Archive for ‘Advantage’

September 20, 2016

Field Hockey Rules: No advantage gained

Rules of Hockey. The body of a player stops or deflects the ball. Now what?

Rule 9.11 Field players must not stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their body.

It Is not always an offence if the ball hits the foot, hand or body of a field player. The player only commits an offence if they gain an advantage or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way.

It is not an offence if the ball hits the hand holding the stick but would otherwise have hit the stick.

On first reading the Rule and the Explanation of how it is to be applied seems to be straightforward. But, on the evidence of how it is applied, it has to be the most badly written Rule in the rule-book.

Alternatively, very few umpires are taking any notice at all of the Explanation of application that the FIH Rules Committee have provided with the Rule. It does not matter how that instruction is written because umpire are generally applying the Rule Proper and ignoring the provided instructions about how it is to be applied. I can’t think of any other Rule where this approach to the application of it is taken.

In this article, which is only the content of two short video clips, we will look at a team not gaining an advantage because of a ball-body contact – not at all an unusual outcome.



Description. A shot is taken from close range and the goalkeeper blocks it. The ball rebounds from the goalkeeper’s pads and hit the foot of a defender, who attempted to get his foot out of the path of the ball. The ball deflects only slightly, if at all, off the defender and is then collected by a player of the same team as the defender.

Why is there no advantage gained and therefore no offence ? For two reasons:- Firstly, the ball would still have been comfortably collected by a same team player if the contact had not taken place, so the contact made no difference to the outcome: nothing was gained by the defending team that they would not otherwise have had in this case.

Secondly, the opposing team were not disadvantaged in any way (so even if there had been an offence e.g. an intentional ball-foot contact, following Rule 12.1. there would have been no reason to penalise it i.e. no need for the umpire to intervene).

12 Penalties
12.1 Advantage : a penalty is awarded only when a player or team has been disadvantaged by an opponent breaking the Rules.

12.3 A penalty corner is awarded :
a    for an offence by a defender in the circle which does not prevent the probable scoring of a goal
b    for an intentional offence in the circle by a defender against an opponent who does not have possession of the ball or an opportunity to play the ball

The incidents in the second video are worse because the absence of any advantage gained by the ball-foot contacts could not be clearer and there was no possibility whatsoever of any disadvantaging the opposing team.


Description. The initial penalty corner was awarded for a high deflection (not shown) of the ball into an opposing player by a defender in the circle, endangering a player contrary to Explanation given with Rule 9.9.

First penalty corner. The first shot was taken and hit the foot of the defender positioned with his left foot positioned to the front of the goalpost nearer the umpire. The umpire was aware that the ball had hit that foot and then gone out of play over the base-line, but did not know if the shot was on target (which would have resulted in the award of a penalty stroke – the advantage that would then have been gained is obvious). His colleague informed him the shot was going wide of the post: he then, without hesitation, awarded another penalty corner !!! 

For what? There was no advantage gained, the ball was going off the pitch and it still went off the pitch – at the same speed and for all intents and purposes, in exactly the same place. In fact the defending side should have been disadvantaged by the contact, with the award of a 23m restart to the opposing team, rather than the 15m restart they would have had if the ball had gone off without the ball-foot contact.

Second penalty corner. Incredibly, exactly the same scenario was played out during the second penalty corner and again the umpire, consistently (bravo), awarded yet another penalty corner.

Third penalty corner. The shot for the third penalty corner, again intended to be just inside the goal-post, was this time on-target and the defender stopped it with his stick and cleared it away. 

But two penalty corners were awarded that should not have been and this seems to be the norm. During a match there are probably between five and ten times as many free-balls awarded for ball-body contact as for all other offences put together. The vast majority of penalty corners are awarded for ball-body contact – and the astonishing thing is that about 95% of both free-balls and penalty corners should not be awarded – play could and should have been allowed to continue  or in the case of the penalty corner awarded when the ball has continued on out of play, a 23m restart for the attacking team should have been awarded.

