Archive for ‘Advantage’

April 16, 2017

Advantage allowed v Advantage gained


The above FHF umpiring thread wandered into yet another contentious area and into the making statements I am going to disagree with.

The reasoning and conclusions of both of the posts below are incorrect because they conflict, for different reasons, with Rule instructions and with common sense.

The above scenario describes a player trying to lob the ball over the keeper and then closing on the keeper to try to play the ball again ( I’m assuming, I think reasonably, that the rebound off the goalkeeper’s chest did not travel horizontally as far as the lob shot the attacker made – and the attacker, after shooting, did then close the distance between himself and the goalkeeper) . This is a contravention of Rule 9.10. – an encroaching offence –  the ball is a falling raised ball and the attacker is a same team player, in fact the player who raised the ball. I need go no further. Free ball to the defending team.

If the above statement is taken to be general and not about the specific incident described above, potentially much more convoluted situations are being described and we wander into the application of the Advantage Rule and into what should and what should not be considered to be an offence.

The statement I take issue with is “No advantage is possible because of the attacker’s subsequent offence” I take it that Nij means that the umpire cannot apply advantage in relation to a goalkeeper’s dangerous play offence because the attacker, whom the ball has been played into by the goalkeeper, has committed a ball-body contact offence.

The question arises: – Can a player the ball has been dangerously played into, be said in all circumstances, to have committed a ball body contact offence which should be penalised? I think the answer (with the exception of incidents which occur during encroaching) is “No” because if it is “Yes” the Rules (particularly Umpires 2.2.b  – below) are then contradicted and a conundrum is created

A look at the Advantage Rule, part in Penalties, but most of which is contained in advice and  instructions to umpires under the heading Applying the Rules.

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 actually means when an opponent has committed an offence because the complete list of circumstances necessary for the award of penalty, which follows the above statement, in every case refers to an offence – and not just a breach of Rule – as reason for the award of the specified penalty.


1.4 Umpires must :

e    apply the advantage Rule as much as possible to assist a flowing and open match but without losing control.

Applying the Rules

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

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

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

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

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

So rather than (sic) “the umpire cannot apply advantage because of the subsequent  ball-body contact by the attacker“, the Rules say an umpire must apply advantage following such a dangerous play offence by a goalkeeper if playing advantage is the most severe penalty available. Advantage was the most severe penalty available in the above instance because the attacker had an immediate opportunity to control the ball and shoot at the goal and score. To suggest that the playing of advantage by the umpire following the offence by the goalkeeper in this case (and others similar to it) gives or creates an advantage for the attacker and that therefore the ball-body contact by the attacker is an offence, contradicts the umpires instructions and decision and sets up a nonsense (that the umpire’s decision to allow advantage creates an offence by the player the advantage was allowed to by the umpire).

The simplest and I think most sensible approach (one that could be explained to a child) is to state that where a ball is played dangerously by one player into another, the player hit with the ball cannot (except where there has been an encroaching offence) have committed an offence and, if possible and also if to the advantage of the team of the player hit with the ball , play should be allowed to continue. 

This could be expressed as an exception to Rule 9.11 or as part of a restored Forcing Rule.






February 26, 2017



It has been an interesting week with Simon Orchard, a current Australian international player, being critical of the ignorance of umpires about the game – and of course the knee-jerk response, from many umpires, that Orchard is ignorant of the demands of umpiring was made repeatedly. I made comment in the Hockey Paper and also in reply to a WordPress article by an Australian umpire and I was not complimentary to Orchard in either.

On reflection I think I was too harsh towards him. His action was brave considering he is still an international player – it might even be considered foolhardy as it will not have pleased his National Hockey Association or probably any umpire he encounters in future matches. Possibly he is approaching voluntary retirement from international level play and felt the need to speak out while he still had the platform to do so. My main criticism of his article was the lack of presented evidence, but that lack is understandable because it would have meant the criticism of identified umpires (not a wise action for an international player) and it also takes a considerable time and effort to gather such evidence. Presenting a general statement about the state of umpiring based on one incident is just laughingly dismissed as a ‘one off’ mistake – and “umpires are human” is an oft used meaningless excuse. But making a statement based on long experience is also challenged if detailed facts are absent.

