Archive for ‘Advantage’

July 6, 2015

Field Hockey Rules. Goalkeeper propels ball into defender.

Rules of Hockey. Ball-body contact by defender caused by attempted clearance or deflection off goalkeeper.

The match between Australia and Great Britain at the weekend drew my attention again to the fact that it seems to be the custom to automatically award a penalty corner when the ball is propelled by the goalkeeper (either while making a save or attempting to kick the ball clear), into the back of a defender, even when the ball is not propelled dangerously by the goalkeeper. There were two such incidents in that game.

The video below begins with a match between Argentina and Great Britain women a few years ago – so before the change made to the ball-body contact Rule in January 2015. The criteria for a ball-body contact offence at the time, there being no dangerous play from the goalkeeper to consider as the ball was kicked along the ground, was positioning with the intention of using the body to stop/deflect the ball or a voluntarily made contact. Obviously neither applied in the circumstances as the defender had her back to the ball and did not know it was going to hit her. Had gained benefit then applied (it did not) that would have had no bearing either as the ball was heading towards other ARG players and no GB player was in contention for it. The umpire awarded a penalty corner immediately the ball hit the defender. Why? Why not allow play to continue?

In the first incident during the AUS v GB match the goalkeeper deflects the ball down into the ground and it bounces into the defender who is unable to get a stick on it or prevent a ball-leg contact although he does try to avoid being hit. Again there is the immediate award of a penalty corner.

For this incident gaining benefit from the contact is relevant (there is clearly no positioning with the intention of using the body to stop the ball), but there does not appear to be a clear benefit gained. There was no AUS player who was clearly denied opportunity to gain possession of the ball, at best the AUS team were denied the opportunity to contest for it when outnumbered and with GB players closer to the ball. So why the penalty corner?

Ironically, if the umpire had held his whistle for a moment he would have been justified in awarding a penalty stroke for the deliberate shielding of the ball and the attempt to shunt sideways with it in a ‘protected’ position and away from the goal mouth while shielding it from the AUS attackers, which followed when another GB player got possession of the ball – but these days even such blatant obstruction is just not seen.

The second incident in that match was initially similar to the first except that the defender the ball hit had fallen to the ground while making an unsuccessful attempt to intercept the ball before the AUS forward he was marking did. He was then lying on the ground between that forward and the ball when his opponent got to his feet and attempted to play the ball – obstruction and therefore a penalty corner justified – but I believe a penalty corner had already been awarded for the no fault, no foul contact. The ball-body contact was not an offence because there was no positioning with the intention of using the body to stop the ball and no clear advantage gained for the GB team – the defender being hit with the ball prevented it being cleared out of the goalmouth and possibly out of the circle, so the contact caused a disadvantage rather than a benefit..

We are still a long way off seeing the penalising of ball-body contact as an exception i.e. when one of the laid down criteria for offence is met. (We are probably even further away from correct application of the Obstruction Rule).

I can think of no instance of a ball propelled by a goalkeeper into a defender’s body (and it happens frequently) where the defender positioned with the intention of using his or her body to stop or deflect the ball, and no instance where a benefit was gained for the defending side, rather a defender usually thereby prevents the ball being cleared away from the goalmouth and out of the circle – and yet I cannot recall a single instance of the umpire allowing play to continue when the attacking side did not instantly regained possession of the ball and take another shot: a penalty corner is ‘automatic’ – no reasoning occurs. 

If, as is the case, ball-body contact is not an offence unless one of two criteria, exceptions, are met, why is it always seen as an offence and always penalised unless opponents can play on with advantage? Why not allow play to continue after a ball-body contact when neither one of the two criteria for offence is met?

June 28, 2015

Field Hockey Rules. Revision of Rule 13 Free Hit. May 2015.

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.

The self-pass

Additions and alterations made to this article  Ist 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 
  • or
  • – 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.

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 (th 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. 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 considered 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 knee heigh seems to be a acceptable height.

Intentionally forcing the ball into an opponent’s body 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..

June 17, 2015

Field Hockey Rules. Ball body contact.

Rules of Hockey.   

The confusion caused by the current determination to see any ball-body contact as an offence.



Edit.  Comments made and replied to 18th and 19th  June 2015.

Addition to article made 20th June 2015.

Video added 4th July 2015.





Incident in this evening’s summer league. Open play somewhere between the half way line and the 23. 2 players challenge for a loose ball that is on the ground. Player B lifts the ball with a hit into player A who fearing for his safety turns and the ball hits him in the middle of his back and bounces free. Team B all stop expecting the whistle for the foul. Team A pick the ball up and attack the circle in a break away, ball ends up in the net.

For me, the foul is by team B, team A has not got an unfair advantage given that the problem was caused by team B not playing to the whistle = brilliant advantage = goal.

If the same scenario happened near or in the circle then I would blow the offence (the dangerous lift) as an attacker is not entitled to an unfair advantage by playing the ball with his body despite the fact that he was taking LEA.

Do people agree or disagree, If you disagree please explain why.

Rules of Hockey 2015 –

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

This is clearly correct:-

For me, the foul is by team B, team A has not got an unfair advantage given that the problem was caused by team B not playing to the whistle = brilliant advantage = goal

whereas this:

If the same scenario happened near or in the circle then I would blow the offence (the dangerous lift) as an attacker is not entitled to an unfair advantage by playing the ball with his body despite the fact that he was taking LEA.If the same scenario happened near or in the circle then I would blow the offence (the dangerous lift) as an attacker is not entitled to an unfair advantage by playing the ball with his body despite the fact that he was taking LEA.

makes no sense at all.


LEA means ‘legitimate evasive action’ : if an action is legitimate it cannot be at the same time be  a breaking of the Rules. Legitimate means ‘legal’ as well as meaning ‘genuine’ or ‘necessary’ (to try to avoid injury).  

It is not necessary for evasive action to be successful to remain legitimate: a player hit with a dangerously raised ball he or she is legitimately trying to evade has been fouled against, not committed an offence. That the ball subsequently falls to the advantage of the team of the player initially offended against does not give cause to penalise the player hit with the ball (anywhere on the pitch), it gives opportunity for the umpire to properly apply the Advantage Rule and allow play to continue in a fair way.

In the instance described above it would be perverse to stop play to award a free ball for dangerous play because the team offended against had gained an advantage following the foul committed against them. The principle is an easy one to follow; (where possible) the penalty awarded – or other decision made – should be the one which gives the maximum available advantage to the team offended against and also the restart or continuation least wanted by the team of the offender; this is not “brilliant”, it is plain common sense.

20th June 2015.

I am bewildered by the change of attitude to unintentional ball-body contact, particularly ball-foot or ball-leg contact, following the deletion of forcing as a separate Rule in 2011.

Prior to the the deletion of the forcing Rule, in theory i.e. according to the published Rules of Hockey, if a player in possession of the ball intentionally played it into the body of an opponent that would be a foul and the player who carried out the forcing action would be penalised for it, unless the team of player hit with the ball were not disadvantaged,  i .e. the player hit with the ball or another player of of his team were able to play on with advantage.

In practice umpires pretended they had great difficulty in determining the intention of a player in possession of the ball to play the ball into the feet or legs of an opponent and they did not apply the forcing Rule.

But then what did they do? Well a ball-body contact had to be some-one’s offence, didn’t it? (The answer to that question isNo“)  and there was of course no difficulty whatsoever in deciding that a defending player had intentionally used his body to make contact with the ball – even if he was clearly trying to avoid being hit with it. ??? (Why the intent of – particularly a stationary player – to use the body to make contact with the ball was considered easier to determine than determining the intent of a player in possession of the ball to play it into the body of an opponent is a mystery).  If a defender tried to play with his stick a ball propelled at him but missed the ball and was hit with it, it was decided that he had positioned with the intention of using his body to play the ball, simply because he had been hit with the ball.

None of the ball-body contacts shown in the video below were offences (the physical contact follwing the forcing of ball-body contact was an offence). The commentators do better than the video umpire on the 5m requirement for defenders at a free ball awarded in the 23m area.



Now of course there is no difficult in seeing if a player in possession of the ball has intentionally played it into the feet/legs of a defender. There is now no attempt to disguise such actions as ‘passes’ and even pride taken in the ‘skill’ of ‘finding a foot'; attacking players are even chastised by their coaches if they attempt to shoot at the goal when they could create a more favourable shooting opportunity for the team by ‘winning’ a penalty corner.

So we have arrived at a situation where the ball is being unashamedly played into the feet/legs of opponents and there is no difficulty at all in seeing that this is happening – but why are those who play the ball into the body of an opponent awarded any penalty against the team of the player hit with the ball? The same criterion for offence by a player making ball-body contact existed after the forcing offence was deleted as existed before the deletion (at the time positioning with the intention of using the body to stop, deflect or propel the ball  – still extant – or voluntarily using the body in this way) . When the ball is obviously deliberately played into the feet/legs of a defender, the umpire may no longer penalise the forcing player (unless the forcing is done dangerously or as in the video above is accompanied by physical contact), but why on earth should the player hit be penalised if there was no clear positioning with the intention of using the body and ball body contact was clearly not made voluntarily?

There is no satisfactory answer to that question, so in 2015, I believe in order to avoid the public embarrassment of umpires who consistently and persistently penalised all ball-body contact (that is nearly all umpires) the Rule was “clarified” (that means it was changed to follow what umpires, but especially international level umpires, were doing, but that cannot be admitted: –  “gain an advantage” replaced voluntary contact as one of the two criteria for a ball-body contact offence). As “gain an advantage” can mean just about anything an umpire wants it to mean there is created the perfect excuse (it’s a matter of opinion so video referral would not be available to dispute it) to penalise nearly all ball-body contact (the only exception might be – and I mean might be, because the player hit is now always treated as if he has committed an offence – is if there is dangerous play by an opposing player while he is forcing ball-body contact).

So back to my initial bewilderment; why is an action, forcing ball-body contact, that was considered an offence by a player in possession of the ball, not the player hit with it, now considered to be an offence by the player hit with the ball? What happened to “No offence – play on” an entirely reasonable middle ground? Why the leap from one extreme to the opposite extreme? Has a player who has had the ball deliberately played into his legs while he is trying to tackle for it (it’s impossible to reach for the ball with the stick in a tackle attempt and at the same time ‘defend’ the feet with the stick) positioned with the intention of playing the ball with the body (that is very difficult to determine unless the tackler goes to ground – dives for the ball and blocks it with his body) or gained an (unfair) advantage (that seems unlikely)? Why in any case should a player in possession of the ball who deliberately plays it into the feet/legs of an opponent and in so doing disadvantages himself, (and usually makes no attempt to continue playing) be awarded a free-ball or a penalty corner for this lack of stick-ball skill?

Deliberately playing the ball into the body of an opponent, including the feet and legs, in the expectation of penalty award against the player hit should have no place in hockey.


