Archive for ‘Dangerous Play’

June 26, 2017

Field Hockey Rules: Diligent’s tar baby

I have described as a ‘tar baby’ the ‘sticky’ entitled The Dangerous Shot On Goal that has been attached to the head of the Umpiring section of the fieldhockeyforum website.
I wrote a critique of it some years ago but as Diligent has decided to expand on it and I have made reply to that expansion (below) I think it appropriate to restate my opinion of the so called consensus and place it above my reply to the recent expansion.

I have separated the sentences of Diligent’s consensus post so that I can make observations on them in written order rather than trying deal with them all together in one long comment at the end.

Every internet forum has had these debates, and the strong opinions have led to a deal of nastiness.

I agree, I have been on the receiving end of a great deal of this nastiness. Two hockey forums have vanished because of this nastiness. First the forum on and then the one run by George Brinks on what was previously known but is now

There are two extreme positions:
– if it is a shot, it cannot be dangerous (any danger is the defender’s fault for being there);

That statement contains two extreme positions but both are on the same ‘pole’. They are both bizarre, the first conflicts with the Rules of Hockey and the second with common sense and with Common Law

(No one can be said to accept a risk of dangerous play – the risk of the ball being recklessly or deliberately propelled at them in a way that could cause injury – when such dangerous play is contrary to the Rules of the game. It is not possible to impose or suppose the acceptance of such risk because of legitimate positioning on the field of play. Nor is it possible to impose or suppose acceptance of a risk that results from a reckless or deliberate breach of a Rule. The only risks that can be said to be accepted are the risks associated with unintended or accidental actions).

– the danger rules are being ignored, with too many dangerous shots allowed as goals, or injured defenders penalised with a PS.

That statement is not an extreme position it is an accurate description of what is happening and it can be backed up with video clips from a great many high level matches. It would be an extreme position to suggest that all raised shots are dangerous or that any ball played towards an opponent is dangerous – nobody has suggested taking either position: height limits and extended distances within which to apply them have been suggested: these are not extreme suggestions.

On the occasions when the flame wars have subsided enough to let reasonable contributors reach a consensus, that consensus has been:

– it all depends on the shot, the speed and distances involved, the skill-level of defenders and attacker, the state of play, the importance of the competition, and many other factors known only to those who were there.

I am reminded of climate scientists who are angry at the so called ‘consensus’ concerning the effects of carbon dioxide produced by human activity on global warming or climate change, but because of the way poll questions were framed are included in a claimed 98% consensus of scientists who say that global warming is caused predominantly by human produced CO2. That statement not following the conclusion that should have been reached from the questions that were asked in the poll (the word ‘predominantly’ was not used in the poll questions). I can understand their anger and their amazement at such blatant manipulation of their answers.

I wonder how Diligent arrived at his consensus – I can recall the questions being asked but I have no recollection of any answer that was generally accepted – few answers were actually given or even by many who did respond, any attempt made to give answers. A few actually went to the trouble of stating in a post that they would not get involved in any discussion about a dangerously played ball and had posted just to state that. The usual response from those who should have been able to provide useful insights was stonewalling or a yawn or comments about dead horses and of course a great deal of nastiness – there was also a great deal of ignorance and stupidity put on display.

I can recall being told there was a consensus but I, and many others, formed no part of it – there was an opinion we were informed ‘everybody’ held. Of course I and others of my ilk could not possibly be described as ‘reasonable contributors’ because we insisted on reasons or justification for ‘not possibly dangerous’ opinions being given by those who held what we considered to be the bizarre views Diligent mentions above as being extreme – asking for reasons is apparently not a reasonable contribution to a discussion: neither is offering contrary opinion backed up with reason and/or evidence.

I can agree with only this first statement, it all depends on the shot, the speed and distances involved and then only partially, because it is insufficient. I will add, it also depends on the height to which the ball is raised and if the ball is propelled towards a player – these four objective criterion are crucial  and should form the basis of an adequate dangerously played ball Rule

The state of play (the score?) and the importance of the competition are irrelevant. Why should either have any bearing at all on a dangerously played ball decision? And many other factors known only to those who were there (such as?) That is meaningless. There are of course possible additional factors such as sight-blocking and third-party obstruction but they don’t alter the fact that the ball has been propelled in a dangerous way, they just make defenders even more vulnerable to such a shot.

– at the highest levels of hockey, very little is judged as dangerous, on the assumption that defenders have the skill to take on almost any shot.

A daft assumption. Whether or not a ball is dangerously played – puts an opponent at risk of injury – has nothing whatsoever to do with the skill-level of the defender/s. A player who is forced to self defence from a ball raised to, say, head height- be it by attempting to evade the ball or attempting to play at it with the stick, is endangered in the same way and to the same degree no matter what her or his level of skill may be. Humans are physiologically the same no matter what skills they may possess; bones fracture or break, flesh bruises or cuts or is abraded, in the same way and for the same reasons, no matter what the level of play may be. 

Playing the ball at an opponent in a way that may injure that opponent if self-defence is not successful is dangerous play, but it is also dangerous play even if the self-defence is successful (A dangerously played ball is defined as one that causes legitimate evasive action – which leaves out half of the possible action that could be taken in self-defence – but does not depend on the attempted evasion being successful – or should not do so). It needs pointing out that an attempt to play at the ball is forced on a defender when it is known that an umpire will not respond to legitimate evasive action by a defending player to avoid a high shot, by penalising the shooter, but will award a goal – which is common practice. In such circumstances umpires are largely responsible for the risk that has to be taken, because  they compel an attempt to play the ball; they are therefore also responsible for any resulting injury.  

I am inclined to agree that the skill level of the attacker is of relevance – but only to the penalty imposed – I expect a top level player to be able to consistently hit, from the top of the circle, the shaft of a hockey stick, that is positioned vertically on the goal-line; so I also expect such players, even under high pressure, to be able to avoid propelling the ball at positions occupied by defending players – even in a goal that is ‘only’ 3.66m wide (which they are obliged to do , following the Rule “All players must play with consideration for the safety of others” – yes it is a Rule – but one that has been nullified by ‘interpretation’).

Where defenders are ‘targeted’ or the ball is propelled at them recklessly the umpire should be awarding a card to the attacker as well as a free ball to the defending team – but, although I have seen hundreds of recklessly dangerous shots made (many of them deliberately targeting an opponent), I have never seen a card given to a player for this action.

but umpires “might still follow the guidance to the Rules 9.9 and 13.3.l. That a shot striking someone above the knee from within 5m can be considered dangerous.

That should say “must follow Explanation of Rule application provided with the Rules“. I don’t accept that an umpire has a choice in this matter (and what was previously called Guidance for Players and Umpires has, since 2004, been called Explanation – although much of it falls well short of adequate or even clear explanation.)

The Rule Explanation states “ is considered dangerous” not “can be” – there is no choice given. Such misreading or misquoting leads to misapplication of the Rule by those who take advice from Internet forums without checking for themselves what is given in the rule-book.

Rule 13.3.l provides a great deal more than a reference to an out-runner during a penalty corner being hit above the knee with a first shot at the goal. That ‘more’ is set out in my reply to the expansion post below.

– at beginning and social levels of hockey, inexperienced players must not be left feeling unsafe, and wild shots should be penalised to encourage attackers to care for safety.

Agreed, the same is true at all levels of the game. The wording in the Preface to the Rules of Hockey makes it clear that all the Rules apply to all players and all officials. i.e. to all hockey that is played under FIH Rules.

– so umpires can reasonably extend the ‘within 5′ to 7, 10, or even 14, and sometimes rule it ‘dangerous’ even if the ball misses everyone.

No they cannot, no official can alter a Rule or an interpretation of a Rule see – Circular from the FIH Executive to all Hockey Associations in  2001. (Umpires might agree with team captains and coaches before a match to to apply enhanced safety standards during a particular match – hitting of the ball in a match between men and women for example – but they may not vary individual decisions – Rule interpretation – based on subjective judgements).

– at the majority of hockey in-between, it is back to the umpire’s judgement, based on experience, what they’ve read on the Internet, and discussions in the bar.

Was that a Freudian slip? What about the Rules of Hockey?

– so after a game with such a decision, you’ll have this debate with a fellow umpire and a couple of other players.

What such decision? Extending 5m to 14m or calling dangerous a shot that did not endanger anyone? The decision in need of discussion is much more likely to be a failure to penalise for dangerous play and the awarding of a goal.