It is not difficult to see why this happens and it is by no means a new phenomena. Back in the early 1980’s I was one weekend in a group of umpires who were officiating at a club tournament and heard one of them say, to a relatively inexperienced umpire, that he always penalised all ball-foot contacts because there was always some sort of advantage gained by such contact.

In other words he was bone idle, didn’t like to be made to think and didn’t give a toss about fair play (all of which he would have denied, but he would have been hard pressed to explain why, according to the Rule, penalty should be awarded only when an advantage was gained if an advantage was always gained: why did the HRB bother to point to exception if there was never an exception). He was however considered a good umpire because he was very consistent in penalising both obstruction and ball-foot contact.

Things have changed since then, both forcing and obstruction (ball shielding) are now ignored – driving the interpretation and application of ball-body contact and obstruction to opposite extremes: all and nothing.



August 7, 2016

Field Hockey Rules: Playing ‘Advantage’

Rules of Hockey.

Edited  9th. September, 2016.

The critical difference between “Play on (no offence)” and playing ‘Advantage’ following a ball-body contact that is an offence.

The related Rules and/or Explanation of application.

Rule 9.11. Explanation of application.

It is not always an offence if the ball hits the foot, hand or body of a field player. The player only commits an offence if they gain an advantage or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way.

The above explanation is current and not as it was in 2014 when this match was played. At the time the criteria for offence were a voluntarily made contact or positioning with the intention of stopping the ball with the hand, foot or body.

The previous ‘gains benefit’ criterion was deleted from the Rules of Hockey by the FIH Rules Committee on issue of the 2007-9  rulebook in January 2007. However, Mr. Peter von Reth over-ruled the FIH Rules Committee in February 2007 (an impossibility but it happened) and insisted that ‘gains benefit’ continue to be applied as it was in 2006.  So although ‘gains benefit’ (as the present “gain an advantage”) was not restored to the Rules of Hockey until January 2015, umpires who wanted to progress did as they were told by Mr. von Reth in the intervening eight years – and what the top level umpires were doing was carried by ‘cascade’ to all other levels. The incident in the video can therefore be examined as if current Rule (gain an advantage) should have been applied to it as well as the Explanation extent at the time (voluntarily made contact) because that was what was happening.

12.1 Advantage : a penalty is awarded only when a player or team has been disadvantaged by an opponent breaking the Rules.

(”breaking the Rules” is a neat bit of ambiguity introduced apparently with the intention of fudging the distinction – which was previously very clear – between an offence and a breach of Rule which was not an offence, because it did not meet the criteria for offence. This whole confusing mess arising from the deletion of the word ‘intentionally’ from the Rule Proper).

The MAS player hit with the ball did not commit an offence but he was in breach of the Rule – a ridiculous situation created by a long sequence of deletions and additions to both the Rule Proper and the Explanation of application (or Guidance) since the 1980’s (one of which required, in the Rule Proper, that there be a deliberate ball-body contact – and in what was at the time called the Guidance, an advantaged gained by the contact. None of various versions produced by the HRB/FIH RC over the past thirty plus years have made the slightest difference to the way umpires ‘interpreted’ ball-body contact – and that continues to be the case). 

12.3 A penalty corner is awarded :
a for an offence by a defender in the circle which does not prevent the probable scoring of a goal

There was no offence

2.2 Advantage :
a it is not necessary for every offence to be penalised when no benefit is gained by the offender ; unnecessary interruptions to the flow of the match cause undue delay and irritation.

There was no offence to penalise but had the MAS player intentionally made contact with the ball in this incident (an offence) then ‘advantage’ could have been played. Advantage from the ball-foot could not have been played if the ESP player gained an advantage from an unintentional contact by the MAS player, it would be illogical to assert that both players/teams had advantage following a single ball-body contact by a single player, the MAS team were in fact disadvantaged by the foot contact made by their player.