Here we have another idiocy:

Just watching a recording of HWL match USA v IRL. Can only find highlights online, but for those who recorded it, with about 7:45 of Q2 remaining, USA crossed ball in to IRL circle, it hit an IRL stick and went off the back line. The umpire then awarded a PC thinking the ball hit an IRL foot. Referred to video umpire who quickly spotted the ball did not hit the IRL foot. Play then resumed with a FHD to IRL. .

Had the ball not been deflected by anything it would have gone off the pitch over the baseline and a 15m restart would have taken place. There is however a deflection off a defender before the ball goes out of play. The discussion was then about the award of a 15m to the defenders when video referral revealed that there had been no foot contact but a stick contact by the defender. No one questioned the initial award of a penalty corner if there had been an unintentional foot contact by the defender – why not?

Why was anyone even considering a ball-body contact offence by the defender ?

There is no indication that either of the criterion for a ball-body contact offence were met:-

1) positioning with the intention of using the body to (in this case) deflect the ball. and/or

2) the gaining of an advantage.

In fact a foot contact, had one occurred, would have disadvantaged the defending team because the restart should then (there being no offence by the defenders) have been by the attackers on the 23m line, in line with the place the ball went out of play, and not a 15m for the defenders; that would have been correct only if the ball if had not been deflected at all by a defender.

Of course World Tournament level umpires correct when they make a decision, especially when it is made with the assistance of a video umpire. ???  This might be the case if they not only knew but applied the Rules of Hockey as published. I bet no-one on the above forum will point out that even if there had been an unintentional foot contact by a defender there would have been no offence, and in that case – there being no advantage gained by the defending team  –  a restart by the attacking side on the 23m line is the only correct decision possible under the published Rules of Hockey. (Tournament Regulations allow for an alternative restart in International Tournaments but I don’t understand why this should be the case).

April 9, 2015

Field Hockey Rules: No advantage gained

Rules of Hockey.     Change of criteria for ball-body contact offence.  Obstruction.    Rule revision.

Another video clip added  19th April 2015.

There is not always an offence when there is a ball-foot or ball-leg contact (in fact there very seldom is) often the contact does not gain an advantage for the team of the player hit with the ball – as often as not ball-body contact disadvantages the team of the player hit with the ball.

The video is from a match during the 2014 World Cup, when the criteria for offence was voluntarily made contact or positioning with the intention of using the foot hand or body to stop or deflect the ball, but the ‘new’ criteria (resurrected old criteria circa pre- 1992) of gaining an advantage (replacing voluntarily made contact), clearly was not met by either of the ball-foot contact incidents.

The match umpire and video umpire concerned did not even bother to mention voluntarily made or intention, there was an assumption made that any ball-body contact by a defender in the circle would be an offence and result in the award of a penalty corner, unless an advantage (usually a clear shot at the goal) was obtained by the attacking side.

(Here again there is a muddling of the Advantage Rule and disadvantaging opponents, because that Rule (12.1) cannot be applied unless there has been a breach of the Rules for which a penalty may be awarded i.e. an offence).

The attacker in the second incident seen in the video, having received and controlled the ball, deliberately positions his body between the defender and the ball to shield the ball past the defender and illegally prevents a tackle attempt being made by an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play at it. Ironically, because the defender was obliged to attempt to play at the ball through the legs of the attacker, he was seen to have impeded the attacker with his stick and thereby nullified the ‘advantage’ the match umpire stated he allowed following the other defender’s ball-foot contact.

We can continue to expect this sort of decision making, the criterion for offence in Rule 9.11. mean nothing.(are undefinable)  and Rule 9.12. Obstruction, specifically ball shielding which illegally prevents a tackle attempt, has, as I once saw it put, with a pretence of authority,   “.…been deconstructed some years ago and is no longer applied ” : odd that it is still in the rule-book.

If only we could have the approach to and application of these two Rules exchanged with each other (the disappearance of “find a foot” and ”crabbing’ into opponents while shielding the ball), what an improvement that would make to the way players play the game. The FIH Rules Committee are not it seems adverse to resurrecting ‘long dead’ versions of some of the Rules but how are they to be persuaded to restore , or restore with modification, the right ones in the right way? These from 1993 are examples of previous good (or better than current) Rule wording (my underlining) :-

12.1. A player shall not:

(e)    play the ball wildly, or play or kick the ball in such a way as to be dangerous in itself, or likely to lead to dangerous play, nor play the ball intentionally into any part of an opponent’s body, including the feet and legs. 

(f)  deliberately stop, propel or deflect the ball on the ground or in the air with any part of the body TO HIS
OR HIS TEAM’S ADVANTAGE (save as provided for goalkeepers in Rule 12.11(c)).

They went back one year too far for the last one.

Not all of the 1993 and 2001 PIT Interpretation, to be found in the back of the rule-book until 2004, when the rule-book was reformatted and rewritten, was bad. This part of it, from the 2003 rule-book, could usefully be restored to the current Rules with very little addition or modification.. 

Umpires should be aware of players who are in possession of the ball who:
– back into an opponent;
– turn and try to push past an opponent;
– shield the ball with body, leg or stick and stand still when under pressure;
– drag the ball near their back foot when moving down the side-line or along the back-line;
– shield the ball with the stick to prevent a legitimate tackle.

One of the problems with the current Rules of Hockey is that they are out of date, they don’t deal adequately with current issues. ‘Out of date’ does not refer to a time but to an attitude; many Rules were better written ten or twenty or thirty years ago and some which have now completely disappeared should not have done so. e.g. the ban on raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle (which could be reintroduced but confined to hits and free-ball situations and perhaps with a height limit on other strokes). Others should not have been introduced e.g. the ban on the intentionally raised hit; the ban on playing a free awarded in the opponent’s 23m area directly into the circle. Yet others are long overdue deletion e,g. ‘back-sticks’.


There is a considerable way to go before we have a game with properly structured Rules.



This example of penalty for ball-body contact indicates that there has been no change to the unofficial “any ball-body contact is an offence” ‘philosophy’.



Aside from the Rules and umpiring considerations there is the attitude of the attacker. There seems to be no pride taken in beating/eluding an opponent using speed and stick-work and no shame felt in resorting to what I see as a lack of sportsmanship. This sort of ploy is not a skill to be admired, it’s too easy and it’s as close to cheating as can be got without actually breaking a Rule. This situation exists because the FIH Rules Committee were daft enough to delete (ineffectually transfer to other Rules) the offence of forcing in 2011 and because umpires have not responded correctly to the new criteria for the offence. What advantage did the defender gain when the attacker deliberately played the ball into his feet and then (in expectation of the penalty he had ‘won’) lost interest in where the ball went? This is going to change only when umpires, as they should, call “Play on” following such incidents.

February 5, 2015

Field Hockey Rules: Reply to comment

Rules of Hockey.  Rule 9.11.   Comment.


Reply to comment made by Michael Cheater on my article A clarification of Rule for 2015  which is about change made to Rule 9.11. ball-body contact.

I will put the comment of Michael Cheater in quotes and coloured text to distinguish it from my reply and in that way I can respond to points in the comment near the position they are made.

Greetings, just reading over a few points…

You said: ‘The Guidance that a player should not be penalised if the ball was played by an opponent into his feet or legs from close range, which had been in the Rules of Hockey for a very long time, simply disappeared and has in effect been replaced by a statement in the UMB that a ball that hits a player at below half shin-pad height is not dangerous.’

Hi. Yes I did, that is a clear statement and one I will not disagree with because it is true. The following paragraph however in my view contains a number of statements which are untrue.

Hockey has led to a point with recent changes where this rule isn’t applicable, to simplify the game for newcomers, to simplify the game for umpiring and even allow safer play.

I assume you are referring to either Rule 9.11. (ball-body contact) or to ‘forcing’, what was Rule 9.15 until January 2011.

Players must not force an opponent into offending unintentionally.

Playing the ball clearly and intentionally into any part of an opponent’s body may be penalised as an attempt to manufacture an offence. Forcing an opponent to obstruct (often emphasised by running into an opponent or by waving the stick) must also be penalised.

Which Rule you mean is not clear so I’ll give answer for both.

Let’s take the forcing Rule first. When this Rule was deleted the explanation that was given under Rules Changes in the Introduction of the rule-book was

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

It follows that the forcing of opponents into what might be considered offences was (and is) still a foul, but the foul will be dealt with using other (unspecified) Rules. (It should be noted that a ball-body contact could not be an offence if it was unintentional and as there was no ‘gains benefit’ clause at the time, it having been deleted after 2006, the wording of the Rule didn’t make much sense when applied to the forcing of ball-body contact)

Why, it must be wondered, go to the trouble of deleting a workable and satisfactory Rule (and it was both fairer than what we have now and workable despite the oxymoron) and rely entirely on other Rules – among them, it must be supposed, dangerous play, when the “other Rules” were and are themselves unsatisfactory (dangerous play, Rule 9.8., for example has only “causes legitimate evasive action” as a definition or explanation).

In fact the part in the above explanation for the deletion of forcing as an offence, which I have underlined, is simply a lie. There has never been a Rule which forbade a player from (deliberately or otherwise) playing the ball along the ground into the feet of an opponent. There was only guidance for umpires that if this did occur at close range the player hit with the ball was not at fault and should not be penalised.

When the forcing of ball-body contact became an offence that guidance was no longer necessary and was removed – now the offence of forcing has been deleted there is no guidance except what has been restored in to the Rule in January 2015, i.e. a player hit with the ball may be penalised if they gain an advantage from the contact. Like ‘Find the Lady’ the Rule was put under three cups, the cups were switched around to confuse the observer and the ‘Lady card’ will not be found under any choosen cup. How is completely reversing the original intent of either or both the guidance (advice to umpires) or the forcing Rule simpler for anybody? How is it fair? How is not only permitting but encouraging a player in possession of the ball to play it into the feet or legs of an opponent, safer for anybody? It’s not; to say it is safer or simpler is pap; ‘spin’ trotted out without the least regard to whether it is true or not as long as it is ‘accepted’ (can be imposed).

Umpires have accepted it easily enough because they had long ago given up making any subjective judgement about the intent of either player when the ball hit the foot of a defender. They had openly declared it “too difficult”* to see the intention of a ball holder to play the ball into an opponent’s legs and had stopped penalising such forcing…….

*(anything umpires do not want to do is “too difficult”, the most recent is the difficulty they have with seeing if the maker of a scoop pass has created a dangerous situation – play leading to dangerous play (the ignored part of Rule 9.8)  – which has led to the determination that when there is danger at the point of landing penalty will always be awarded at the point of landing and not back at the point of lift, from where the danger may have been initially created even if in fact it was created by the lifter of the ball – a too close same team player who does not allow an opposing initial receiver to receive the ball without contest has in fact committed the second of two offences. But I digress and  have already covered this ground in a previous blog article.)