Several umpires made comment about his lack of umpiring experience (without knowing whether that was true or not) and his understanding of umpiring (leaving aside their mentioning hard work and commitment and the huge amount of time spent on training courses – which international level players would know nothing about), but this is a one-way street and a lost argument; Orchard could easily become (or already is) an umpire capable of officiating a National League match well in a month – no umpire currently umpiring at NL level or above is capable of becoming a senior international level player ever. Only a tiny number are capable of playing at National League level or even training to do so. There is nothing stopping Orchard going on to become an international umpire.

Another notable figure in the news is the FIH Umpire Christian Blasch, who this week received the award of Umpire of the Year for 2016. If there is an umpire who could be described as ‘bulletproof’ it must be Blasch, who is regarded almost as a deity by the umpiring fraternity. He is now 42 years old – and as umpires may continue to be appointed to international matches until 31st December following their 47th birthday he may still be active for about another five years – possibly for longer than Orchard will be playing at international level.

I have 480 video clips which I have assembled over the past seven years, mainly for the purpose of illustrating the articles I write in this blog. I have not previously taken much notice of which umpires were officiating the matches from which I took incidents to write about, but I started yesterday to go through them to see how many I could find in which Blasch was an umpire, particularly the umpire engaged with the incident I was reviewing. He features in quite a few as tournament matches tend to be more widely televised in the latter stages and he is given charge of an above average number of FIH Tournament Semi-Finals and Finals. I will come back to this when I have finished my researches, but I can say that from what I have found so far that Orchard is not wrong in his assertions if the example of one of the acknowledged best is the benchmark. Terms like erratic and inconsistent are appropriate and both the ignoring of Rule and the invention of ‘Rule’ are repeatedly in evidence, even from this ‘infallible’.

I leave that matter to one side for now and take a look at an incident I came across that led to a video referral. It is relevant to an article on Advantage I recently edited. Co-incidentally the video umpire for that incident, in a match between Malaysia and Spain was also Deon.  

(Blasch was the disengaged umpire during this incident, below, which took place in his colleague’s circle)

Decision contrary to Rule 2014 WC ESP v BEL

Readers will no doubt immediately spot the mistake (invention?) by the video umpire. The ball glanced off the toe of a defender in the circle and was collected by an attacking player, it was then contested for by another defender.

Deon was right that there was no advantage – there was no advantage to the defending team – but he inverted the Rule, because there was also clearly no intent by the hit defender to use the body to stop or deflect the ball, so there was no offence but he assumed an offence and wrongly employed the Advantage Rule 12.1.

He also ‘reinvented’ a Rule criterion because ‘advantage’ was not one of the criteria for a ball-body contact offence in 2014, having, as ‘gains benefit’, been deleted on issue of the 2007 Rules of Hockey. ‘Gains an advantage’ was restored to Rule 9.11, following an FIH Circular, in May 2015 and then reappeared in the rule-book which was effective from January 2016. That umpires openly persisted in applying ‘gained benefit’ or ‘gained an advantage’ despite it not being part of Rule 9.11. for more than eight years prior to May 2015 is a fair indication of the notice they took and still take of the FIH Rules Committee and how what the FIH RC produce, the Rules of Hockey, is subverted.

I can’t detect much difference between “voluntarily” and “positioning with intention to use the body in this way” and, as far as I am aware no FIH official has made any attempt at an explanation of a difference, so intent of one sort or another was really the only criterion for a ball-body contact offence in 2014.

That there was no advantage to the attacking team following the defender’s foot contact was not (and is not at present) a reason to penalise a ball-body contact – and that there was no advantage to the attacking side in this incident was not true anyway – which is why there was no advantage gained by the defending side, it is not possible that both teams could simultaneously gain an advantage over the other because of a single contact incident – logically, one or other did or neither did. The ball was deflected directly to another attacker and play continued with the attacker who received the deflection then making a mess of the shooting opportunity he managed to create.

Should a second defender stand back in such circumstances and allow a clear shot at the goal so that an attacking team have advantage and a penalty corner cannot therefore be awarded following an accidental ball-body/foot contact? That would be plain daft and not at all what the Rule demands now – never mind in 2014 when there was no ‘gains advantage’ to consider. No, there being no offence, play should just have continued to take its course – advantage was irrelevant.

Whether or not gains benefit should have been deleted, rather than amended by the FIH RC, is another matter entirely, but the deletion was caused by umpires assuming as a matter of course – for consistency – that all ball-body contact gained an advantage, which made nonsense of the Explanation provided with the Rule – something had to give.