I have posted the relevant part of the match video, with commentary, exactly as it was posted to YouTube within the full match video so that the comments and opinions of the umpires as well as the commentators may be known. What is obvious is that everybody accepted or believed that the ball-foot contact by the MAS player was an offence, when it clearly was not, meeting none of the criteria for an offence.

  1.  The contact was not made voluntarily.
  2.  The MAS team did not gain an advantage from the contact, they were in fact disadvantaged because of it, the ball being slowed and deflected so that it was easily collected by the second ESP player – who had an advantage ‘handed’ to him.
  3. The MAS player did not position with the intention of using his foot to stop or deflect the ball – he was in fact surprised by the deflection off the stick of the ESP player in front of him when the ESP player failed to control the ball and could not avoid being hit with it.  

So despite what he said he did the match umpire did not give or allow an advantage, he could not have done so because there was no offence, he in fact simply allowed play to continue because there was no reason for him to intervene. He could perhaps have usefully called out ”No offence-play on”.

Note should also be taken of this Rule (or is it advice?)  provided in the section following Conduct of Play: Players, entitled Conduct of Play: Umpires.

12 Penalties

12.1 Advantage : a penalty is awarded only when a player or team has been disadvantaged by an opponent breaking the Rules.

So even where there is a breach of Rule or an offence there is no reason to penalise if the opposing team have not been disadvantaged by it. How often that could be pointed out to the umpire who penalises ball-body contact as a reflex. In the incident under review the ESP team were certainly not disadvantaged by the ball-foot contact of the MAS player, they probably gained advantage because of it.

Advantage combo

The incident then took on a surreal slant as the video umpire, ignoring the ball shielding and ball-leading of the second ESP player as he moved to turn towards the goal (clearly an obstruction offence – but I will not go into the detail of that here), invented an interference with ‘the advantage’. Which advantage he was referring to is unclear but the penalty corner was apparently awarded because the ball-foot contact at the top of the circle did not lead to a clear advantage for the ESP team – which is a very strange interpretation of both Rule 9.11 and Rule 12.1.

Coaching note.

Pictures 4, 5, 6 above. The first ESP player, having seen the MAS player at the top of the circle deflect the ball and the second ESP player take control of it, should – instead of stopping and standing with his hand up in the air in appeal – have continued to play and rapidly supported the second ESP player to give him a back-pass option. A quick short back-pass would then have created an easy chance for the first ESP player to shoot at the goal from directly in front of it or to past to the third ESP player closer to the goal.

May 14, 2016

Field Hockey Rules: A curious muddle

 Edited 2oth May 2016

I wonder when one of the senior umpires is going to have the courage to say in public what is obvious to all – the ban on playing a free-ball directly into the opposing team’s circle from within the opponent’s 23m area and the 5m restrictions (and the amendments to them) imposed since 2009, are not simple or clear additions to the Rules of Hockey: they are evidently still not understood. They not useful either, serving no good purpose (what evidence for improvement to player safety or game flow is there ?): they should be deleted.



1)  Safety.   Prohibit the raising of the ball into the circle with a hit in any phase of play (irrespective of intention).

Replacing a Rule which was ‘lost’, deleted as unnecessary, when the prohibition on the intentionally raised hit, except when shooting at the opponents goal, was introduced in the late 1980’s to curtail the pitch length chip or clip hit – when all that was needed for such control was an absolute limit on the height of a hit that was not a shot at the goal. A control, along with clear height limits for dangerous play, that could still be usefully introduced in place of the current prohibition on raising the ball with a hit other than when shooting at the opponent’s goal.

At present we have ineffective prohibition of the intentional rasing of the ball with a hit – ineffective because it depends on the near impossibility of determining intention with certainty –  when not shooting at the opponents goal, and in practice no control at all of the raised shot made at the opponent’s goal.