…but they had no problem seeing (inventing) intent on the part of the player hit with the ball. Why? Because it is usually very easy to see if the ball has hit a player’s leg and when that happens to ‘automatically’ award penalty against the player hit – unless the opposition can play on with advantage, (which is ‘salt in the wound’ when the ball has been forced into the player hit in the first place). There was no noticeable change (or none at all) from the way forced contacts were umpired prior to the deletion of the forcing Rule compared to the way they were umpired after (there is ample video evidence of that in other articles within the blog articles) in fact the change followed what umpires were already doing and THAT was the most likely real reason for the deletion – to avoid ‘egg on face’ when someone (a new umpire?) said following an obviously forced contact “I thought there was a Rule which prohibited that”.

The following paragraph is difficult to follow because the identity of “their” and “them” is not clear to me but I’ll comment in general terms.

If a player chooses to play the ball into a players legs or feet as long as it isn’t done dangerously, and stop the flow of their game, so be it. Disadvantage to them. It is also forcing an increase in skill with the stick, mainly in stopping a ball that is pushed towards the feet.

If a player chooses to play the ball into an opponent’s feet (not an opponent’s legs because that would involve raising the ball and be clearly contrary to the explanation given in Rule 9.9.) as long as it is not done dangerously, for example by propelling the ball at high velocity from close range (a very common occurrence), then there is no good reason, no matter what the outcome of the contact, why play should not just continue, there has been no offence.

The next sentence you write (below) repeats something I have read previously on an Internet hockey forum and it saddens me to see such obvious nonsense repeated as if it made some sense. Defenders need to be able to instantly bring under control – not necessarily stop – any ball that an opponent tries to play past their feet on either side or between their feet, that a opponent might play the ball at the defender’s feet rather than past them does not make one jot of difference to the stick handling, anticipation and other defensive abilities, such as footwork, that are already required of any defender. What makes the difference between a ball played past the feet and into the feet is that penalty will follow (despite that being entirely wrong) if an opponent manages to play the ball into a defender’s feet.

I make a distinction between stick-work and the stick handling abilities required to take the ball into control with a single touch. Stick-work I see as being more to do with control and movement of the ball when it it is in the possession of a player and is particularly related to eluding or ‘beating’ an opponent who is trying to dispossess the ball-holder and to the preparation of passes and shots. The player who is so lacking in ability and imagination that they resort to playing the ball into the feet of an opponent in the expectation of the award of a free-ball or a penalty corner can take no pride in that lack of ability, absence of real skill.

You lose me completely, when you write of a recent play-on Rule, what Rule are you  are you referring to? Perhaps you mean Advantage, Rule 12.1. The Rule that instructs umpires that if an offence occurs and the opponents of the offender can play on with advantage then the umpire must allow play to continue: that is hardly recent, the present wording dates from 2004 and there has been an Advantage Rule (which has had the foregoing guidance added to it) since 1995/6.

I would never argue that a player who has pushed the ball into an opponents feet (either deliberately or because of a lack of skill) should be awarded a penalty of any sort, penalty should only be awarded against a player who has committed an offence.

The low-grade/high-grade distinction of players is something that first appeared in discussions about hockey and the Rules of Hockey in 2006 – it’s rubbish and I would advise you to ignore it. Read the first paragraph of the Rules of Hockey which contains the Rules which apply to all participants of every ability.

You might argue that the recent play on rule allows a player to push it into the feet, get the penalty and keep going. Sure, in most lower grades of hockey. Mid to higher grades, players aim to continue on play, and make plays up the field. Deliberately playing into the feet is often used when they have no play, or advantage, in which case, they aren’t going to play on quickly, but wait for options, and create plays.

I’ll break up the following paragraph in order to highlight one comment.

The one exception to this is in the D. In Men’s games, high or low, the first thing they’ll try is to score. If they can’t get a shot of, or a safe shot of with no chance of scoring, they’ll play it to a foot, forcing the player to have fouled. Short corner.

Who decided that players want to play a game of “foot contact is a foul” and who determined that this is now accepted as the way the game is (and should) be played? It certainly wasn’t a defending player and all players are defenders at some point in a match.

The ‘accepted’ argument depends on how the question is put and in what circumstances asked – opinion polled can be slanted by the question put and by how it is put to obtain the answer the questioner is asking. If I ask a player “If an opponent hits the ball into your feet from close range should an umpire penalise you” Most players will say “No” but perhaps a greater number than would have previously will hedge their answer with “It depends” and the thing it usually depends most on is what the umpires have done previously. If an umpire at the opposite end of the pitch has earlier penalised a defender with a penalty corner for an accidental ball/foot contact then most players will see it as fair that the other umpire at the this end of the pitch should do exactly the same thing in similar circumstances – and as umpires seldom if ever call “play on” when there is such a contact in their circle (I have never see it happen when there were opponents within 5m of the player hit with the ball) – that has become what players expect and eventually to demand and to play for from umpires – it’s a vicious circle – umpires create an expectation of how they will umpire by their umpiring and then they will say that they are bound by player expectation and are doing what the players want. Players want to be treated the in the same way as opponents are or, more accurately, they want opponents to be treated in the same way they are: they want fairness. The first decision sets the tone for the match, the first match the tone for the season as umpires strive for consistency (even above the Rules of the game or any real sense of fairness of application).

That is accepted as the way the game is played now, at international, national and club to club level, even to the point at low women’s grades where they’ll put it onto a foot, and stop playing when they have a great chance at scoring. Even when their teams suck at short corners. It’s how the players overall want the game, so that is how it is played.

Again, I have no idea what you are referring to here.

The rule change confirming it is simply a little delayed in being changed, which as of this year it is thankfully changed.

Also on a side note, can you quote where not dangerous is defined as ‘a ball that hits a player at below half shin-pad height is not dangerous’. In Australia, a dangerous ball in contact with a player is defined as knee or above height in a normal stance.

UMB 2013 Page 11.

Ball off the Ground

Blow only in dangerous situations everywhere on the pitch – forget lifted, think danger

Low balls over defenders sticks in a controlled manner that hit half shin pad are not dangerous

Use common sense and show understanding of the play

Be consistent as an individual and as a team.

Nowhere in the world is a dangerous ball defined in the Rules of Hockey as a ball that makes contact with a player at knee height or above when they are in a normal stance. There is only one FIH authorised Rules of Hockey, it can be accessed and read on the FIH website. The only reference to knee-height is made within the procedures for the taking of a penalty corner (particularly the hitting of an out-runner- an absurd contradiction of the general Rule introduced because one team at an Olympic Games in 2004 threw themselves bodily at the ball), but as it is the only reference it is ‘borrowed’ and used ‘in practice’ in the management of the conduct of general open play. Aside from what is contained in Rule 9.9. the only other description/defintion of a dangerously played ball is that it is one that causes legitimate evasive action. A problem is that legitimate evasive action is itself a subjective judgement – not an objective criteria like ‘knee-height’. Umpire get quite ferocious when discussing their right to make subjective judgements but when the matter is closely examined we find that most are using pre-determined formula like “foot in the circle is a penalty corner” or “any contact disadvantages an opponent” or taking purely objective criteria like knee height as the determining factor, there is hardly any subjective judgement going on at all. Why? Because subjective judgement (individual judgement of a specific event), by its very nature, causes inconsistency – umpires it appears much prefer to be incorrect and defend or ‘sell’ their decisions, than be considered inconsistent. 

Also, you say: ‘(Rule 12.1 pre 2004) was the forerunner of a Rule prohibiting the raising of a ball towards an opponent, which was, in 2004, deleted as a Rule and downgraded to explanation of application of Rule 9.9 (which prohibits the intentional raising of the ball with a hit except when taking a shot at the opponent’s goal) with a 5m limitation added; effectively making it legitimate (no longer an offence in itself) to raise a ball towards an opponent who was more than 5m from the ball (unless done dangerously – but umpires then decided that legitimate evasive action, the only definition of ‘dangerous’ there is, was not legitimate when taken by a player more than 5m from the ball when it was raised)

This is completely wrong, to the spirit of hockey. I am unsure what rule book you have, but according to the 2013-14 Rules of Hockey released in Australia, rule 9.9 reads as follows with the local opinions in umpiring stated in Parantheses.
9.9 Players must not intentionally raise the ball from a hit except for a shot at goal.
*A raised hit must be judged explicitly on whether or not it is raised intentionally. It is not an offence to raise the ball unintentionally from a hit, including a free hit, anywhere on the field unless it is dangerous. (No 5 metre limitation. If it is dangerous, it is dangerous. There is more debate on whether the free hit is awarded where the danger occurred, or where the hit/deflection occured.) If the ball is raised over an opponent’s stick or body on the ground, even within the circle, it is permitted unless judged to be dangerous. (again, the only debate you usually see here, is if a dangerous ball to a team mate is considered an offence if it does not strike them, As a team player, I believe it shouldn’t. It’s usually just followed with an apology to the team mate.)*

*Players are permitted to raise the ball with a flick or scoop provided it is not dangerous. (first and foremost, as long as it is not dangerous). A flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5 metres is considered dangerous. (This is referring to flicks or scoops aimed at going over players, and when it is considered a legal pass. I believe I have read somewhere else where you refer that this includes scoops, flicks or ‘chips’ past a player that are not above knee level. As stated before, any passes/ball movements below knee level in a normal stance is not considered dangerous.) If an opponent is clearly running into the shot or into the attacked without attempting to play the ball with their stick, they should be penalised for dangerous play.*

I know that what many umpires are doing (what you have described as ‘accepted’ above) is completely wrong and I am aware of the contradiction between practice and what is written in the Rules of Hockey – that was what I was pointing out in my article.

Other changes:
1, Love the green card at all levels been allowed in Australia. They previously held no weight before, and a yellow at times seemed too harsh.

This is such a wonderful example of the ‘spin’ with which all changes are presented these days that I had to laugh. A subtraction presented as an additional control. I have already covered the point in a previous article but I will repeat it here. Previously we had three cards which were distinctly different in function and effect now we have only two that are distinctly different. The difference between Green and Yellow has been reduced to a matter of time.

There are many occasions when a general warning given visually to both teams because it is presented to an individual will have the desired calming effect, it is NOT always necessary to suspend a player for any length of time when issuing a caution – indeed the purpose of a Green may be primary a warning to all that a Yellow may follow, rather than the caution of a single individual – a Captain’s Green, even though he has committed no offence but is not controlling his team, is but one example. That was the Green – that low level control caution without suspension has now been lost from the ‘control ladder’. If the Green is seen as too little for an offence then there is no reason whatsoever why an umpire should not go direct to Yellow, but if a Green is being seen as ‘nothing’ that is the fault of the people using it not the fault of the way the card system was set up.

The Yellow is a straightforward suspension with a minimum of 5 minutes – that is now said to have been ‘too much’ or ‘too heavy’ a punishment for some offences. The Red is no further participation in the game and also automatic further action, minimum 16 suspensions etc.etc. (We are now it appears entering a totting up system where, as in soccer – where there is only a two card system – a second Yellow will carry an automatic Red)

It seems to me obvious that the solution to the Yellow minimum suspension being seen as ‘too harsh’ and the Green too weak was to reduce the Yellow minimum suspension to a standard two minutes. Then, if the umpire felt the offence warranted more than two minutes this would be communicated to the control table and/or player with the simple ‘five’ open hand signal or the clenched fist ‘ten’ signal'; any more time than that, which would be unusual, could be communicated verbally. There was no need at all to add a suspension time to the Green. 