My observations of attempts by players to engage umpires in discussion about a decision made in a match that finished a hour or so beforehand are a) the umpire will have no recollection of the incident (and his colleague will be unable to offer help) or  b) He will insist he is right even when it can be demonstrated by reference to a Rule that he is wrong. It is at this stage that statements like”That is the way I have been told to umpire it” or “Everybody umpires that in this way” are trotted out  – sub-text – throw your rule-book away  or c) There will be outright refusal to discuss any decision made during the match on the grounds that it can now make no difference, so such discussion is not useful. In fact umpire responses to questions after a match are very similar to their responses to forum questions on the same topics. The mixture of boredom and arrogance is not an attractive one.


Diligent’s post entitled The Dangerous Shot on Goal doesn’t provide any answer to the most asked questions in hockey. What is a dangerously played ball? and “When (in what circumstances) should a goal shot be considered to be dangerous? ” Over 12,000 views of The Dangerous Shot On Goal post should tell us something about the level of interest in obtaining answer to such questions. It did, on the other hand, present the umpire as an omnipotent all-knowing deity, totally in charge, so umpires, unless they are honest, love it. (To be fairer many of them probably didn’t read it carefully and didn’t give it much further though because the errors are so obvious and so well known that they have become mantra).


Diligent.  In short: the ‘legitimate’ in the rule follows the umpire’s judgement, not drives it. In case anyone protests: this is a perfectly normal interaction between the rule, the judgement, and the decision: the ball rolls to the outside edge of the line (sideline, back line, goal line) before a player pulls it back; if the umpire judges it stayed in play then play continues; if the umpire judges it over the line then no, it’s over the line, and we have the appropriate restart. Happens all the time. Evasive action is no different.

He is right ‘legitimate’ does often follow an umpire’s judgement  – but I am going to protest: that is so so wrong – not least because legitimate evasive action will seldom (perhaps I should say “never”) occur after a ‘dangerous’ decision has been made. The only scenario that I can think of where (actual rather than potential) danger would usually be penalised before evasive action is taken is an over-height first hit-shot made during a penalty corner – when evasive action becomes irrelevant to the decision made anyway (and the umpire would have to be very quick – probably too quick – to blow the whistle before there was evasion).

Whether a ball has gone over a line or not is not in the same sense a judgement i.e. a subjective decision, it is an observation. The ball either did or did not go over the line and that is an entirely objective decision based on facts which can be verified by video replay and/or by measurement from video i.e. independently by another person – objectively by comparing the position of the ball with the position of the line. Legitimate evasive action is at present (from beyond 5m) an entirely subjective decision – it cannot be independently verified because it is a personal opinion (apparently based on whim) –  so very different. Where there is no video umpire what should be objective decisions can become matters of opinion i.e. subjective and not subject to appeal. Other than increasing the number of on-pitch officials there is very little that can be done about this.

But (taking the cue from the phrase ‘from beyond 5m’) ‘dangerous’ need not be almost entirely subjectively judged. The rule would be much clearer and fairer and applied more consistently if there was more objectivity about what a dangerously played ball is – in other words if there were additional objective criterion to describe it. The frequently ignored ‘Within 5m and above knee height’ are insufficient for the task (but at least they are there and referral to a third party is possible)  also insufficient, but there i.e in existence, is the present, entirely subjective, almost unread and certainly generally misapplied, Rule 13.3.l. as it relates to the flick shot during a penalty corner.

13. 3. l  for second and subsequent hits at the goal and for flicks, deflections and scoops, it is permitted to raise the ball to any height but this must not be dangerous

There may be protest at this interpretation, but that somewhat convoluted Rule statement refers to ALL flicks, and scoops, including the first, not just to second or subsequent flicks and scoops. It refers to second or subsequent hits, and mentions them specifically (but not separately as it should), because a first hit-shot is dealt with in a preceding Rule clause. No flick or scoop shot may be made at the goal in a dangerous way during a penalty corner (nor, I must add, at any other time). That conclusion from a reading of Rule 13.3.l is just common sense – and the Rule should also kill ‘stone dead’ any notion that a shot at the goal cannot be dangerous play. Why would the Rules prohibit something that is not possible?

What is “a dangerous way”?  If you want a sensible answer to that question I suggest you stay away from anything written by an umpire coach, particularly (returning a compliment) anything ‘Diligent’ has written, but regrettably, I cannot direct you to anything else, not even, other than the inadequate current Rules of Hockey, from The FIH.

John Gawley’s 2001 umpire coaching paper “The Lifted Ball” once widespread on various hockey related web-sites, is now difficult to find on the Internet, I doubt it is there, but it is so conflicted that it should be avoided anyway – unless you would enjoy identifying the ‘cherries’ that were picked from it in 2004 (and then ‘modified’ in ‘practice’) and those ideas that were discarded.

The statement “A dangerously played ball is one that causes legitimate evasive action.” is treated more as a joke than Explanation for the application of Rule 9.8, and the raising of the ball high into the legs or body of an opponent from close range (which is contrary to both Rule 9.8 and Rule 9.9)  is, without the shame that should be attached to such action, considered to be a skillful way of winning a penalty corner in the opposition’s circle –  it is usually done when the opponent is within playing distance of the ball and evasion near impossible – and not what it is, a dangerous play offence (many video clips of this practice occurring are available).

A Rule Authority cannot delete forcing as an offence while at the same time claiming to place an emphasis on player safety. Gawley got that right:he wrote “No player should ever be forced to self-defence“, but that statement never made it into a rule-book. It is evident from both instruction “from above” (see posts in the topic thread) and from observed umpiring practice that the decision that will probably be made if a defender is hit with a raised shot will be a penalty-stroke, because the defender “chose to position in front of the goal” i.e. attempted to defend the goal.

Defending the goal !! A heinous action, worse than not having the skill to defend themselves (even if a defender should not be ‘attacked’ with the ball); whatever next? Deliberately defending the goal !! I’m shocked.





April 12, 2017

Field Hockey Rules: Dangerous play and the falling ball

Comment made about any article in this blog from individuals who deliberately hide their identity will be treated as what it is – spam or trolling – and trashed.

Edited 16th April 2017.

The following five FIH Statements/Rules (all contained in the current rule-book) have led to disagreements in two threads on the fieldhockeyforum website in the past week which has resulted in both of the threads being locked by a forum moderator who does not believe in allowing disagreements to reach resolution. The subjects of the argument are firstly, “who is responsible for causing dangerous play when a ball is lofted to fall onto the position of opposing players who might contest for it?” and secondly, following from that, where should penalty be awarded?

This topic has been argued over at least ten times in the past five years but there is no sign of resolution – or even of suggestions to resolve the conflict – both ‘sides’ are as polarized as ever. There are two reasons that this impasse has come about – a poorly written Rule and stupidity – but they distil down to one reason – stupidity: there is no good reason why any Rule should be so poorly written that a polarization of opinion is caused and certainly none for the FIH RC doing nothing about that.

One reason that the Rule is now badly written is historical i.e. Guidance for players and umpires and also Rules Interpretations (the latter previously i.e. prior to 2004. in the back of rule-books) has been deleted and not replaced with adequate (or any) Explanation of Rule application: this process was called simplification and clarification. The vacuum has been filled with ‘umpiring practice’ – some of it from the Umpire Manager’s Briefing for Umpires at FIH Tournaments (the UMB – a document produced by the FIH Umpiring Committee), some of it from various personal opinion.



Responsibility and Liability

Participants in hockey must be aware of the Rules of Hockey and of other information in this publication.
They are expected to perform according to the Rules.

Emphasis is placed on safety. Everyone involved in the game must act with consideration for the safety of others.



Conduct of play : players
Players are expected to act responsibly at all times.

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.

9.8 Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.

A ball is also considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by players.

The penalty is awarded where the action causing the danger took place.

(This bizarre forum discussion gives an idea of the diverse views  This is a quote from the thread which displays the type of rational or logic employed in argument  “(Raised) shots at goal are not aerials, they’re not ‘falling raised balls’, even if they do happen to be falling by the time they reach the keeper.”  The word aerial does not appear in the Rules of Hockey but any ball raised off the ground in any way can be considered to be an aerial ball (the literal meaning is “in the air”, as opposed to being ‘on or along the ground’).