2) Compliance.  Introduce a second whistle to restart play when the game is interrupted to award a free-ball (blown as soon as the ball is stationary in the correct place – irrespective of the positions of members of the offending team unless there is interference with the free by a member of the offending team and cause for further penalty).

3) Flow.    Treat an early taken self-pass (when properly retreating defenders have been given no opportunity to get 5m from the ball) as an advantage played – normal play to resume as soon as the ball is moved.

Restore attacking free-ball within 5m of the opponent’s circle to be taken from outside the hash circle (recently deleted but the only 5m restriction introduced in 2009 which did make sense – with free play into the circle a self-pass from just outside the circle becomes more of an advantage than a penalty corner would be)


There is one further amendment to the Rules of Hockey which could and I believe should be enacted for safety reasons before the Rio Olympics; it is an addition to the recently amended Rule 9.7. concerning the playing of the ball at above shoulder height:-


Playing or playing at the ball when it is above shoulder height is prohibited to any player who is in the opposing team’s circle.

It is very strange that a ball that is scooped (or raised accidentally with a hit or deflection) high into the circle in open play can (subject to dangerous play) be hit on the volley at the goal, especially when umpires are openly declaring  – contrary to Rule as well as to common sense – that an ‘on target’ shot at the goal cannot be considered dangerous; and yet, a free ball awarded in the opponent’s 23m area cannot, for safety reasons, be played directly into the circle, even along the ground ……..”Curiouser and curiouser ! “


December 5, 2015

Field Hockey Rules. Forcing. Advantage gained. The Advantage Rule

Edited  8th June 2016

During the World League Australia v Great Britain match at the beginning of December 2015 there were three penalty corners awarded to the Australian team that require closer examination. I’ll begin with the second of them because it was the only one that involved that form of cheating known, very forgivingly, as “finding a foot”, previously known as a forcing offence.

I need to start the examination by a look at the, now deleted as a separate offence, action of forcing the ball into contact with the body (usually the foot or leg) of an opponent.

In the Introduction to the 2011-13 Rules of Hockey under Rules Changes, the deletion of the offence of forcing was ‘explained’ as follows:-

The changes in this edition of the Rules essentially seek to simplify the game without altering its fundamental characteristics.

The Rule which used to say that “players must not force an opponent into offending unintentionally” (previously Rule 9.15)  is deleted because any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules:…

That does not say that  (sic) Playing the ball clearly and intentionally into any part of an opponent’s body as an attempt to manufacture an offence is no longer an offence, but that where another Rule is breached by such an action – and it is stated that any such action is covered by other Rules – what was once a separate forcing offence will bedealt with under those other Rules.

Unfortunately this possibly well intentioned reasoning is flawed; it demonstrates an ignorance of the Rules of Hockey (or is an outright lie) and also an ignorance of human nature (or an unsupportable faith in it), because not all forcing actions can be “dealt with” by other Rules and because we immediately had an ‘interpretation’ made up that declared that “dealt with” did not mean “penalise”. The justification for this ‘interpretation’ was that if the FIH RC meant “penalised” they would have written “penalised”. It turned out that this interpretation of “dealt with” really meant ‘ignore’ –  no-one promoting this deviant interpretation ever did explain what “can be dealt with” does mean if it does not mean ‘may be penalised’.

There are only three legitimate ways of dealing with an offence under the Rules of Hockey, the first is – if possible – to allow advantage to the team offended against, the second is to allow play to continue if opponents have not been disadvantaged by an offence (neither of which are often readily applied in a forcing offence situation) and the third is to penalise the offence.

Okay, the ball is played into an opponent –clearly and intentionally” are now gone, possibly one reason or even the real reason for the change.  What other offence might such an action be? There is only one possibility, dangerous play, specifically a breach of Rule 9.8. i.e. causing legitimate evasive action or a breach of Rule 9.9:- 

Players are permitted to raise the ball with a flick or scoop provided it is not dangerous. A flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5 metres is considered dangerous.