  1. I am not sure as to how the long corner changes work, as the official 2015 Australian rule book isn’t released, and I have just heard that it is changed to be in conjunction with where it goes out on the field??

The ball is placed on the 23m line opposite to where it went off the pitch. A good idea I think as it opens the game up a bit. It would have been a good idea even without the three silly Rules which previously isolated the taker and confined the corner to play in a narrow channel between the circle and the side-line.

The silly Rules are of course the ban on playing a free-ball awarded in the opponents 23m area into the circle, the knock-on from that that a self-passer must move the ball 5m before playing it into the circle and finally the requirement that same team players be 5m from the ball; all three are still in effect and need to be deleted. I covered this topic in my article on an alternative penalty, where I suggested a free-ball awarded centrally behind the 23m line, as an alternative to the penalty corner which is far too heavy a penalty for at least six types of situation ranging, for example, from a defender intentionally playing the ball over the base-line to the ball being accidentally caught in a goalkeeper’s equipment (which was previously a bully situation).

  1. The removal of the ball having to go back to the broken dotted line if a penalty occurs within 5 metres of the circle will be hard initially. Mostly from the confusion it will cause, especially at younger grades that are unfamiliar with ever playing it that way. Also the ball still needing to travel 5 yards before entering the circle is obviously good, but I am not too sure how easy it will be to enforce.

This change is plain daft. It will make life more difficult for umpires, who will now have to ensure defenders are 5m from the ball, so defenders will no longer be able to defend to the edge of the circle within 5m of the ball– that will not be popular – and it makes hardly any difference at all to attackers who are still confined by the three silly Rules mentioned above. The FIH Rules Committee have created a confined and frustrating set or circumstances around what should be a free-ball and it appears they are now trying to find solutions for the problem they themselves have created without losing face by acknowledging the mistaken introductions. made in 2009 (which incidentally completely messed up the taking of a self-pass in the opposing 23m area so that the full potential of that has not been properly explored)

November 9, 2014

Field Hockey Rules: Assumption of offence and the Advantage Rule

Rules of Hockey:   Assumption of offence.      More muddling of the Advantage Rule.

Previous article:-

Muddling the Advantage Rule with ‘gains benefit’

Video World Cup pool game 2014 Spain v Malaysia

There is, in both instances, of ball-foot contact shown in the video an assumption made that a foul has thereby been committed. In neither case was there an offence, both contacts were very clearly completely accidental, not made voluntarily and nor was there positioning with an intention to play the ball with the foot.

In both instances the defender was surprised by an unexpected deflection off the stick of an opponent at very close range and could not react accurately to avoid being hit. There would have been no offence in either case even if there was an extant ‘gained benefit’ clause. No advantage was gained by the defender in either incident and in fact, in the second one the contact was of advantage to the opposing team – slowing the ball and deflecting it off its original deflected path which was more towards the defender’s teams left and further away from the second attacker, than it was off the defender’s foot. The Spanish team had actually lost possession of the ball because of a miss-trap by a receiver at the top of the circle and regained it because of the foot contact/deflection off the foot of the Malaysian player who was marking him.  

As I have pointed out in the previous article the change in the wording of the Advantage Rule from “offence” to “breaking the Rule” combined with the removal of the word ‘intentionally’ from Rule 9.11. was the antithesis  of a simplification and clarification, but there can be no doubt that unless a player is guilty of an action an umpire would be justified in penalising as an offence, the Advantage Rule cannot be applied – play should just continue there being no reason to interrupt it and advantage being irrelevant. The umpire thought that he applied the Advantage Rule (12.1) because he assumed, without any evident at all to support that assumption, that the ball-foot contact was an offence, rather than what it was, a no fault accident. 

Then we have the introduction of yet another piece of pure invention – the attacker did not (it was said) get a clean or clear shot at the goal and so the advantage the umpire had anticipated would occur did not accrue and therefore the initial incident could be penalised.  That is a nonsense. There is no reason to immediately stop play to impose penalty following  an offence if the opposing team can play on with an advantage as good as or greater than they would have had if the offence had not taken place  (the coaching I got when starting umpiring) in fact play must be allowed to continue in such circumstances.

However, the defender’s foot contact following the attacker’s miss-trap and deflection at the top of the circle, were a very long way from both an offence and a clear shot at the goal and there was no justification in such circumstances to suggest a penalty corner should have been awarded because an advantage allowed did not result in a clear shot at the goal.(the attacker as it happened did eventually get a clear shot at the goal)  

It has to be wondered, if the ‘clear shot’ criteria is to be believed, how  the playing of advantage outside the defended circle (or 23m area) should be different – and why (perhaps the playing of an advantage should always be followed by the award of a card  ???). ?

The Obstruction Rule (ball shielding to illegally prevent a tackle attempt), despite being one of the most recently modified Rules in the rule-book (the explanation of application quoted in the video was amended to its current form in 2009), is now utterly ignored. A video umpire sat and watched on screen as the defender the ball was shielded from, tried to reach through the legs of the ball holder to play at the ball, from a position where the defender would have been able to play the ball if the player in possession of it had not been shielding it from him, and that umpire thought there might have been some contact on the attacker with the defender’s stick, but he did not notice (although he must have seen)  the very obvious obstruction taking place.

Are we to believe that obstruction cannot take place if the defender is not in a position to play at the ball when the reason a defender is obstructed is because he is prevented by the positioning of the body by the ball-holder from achieving a position where he can play at the ball.? There can be no doubt that the defender was within playing reach of the ball and trying very hard (attempting) to play at it – within the confines of Rule 9.13 -. which forbids a tackle attempt from a position where physical contact will occur.

At present the Rules concerning the dangerously played ball,  ball-body contact and obstructive ball shielding, (to mention only the most obvious fundamental deviations) are being applied in the opposite way to what would be expected from a common sense reading of them.

Coaches and players are to blame as much as umpires; they are playing to obtain (how can it be legitimate in any sense to deliberately force the award of a penalty corner?) and are appealing for decisions that they would be angry and appalled to have awarded against themselves if (when) their opponents did the same thing: it comes down to who can cheat in the most effective way i.e. get away with it.  It’s horrible hockey, it is not “great skill” to shield the ball or play it into an opponent’s legs instead of evading him or her, with and in control of the ball, and ‘leaving the opponent for dead’ , that does require skill – and that skill and passing skills are there if players are obliged, as they should be, to use them.

October 26, 2014

Field Hockey Rules: Gaining an advantage

Rules of Hockey.     Gaining an undue or unfair advantage by means of  an action that would be illicit if done intentionally (to give the full meaning of  “gaining an advantage” or “gains benefit” in the context of Rule 9.11).

It is not the purpose of this article to examine the impeding and sight-blocking tactics of the attacking team during the penalty corner shown in the video – an area of concern addressed by John Gawley, with the support of the now defunct Rules Advisory Panel, in his Lifted Ball umpire coaching paper, back in 2001; the intent here is rather to consider why the goal, which was  initially awarded, was disallowed after video umpire referral.

If the possible impeding and the sight-blocking were not considered to be offences – and that apparently was the case – there is no reason whatsoever within the current Rules of Hockey (2013-15) why the goal should have been disallowed. That statement is of course outrageous, even if – or because – it is true.

The ‘gains benefit’ clause attached to Rule 9.11. was deleted after 2006 and thereafter ball-body contact could and can (until January 2015) only be penalised if made voluntarily or if the player hit with the ball positioned with the intention of playing the ball with the body. That quite clearly is not the case in the incident shown in the video. .

This incident provides an excellent example of the kind of contact that the ‘gains benefit’ clause (originally the more accurate ‘gains an undue or an unfair benefit or advantage’ – there were several versions of the wording over the years prior to 2004) was intended to deal with.

In the above example the umpires in order to be fair, felt obliged to temporarily ‘resurrect’ a long deleted Rule clause and declare the accidental contact an offence. It obviously follows that the deletion of the ‘gains benefit’ clause from Rule 9.11 was a mistake because such an ‘escape clause’ is a necessity. It is right that when an attacker makes body contact with the ball  in the opponent’s circle and gains an advantage for the attacking team because of that contact, then any unfairness resulting must be addressed, but umpires should not be put in the position of having to ‘reinvent’ deleted Rule clauses – even if they were not aware they were doing so – which may have been the case.

The need for a gains benefit clause is also clear in two other specific circumstances (there may be others but none come to mind) they are:- 

1) When a player in possession of the ball (not a player attempting to stop or deflect the ball with the stick) gains an unfair advantage for his or her team by unintentionally making contact with the ball with part of the body – usually a foot,  and

2) When a defender prevents a certain goal by means of an accidental ball-body contact following a non-dangerous shot at the goal by an attacker.(obviously it must be accepted, because it is plain common sense, that some shots at goal may be dangerous play because they are also made at – or ‘through’ – opponents and that action forces defenders to self-defence, be it evasion, attempted evasion or an attempt to play at the ball with the stick or simply, as could have happened because of the sight blocking seen in the video, the defender may be unable to take any action at all, having not seen the ball in time to do so).

The three areas outlined above are, I think, sufficient for exceptions to the Rule, which still is, by virtue of the explanation of application provided with it , that an unintentional ball-body contact is not an offence.

We are in a couple of months time, at the beginning of 2015, to have the version of the ‘gains benefit’ clause that was extant in 1991, reimposed. This is I believe the fourth occasion during the time I have been involved in the game that an ‘advantage’ or a ‘benefit’  penalty may  be imposed following accidental ball-body contact. In all previous periods when it applied the clause has been used as a ‘catch all’ to penalise all ball-body contact including that which was unintentional or even forced, and only very exceptionally was ball-body contact not penalised,  the reverse of what should be the situation – the exception became the Rule.

Since 2006 we have witnessed all sorts of novel ways of ‘interpreting’ the last deletion of the gains benefit clause as if it had not taken place and, if anything has changed since the deletion, it is that  the attitude to accidental ball-body contact has hardened and become more extreme then it was when it was legitimate to penalise an unintentional contact if an unfair benefit was gained by the team of the player hit.

After January 2015, we can expect (I should say continue to expect) all accidental ball-body contacts to be treated and even regarded as offences. The deletion of forcing as an offence (forcing an opponent into ball-body contact) will continue to provide ample opportunity for umpires to blow the whistle and penalise the player hit with the ball – but this is an unfair advantage to the team of the player forcing the contact, far more unfair than any advantage that might have accrued as a result of an accidental ball-body contact, simply because forcing such contact is a deliberate action

In a relatively short period what was an exception to the general Rule – that ball-body contact (sic) was not an offence unless done intentionally – has been turned on its head.