The raised shot at the goal is subject to Rule 9.9 when raised towards an opponent within 5m and the first hit shot during a penalty corner is height limited with there being a requirement that second or subsequent shots, however made, be not dangerous; so the idea that “Aerial Rules do not apply to shots at the goal is incorrect, as is the notion that a falling ball that is a shot at the goal (a lob for example) is not a falling ball and is not subject to Rule 9.10. ALL falling balls, no matter how raised, are subject to Rule 9.10. (but the FIH RC could usefully put forward some guidance about ball height)

The two camps base their arguments on one of two approaches to what is written in the Rules. One side claims that the Rules ought to be read as written and interpreted literally, that is according to the literal meaning of the words used. The other side claims a common sense or common practice approach (called interpretation) and use phrases like ‘the spirit of the Rule’. These two approaches should not be in conflict, but they are because there is a lack of common sense.

The idea that umpires can make up Rule or Interpretation if they cannot remember the Rule is more absurd than the statement that a falling ball is not a falling ball, as per Rule 9.10, if a shot at the goal. This kind of invention is also contrary to explicit instruction from the FIH Executive that nobody, no individual and no body, other than the FIH Rules Committee can amend Rule or the Interpretation of Rule. Rule becomes Rule after the FIH Executive approves a recommendation for amendment from the FIH Rules Committee – and not in any other circumstances – even the FIH Executive themselves cannot unilaterally propose and then enact Rule change concerning the playing of the game.


The particulars of the danger from a scoop pass argument are:-

danger is caused by the player who lofted the ball to fall onto a position occupied by opposing players who might contest for it.

This is the more difficult option to umpire because it is necessary for the umpires to take account of where players were positioned at the time the ball was raised (it is about as difficult to judge as off-side used to be)


danger is caused by a player of the same team as the player who lofted the ball being close to an opponent in the area where the ball will fall and not moving 5m away from that opponent before the ball is within playing distance.

This is relatively easy to umpire; a decision about where the free ball should be taken from does not need to be made afresh in each case: it is always from the place the ball was landing. The player who raised the ball is ‘forgotten’ if the ball is raised safely and is safe in flight (does not cause legitimate evasive action)

The fly in the ointment or the need for an exception.

In some situations, a high deflection off a defender into his or her own circle for example, it would be grossly unfair to require a same team player to retreat to give opponents 5m of space to control the ball on the ground before approach can be made. Consideration may need to be given, for safety reasons, to prohibiting any raising of the ball (above a given height) into the circles and/or to prohibiting players from any playing of or playing at a ball at above shoulder height when in the opposing circle.

Particulars:– Rule 9.10  Players must not approach within 5 metres of an opponent receiving a falling raised ball is written as if a ball will never be lofted onto the position of two or more players who are closer then 5m apart and contesting players are always positioned at least 5m apart at the time the ball is raised (this is because at one time it was clearly stated in the Rule that it was illegal to raise the ball so that it would fall onto the position of players who were close to each other at the time the ball was raised).

There is no requirement in the Rule for a same team player within 5m of an opponent who is an initial receiver, to retreat 5m or any other distance. Neither “allow” or “not approach” mean “move further away” or “retreat”. This is a point there seems to be some difficulty some participants ‘absorbing’ or understanding but it is difficult to find a way of putting “not asked for”, ”not required” or “not demanded” more simply.

When it is considered how close a tackler may be to an opponent in possession of the ball and not be considered to be attempting to play at the ball for the purposes of the Obstruction Rule, surely an opponent can be permitted to receive and play the ball to ground without interference by a close opponent i.e. receiving can reasonably be ‘allowed’ by an opponent who remains only 2m away (that is beyond playing distance without an unbalancing lunge or a dive for the ball). But is it reasonable to allow a player some distance away to loft the ball to fall between players who are at the time only 2m apart? I will leave other particulars to someone with the tag nerd-is-the-word, a contributor to FHF.

nerd-is -the-word

I have read this argument a few times when it comes to overheads and i just feel the need to point out how ridiculous this argument is, for a whole multitude of reasons:

A) why would defenders bother throwing an overhead rather than just smashing the ball to the other end if all they want to do i realease pressure.

B) what kind of defender finds enough space to throw an overhead (5m+) and picks a crowded area to throw into rather than the space around that crowd.

C) even if a defender chooses to throw an overhead in a random direction, that happens to be into a crowd of two people, why do people talk about the danger being the defenders fault rather than his teammate who had ample time to step away?

D) if teams a throwing their release overheads only 40m ( any more and they very little chance of throwing into a crowd) and then immediately turning over the ball via a fh, then their oposition would take that any day of the week.

E) im going to state this again, what defender chooses to throw the ball into a crowd to release pressure? Not ones that have any clue what they are doing. If danger occurs from these long range flicks then it is ALWAYS because of the players in the landing zone.

It will be no surprise that ‘nerd’ also believes (as evidenced by previous posts to FHF) that defenders in front of the goal cause danger when a shot is raised at their position on the goal-line. I can’t believe, from my previous experiences with this individual’s ‘reading’ and comprehension, that he has read and understood the opening post of the topic thread never mind the whole thread.

The tactic of lofting the ball to fall from great height directly onto the position of an opponent is a well tested one and works tolerably well when the receiving player knows that there are chasing same team players who will pounce on any deflection and ‘leave him for dead’. I last saw it employed a long time ago, to great effect, by Calston Fischer, who ‘showered’ high scoops onto a relatively inexperienced Martyn Grimley during a very rainy European Championship match between Germany and England. The tactic suited the weather perfectly, stopping a skipping ball near ground level was hard enough in the conditions and Grimley was left flat-footed behind the play on several occasions.

‘Nerd’ misses the point of S.Pettit’s remark, which is that there is nothing to deter a player repeatedly lofting the ball into contested positions if penalty for causing danger can never be from the place the ball was raised but always at the point of landing. Besides that, it is a principle of the Rules that a player who commits an offence should never be permitted to benefit from that offence, but (assuming that it is granted that an offence is committed) a gain of ground of 40m+ on every occasion is such a benefit. 

Lofting the ball to fall where it maybe contested for while it is still in the air is anyway a matter of behaving responsibly and also of acting with consideration for the safety of others, as well as a possible breach of the second clause of Rule 9.8. creating (causing) a potentially dangerous situation.

It’s time the FIH Rules Committee had a rethink about Rule 9.8 and Rule 9.10.



The conclusion of yet another thread around the same subject.

But if somebody suggests that the free to the defending side should be taken from where the ball was raised, that is “against whoever put it there” as Kresby states, rather than a 15m being awarded, Diligent is likely to lock this thread as quickly and for the same reason, as he locked the other two related threads.

I am not happy with the notion that only a falling raised ball can lead to a dangerous aerial contest for the ball because it is not true and so does not make much sense. The statement in Rule 9.10. that a raised ball must not be dangerous in flight seems in any case to contradict that suggestion. It is common practice at a penalty corner for attackers to follow-in on a high drag-flick shot looking for a rebound if there is an initial save (see opening post of thread) – the potential for dangerous play in this situation is obvious and that, by Rule, second or subsequent shots must not be made in a dangerous way does not make this attacking practice any safer for defenders.

September 14, 2016

Field Hockey Rules: Deflections and the falling ball.

Rules of Hockey.

Edited 10th April 2017   Added – a link to sample ‘discussion’ of the problem on  – in a thread where posts were deleted and the topic locked by an ignorant moderator.

Falling Ball.      Aerial Passes.   Deflections.     Dangerous Play.    Penalty Positions.

This article is about the aerial pass and the falling ball in general but, wanders into several related contentious areas.


Diagram One. Aerial Pass from a free-ball.

The introduction of facility to raise the ball with a flick or a scoop directly from a free-ball and most other restarts (the insert of the ball during a penalty corner may not be intentionally raised) is one of the factors that has led to an increase in the use of the aerial pass. In view of this increase the Rules concerning the falling ball, which have never been entirely clear, need revision.

Diagram One illustrates an ideal and very unlikely scenario in that:-

1) During a free-ball Player A does not need be concerned about a contravention of Rule 9.9. because player C is at least 5m from the ball and A is unlikely to contravene Rule 9.8, by causing player C to take evasive action, unless the scoop is ‘fluffed’

2) Opponents D and E are a minimum of 5m from the intended receiver B before and during the making of the aerial pass 

3) D and E remain a minimum of 5m from B as an accurate pass is made. 

4) The pass is too high to be intercepted by D, therefore B is the clear initial receiver.

5) Player B is allowed to control the ball to ground before either player D or E approach to within 5m of it.

All but the first item in the above list are “and pigs will fly”. In real life as soon as it is realised that Player A intends to throw an aerial pass either D or E will move to closely mark B  and unless they are considerably more than 5m from B one or other of them will be standing next to B long before the ball has reached the apex of flight and the umpire has some idea of the target area, that is where the ball will fall. This may not be so with lob passes, which may be directed to a player less than 15m away from the passer, and the passage of play can be easily seen from a single viewpoint, but it is usually the case when aerial passes are made to players 40m – 60m or more away.