The obvious conflict between umpiring practice and the Rule wording in a series of rule-book issues between 2007 and 2015 was however an embarrassment – and gains benefit should not have been deleted entirely anyway, so it obviously had to come back – it is a pity it was returned just as it was in 2003 and the opportunity was not taken to make necessary amendments to it.

The video referral “for a foot contact” should have been rejected (The question put should not even have been accepted in that form – and referrals of that sort should not be accepted now – ball-body contact is not automatically an offence, intent or advantage gained are required).

The problem with these kinds of decisions at this level is that they are taken to be correct – “It MUST be the right decision, he’s an FIH Umpire” is a common uncritical attitude. Sadly that is not true; FIH Umpires are human and as prone to error as the rest of us – and they seem to be even more prone to inventing ‘Rules’ (or receiving contrary instruction) than the average club umpire – who will be in error because he or she copies what is seen and heard, on television or video, being done by high level umpires, rather than following what is given in the rule-book.

Yes the content of the rule-book is inadequate, but it IS as it IS. The responses of individual umpires to match incidents may vary this way and that, without prior communication, from place to place and from time to time for no apparent reason – despite (or even because of) the UMB. The rule-book can be amended and it will stay as amended until it is amended again a year or many years later. Get the rule-book to the standard of an acceptable working document and work to it and disagreement and discontent will subside and eventually disappear as consistent interpretation is agreed and written into it (easier now as the Rules of Hockey may be amended by the FIH as and when required, not only every two years as previously). 

Both former Great Britain Captains, Middleton and Fox have recently criticised the continuance of the present penalty corner format (because it is too dangerous) and I hope that others will join them and Orchard in protest at what is presently accepted in that and other areas of Rule and the application of Rule, and that what is now a whisper will become a roar.

The Rules of Hockey are not the preserve of umpires, they are for the use and advice of all participants. Participating umpires are as obliged to abide by them as players are.



August 7, 2016

Playing ‘Advantage’


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

The related Rules and/or Explanation of application.

Rule 9.11. Explanation of application.

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

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

The previous ‘gains benefit’ criterion was deleted from the Rules of Hockey by the FIH Rules Committee on issue of the 2007-9  rulebook in January 2007. However, Mr. Peter von Reth contrived, in February 2007, that the FIH Rules Committee be over-ruled (an impossibility but it happened) and insisted that ‘gains benefit’ continue to be applied as it was in 2006.  So although ‘gains benefit’ (as the present “gain an advantage”) was not restored to the Rules of Hockey until January 2016 (active via FIH Circular May 2015), umpires who wanted to progress did as they were told in the intervening eight years – and what the top level umpires were doing was carried by ‘cascade’ to all other levels. The incident in the video can therefore be examined as if current Rule (gain an advantage) should have been applied to it as well as the Explanation extent at the time (voluntarily made contact) because that was what was happening.

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

(”breaking the Rules” is a neat bit of ambiguity introduced apparently with the intention of fudging the distinction – which was previously very clear – between an offence and a breach of Rule which was not an offence, because it did not meet the criteria for offence. This whole confusing mess arising from the deletion of the word ‘intentionally’ from the Rule Proper – Rule 9.11).

The MAS player hit with the ball did not commit an offence but he was in breach of the Rule – a ridiculous situation created by a long sequence of deletions and additions to both the Rule Proper and the Explanation of application (or Guidance) since the 1980’s (one of which, 1992, required in the Rule Proper, that there be a deliberate ball-body contact – and an advantaged gained by the contact. None of various versions produced by the HRB/FIH RC over the past thirty plus years have made the slightest difference to the way umpires ‘interpreted’ ball-body contact – and that continues to be the case). 

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

There was no offence

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

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


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

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

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

Note should also be taken of this Rule provided in the section following Conduct of Play: Players, entitled Conduct of Play: Umpires.

12 Penalties

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

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

Advantage combo

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

Coaching note.

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

November 1, 2015

Rewrite. Rule 12.1. Penalties Advantage


A  suggested rewrite of the Rules of Hockey

The current Rule 12.1


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

Umpiring 2.2 Advantage

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

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

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

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

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

Action.  Amendment

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



Useful comment and suggestions welcome.


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


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

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

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

Umpiring 2.2 Advantage

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

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

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

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

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