I would welcome the introduction of a limited version of ‘gained an unfair advantage’, based on the kind of incidents outlined above (and after a period of trial, others that were then deemed to be absolutely necessary for the fair conduct of the game) but I deplore the reintroduction of the same old ‘same old’ and its inherent unfairness. (or more accurately the pretense of reintroduction, because many umpires responded to the 2007 deletion of the gains benefit clause by ignoring the fact that it had been deleted).

The Rules Committee followed up on the 2007 mistake by making another related one in 2011, deleting Forcing as an offence in itself. No satisfactory reason has been offered for that deletion and it should be reversed immediately. At present attacking hockey is more about “getting something”, by any means fair or not, than it is about stick-work and passing skills. That is a deplorable development, no matter how ‘exciting’ or ‘spectacular’ the penalty corners ‘won’ in this way are considered to be and no matter how many more goals such ‘play’ results in.  Penalising unintentional ball-body contact but ignoring obstructive ball shielding (including the sort seen in the video) is not ‘progress’ or a forward-looking policy, it’s a disaster, a ‘dumbing down’ of the game.


March 29, 2014

Field Hockey Rules: Encroaching. Rule 9.10.

Rules of Hockey. Falling ball. Encroaching.

Edit video link repaired 31.3.14

9.10 Players must not approach within 5 metres of an opponent receiving a falling raised ball until it has been received, controlled and is on the ground.

The initial receiver has a right to the ball.

If it is not clear which player is the initial receiver, the player of the team which raised the ball must allow the opponent to receive it.

An example of a possible muddling of Rules between competition formats. Both the GER attacker and the umpire were involved in the European Hockey League, where the playing of the ball at above shoulder height was permitted at the time of the 2012 Olympic Games, but there had been no change made to the full Rules of Hockey or to Tournament Regulations in this regard, so above shoulder play was not permitted in this match. There is possibly other muddle too. Did the umpire allow ‘advantage’ following the initial encroaching offence and did any advantage materialise?


Clearly a goal could not have been awarded following illegal playing of the ball by the GER attacker, but was a free ball to the AUS team (the result of video referral by the AUS team) the correct decision?

Encroachment Combination 1          Link to image PDF.

Encroachment Combination 1

Encroachment Combination 2         Link to images PDF

Encroachment Combination 2



In my opinion no player should be permitted to play at the ball at above shoulder height in the opponent’s circle (but that is now permitted – August 2013) however, I believe that in the incident above there were certainly grounds for the award of a penalty corner and a yellow card and possibly grounds for the award of a penalty stroke against the AUS players – even if the umpire did initially attempt to allow an advantage. There was no clear advantage for the GER player, but there was continual and increased infringement of the encroaching Rule by the AUS team.

There needs to be revision of the falling ball Rule. 5m is too great a distance and in control and on the ground before an opponent can approach to with 5m of the receiver, is an unnecessarily severe safety constraint (which is seldom enforced) – especially when a receiver may not necessarily make an immediate attempt to control the ball to ground. I have made suggestions for an alternative Rule previously in another article.


I also believe that there is a good reason for arranging that the match umpires review video replays personally. A video umpire cannot know, unless informed, that an advantage was allowed by the match umpire and should not be asked to assess if there was in fact an advantage, following an offence, to the team offended against. 

March 13, 2014

Field Hockey Rules: ‘Flogging a dead horse’.

Rules of Hockey. Breach of Rule. Offence. Advantage. Disadvantaged opponents. Gained benefit.

‘Mules’, ‘donkeys’ and ‘dead horses’

The Rule – Jan 2013 – Jan 2015. (from January 2015  ‘clarified’, i.e. one criteria for the offence, “voluntarily made contact”, deleted and replaced with another very different one, “gained an advantage”  – and round and round we go).

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

The explanation of the intent of the Rule and how to apply it . This is instruction provided together with the Rule, by the FIH Rules Committee. It is not merely optional advice or notes or encouragement, such as may be found in the Umpire Managers Briefing for FIH Umpires.

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 voluntarily use their hand, foot or body to play the ball 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.


Breaking Rule 9.11. (ball-body contact) is not necessarily an Offence.

For a breach of Rule 9.11. to be an Offence there must be an intent on the part of the player making ball-body contact to play the ball with the body..

An Offence is a Breach of Rule (a breaking of a Rule) which may be penalised by an umpire.

An Offence that disadvantages opponents should be penalised by an umpire                                                                             (this is NOT the Advantage Rule.)

Disadvantaging opponents is not of itself an offence and nor of itself does it make any unintended ball-body contact action an offence. An accidental ball-body contact remains an unintentional contact it DOES NOT become an Offence just because opponents are disadvantaged by it.

There is no ‘gained benefit’ exception – when there is a ball-body contact (a breach of Rule) but no Offence i.e. no intent to make ball-body contact, there is no reason (other than injury) to stop play and there is no reason to penalise the player who made contact (was hit) with the ball. 

When an Offence (a breaking of the Rules which may be penalised by an umpire) by a player DOES NOT disadvantage opponents – i.e. opponents are able to play on with advantage – then an umpire must not penalise the Offence (with a team penalty) but must allow play to continue: this is the (presently poorly written) Advantage Rule. 12.1.


Having been a reader and contributor to Internet Hockey Forums for more than fifteen years I am no longer surprised at the questions asked by players and sometimes even umpires, that could be ‘answered’ by a few minutes reading of the rule book. I doubt I shall ever cease to be astonished by the replies provided by those who are supposed to be knowledgeable or even expert on the ‘interpretation’ and application of the Rules of Hockey. In fact the opinions of these ‘experts’ are often a reason other participants are confused or bewildered, the other is poor writing (usually rewriting) of the Rules – a terrific combination: vague Rule terminology and guessing or invention.

The question.

Olir So let’s say a player gets hit on the foot whilst controlling the ball with no one around them to take the ball off them.

The rules say, I seem to remember, that it’s not necessarily a foul if the ball hits a foot.
So my question to you is – is it a foul if it hits a players foot and they don’t gain much of an advantage from it, or “no one is around”.

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

The Chief. The way I think of it is this. Firstly, did they control the ball with their foot, or did it just touch their foot? If they controlled the ball with their foot, then I’d say that the opposition were disadvantaged.
Secondly, if the ball just happened to touch their foot, but this happened with an opponent close by, then I’d also say that the opposition were disadvantaged.
I’ll sit and watch dozens of differing opinions being expressed now, but that to me is how I make my decision on the pitch, and unless somebody tells me a better way, that’s how I’ll continue. Be consistent throughout the game and you won’t get too many complaints.

Warky I think The Chief has mostly said it all.

In an attempt to expand a little on it: For me, if the person receiving the ball gets the stick on the ball and takes most of the pace out, before the ball rolls on the the foot (in space), then play on. If the foot is the part taking most of the pace out, then free hit against.

The obvious problem that the rule is subjective. What I consider to have disadvantaged the defence, might not necessarily be what you consider to be a disadvantage.


Warky said: 

The obvious problem that the rule is subjective. What I consider to have disadvantaged the defence, might not necessarily be what you consider to be a disadvantage.

Which is why, if questioned, you say ‘I don’t believe the defence were disadvantaged by that foot contact’

johnreiss let me try to answe this question with a couple of examples. The receiver is in space with noone nea rhim. He stops the ball with his stick but after that it touches his foot. IMHO there’s no offence here because the non-fouling team have not been disadvantaged.

If the ball would, for example, gone out of play but the foot pevented it, the non-fouling team has been disadvantaged so blow it.

as has been said, it’s a question was the non-fouling side been disadvanatged by the foot. If yes, blow it. If no play on.

a slightly more difficult one would be suppose a defender lifts the ball and it is landing in space with no one near the receiver and his lack of skill means he stops the ball with his body would you blow the lift as dangrous? answer = no. Has the nonfouling side been disadvantaged by the other side’s lack of skill . Probably so blow it. 

I cannot see how the ist part of my post can be of any consquence so play on. The last part of my post is a bit more contentious. Should the lack of skill be penalised?

Ravennghorde You are not penalising a lack of skill, you are penalising an offence which disadvantages the other team.

When I first viewed this topic thread two other posts were included. I don’t know if there was a response to the last post by NITW but the next time I looked at the thread I found this message:-

Diligent delete and lock

and the following posts had been deleted.

Spetitt. But there is no offence to consider if the player did not voluntarily allow it to hit him/her, nor (voluntarily) place him/herself in such a way that contact was inevitable 
The anomaly of this wording, already discussed ad nauseum, occurs when the ball accidentally hits a foot and thereby prevents a goal’s being scored.
I think it makes a case for a limited return of the … gone but apparently not forgotten … ‘gains benefit’ condition, maybe with the qualification of “gains unfair benefit”, but just to cover such obvious and gross unfairness as the accidental prevention of a goal.
At the moment most umpires’ “current practice” of dealing with defence feet in the circle unfortunately bears very little resemblance to the way that the official rule book is worded.

 nerd_is_the_word Gees that sounds like something I have heard before ad nauseam.

give up, you are in the ridiculously small minority, if you keep trying to tell us that it needs to be changed you are just flogging a dead horse.

It is now ridiculous to suggest that this website conducts a hockey forum i.e. a place of discussion. What is as bad as the censorship of opinion that differs from that of this ‘moderator’, is that his view is contrary to the FIH published Rules of Hockey – i.e. Diligent is wrong and is helping to promote a pernicious ‘interpretation’ of Rule 9.11. and a distortion of the Advantage Rule. The simple answer to the question Olir asked is “No” – but he obviously requires the reasons why, the justification and authority for the answer provided.


In the face of the sort of resistance to fact shown in the majority of the ‘answers’ and even deliberate disinformation given in the ‘forum’, it has become very difficult to pry rumour based habits out of ‘interpretation’ and ‘application’ (practice) and to ‘hammer in’ what is actually written in the Rules of Hockey.


So I’ll keep hammering away, in the manner of a television ‘infomercial’, saying the same thing in as many different ways as I can, in the hope that repetition will bring awareness – and that umpires will do the opposite to what they are frequently advised to do (which is to umpire as they see others umpiring and not to try to make their own sense of the Rules) and that they will read the Rules of Hockey and apply their common sense to what they read. There are no words in the English language that take on an uncommon or very specific (i.e.different) meaning when used in the Rules of Hockey, even if there are some odd terms such as ‘penalty corner'; ‘third party'; bully; edge-hit and self-pass, which do need explaining to someone not familiar with the game.
Applying Penalty.

It is very easy to get this incorrect by applying criterion ‘back to front’  E.g....there’s no offence here because the non-fouling team have not been disadvantaged.” :that is completely wrong, disadvantage because of an action by an opponent has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not there has been an offence and an offence does not necessarily disadvantage opponents (the latter fact being why there is an Advantage Rule). The correct procedure is first to consider whether or not there has been an offence and if the answer to that question is “Yes”, then – and only then – to consider if opponents have been disadvantaged by the offence before considering penalty. That and the following needs to be learned:-

An offence is a breach of Rule that may be penalised by an umpire.