Often the best an umpire, who has been watching the making of an aerial pass, to ensure the ball is raised safely, can do, is to note the general locations of the players in the assumed landing area as the ball begins to fall from the apex of flight. It is usually the umpire towards whose end the ball is falling who makes a decision but, this umpire may not begin to observe what happens surrounding an aerial pass until the ball is actually falling (this is often too late and he or she should be more aware of the relative positions of possible contestants for the ball, because this umpire is generally not involved in the watching for safety of the raising of the ball).  It is not necessary for the umpire towards who’s end the ball is coming to watch the ball at all, he or she can get a very good idea of where it is heading, once aware a scoop has been made, by watching the reactions of the players – and that is by far the more useful thing to do.

Even comparatively simple judgements are subject to ‘brain fade’ if the umpire is ball watching particularly when the ball is on the way up.

The quality of this video clip is not good but it can be seen (despite the camera movement blur) that the defending player was probably more than 10m from the intended receiver when the ball was raised.

Two umpires, who happen to be positioned slightly off the line of flight of the ball as an aerial pass is made are more likely together to be accurate in their assessment of player positions and whether or not there has been an encroachment offence (a breach of Rule 9.10) because it is likely that all the players involved will be in ‘frame’ for both umpires for the duration of the incident. So for accuracy of decision a lot depends on where an aerial pass is made from and in which direction it is propelled. In general aerial passes made from the left side of the pitch and near to or within the 23m area to land in or near the opposing 23m area on the right flank are likely to be easier to observe for Rule compliance then either central scoops directly down the centre of the pitch or those made from anywhere on the right side of the pitch towards the centre or left flank. The flight path of these passes cannot be anywhere near the line of sight of either umpire, but that is not to say accurate decisions about player positions are impossible, they are just more difficult.

The video shows an aerial passe made by the Belgium team in the second half of a WL match against Australia a few years back. There were some very odd decisions made in that match regarding the receiving of an aerial pass, to the extent of awarding a free ball to the wrong team, as well as a startling leniency from the umpires towards repeated contravention of Rule 9.10. (allowing an advantage to develop following an offence is not a reason not to award a card at the first opportunity to the opposing team offender where one is appropriate).


Turning to more likely scenarios we have below, in plan view, play by player A which is in breach of Rule 9.8. – but, assuming a clear safe scoop from a free ball, not the first part of the Rule, playing the ball dangerously, but the second part  –  “or in a way that leads to dangerous play“.

(The wording used to beor in a way that is likely to lead to dangerous play“. I think both phrases ought now to be included in the Rule wording so that the second clause of the Rule reads: – or in a way that leads or is likely to lead to dangerous play because the current wording appears to oblige an umpire to wait until dangerous play has actually occurred instead of exercising his or her judgement about the potential for danger to players following certain actions and intervening just before it does occur).


Diagram two. Double dangerous play.



The direct aerial pass  made by player A to player B, who is closely marked by player D, looks like a straightforward instance of dangerous play by player A, because it is possible, even probable, that the pass will to lead to dangerous play, that is a contest for the falling ball by both player B and player D.

If B and D do contest for the ball while it is still in the air * (that is dangerously) then, following the Explanation given with Rule 9.10 there is a second and third offence committed by player B, who is a player of the same team as the passer of the ball.

*(Umpire intervention is unnecessary if players D and B allow the ball to fall to ground before competing for it, but a wise umpire will have penalised player A  just before the ball is within playing reach of players B and D if player B has not already retreated. The umpire cannot reasonably stand by when it looks very likely that there will be dangerous play and by not intervening simply allow it to occur. This is a matter of timing; it is necessary for the umpire to allow time for the players to orientate and calculate where the ball will fall – they too cannot do that with reasonable accuracy until after it has reached the apex of flight – but not to wait, until after contest and dangerous play has occurred, to penalise ). 


So there are then three offences, player A contravenes the second clause of Rule 9.8 and player B contravenes both what is given in the Explanation of Rule 9.10 and also the first clause of Rule 9.8, particularly if the ball is contested for when still above shoulder height, i.e. at about head level – but who caused the danger? This is an important question because it determines where, in such circumstances, the penalty (if it is a free ball) must be taken from.

Both players A and B cause danger but player A does so first and without the action taken by player A (the scoop pass into a position occupied at the time by opposing team players) player B would have been given no opportunity to cause danger, so if a free ball is awarded (rather than a penalty corner) it should be taken at the place that player A raised the ball. 

Sometimes this scenario does not lead to dangerous play, if it does or not will depend on what player B does well before the ball has fallen to within playing reach. The Explanation of the application of Rule 9.10. states that where there is no clear initial receiver “the player of the team which raised the ball must allow the opponent to receive it”  but how “allow“?

Obviously that means that player B should not interfere to prevent or inhibit player D in receiving and controlling the ball and that is clearly best done by moving away to allow space to player D to accept and control the ball. How far should player B move away? Many would say at least 5m. So why doesn’t the Rule specify that in these circumstances player B should or must move away from player D and also specify the distance?  The Rule mentions only ‘allow’ and ‘not approach’ an opposing player receiving the ball. ‘Not approach’ is obviously not a condition that can be freshly breached if the intended receiver is already closely marked at the time the pass is made. A marker is not ‘approaching’ even a moving opponent if he or she moves with the marked player and maintains the existing close distance between them. The answer to the Rule question (and a possible solution to the problem which arises) may be discovered when we come to examine deflection scenarios.

For the moment it is sufficient to say that if player B does allow player D to receive the ball without interference (preferably by moving away) then the three offences mentioned above do not occur. (If the Rule wording were to include “or likely to lead to dangerous play” there would still be an offence by player A, but as the ‘likely dangerous play’ would not materialise if player B moved away, there would be no unfair disadvantage caused to the team of player D and no need for the umpire to intervene, indeed Rule 12 Penalties Advantage would prevent an umpire from doing so 12.1 Advantage : a penalty is awarded only when a player or team has been disadvantaged by an opponent breaking the Rules.).

A player who makes aerial pass to team-mate who is in a position where the ball may be contested for in the air and it is so contested for, should be discouraged from doing so (again) with severe penalty. Umpires should not hesitate to take the ball back to point of lift to award a free-ball when a pass is lofted to fall onto a position already occupied by players who might contest for it while it is in the air and nor should they hesitate, if there is repetition, to award cards and if the offence occurs within the 23m area, a penalty corner, for such infractions. If there is to be an emphasis on safety (and there is supposed to be), umpires should penalise emphatically what clearly is, cannot be other than, deliberate dangerous play.

Umpires should award a free ball, at the place the ball falls, against the team of the player who offends by encroaching (especially when beyond 5m of an opponent receiving the ball at the time the ball was raised) and contesting for the falling ball (and award a personal penalty to the individual). There is little difference between the offences committed but a vital difference as regards the place of penalty between a player contesting for the ball when it is not clear who the initial receiver is and a player who approaches a receiving opponent from beyond playing distance of the ball to contest for the ball. In the case of encroachment from beyond 5m of the receiver the player who made the aerial pass has certainly not committed an offence (it is not an offence for a player to make a scoop pass to an opponent who is in clear space), only the encroaching player will have offended.

An aerial pass into a contested area is a pass made to a member of the opposing team and although players may have reason to make such passes – e.g. 1) gaining ground or using time 2) hoping for a stopping error from an opponent and a favourable deflection – the practice should I think be discouraged because it is potentially dangerous.

It is now necessary to go back to the difficulties umpires may have with determining if player A in the diagram above has committed an offence i.e. is guilty of play leading to dangerous play, and look at how umpires are dealing with this problem.

A review of videos of a great many international hockey matches over several years, and hundreds of Internet hockey forum posts which give opinion on the subject, reveals that the problem is dealt with in the same way as other ‘difficult’ problems: it is generally ignored – there is even a procedure given for doing so. Safe on lift, Safe in flight,

I have not seen a single instance where a contested aerial ball was penalised by awarding penalty against the player who lofted the ball to fall into, what was clearly at the time the ball was raised an, area occupied by opposing players and which remained so occupied and then the ball was contested for. I have read on an Internet hockey forum of instances  (usually a complaint from a co-umpire or a question from a player) where an umpire has in a match well below international level (correctly) penalised a player who lofted the ball into a contested area, where dangerous play followed, by awarding a free-ball at the point the ball was raised. That umpire has always been roundly ‘condemned’ (by the usual few) for not following ‘accepted practice’ (which appears to bear little relation to the Rules of Hockey in this and other areas). These ‘condemned’ umpires are never accused of not following the Rules of Hockey. 