The UMB is not the Rules of Hockey but if we accept from it the advice that:- “Low balls over defenders sticks in a controlled manner that hit half shin pad are not dangerous” then, putting that advice together with the Rule, any ball played towards an opponent within 5m, at above half-shin pad heigh, must be considered to be dangerous play (and intent is irrelevant).

I didn’t write these Rules, I am quoting them while trying to fill in the gaps with reasonable deductions based on what is given. The “within 5m and at or above knee height” criteria, taken from the height limitation on the first hit shot made during a penalty corner, cannot displace the explanation of application given in Rule 9.9. which relates to all phases of play.

Regrettably this change only simplified the Rules by creating an absurd unfairness, as what had been forcing offences continued to be simply ignored. They were previously ignored with the pretense that “clearly and intentionally” was always too difficult to see or be certain about  – umpires then treating all ball-body contact as an offence by the player hit with the ball (there apparently is no such difficulty in assuming either intent or advantage gained by a player hit with the ball) .

The other change made at the same time in the 2011-13 Rules of Hockey was the prohibition of playing the ball directly into the circle from a free awarded in the opponent’s 23m area – which could win a prize for the introduction of unnecessary complications – so not two changes that can be considered to be a success in the process of simplification without altering the fundamental characteristics of the game.

The following clip is of what is very clearly a forcing of a ball-leg contact. Participants seem oblivious to the fact that such forcing is an offence but now ‘dealt with’ under the dangerous play Rules  –  if it is in fact dangerous play i.e. a breach of the conditions of either Rule 9.8. or 9.9. 

The ball is not raised very much so may have been beneath the ‘non-Rule’ level of half shin pad, in which case (if the advice from the UMB is accepted) there is no Rule that ‘deals with’ this sort of deliberate forcing, despite what the FIH RC have declared to the contrary: an uncomfortable conflict. 

There is no shortage of examples in other matches of the deliberate forcing of a ball/body contact, often at well above knee height, resulting in penalty against the player hit, it occurs so frequently that a spectator unfamiliar with the game might believe such play to be a legitimate aim or ‘the‘ way to ‘win’ a penalty corner and not in fact a dangerous play offence. 

Particularly the last of the three incidents in the following clip


Back to the original match

The second incident.

I am not sure if the umpire penalised for the attempt at a tackle which involved physical contact or for a ball-body contact offence. If the penalty corner was awarded for the tackle attempt then the defender got off lightly, as that action could and probably should have been penalised with a penalty stroke (as should the much more blatant and forceful example later in the video clip). This, from the 2015 Rules of Hockey, under Applying the Rules in the Introduction :-

The FIH Rules Committee continues to be concerned that some Rules are not applied consistently.

Rule 9.12: obstruction. Umpires should penalise shielding the ball with the stick more strictly. They should also look out for a tackling player who by pushing or leaning on an opponent causes them to lose possession of the ball.

has not been acted upon as much as it should have been.

There is obviously no positioning by the defender with intention to use the foot to stop the ball and I can’t see any gaining of advantage (this must be a subjective judgement). The two players involved end up in a tussle for the ball at the top of the circle; if the ball had missed the defender’s foot there would probably have been a tussel for the ball between two other opposing players – no difference – and play could and should have been allowed to continue.


The third incident.

This decision is bizarre and wrong. Having allowed play to continue because the ball had fallen to the advantage of the AUS team, the umpire seems to have awarded them a penalty corner simply because they did not manage to use their advantage to create a shooting opportunity. There was no offence by the GB player, there is clearly no intent and he can hardly be said to have gained an advantage – and therefore committed an offence – if the opposing team had advantage and the umpire allowed play to continue because of it. This kind of decision making is called ‘brain fade’. Of course the umpire, like many others, possibly didn’t consider the criterion for offence and make a subjective decision based on them, he simply followed the false objective mantra, “A ball-foot contact is an offence”.

But we also have this from the Applying the Rules , Advantage, in the section of the rulebook entitled Umpiring.