An OFFENCE that disadvantages opponents should be penalised (this is NOT the Advantage Rule.)

Disadvantaging opponents is not of itself an offence and nor of itself does it make any action an offence.

An accidental ball-body contact remains an unintentional contact it DOES NOT, even though a breach of Rule 9.11, become an offence (and treated as if made intentionally) just because opponents are disadvantaged by it.  

For a breach of Rule 9.11. to be an offence there must have been intent to breach the Rule. i.e. ball-body contact must have been made voluntarily – from choice. 

There is no ‘gained benefit’ exception – when there is a breach of Rule but no offence. i.e. when a ball-body contact is unintentional, there is no reason (other than injury) to stop play or to penalise the player who has been hit with the ball.

When an offence by a player DOES NOT disadvantage opponents –  so opponents are able to play on with advantage – then an umpire must not penalise the offence (with a team penalty) but must allow play to continue: this is the Advantage Rule.

(A card may be issued, if appropriate, to the offending player at the first natural break in play following an offence where advantage has been allowed by the umpire. Occasionally an umpire may attempt to allow an advantage to play out but the advantage the umpire thought would accrue does not actually materialize due to unforeseen circumstances or umpire misjudgement; in such a case the umpire may stop play and award a free at the place the offence originally occurred)

So why are we continually being taken in circles about a player gaining an advantage or disadvantaging opponents when there is an accidental ball-body contact, usually a ball-foot contact. Disadvantaging opponents by, for example, actions such as scoring a goal or tackling for the ball are not offences – they never have been and never will be, hockey is a competitive game and winning the game or even trying to do so, will, completely legitimately, disadvantage opponents.

Nor is it any longer possible to ‘create’ an offence by reason of an unintentional  breach of Rule 9.11. even if that gains a benefit or an advantage for the team of the player involved. The provided explanation of Rule application to this Rule clearly explains that such contact (even though a breach of Rule) is not an offence unless there is intent to play the ball with the body (a voluntarily made contact).

 Rule Wording

Removing the word ‘intentionally’ from the Rule proper – which necessitated the explanation below – was clearly an error by the FIH Rules Committee and this explanation of Rule 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 voluntarily use their hand, foot or body to play the ball or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way. 

is badly expressed, but the context in which the word voluntarily is used is not ambiguous (at least not if the commonly used Plain English meaning is given, as it must be, to the word ‘voluntarily’ – i.e. a choice willingly and knowingly made).


Seal is right but needs to read a little further into Rule 12. as the Rule he quotes is extremely vague. What is meant by “breaking the Rule” in the case of Rule 9.11? Rule 12.2 reads:-

12.2 A free hit is awarded to the opposing team :

a for an offence by any player between the 23 metres areas

b for an offence by an attacker within the 23 metres area their opponents are defending

c for an unintentional offence by a defender outside the circle but within the 23 metres area they are defending. (my bold)

(12.2.c obviously causes some difficulty because an unintentional ball-body contact is clearly not an offence – so this clause should not be – but generally is – applied to Rule 9.11.

The problem is really one of terminology, the Rules of Hockey uses four terms ‘Breaking the Rules’  ‘Offence’ ‘intentional offence’ and ‘unintentional offence’ – where three ‘Breach of Rule’ (not an offence) ‘Offence’ and ‘Intentional offence’ would be sufficient – and does not properly differentiate between the four. Nor do any of these four terms describe a ‘breaking of a Rule’ where there is no offence, for example in the case of an unintentional ball-body contact.)

‘Gains benefit’

The notion that disadvantaging opponents is an offence comes from casual misuse of the wording of the long deleted ‘gains benefit’ exception clause, which created an offence due to the gaining an unfair benefit (disadvantaging opponents) following an unintentional ball-body contact. Over time “disadvantaged opponents” (rather than gaining an unfair advantage) because of the ball-body contact, became the commonly used term for the offence. The ‘gains benefit’ exception is no longer part of the Rules of Hockey because the ‘gains benefit ‘ clause is no longer extant (deleted after 2006), but the illogical idea that disadvantaging opponents is an offence persists.

Gains benefit deletion

johnreiss. “No offence because the non-fouling team have not been disadvantaged”  As neither team has offended (as SPetitt pointed out), that statement does not make much sense (it is also difficult to make sense of what he has written because of the double double negative in that statement). johnreiss has not even mentioned the sole criteria for offence when there is a breach of Rule 9.11. – intent – which may also be expressed as a voluntarily made decision to play the ball with the body (when the option not to make ball-body contact was available and could have been chosen)

To use “disadvantaged opponents” as a direct replacement for the long deleted ‘gains benefit’ exception clause that was once part of Rule 9.11. ball-body contact – which is what johnreiss and others are doing, is incorrect and subverts the intent of the Rule – which is to discourage with penalty any intentional playing of the ball with the body – it is also a subversive way of trying to retain a clause which the FIH Rules Committee have deleted (by those who do not like and/or understand the change and are comfortable penalising all instances of ball-body contact where opponents of the player making the contact cannot play on with advantage – and often when opponents could have played on with advantage – both of which go some way beyond what the defunct ‘gains benefit’ exception provided). That is a pernicious action because it completely inverts the Rule (contradicts the explanation of application) and is an attempt to undermine the authority of the FIH Rules Committee.

(See link below to article UnDeletion for the story of the resistance to deletion of the ‘gains benefit’ exception clause)

Substituting a different form of words for ‘gains benefit’ i.e. ‘disadvantages opponents’, contradicts the currently provided Rule explanation. It  is also insulting to participants – are they supposed to be silly enough not to notice the contradiction or to accept that umpires such as Diligent can just change the Rule as they wish and at any time that they want to do so? 

It is difficult however to persuade with such argument people who declare, as The Chief does, “I’ll sit and watch dozens of differing opinions being expressed now, but that to me is how I make my decision on the pitch, and unless somebody tells me a better way, that’s how I’ll continue. Be consistent throughout the game and you won’t get too many complaints”. The correct way may not, in the opinion of The Chief, be a better way, but what he doing is just being ‘consistent’ (unchanging). Being ‘comfortable with a habit’ and being right are not at all the same thing. A better course of action, rather than just continuing to act irrationally, would be to lobby the FIH Rules Committee to amend the Rule and/or the Rule explanation so that Rule application is consistent with the wording of the Rule and Rule explanation – that does not mean however that Umpire Managers should be dictating the Rules of Hockey to the FIH Rules Committee.

The opinions of the likes of nerd_is_the_word are demonstrably incorrect (just read the Rule together with the explanation of the application of it). The only ‘reasoning’ such people come up with is their supposed ‘vast majority’, he doesn’t present an argument in support of his adopted position on the matter – or even say what that position is – he just tries to make sure that no one is allowed to try to persuade him or (more importantly) anyone else of the error of the “disadvantaged opponents” approach to ball-body contact.

The ‘gains benefit’ exception clause should not of course have been deleted, it should have been amended so that it could no longer be used as a ‘catch all’ (the reason for the deletion) rather than, as intended, an exception. There is now a pressing need to restore a modified version of ‘gains unfair benefit’ to Rule 9.11. to cover some specified incidents (and to curb the present penalising of ball-body contact that need not and should not be penalised, by identifying those that – exceptionally, when there is no intent to play the ball with the body – should be penalised).

The direct prevention of a goal with an accidental ball-body contact following a (non-dangerous) shot at the goal is an obvious example where the application of penalty (a penalty stroke) is fair. There is also a case to be made for penalising  ‘unfair benefit gained’ when a player who is in controlled possession of the ball (not a player trying to stop the ball or just hit with the ball) makes, for example, an unintended but unfairly beneficial ball-foot contact.

There is no good case to be made (other than the direct prevention of a goal) for penalising ‘gained benefit’ simply because a ball has been propelled towards and hit a player, that is usually just a lack of skill by an opponent attempting a pass or a shot (or deliberate ‘looking for a foot’ because players have become accustomed to being rewarded for ‘finding a foot’). Most instances of ball-body contact should cause no interruption to play – play should continue. At the extreme a player who is hit with the ball may have been hit as a result of dangerous or reckless play by an opponent: in such cases the player who propelled the ball who should be penalised – not the player hit with it. That of course brings us to the dangerous shot at the goal – about which another myth has been created and there is another “dead horse”.


.      The silly lie that an ‘on target’ shot at goal cannot be dangerous.     UnDeletion


January 4, 2014

Field Hockey Rules: Muddling the Advantage Rule with ‘gains benefit’.

Rules of Hockey. Muddling the Advantage Rule with ‘gains benefit’ 

Edited 30th July  2014.

A post from an umpire describing a decision not to penalise a player for an unintentional ball-foot contact, which, although well intentioned, demonstrates how muddled umpiring practice has become.

Defender clears ball from in front of goal to team-mate just outside circle – it’s through a clear channel with no red attacker within 3 or 4 metres of the ball’s path. But it happens that a defender’s foot is in the way, which the ball clips then bounces on with no change in direction, and not much reduced pace – to the defender it was going to anyway.

“Foot” “PC” they are all shouting.
“No offence. Keep playing” I call.

The game ends 5 minutes later, with a mini-symposium for the entire attacking team: “Rule 12.1 says only to penalise when opponents are disadvantaged by an offence. That ball was going to blue with no red anywhere near. I saw the foot, but then the ball went to blue with still no red anywhere near. So we played on.”

Okay the decision was correct and the call was correct but the reference to an Offence and to Rule 12.1. , which is the Advantage Rule, during the ‘mini-symposium’ is bewildering, because that Rule is utterly irrelevant in the described scenario.

There was clearly no Offence, the ball-foot contact was unintentional – not made voluntarily – there was no choice as to whether or not to make the ball-foot-contact, no decision made to do so. When there is no Offence the umpire cannot decide that the side offended against were not disadvantaged by an Offence and pretend (or believe) that to be the reason he allowed play (in this case by the team of the player who made the ball-body contact) to continue. Here is the Advantage Rule.

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

If awarding a penalty is not an advantage to the team which did not break the Rules, play must continue.

Clearly the Advantage Rule should not have been applied to the team of the player making the ball-body contact but (if it was applicable) to the opposing team. But the Advantage Rule throws up other confusions.

To make sense of them it is necessary to go to Rule 12. Penalties to find out under what circumstances a team penalty may be applied. Even here there is potential for muddle concerning ‘unintentional offence’, as an unintentional ball-body contact is not an Offence, but at least there is still mention of an Offence and not just the vague “breaking the Rules

12.2 A free hit is awarded to the opposing team :

a for an offence by any player between the 23 metres areas

b for an offence by an attacker within the 23 metres area their opponents are defending

c for an unintentional offence by a defender outside the circle but within the 23 metres area they are defending.

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 etc. etc.