The ‘accepted practice’ is to observe if the ball has been raised without endangering a player within 5m (and I would take issue with some of what is here seen as ‘not endangering’); to consider if the ball is safe in flight (whatever that may mean) and then to forget the contribution to the subsequent action of the player who raised the ball – which is to ignore the Rule (…or in a way that leads to dangerous play) –  and focus entirely on the actions of the player to whom the ball was intended. If that player is close marked by an opponent and without moving away from his or her marker contests for the ball as it falls, that is (correctly) seen as dangerous play, but the penalty is always awarded at the place this second offence occurred, that is at the place the ball was falling – and that is not correct. 

As a result of this incorrect ‘practice’ there is no deterrent whatsoever to the making of ‘hopeful’ and potentially dangerous aerial passes into areas crowded with players from opposing teams. The worst that can happen by way of team penalty against the offending team is a free-ball from a position probably half the length of the pitch away from where the original offence, play leading to dangerous play, occurred – hardly “within playing distance of the offence”. 

Another consequence of this ‘practice’ is that the relative positions of players at the time the ball was raised which is vitally relevant, because there may be encroaching by an opponent rather than a failure to move away by the same team player, particularly during the early flight of the ball – is also either missed or ignored simply because umpires are not now looking for these relative positions, they (the umpiring of an aerial pass is a two umpire task) are entirely focused on danger occurring only at the place the ball lands often without taking proper account of (being completely unaware of) how this danger has occurred – see the example in the first video above.   


The making of an aerial pass to a marked teammate.

Diagram three. Lead runs.

Diagram three. Lead runs.



A player making a long aerial pass to a team-mate can seldom be certain that the ball will land in an uncontested area, even if the ball is initially passed into what was clear space, but it is possible to ensure, that if an aerial ball is contested for, it is one or more players of the opposing team who will have offended. The tactic is much the same as it was when lead runs had to be employed (prior to 1993) to ensure there was no obstruction of an opponent when receiving a ground pass. The only differences are that an aerial pass can be played directly over a position occupied by opposing players and ground passes in such situations tended to be shorter than the average aerial pass.

The only contentious issue with lead runs is the aerial played to drop short of the position of a same team player. Umpires sometimes incorrectly penalise the same team receiver rather than (the illegally encroaching) opposing player – this usually happens because of an ‘on-line’ or foreshortened view point, with the distance between the players being misjudged. If an intended receiver makes a lead run as the ball is being raised and manages to get more than 5m from his or her marker, that marker cannot then approach within 5m of the player, who is now the initial receiver as well as the intended receiver, until the ball is in control and on the ground (which is far too severe a requirement and widely ignored, see video below – so it needs amendment. “Amended how?” is another discussion).





A deflection of the ball high into the air off the stick or body of a player is not an aerial pass, but it still gives rise (sorry) to a falling ball, and Rule 9.10 is about a falling ball however it came to be raised and to be falling and not per se about passes (or about deflections for that matter). The words “a falling raised ball” may, to some, suggest that the ball has been raised intentionally from the stick of a passer, but that is reading into the word “raised” something which just isn’t there. If Rule 9.10 referred only to intentionally made aerial passes then another Rule would be required to deal with accidentally raised deflections.

There never has been a height mentioned in the Rule on the falling ball (because I suppose that there would then need to be another Rule about playing or playing at a ball in the air above or below that height), but convention has been that a ‘falling ball’ is one that, after being either intentionally lofted or accidentally deflected, is falling from considerably (several meters) above shoulder height (the previous height limit of legal playing at the ball). From sufficient height in any case that players could reasonably be required by Rule 9.10 to act and react to it before it fell to within playing reach.

A ball in the air that is not what is meant by ‘a falling ball’ i.e. a ball that is raised to about head height or lower generally gives little time for considered action and is more sensibly dealt with under the first clause of the Dangerous Play Rule.

This absence of a playing height creates a ‘grey area’ in the control of contesting for the ball that is in the air but within playing reach, particularly the ball that is between head and knee height off the ground – and not necessarily at the time a falling ball – but that is a problem for another time and another Rule.

A deflection off an opponent creates a very different situation than a direct aerial pass between two members of the same team. For a start the intent of the player who raised the ball to raise it will usually be absent, always so if the deflection is off an unintended ball-body contact, off a foot for example and the ball may deflect in an unpredictable height and direction  (stick deflections that raise the ball are, simply as a matter of control of ball height and direction, very seldom deliberate outside of the opponent’s circle).

Secondly, where the ‘initial receiver’ of the subsequent  falling ball is not clear an entirely different set of players are now the ones who “must allow an opponent to receive it“. This can cause huge problems and lead to some unfair outcomes – suppose the ball is falling into the goalmouth within two or three meters of the goal-line and the two player concerned are an opposing forward and the goalkeeper. We go back to why a player who has to allow an opponent to receive a falling ball is not specifically required to move away to be 5m from the ball or even specifically required to retreat at all, but only to ‘allow’ an opponent to receive the ball: no goalkeeper is going to retreat 5m out of the goal and no other defender could reasonably expected to do so either.

But not specifying retreat (only forbidding approach) does not solve the basic problem – a very unfair situation is created, maybe entirely accidentally, and the umpire, because defending players quite reasonably will not allow an opponent to freely receive a falling ball close to the goal may have no option but to award a penalty corner or a penalty stroke.

The answer is not (as some have) to declare that “The aerial Rule does not apply to deflections” (because it most certainly does and because not all deflections – off same team players for example – will lead to grossly unfair outcomes). There is no difference in Rule application as far as receiving the ball and allowing the ball to be received, between an intentional pass and a deflection, especially if the deflection is off the stick of a player of the same team as the one who initially hit the ball that led to the deflection. The solution is to devise a way of preventing a ball from being raised into the circle to the endangerment or unfair disadvantage of the defending side particularly when a deflection (stick or body) is off one of their own team.

As this article is overlong and has drifted into another area, raising the ball into the circle, which is not entirely to do with the falling ball, I will cut that part out and start a separate article here –  –    on the raising of the ball into the circle.
(I am going to pass on the problem caused when a scoop or high deflection results in a ball hitting the ground and then bouncing high, possibly into the circle, as there isn’t a defined way of dealing with this issue. Are such bounces to be treated as part of the initial pass or deflection or a separate issue? I don’t know, but the issue probably  depends on how high the ball bounces and it requires further thought)


In the above incident and the following one below, an encroaching offence wasn’t taken into consideration at all. Both went to video referral and in both the goal award was overturned (the referral upheld). In both cases a penalty stroke could have been awarded along with yellow cards for encroachment offences. It is interesting that since these games were played change to the Rules means that in similar circumstances the goals would now probably stand – both were disallowed for above shoulder playing of the ball. 

(As an aside, when a video referral is made only one team can ask a referral question and that can result, as in these cases, in an absurd outcome. Why not allow the other team to make a counter claim if they wish to? That is unlikely to take up much additional video umpire time. We could for example have one team claiming a penalty corner should be awarded for a ball-foot contact in a circle and the opposing captain pointing out that there was no intent and no advantage was gained. The present system gives referral right to the first team to ask for it and automatically denies it to their opponents – that is not entirely fair and can lead to the video umpire considering only one side of the question).

This cannot be the last word on deflections, accidental or otherwise, or indeed on the aerial pass, but this article is already longer than I intended it to be, so although I will undoubtedly edit it later (I always edit my articles, sometimes months after they were first written and add video if I find any relevant clips) enough for now.

This topic thread started in a different area but became about danger and the receiving of a falling ball and the obligations of a same team player. As can be seen there is a great deal of confusion – largely because of a badly worded Explanation of application of the Rule and bizarre ‘interpretation’ or ‘practice’  – and many umpires have been coached to take the wrong approach, taking no account of player positions at the time the ball was raised. S.Petitt (post in the forum thread) is misunderstood and lambasted by those who have not bothered to read exactly what he wrote, but he is correct



August 7, 2016

Field Hockey Rules: Double offence.

Rules of Hockey.

Edited 11th August, 2016

The hiding of the offence of forcing. ‘Winning’ a penalty corner. ‘Finding’ a foot.