2.2.d having decided to play advantage, a second opportunity must not be given by reverting to the original penalty.

No penalty is applicable anyway when advantage is applied following a ball-body contact by opponents because, barring intent, if the opponents have not gained advantage from the contact there is no offence. It is not possible for both teams to have gained an advantage or have advantage following a ball-body contact by a single player.

Rule 9.11. It is not always an offence if the ball hits the foot, hand or body of a field player. The player only commits an offence if they gain an advantage or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way.

That explanation of the application of the Rule might be improved by removing the word “always” or by starting with  It is seldom an offence….

But the Rule proper:-  9.11 Field players must not stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their body 

would be much  improved by simply reinserting the word “intentionally”:-

9.11 Field players must not intentionally stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their body 

The above explanation of application would then be unnecessary and the Rule clear, but that (horror of horrors) would mean rewriting the Rule in the way that it was previously written (up until 2004) and then requiring umpires to apply it as it as written  i.e.not penalising unless there was certainty about intent, in the same way as they insisted on doing when the forcing of contact was penalised only if clearly intentional (but in the case of forcing not even then). 


November 1, 2015

Field Hockey Rulebook Rewrite. Rule 12.1. Penalties Advantage

A  suggested rewrite of the Rules of Hockey

The current Rule 12.1


Advantage: a penalty is awarded only when a player or team has been disadvantaged by an opponent breaking the Rules

Umpiring 2.2 Advantage

a    it is not necessary for every offence to be penalised when no benefit is gained by the offender ; unnecessary interruptions to the flow of the match cause undue delay and irritation.

b    when the Rules have been broken, an umpire must apply advantage if this is the most severe penalty

c    possession of the ball does not automatically mean there is an advantage ; for advantage to apply, the player/team with the ball must be able to develop their play

d    having decided to play advantage, a second opportunity must not be given by reverting to the original penalty.

e    it is important to anticipate the flow of the match, to look beyond the action of the moment and to be aware of potential developments in the match.

Action.  Amendment

Reason. Clarification of words used, resolving possible conflict or muddle. Defining ‘advantage’.



Useful comment and suggestions welcome.


Advantage: a penalty need be awarded by an umpire only when a team has been disadvantaged by an opponent who has committed an offence, if an offence committed by an opponent does not disadvantage a team then there is no reason to interrupt play. 


1)   it is extremely unlikely that play will be permitted to continue without penalty in the case of a dangerous play offence, particularly where injury is caused to a player.

2)   a penalty stoke may be awarded to the attacking team if an opponent directly prevents the scoring of a goal while being unintentionally in breach of Rule 9.11. ball-body contact – always provided the defender’s ball-body contact was not caused by intentional forcing play or dangerous play by the attacking team.

3)   a free ball may be awarded to the defending team when a player makes unintentional ball body contact, in breach of Rule 9.11, while within the opponent’s 23m area and that player or a member of that player’s team, retain or regain possession of the ball and can play on to the disadvantage of the defending team

Umpiring 2.2 Advantage

a    it is not necessary for every offence to be penalised when no benefit is gained by the offender ; unnecessary interruptions to the flow of the match cause undue delay and irritation.

b    when a player commits an offence and opponents can still play on with advantage, an umpire must allow the advantage if that is the most severe penalty

c    possession of the ball does not automatically mean there is an advantage ; for advantage to apply, the player/team with the ball must not have less opportunity to develop play than they would have had if the offence had not occurred,  but it is not necessary, for advantage to be applied, that the advantage be superior to the opportunity the team offended against would have had to develop their play if the offence had not occurred.  Betterment is not a requirement for the application of advantage, the criteria is equality – no significant difference of opportunity.

d    having decided to play advantage, a second opportunity must not be given by reverting to the original penalty if the team given reasonable opportunity to develop their play then fail to do so.

e    it is important to anticipate the flow of the match, to look beyond the action of the moment and to be aware of potential developments in the match.