(I don’t want to go too far into ‘the swamp’ and possibly need to attempt to unravel the rational for a penalty corner awarded for an intentional Offence within the opponents 23m area – when an unintentional ball-ball contact is not an Offence at all – it may be necessary to invent expressions such as super-intentional or intentionally-intentional)

The wording of the Advantage Rule was unhelpfully changed from 14. Advantage : a penalty shall be awarded only when a player or team has been clearly disadvantaged by an opponent’s offence to the present Rule.12.1. (see above) in 2004, as part of the rewrite to clarify and simplify the Rules. The result has been vagueness and confusion about what is a breach of Rule (or a breaking the Rules) but not an Offence, and what is an Offence – that is a breaking of the Rules that may be penalised with a team penalty (the difference between a breach of Rule and an Offence in the case of Rule 9.11. is the intent of the player who makes the ball-body contact – without intent there will be a breach of Rule, because the word ‘intentionally’ has been removed from the Rule proper, but both ‘intentionally’ and ‘voluntarily’ are given in the explanation of the application of the Rule. (Restoring the word ‘intentionally’ to the Rule would remove what appears to be conflict between the Rule and the provided explanation of application of the Rule – and make the explanation of it a great deal easier).

(Intent is mentioned in only two Rules. Rule. 9.9. which concerns the lifted hit, and Rule 9.11. which concerns ball-body contact. Umpires have no problem with an accidentally raised hit not being seen an Offence -unless dangerous, but even when the word intentionally was in the Rule proper, had difficulty with accidental ball-body contact because of the misuse of ‘gains benefit’.

Some umpires insist on regarding the Rule and the provided explanation as separate and the explanation as only ‘notes’, or optional advice. This alone cause problems with consistency in application. It’s a very strange attitude as it does not seem to be taken in regard to the explanations of other Rules. The Obstruction Rule for example has (at the other extreme) been ignored largely because of the influence of Interpretation, most of which has been deleted for more than ten years).

Simply put there was no Offence in the incident described because there was no intent to make ball-body contact, the contact was accidental.

A free-ball or a penalty corner can be awarded only when there has been an Offence, except that – there are always exceptions – a penalty corner is awarded when:-

1) a defender deliberately players the ball over his own base-line

2) a defender plays the ball at above shoulder height when a shot is made at the goal and the ball is going wide of the goal

3) a defender is hit below the knee with a shot taken during a penalty corner.

(That lot could do with simplification, perhaps by scrapping them, they are all silly and unfair – #2 , will probably be removed soon anyway because of the introduction of above shoulder play which will probably be adopted into full Rules in the coming years)

The Advantage Rule is applied when there has been a breaking of the Rules (an offence) but the side offended against can play on with advantage – or are not disadvantaged – a phrase the antonym of which ‘are disadvantaged’,  is ‘high-jacked’ as an (inappropriate) substitute for ‘gained benefit’.

Penalty can be applied only when there has been an Offence (not just a breaking of the ball-body contact Rule, because the intent of the player hit with the ball has to be taken into consideration when determining if there has been an Offence). When there is no Offence the umpire cannot decide that the side offended against were disadvantaged or were not disadvantaged by an Offence; the umpire has no reason to intervene play should just continue.

It is clear from the account of his post-match justification of his decision that this umpire is still thinking in terms of of using ‘gains benefit’ (or disadvantaged opponents) to ‘create’ an Offence, seeing an accidental ball-foot contact as an illegal disadvantaging of opponents or as the gaining of an unfair benefit – (the retaining of the ball by the team of the player hit with the ball) – and then used ‘did not disadvantage opponents’ (no opponent was near), which was completely irrelevant in the absence of an Offence, to allow play to continue, He used ‘both sides of the same coin’ (whichever it was) in coming to a decision. 

He then, in his post match “mini-symposium”, referred to the Advantage Rule to explain his actions to the players

The Advantage Rule could not have been employed unless there had been an Offence – which did not disadvantage opponents so that play could be allowed to continue despite the Offence. If the team offended against, are able to play on with a advantage after an Offence by opponents, they must allowed to do so. He allowed the team who had breached the ball-body contact Rule to play on – his decision was correct because there was no intent, but his choice of Rule and reasoning was not.

It was a cold day the players probably ‘switched off’ quicker than you did during the above necessarily convoluted (and deliberately repetitive) explanation, and so missed the bizarre applying of the Advantage Rule to the wrong team and the paradox of applying opposites, ‘gains benefit’ and the Advantage Rule to the same end.

Opposites?. Yes, the ‘gains benefit’ clause was (prior to 2007) applied when there had been an accidental ball-body contact and the team of the player making the contact were adjudged to have gained an unfair advantage. ‘The gains benefit exception clause therefore permitted the ‘creation’ of an Offence after an unintentional ball-body contact and allowed – provided there was disadvantage to opponents – the interruption of play by a match umpire to penalise that ‘Offence’. (The ‘creation’ of an Offence from what was only a breach of Rule was an irrational but pragmatic solution to instances of accidental ball-body contact that were seen by the umpire as so unfair to opponents that play could not be allowed to continue)

The Advantage Rule, as pointed out above, requires an umpire to allow play to continue without penalty when there has been an Offence, if the opponents of the team of the player responsible for the Offence can do so with advantage. In application it’s the direct opposite of ‘gains benefit’ (which should not be applied in any case at present because the clause has been deleted).

The thinking did not matter in this instance because it did not effect the outcome – the decision made – but in other circumstances it could well do so and it is therefore necessary to understand the difference between allowing an advantage to be played by one team following an Offence by another and there being no Offence to penalise.

The fact that the player hit was in clear space and the ball-foot contact did not disadvantage opponents is completely irrelevant – there was no Offence. It should make no difference whatsoever to the decision if an accidental ball-foot contact did disadvantage the opposing team. Disadvantaging opponents is not of itself an Offence and there is no longer a ‘gained benefit exception clause with which to ‘create’ one when a team is disadvantaged because of an unintended ball-body contact by an opposing player.

Obviously the deletion of the entire ‘gains benefit’ exception clause, instead of amendment of it to make its application fair, was a serious mistake, but it is a mistake that has to be lived with and accommodated until the FIH Rules Committee rectify this error: which they must eventually do. It is not the task of umpires to invent Rules.

The FIH Umpires Committee and National Umpiring Associations are in a very good position to liaise with and to  lobby the FIH Rules Committee for amendment to the Rules of Hockey if they see reason for change. These various bodies should since 2007 have resolved the ‘gains benefit’ issue in conjunction with the FIH RC. Let’s hope that any correction eventually arrived at (published in the rule book) will not take interpretation to another extreme – one that hasn’t really ever gone away since 2004 and also needs correcting if the game is to be fair and to ‘flow properly – the penalising of almost all ball-body contact. At present it is only very exceptionally that a ball-body contact is not penalised. How unusual it is for an umpire to call “Play on” after a foot contact by a defender in the circle for example, may be gauged by the fact that this umpire thought an account of this, otherwise unremarkable incident, worth sharing on an Internet forum.

A clearer – and correct – call could have been given by the umpire in the above described scenario.   “Accidental – No Offence – Play on”.

The umpire did correctly call “No Offence, play on” and should be commended for that, many umpires – perhaps most – would have awarded a penalty corner ‘automatically’ without giving the matter any thought, never mind a second thought, following such a foot contact by a defender in the circle (it’s easy and it is now expected). But he needs to get his Rule application sorted out in his own mind. The use of the double negative ‘not disadvantaged’, constructed from the Advantage Rule, and the unnecessary muddling of that invention with ‘did not gain benefit’, does not make that sorting out easy. It is however very easy to find reason not to blow the whistle in such circumstances,

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 voluntarily use their hand, foot or body to play the ball or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way.

(My highlighting)

Edit July 2014.

Changes to the indoor Rules to take effect in January 2015, were published in mid-July 2014. One change is that the sentence The player only commits an offence if they voluntarily play the ball…  is to be deleted from the above explanation of application of Rule 9.11 and replaced with The player only commits an offence if they gain advantage…

What is to become of or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way (with the hand foot or body) is at present unknown.

As changes to the Outdoor Rules are, where possible, synchronised with Indoor Rules, a similar change can be expected to be made to the Outdoor Rules of Hockey. The term ‘gain advantage‘ isn’t restricted to ‘unfair advantage’ and is not in any way described, so the change cannot be said to be a clarification of the Rule or an improvement to it.

This change is in fact a return to the Rule as it was circ. 1991  We are being taken for a ride on a roundabout, intentionally (or deliberately) playing the ball with the body  is introduced and then dropped in cycles, there has been no advance made in either communication or understanding.  Ironically a return to the application of the Obstruction Rule as it was applied in 1993 would be an improvement on the current situation. 

The above clause is not a good explanation of the current Rule position  because the word always perverts the intent of it and should, logically, have been removed at the time ‘gains benefit’ was deleted. The syntax or phrasing is also poor, not least because it ‘plants’ the idea that it is only exceptionally that ball-body contact is not an Offence when the fact is the other way about. It is not an Offence just because there is ball-body contact. Prior to 2007 the exceptions were the gaining of an unfair benefit or intent (or both together), now the only exception to ‘no offence’ is intent, but the phrase “position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way” is a conundrum for umpires, with a wide range of interpretation (personal opinion) used to ‘solve’ it and the word ‘voluntarily’ is given some very bizarre ‘interpretation’.  (see )

That, however, is the published explanation of the application of the Rule provided in the rule book. It’s in the rule book for a reason, although what that reason might be seems to be “anybody’s guess”, it’s open to ‘interpretation’. In effect whatever decision an umpire makes will be correct: an absurd situation. The framing of Rule should be based on fairness and on the reasonable safety of players, not just on making umpiring easy or facilitating ‘no fault possible’ (anything can be justified in some way) decision making.


A more recent and much worse incident from the highest level, World Cup 2014.

In this instance penalty was awarded because the opponents had not gained an advantage – talk about muddle – that is an absurd interpretation of the Advantage Rule, a Rule designed to allow play to continue after a foul has been committed, especially as there was no foul by the defender.

Even if there had been a ‘gains benefit’ clause in effect in 2014, there would have been no reason to apply it in the above incident, there was no benefit gained by the defender and no disadvantage caused to the attacker; there was no noticeable change of pace or direction on the ball. Why should opponents have to gain an advantage greater than they would have had if the ball had not been touched at all for umpires not to award a penalty when there is ANY ball-body contact? This is unnecessary, unfair and it spoils the game. Players in possession of the ball are encouraged to play not hockey but ‘find a foot’.

The reintroduction of ‘gained an advantage’ in Rule 9.11., which is due to take effect from January 1st. 2015., will undoubtedly signal the continuance of this sort of umpiring decision.
(‘gains benefit’ has never really ‘gone away’ even if it was deleted from the rule book after 2006, it was just renamed ‘disadvantaged opponents’and applied exactly as it was before i.e. badly and as a ‘catch all’ ).



Linked article:

January 3, 2014

Field Hockey Rules: unDeletion.