Preface Rules of Hockey 2011-2013

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

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

In a short time however, especially with current umpiring practice with regard to ball-body contact, it has been, inevitably, forgotten that there ever was an offence called Forcing and that it is now supposed to be “dealt with” under other Rules. That can be no surprise as the offence is no longer mentioned in the Rules of Hockey and its existence (or the suggested ‘dealing with’ of forcing actions) cannot now be made known to newcomers to the game because that is not printed in the current rule-book but in one issued several years ago. The offence of Forcing has in fact been entirely deleted, it is not ‘dealt with’ at all.


An old coaching adage, that to be considered competent, a player must be able to defend in and around his or her feet, has now been adopted, in a corrupted form, to invent an unwritten ‘rule’. The adage meant that a defenders needed to be adept at stopping an opponent ‘beating’ them by just pushing the ball past them to either side of the feet or between their feet and running away with the ball.

In speech the phrase got truncated to (the included) ‘defending the feet’. That in turn, but perversely, became an invented obligation to defend the feet and then, also to be seen as an offence if a player failed to defend his or her legs/feet; despite that fact that it was still at the time (and until 2011) clearly an offence by a player in possession of the ball to ‘attack’ a defender with it by playing the ball at or into the defender.

There is no Rule support whatsoever for the idea that there is an ‘obligation’ to defend the feet, but the Forcing Rule has been replaced by an ‘interpretation’ (of what?) that inverts what was the Rule, so that the penalty outcome from a forcing action is (quite illogically) the direct opposite to what it was previously.

There is no obligation in Rule to defend the legs/feet (or any other part of the body) from a ball intentionally played into/at a defending player and it is not automatically a foul, by the player hit, to be hit with the ball (see the Explanation of Rule application to Rule 9.11): on the contrary such action should still, where other Rules do cover the forcing action (generally dangerous play or the intentional raising of the ball with a hit), be called as a foul on the player propelling the ball. But there is still a great deal of confusion about that point and the Rule has already been forgotten by some, as can be seen from this hockey forum thread  part posted on and after 10th August, 2016.

The video below is from a match in 2010, a year after the self-pass was adopted into Full Rule. That a retreating defender should get out of the way of a charging self-passer is an invention that is still lodged in the mind of some players – but hopefully not any longer in the minds of umpires (Bondy is right). It was of course the ESP player who should have been penalised, especially as the ball had travelled more than 5m before he committed his fouls and the offence of Forcing was still at the time in the rulebook.    

Unfortunately (despite the above quoted declaration to the contrary by the FIH RC – opening paragraphs) even where there is a willingness to deal with forcing actions, not all forcing can be dealt with by other Rules – but the two actions shown in the first video clip above (from a match in 2014) were so covered. Neither forcing action resulted in penalty against the player who did the forcing, despite both actions being clearly intentional and both a breach of Rule 9.9.

It is an offence to raise the ball into the body or legs of a close opponent, even if it is done unintentionally. Doing it intentionally should result in a card for the offender, not the reward of a free-ball or a penalty corner – but any umpire correctly awarding a card for this offence in the current climate of (dictated) ‘practice’ and ‘player expectation’ (created by umpiring practice) would be considered ‘very brave’, code words for ‘quite mad’. How is it that it is unusual and ‘brave’ for an umpire to apply the Rules according to the wording given in and with those Rules? I have never seen Rule 9.11. (or Rule 9.9.) consistently applied in any hockey match as they would be if the wording of the Explanation of Rule application given with the Rule Proper was followed. 

Hockey is not being played as it should be played nearly enough (see the delightful goal shown in the second part of the video clip for how hockey should be played) . The game is being dumbed down (beating or eluding an opponent is not necessary if the ball can simply be played into the feet of any challenging opponent and that is rewarded with penalty. And retaining possession requires little skill or none at all, if the ball holder can just impose his or her body between an opponent and the ball to prevent a tackle attempt). Hockey may eventually be destroyed by the failures to apply, both the Ball-body contact Rule and the Obstruction Rule as they should be applied: that is in a way that encourages the development of stickwork and passing skills.

The game has also become much more dangerous in the last ten years due to a failure to deter dangerous play and the ‘relaxation’ (or perversion) of Rules concerning play which until very recently was considered dangerous. The most obvious of these is the abandonment of any consideration of dangerous play when an on target shot is made at the goal and the permitting of above shoulder play without adequate safeguards. 

June 13, 2016

Field Hockey Rules: Intentionally raised hit

Rules of Hockey. 

An intentionally raised hit that is not intended as a shot at the goal from within the opponent’s circle is illegal.

A raised hit which is not intended as a shot at the opponent’s goal from within their circle is illegal even when it is not dangerous (it is the accidentally raised hit that need not be penalised unless dangerous – or of disadvantage to opponents).

Both of these examples also show a raised ball falling into an area where it could be contested for while still in the air – that too is a foul – and there are two offences if a same team player plays or attempts to play the ball and does not allow the defending opponent to play it to ground without interference.

Them’s the Rules.

When umpires cannot (or will not) detect that a ball has been intentionally raised then the Rule needs to be changed so that objective criterion and not subjective criterion can be used.(For example, for play from outside the circle, a prohibition on raising the ball into the circle with a hit, intention irrelevant).

The following video I originally posted to YouTube in connection with an article on the Obstruction Rule, but the raised edge hit seen, which was clearly not intended as a shot at the goal, was an illegal action and should have been penalised. Instead of penalty against the attacking team a goal was awarded, a deflection of the ball into the net by the player the raised hit was passed to.

If the same umpires cannot determine if a raised hit is intended as shot at the goal or as a pass (and if in doubt give the benefit of the doubt to the defending side) then they should give up umpiring; they are themselves a danger to players because they do not penalise and thereby deter dangerous play.

That the sort of play shown in these video clips is rewarded rather than penalised, is absurd when there is a (daft but strictly enforced) Rule prohibiting the playing of a free-ball, awarded within the opponent’s 23m area, directly into the opponent’s circle – for safety reasons !!

I suggest, that for reasons of player safety, that in addition to prohibiting any raised hit made within the circle that is not intended as a shot at the goal, no player should be permitted to play or play at the ball at above shoulder height while that player is within the opponent’s circle.

Suggested rewrite of the raised hit Rule:-




October 31, 2015

Field Hockey Rulebook Rewrite: Rules. 9.2., 9.3., 9.4., 9.13. Physical Contact

A suggested rewrite of the Rules of Hockey

Use of Stick.

Physical Contact

The current Rules.

9.2     Players on the field must hold their stick and not use it in a dangerous way.
          Players must not lift their stick over the heads of other players.

9.3     Players must not touch, handle or interfere with other players or their sticks or clothing.

9.4     Players must not intimidate or impede another player.

9.13   Players must not tackle unless in a position to play the ball without body contact.

Reckless play, such as sliding tackles and other overly physical challenges by field players, which take an opponent to ground and which have the potential to cause injury should attract appropriate match and personal penalties.

Action. Amalgamation and deletion.

Reason. Reduction and simplification.

This group of Rules has a great deal of duplication, Rule 3, Rule 4 and Rule 13 are very similar, Rule 13 being just a more specific instance of the type of offence, physical contact, being dealt with by Rule 9.3.

There are broadly three types of dangerous play; the dangerously played ball (the most common) dangerous use of the stick and dangerous physical contact . Whether it is best to deal with each of them under separate Rules or separately, in an umbrella Dangerous Play Rule, is a difficult question to answer, but physical contact is an offence even when it is not dangerous play, as is much illegal use of the stick. The present FIH approach is separate Rules.

I think that both of these previous versions of the Rule are framed in a better way than the present Rule 9.2.

(not) take part in or interfere with the game unless they have their sticks in their hand.

(not) use their sticks in a manner that is dangerous, intimidating or hampering

and they could usefully be edited and combined. This is from a time when the Rule 9.3 and Rule 9.4 were combined:-

(not) hit, hook, charge, kick, shove, trip, strike at or personally handle other players of their sticks or clothing.

Combination makes sense because physical contact during a tackle attempt will generally be stick-body or stick-stick contact or be both as well as body-body contact. Separation makes sense because dangerous use of the stick may not involve any physical contact not even with the stick of an opponent.  

There are  ‘forgotten’ i.e. unused Rules; intimidation (Rule.9.4) is either ignored as ‘not dangerous play’ or the intimidating action is penalised as dangerous play. So is the Rule containing this term required, when the only other term in it is ‘impeding’, which is either a physical contact or obstruction offence or possibly both? Probably not, so I will delete Rule 9.4.because it is redundant. Rule 9.3. and Rule.9.13 can be amalgamated as Rule 9.3. so a separate Rule.13. becomes redundant.


