’ (because the various elements of hitting cannot reasonably be acted upon in isolation) to considering what height might be deemed to be dangerous play – using any stroke at any distance and in any circumstance (including shooting at the goal), when the ball is played at high velocity towards (at) another player. I have long advocated that sternum or elbow height would be a suitable ‘dangerous’ level. That leaves raising the ball into a player from close range (3m rather than 5m), the present commonly used knee heigh (‘borrowed’ from the Penalty Corner Rules) seems to be an acceptable height.
Intentionally forcing the ball into an opponent’s body from close range,even without raising the ball at all, should of course be restored as an offence.
Then we would have a situation where the ball may once again be raised with a hit except into the opponents circle but, differently, all raised hits would also be subject to criterion independent of the subjective judgement ‘dangerous’ – so there should be be consistency of application and, just as importantly, the opportunity for all players in a match (and not just an individual umpire) to know when a ball had been played either dangerously or in a non-compliant way or both together..