Rules of Hockey. The Deletion of the ‘Gains Benefit’ Exception Clause – and the attempt to reverse that deletion.

Edited 18th. November  2014.
A little over a month after the Rules of Hockey for 2007-9 came into force (1st  January 2007), Rules which would have been drafted and issued after the usual “wide ranging consultation and liaison between the FIH HRB and the FIH Umpiring Committee and other interested parties”, this extraordinary communication, dated 7th February 2007, was issued on the FIH web-site.


“Official FIH Explanation of Rule 9.11″

With the turn of the year, many more nations are now using the 2007/8 Rules of Hockey. The FIH is always keen to receive feedback on  any rules changes or for that matter, any existing rules. We  receive his through various informal networks but also scan the web based discussion forums regularly. 

An issue we have picked up through a few national associations, is uncertainty about rule 9.11: “field  players must not stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of the body”
After much discussion especially with input from Peter von Reth (as Hockey Rules Board Member and Chairman of the Umpiring Committee) and after agreement by Hockey Rules Chairman Wolfgang Rommel, the following guidance note has been prepared


Compared to the 2005/6 Rules, the note in italics has been changed in an endeavour to reinforce the intended interpretation of this rule.  *(1)

The full Rule was set out in this position.  This is the part in italics referred to.

 2006 It is not an offence if the ball hits the foot, hand or body of a field player,unless that player or their team benefits from this.

Compared with

2007 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 voluntarily use their hand, foot or body to play the ball or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way.

The following advice has been produced to clarify this interpretation so that the rule is applied consistently.


The 2005/6 Rules indicated that it was not an offence if the ball hits the foot, hand or body of a field player unless that player or their team benefits from this. However, as with other rules, this continues to be an offence if benefit is gained. Rule 9.11 should therefore continue to be applied talking into account any benefit gained by the player or their team.


My Summary:-Following discussions between Peter von Reth and others, Wolfgang Rommel (Chair of the FIH Rules Committee) has agreed that the gains benefit exception clause once contained in Rule 9.11 “unless  that  player  or  their  team  benefits from  this” which has (sic) just been deleted by the FIH Rules Committee, will continue to apply if a benefit is gained from a ball-body contact.


Comment. No acceptable explanation was offered for a reversal of the deletion. The reason offered was “to reinforce the intended interpretation of the Rule” but the result of comparing “the parts in italics” from 2006 and from 2007 to reach this interpretation is illogical, it makes no sense at all because from the two statements, what has been deleted (unless) and what replaced that deletion (if), in the context of the Rule mean exactly the same thing.


unless benefit is gained     – is compared with       –if  benefit IS gained

That is the entire explanation of  the proposed reversal offered within this ‘Official’ FIH Explanation of Rule 9.11.

The intended interpretation of the Rule is not clearly explained, in fact it is not explained at all, it is not even set out;  the reversal of a Rule amendment  made by the FIH Rules Committee was just announced; nor, in this pretence of ‘explanation’ was there any attempt made to explain the circumstances in which ‘gained benefit’ should be applied – it is to be (sic) “applied as it was in 2006“. (What the 2006 interpretation was supposed to be, was in any case as much a  mystery as the present interpretation is: that was not explained either. In fact it would be fair to say that the deletion of ‘gains benefit’ was a result of the 2006 ‘interpretation’, that is of ‘umpiring practice’ at the time)

There can be no doubt that the reason the gains benefit exception clause was deleted by the FIH Rules Committee was that, post 2004, all ball-body contact was being seen by umpires as an Offence (for consistency – this was the coached view). The gaining of a benefit or the disadvantaging the opposing team was generally assumed to follow from any ball body contact (unless opponents could immediately play on with advantage): which was not at all the original purpose of this Rule Guidance exception clause.


What is just as extraordinary about the above ‘Official’ Explanation is that there is no mention at all of the other change to Rule 9.11., made in January 2007, which was the addition of:-


The player only commits an offence if they voluntarily use their hand, foot or body to play the ball or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way. which made it impossible to interpret the Rule exactly as it would have been interpreted between 2004 and 2006

The easy course for umpires and umpire coaches prior to 2007 had been to consider all ball-body contact as of benefit to the team of the player hit with the ball and to penalise it as an Offence unless opponents could play on with advantage – and that was also consistent – so that is what happened and continued to happen after January 2007 (and still happens). 

But a contradiction often arises when opponents cannot play on with advantage after an accidental (or even a forced) ball-body contact. The non-existent (deleted) gains benefit exception clause is being applied and penalty awarded, not because there has been an Offence, that is not because there is intent to play the ball with the body, but, because opponents cannot play on with a clear advantage  – are said to be disadvantaged by the contact. This is a misconstruction of the Advantage Rule, a Rule which applies only when an Offence has been committed and the team offended against can play on with advantage – so there is no reason to stop play and penalise the Offence. This misapplication is being used to interupt play to  penalise even when there is no evidence at all of any intent (voluntarily taken action) to make ball-body contact, i.e. when the contact is not an Offence. The gaining of benefit is being used to create an offence when, according to other explanation of application, no Offence has occurred: that was the reason the ‘gains benefit’ exception clause was deleted in the first place. 


 Disadvantaging opponents is not of itself an Offence, for an umpire to intervene to apply penalty there must first be an Offence  – and that Offence must have disadvantaged opponents – otherwise play must be allowed to continue: that is the Advantage Rule.

When the ‘gains benefit’ exception clause was extant it  inverted the logical order (Offence -> disadvantaged opponents  -> penalty) so that it became:-

(breach of Rule (not a offence)  -> disadvantaged opponents -> create Offence -> penalty)

An involuntary ball-body contact is a breach of Rule, but not an Offence, because the Rule explanation given with the Rule in the Rules of Hockey states that to be the case, only a voluntarily made contact can be an Offence.


The penalising of no-Offence ball-body contact incidents is something attackers, particularly when in unpromising positions in the opposing circle, depend on unnecessarily and far too much. It is common to see the ball deliberately played into the feet/legs of defenders in the expectation of a penalty corner – which is never disappointed. Team coaches have been known to publicly chide their players for attempting to shoot at the goal rather than trying to ‘win’ a penalty corner: that too is an inversion, in fact it is perverse.


Assumption of intent by a player to make ball-body contact should not be made without clear evidence. When there has been no Offence, that is when a ball-body contact is not clearly intentional (or clearly not made voluntarily), an umpire should not (cannot) now ‘create’ an Offence in this way in order to justify the award of a penalty: that is contrary to the above Rule explanation clause. (which might have been better expressed A player does not commit an offence unless ball- body contact is made intentionally).


No intention therefore no Offence, therefore no penalty: no exceptions.


There are many umpires who have never made a  “Play on” call after an unintentional  ball-foot contact; for consistency they always penalise, even though the vast majority of such ball-foot contacts are accidental and are therefore not Offences – and that is the case irrespective of any advantage gained by the team of the player hit with the ball – no intent, no Offence. (Such penalising is the  practice of many umpires despite the fact that even when there is an Offence play should be allowed to continue if the side offended against can play on with advantage. They even muddle the Advantage Rule with disadvantaging opponents in order to penalise.

There are a few other things that are odd about the “Feb. 2007 Official explanation” of the Rule situation. Firstly, the deletion of a Rule Guidance clause*(2) cannot be clarified, interpreted or explained with advice to the effect that it still applies – it was either deleted or it was not – and it was deleted by the FIH HRB  (renamed the FIH Rules Committee in 2011), the only FIH body with the authority to draft new Rule or amend previous Rule, and that deletion had the required FIH Executive Board approval before the rule book was printed. The parties to the discussions mentioned in the notice, Peter von Reth and Wolfgang Rommel (both Members of the FIH Committee that made the deletion, so presumably party to it) , did not have the authority to alter Rule application in the way attempted and could not, independently between themselves, have legitimately agreed to do so.


Secondly, there was not (and is not) any other Rule (“as with other Rules) where an offence was created because benefit was gained. There is no gains benefit exception to any other Rule and never has been. The only other mention gaining benefit has in the Rules of Hockey is in reference to players delaying/wasting time  in order to gain an unfair advantage. Rule 9.17.


This self-styled “Official FIH Explanation of Rule 9.11”  – which was nothing of the sort. It was not ‘official’ – not from the FIH Rules Committee – and contained no explanation of Rule 9.11.  *(1) –  has had a profound effect; umpires continue to use the term ‘gained benefit’ or more often, ‘disadvantaged opponents’ or ‘material effect on the game’ or a bizarre interpretation of the word ‘voluntarily’ or even the Advantage Rule, as justification for penalising accidental, unavoidable and even forced ball-body contact – especially ball-foot contact – when there is no Rule justification whatsoever for doing so.


Should there be a gains unfair benefit exception clause to only commits an offence if they voluntarily use etc in the ball-body contact Rule?  


Yes of course there should be, but not the version, applied as a ‘catch all’,  that the FIH Hockey Rules Board deleted after 2006. There was good reason for the deletion:  but amendment rather than deletion would have been much the better course. (see Ball body contact Rule a suggestion  )


*(1)  Extract from a letter from the FIH Executive to all Umpiring Associations issued in January 2002.

In November 2001 the FIH Executive Board agreed with a recommendation from the Hockey Rules Board that there should only be one set of interpretations and that the Hockey Rules Board had sole responsibility for producing these.  No other FIH body or official could vary the rules  or their interpretations.

No FIH body or official,  other than the FIH Rules Committee,  can vary the rules or their interpretations.

*(2)  ‘Rules or their interpretations’ refers to those set out in the published FIH Rules of Hockey.  The membership of the FIH Hockey Rules Board and the FIH Rules Committee remained the same in the year after the name change as in the year before it and the renamed committee continued to work under the same Constitution and FIH Statutes. The “FIH Rules Committee”, as with any other rule or law making body when making Rule, means and refers to the whole Committee in session, not to decisions made by individual Members of the Committee or to other discussions between select Committee Members.

July 2014.

It has been proposed by the FIH RC and approved by the FIH Executive that from January 2015, the word voluntarily be removed from Rule 9.11. and in its place the phrase gained benefit be used. It seems (but no mention has been made of it) that the only reference to intent that will remain in the explanation of the application of the Rule is “or position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in that way” (with the hand, foot or body) – a clause that could usefully have been deleted to simplify and clarify the Rule (I have yet to see a rational – indeed any – explanation of this ‘explanation’. Is the Offence “positioning”?). From Jan 2015 an offence will have been committed if any benefit is considered to have been gained by the team of a player who makes body contact with the ball – is hit with the ball. I am appalled; this reinstatement will be a ‘re-cycling’ of the Rule as it was in 1991 (sans the Offence of Forcing, which was deleted in 2011) and the fourth time there has been a ‘whole cloth’ introduction of a ‘gains benefit’ or ‘gains an advantage’ exception clause (which will not, if the application of previous versions are any guide, be applied as an exception).

As has been observed by another, only idiots repeat the same mistakes and expect different outcomes.