Players must not touch, handle or interfere with other players or their sticks or clothing. The meaning is clear enough, but the words used are not now the most appropriate. The words “interfere with” especially in the physical sense have become a euphemism for inappropriate or illegal sexual behaviour.  ‘Physical contact’ seems to be the clearest term and the words barge, push, pull, and hold could also be employed in the context.


Players must not tackle unless in a position to play the ball without body contact. I don’t like the wording of this Rule because of the way in which it is interpreted. There are two aspects.

1) The wording is better than it was previously because the Rule used to be couched in such a way that it could be interpreted to mean that physical contact with the stick or body of an opponent during a tackle was legitimate provided the ball was played prior to the physical contact. I think that view, once widely held, has almost disappeared following changes to the wording.

2) But now the Rule stumbles over the insertion of the word ‘position’. What is intended, the purpose of the Rule, is to prohibit any physical contact by a tackler with an opponent, who is in possession of the ball, while the tackler is attempting to tackle for the ball.

An interpretation, which I think is deviant, prohibits a tackle attempt being made without prior positioning which will make physical contact an impossibility – and in doing so makes an obstructive offence an impossibility; because it is very easy for a player who is shielding the ball to prevent an opponent positioning where he or she may play at the ball without there being any possibility of physical contact. The circle is completed when it is declared that obstruction by a player in possession of the ball cannot occur unless an opponent is attempting to play (tackle for) the ball and the meaning of the word ‘attempting’ is not defined – leaving it open to bizarre ‘interpretation’.


What is missing is a simple statement that field-hockey is a non-contact sport.



The four Rules become two.  Not ‘cast in iron’, useful comment and suggestions welcome.


Rule 9.2  Players on the field may not take part in or interfere with the game unless they have their sticks in their hand, they must not use the stick any way that may be intimidating of hindrance or dangerous to an opponent. 

The action of raising the stick over and across the head of another player is specifically forbidden as dangerous play.

Contesting with an opponent for possession of a falling ball is prohibited as dangerous play, one player, generally the player from the same team as the player who raised the ball,  must withdraw beyond playing reach of the ball in such situations and allow the opposing player to control the ball to ground..

Bouncing the ball on the stick at above knee height, while running with it, is permitted while beyond the playing reach of an opponent who might contest for it. If the bouncing action is continued beyond this point, that is to within the playing reach of an opponent, it may become play leading to dangerous play and subject to penalty.


Rule 9.3  Field-hockey is a non-contact sport. Players must not make any physical contact with, for example push, pull or hold, the person or the stick of an opponent even while in the act of tackling or positioning to attempt a tackle for the ball.   


October 30, 2015

Field Hockey Rulebook Rewrite: Rule 9.9. Intentionally Raised Hit.

A suggested rewrite of the Rules of Hockey

The current Rule 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. 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.

Players are permitted to raise the ball with a flick or scoop provided it is not dangerous. A flick or scoop towards an opponent within 5 metres is considered dangerous. If an opponent is clearly running into the shot or into the attacker without attempting to play the ball with their stick, they should be penalised for dangerous play.


Action. Amendment to reverse the present criteria. Reinstatement of previous Rules. 

Reason. The Rule contradiction  forget lifted-think danger from the UMB, which is now a “convention” that over-rides the Rule.

The current Rule is a badly enforced mishmash of unrelated or only loosely connected statements. For example, the statement, taken from the Penalty Corner procedure Rule, about a player running into the ball, is out of place in a Rule prohibiting an intentionally raised hit. Mention of dangerous play as a result of raising the ball into an opponent with a flick or a scoop is also out of place. The proposed amendment will remove the subjective judgement of intention entirely and replace the subjective judgement of dangerous play with objective criteria for non-compliance or dangerously played.


All of these proposals are suggestions and not ‘cast in iron’, useful comment and alternative suggestion is welcome.


Players must not, except for a shot at the goal from within the opponent’s circle, raise the ball to above shoulder height with a hit.

Shoulder height is an absolute limit, irrespective of any danger, for any raised hit in any part of the field outside the opponent’s circle.

It is not an offence to raise the ball with hit except when hitting the ball:-

a) from a free ball or any re-start

b) so that it will fall, beyond the immediate control of the hitter, directly into the opponent’s circle.

c) inside the opponent’s circle when the hit is not intended as a shot at the goal.

d) in a way that will contravene Rule 9.8. The dangerously played ball. (see


An intention to raise the ball in a way that is non-compliant (i.e. above shoulder height) is irrelevant, it is a breach of the Rule even if done accidentally: a deliberate breach of the Rule should attract a more severe penalty..

Exception. A player who is in controlled possession of the ball, both before and after hitting it, i.e.  is dribbling with the ball, may raise it up to knee height with a hit while entering the opponent’s circle in order to evade opponents but:-

The practice of putting the ball up and then hitting a shot at the goal on the volley before the ball falls to ground or as it bounces up from the ground, on the half-volley, following a lift made specifically to achieve such bounce, is to be discouraged and in such circumstances the ball may not be raised to above elbow height with the hit.

The practice of running with the ball while bouncing it on the stick  – up to shoulder height  – is not prohibited until and unless it is done at above elbow height within the playing reach of an opponent who may contest for the ball. If it is continued to that point it should be considered dangerous play or play likely to lead to dangerous play and penalised. Ball bouncing at knee height or below is permitted even in contested situations. It is not permitted to bounce the ball on the stick to above shoulder height in any circumstances. Bouncing the ball on the stick and then making a bounced pass raised above shoulder level to other player (or the player in possession lofting the ball ahead in this way to run onto on the far side of opponents) is a breach of the Rule.

A distinction needs to be made between dribblers carrying out what are termed 3D skills, especially as they enter the opponents circle and then take a shot while the ball is still in the air, and what might be termed a hurling style hit shot. This is a matter for common sense and subjective judgement made with an emphasis on the safety of players. If the ball is hit while it is in the air, particularly when taking a shot at the goal, it must be hit downwards if there are defending players other than a fully protected goalkeeper between the striker and the goal on the intended flight path of the ball. This falls within the already demanded (but rarely enforced) play with consideration for the safety of other players and playing responsibly: opponents should not be forced to self-defence from a raised shot.

A shot made at the goal that is not made towards the position of an opponent is not in any way restricted. A shot raised to head height that is directed within the shoulder width of an opponent is to be considered at that opponent even if it will miss that player’s head – such a shot, if evaded, will be considered legitimately evaded and deemed to be a dangerously played ball.






October 30, 2015

Field Hockey Rulebook Rewrite: Rule 9.8 Dangerously Played Ball

A suggested rewrite of the Rules of Hockey.

Edited 29th March 2017

The current Rule 9.8.

Players must not play the ball dangerously or in a way which leads to dangerous play.

A ball is considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by players.

The penalty is awarded where the action causing the danger took place.


Action: Amendment.

Reason. There is only a partial Rule here because there are no criterion for either of the two offences mentioned when the endangered player is more than 5m from the player who propels it, that there is a breach of the Rule in these circumstances is entirely the personal opinion of an individual umpire. In addition to that the Explanation of application given in Rule 9.9. is generally ignored if the ball is raised at or into an opponent at below knee height (despite the ‘backhand’ declaration in the UMB – which also conflicts with what is given with Rule 9.9 – that a ball raised into a player at below half-shinpad height is not dangerous). This situation gives players inadequate guidance about what is or will be considered to be a dangerously played ball or play leading to dangerous play. It is vital that players should know these things.

I’ll start with Players must not play the ball dangerously. That is easy even if “dangerously” is poorly defined. Having spent some time pondering whether to use or in a way that leads to dangerous play , an after the fact of dangerous play decision or to use the previous wording or in a way that is likely to lead to dangerous play which allows the umpire to make a decision prior to dangerous play actually occurring, if he or she judges that dangerous play is probable, I have decided on a third option  – to use both. Why choose only one or the other when both are required?  – so or in a way that leads to or is likely to lead to dangerous play has been added to the proposal.

What objective criterion is used for the determination of ‘dangerously played ball’  is adopted from other Rules, particularly those of the Penalty Corner and Rule 9.9. so I will continue by gathering together the relevant parts of those other Rules.

From Rule 9.9.

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. 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.

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

It should be noted that the last Rule clause above does not require legitimate evasive action, so such evasive action is not a requirement for a breach of Rule 9.8. just something that must be taken into consideration if it occurs; neither is there any mention of a height limit.

From Rule 13.3.k.

if the first shot at goal is a hit (as opposed to a push, flick or scoop), the ball must cross the goal-line, or be on a path which would have resulted in it crossing the goal-line, at a height of not more than 460 mm (the height of the backboard) before any deflection, for a goal to be scored
The requirements of this Rule apply even if the ball touches the stick or body of a defender before the first shot at goal.

If the first shot at goal is a hit and the ball is, or will be, too high crossing the goal-line it must be penalised even if the ball is subsequently
deflected off the stick or body of another player.

The ball may be higher than 460 mm during its flight before it crosses the goal-line provided there is no danger and provided it would drop of its own accord below 460 mm before crossing the line.

From Rule 13.3.l

for second and subsequent hits at the goal and for flicks, deflections and scoops, it is permitted to raise the ball to any height but this must not be dangerous.

A defender who is clearly running into the shot or into the taker without attempting to play the ball with their stick must be penalised for dangerous play.

Otherwise, if a defender is within five metres of the first shot at goal during the taking of a penalty corner and is struck by the ball below the knee, another penalty corner must be awarded or is struck on or above the knee in a normal stance, the shot is judged to be dangerous and a free hit must be awarded to the defending team.

Again there is mention, in the above Rule clause, of the possibility of a dangerously played ball without the requirement that there be legitimate evasive action taken; there are in fact objective criterion for a dangerously played ball a) at or above knee height and b) into a player who is within 5m of the first shot.

The first clause of Rule 13.3.l addresses any shot at the goal made with a stroke other than a hit –for flicks, deflections and scoops, it is permitted to raise the ball to any height but this must not be dangerous and second or subsequent hit strokes, the first hit stroke having been dealt with (more severely with a low maximum height for a goal to be scored) under Rule 13.3.k. but does not state how a shot at the goal made during a penalty corner may be considered dangerous play, leaving only legitimate evasive action – an entirely subjective judgement by the umpire (not the player taking the evasive action !!) – when the ball is raised at or into a defender when that defender is more than 5m from the ball.

The Rules state clearly that a shot at the goal must not be made in a dangerous way i.e. must not be dangerous to other players  – not cannot be dangerous i.e. impossible for an on target shot to be dangerous.

The must not be dangerous imperative would not be included in the Rules if it was not possible for any on target shot at the goal to be dangerous. In this situation – where there is declared to be an overall emphasis on safety – only an idiot would interpret “must not be” to mean “not possible to be”, an ambiguous construction of the words “cannot be”. The Rule states“must not be” rather than”cannot be” for good reason – to avoid such ambiguity. Those who have ‘interpreted’ “must not be” to mean “cannot be” don’t understand the language.


The suggestion.

All of these proposals are suggestions and not ‘cast in iron’, useful comment and alternative suggestion is welcome.

It is evident, despite persistent claims to the contrary, that a shot at the goal can be considered to be dangerous play and that it would be sensible to adopt from Rule 13.3.l “but this must not be dangerous” concerning all shots at the goal in any phase of play, in the same way that “defender (sic) is within five metres….and is struck on or above the knee in a normal stance, the shot is judged to be dangerous” is already so adopted: so I will do that.

The other necessary step is to provide an objective criterion for ‘dangerously played’ when an opponent the ball is played towards is more than 5m away from the striker at the time the ball is propelled. I believe that sternum height (which is about elbow height) is a suitable height for ‘dangerous’ (being in the area of the heart) when a ball is propelled at or into another player, if that is done with a ball velocity that could injure that player – and I suggest that most shots made at the goal from more than 5m of defender, when those defenders are positioned between the shooter and the goal, are made at a velocity that could injure: there will be exceptions, lobs for example, in which case the umpire applies common sense and subjective judgement (we have to assume that all umpires have common sense and are capable of subjective judgements based on reason). 

I am not suggesting that the ball may not be propelled at the goal at above elbow height, even at very high velocity, but that it should be considered to be dangerous play if a ball is propelled at (the position of) another player at elbow height or above – and not wide of or above defending players.

I believe that the combination “knee height and 5m” is an unnecessarily severe safety measure for competent players (but not for U12 and younger or for novices) and generally ignored anyway, so I have reduced that distance to 2m. That change requires the creation of a third zone, but I can’t  at the moment think of a way to avoid that. 


Players must not play the ball in a way that endangers other players or in a way that leads or is likely to lead to dangerous play.

A ball will be considered dangerously played when it is propelled or deflected towards another player, even as a shot at the goal, when the other player is a field player or player wearing only a helmet as additional protection and is :-

a) within 2m and the ball is raised, at any velocity, into that player at knee height or above (this is a forcing offence as well as dangerous play).

b) within 5m and the ball is raised, at a velocity that could cause injury, into that player at between knee height and elbow height.

c) at any distance and the ball is raised, at a velocity that could cause injury, into that player at above elbow (sternum) height.

A ball that is played at a player in any of the above ways will be considered to have endangered that player even if the player evades the ball or manages, having been forced to self-defence, to play it safely with the stick.

In the event of evasion to avoid injury or forced self-defence caused by a dangerously played ball, the umpire should immediately penalise the player who propelled the ball, in line with the declared emphasis on safety unless:-

a) the dangerous action was entirely accidental, for example an unintended deflection, and the team of the endangered player can play on with advantage.

b) the endangering action was careless or reckless play, but the opposing team can play on with advantage; in these cases penalty (personal) can be delayed, but should not be forgotten.

A ball that is raised into a fully equipped goalkeeper can endanger him or her but, much depends on the protective equipment the goalkeeper is wearing, how the ball is propelled and from what distance. Endangerment must in this case remain an entirely subjective decision.


A velocity that could cause injury is not an entirely a subjective judgement because ball velocity will be comparable with the ball velocity of a powerfully made hit or drag-flick at the high end or, at the low end, a lob or a short flick (a flick that would not carry in the air beyond 5m) and so be largely an objective judgement, but there is a substantial element of subjective judgement involved. 
Below are two, all too rarely seen examples of an umpire, the New Zealander Kelly Hudson, correctly penalising a dangerously raised ball.

But even while discussing the injury to the player hit on the head the television commentators could not stop themselves saying “The attacker was entitled to take the shot” and “She (the defender) did stop a shot at the goal“. Both were fixated on the possibility that the defender had committed an offence. We need to be clear about ‘entitlements’ and what is and is not an offence. Yes, the attacker was entitled i.e. not prohibited, from taking a raised hit shot at the goal provided the shot made did not endanger another player, so in this case the attacker committed a dangerous play offence because what she did is prohibited (but at present only clearly so during the taking of second or subsequent shots made during a penalty corner).

The acceptance of risk is often advanced as a reason to penalise defenders who are , and let us be clear about this, entitled to take up defensive positions between a shooter and the goal (there is no other way to defend the goal). Yes, there is a risk and one that is accepted by defenders, that such positioning may result in them being hit with the ball. That does not mean that such positioning is done with the intention of being hit with the ball and nor does it mean that if the defender is hit with the ball the defender has committed an offence.

For offence there are three conditions to be met and acceptance of risk is not one of them. First, the ball must not be played at the defender in a dangerous way (if the ball has been played dangerously at a defender, for example raised towards the defender from within 5m, we need go no further, a free ball must be awarded to the defending team). Defenders do not have to accept that opponents may breach any Rule with impunity just because they are shooting at the goal – that is not an acceptable risk. Then (if the shot is not considered to be dangerous play) we have either intentional use of the body to stop, deflect or propel the ball and/or an advantage gained by the team of the player hit following ball-body contact. When there is neither intent nor an advantage gained there is no offence and in most situations (i.e. where there is no injury) play should continue without any intervention from the umpire.

Umpires very rarely apply Rule 9.11. correctly. Time and time again we hear a video umpire declare “Yes there was a ball – (sic) foot/leg/body – contact you may award a penalty corner.” without making any reference to intent or to advantaged gained. This is plain wrong, ball-body contact alone is not sufficient to declare an offence has occurred. Teams should not be asking for video referral just to establish if there was a ball-body contact, but only where there is a known contact to establish if it also gave an unfair advantage to the team of the player hit. It is also wrong, in fact absurd, to act as if a shot made at the goal cannot be dangerous just because it is on target: “on-target” does not mean “not dangerous” no matter how the ‘interpretation’ of words is twisted – and opponents are not targets. 

I have no doubt that had the above incident occurred in a men’s game, especially one of such importance and when their team were losing, that the attacking team would have been demanding at least a penalty corner because the defender’s head stopped a goal-bound shot. Women have much more sense, but it is to the credit of the Dutch team that there was not a hint of appeal for penalty against the injured defender, it was fully accepted that the fault was that of the attacking striker: that of course is how it should be – and well umpired too.