Archive for ‘Dangerous Play’

April 5, 2018

Raising the ball into the circle.


Raising the ball into the circle.

The potential for danger of the ball raised into the circle has long been recognised, probably for almost as long as hockey has been played in the modern era. Prior to the introduction of the ban on the intentionally raised hit in the late 1980’s (except when taking a shot at the opponent’s goal from within their circle), it had been for many years illegal to raise the ball into the opponent’s circle. There were over time several variations of this Rule and it also went through the extremes, but it was never prior to the current version an offence only if done intentionally or only if danger actually occurred – the long established prohibition of raising the ball directly into the circle with a hit was a simple Rule that was easy for players to understand and observe and for umpires to apply, but for some unknown reason (it reduced spectacular play or ‘excitement’ ? ) it could not be left alone :-

1) There was a long-standing prohibition on raising the ball into the circle with a hit.

2) then (usually for single year each time) a free-for-all on deletion of that Rule (or another).

3) then a very hedged reintroduction of prohibition of any raising of the ball into the circle, which was complicated (there were exceptions) and therefore the Rule was very badly applied – usually too strictly (it was not as daft or as complicated as the present ban on playing a ball directly into the opponent’s circle from a free awarded in their 23m area, but the exceptions were often ignored and the same absurdity was present)

4) finally (I have reduced the number of steps because some changes were just a recycle or a ‘see-saw’ of a previous version) the present situation where the ball should not be intentionally raised into the circle with a hit (because all intentionally raised hits outside the opposing circle are prohibited, but there is nothing at all said in the Rules of Hockey about flicks and scoops into the opposing circle nor about raised deflections – although there is a mess of Rule about the receiving/contesting for a ball put up in the air by any of these means).

The problem with the present Rule is wilful blindness to intention within ‘umpire practice’, ‘enshrined’ in the UMB with the phrase “forget lifted – think danger“, which also ‘forgets’ that opponents in the circle may be disadvantaged by an illegally raised hit from outside the circle, even when they are not endangered by it – and that is precisely why attacking players raise the ball into the circle and why it should be penalised.

(generally the ball is raised with a slap hit, although edge hits – both (an illegal ‘hard’) fore and reverse edge hits are employed – as well the full power forehand top-spin ‘banana’ hits which were once popular with penalty corner strikers. We (umpires) now have only “forget lifted” to remember – to also “think danger” would be to be able to keep in mind two possibly conflicting thoughts and still be able to behave rationally).

The video clip below is of a hit being made into the circle and what resulted from it. This incident demonstrates that it does not matter what the Rules are if they are not applied. Have a look at the video and see if you agree with the final outcome, which was the recommendation of the award of a penalty corner, after a video referral by the defending side, questioning the initial penalty corner award, was rejected. I have no idea what the question put to the video umpire was, but there are several grounds upon which a properly framed referral should have been upheld.



One. The ball was raised intentionally with a hit in the area outside the opponent’s circle. Rule 9.9. prohibits this action.

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 also an offence to raise the ball unintentionally from a hit, including a free hit, anywhere on the field if it is raised in a dangerous way. Technically the ball was not raised dangerously by the attacker – there was no opponent within 5m and evasive action was not necessary and was not attempted by the first defender. But clearly self-defence from a raised ball, that could have injured him, was forced on the second defender and it would be reasonable to consider such raising of the ball as play (by the striker) resulting in (leading to) dangerous play.

Let us suppose the umpire though the ball may have been raised accidentally.


Two. The ball was hit hard with the fore-hand edge of the stick, a prohibited action.

9.6 Players must not hit the ball hard on the forehand with the edge of the stick.

Let us suppose the umpires did not see the edge hit and thought a slap-hit with the face of the stick had been used.


Three. A free ball had been awarded and taken with a self -pass from just outside the 23m line. The ball was not moved 5m before it was played into the circle (a silly Rule, which I would like to see deleted, but still a Rule.)


The ball was deflected off the stick of one defender and hit a second defender on the body.

Four. Being hit with the ball is not necessarily an offence by the player hit (which is ‘dealt with’ by the following Rule and the (now conflicting) Explanation of application)


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

The player (who stops or deflects the ball with the body) only commits an offence if they gain an advantage or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way.

Clearly the player who was hit with the ball did not position with the intention of using his body to stop the deflected ball. But was there an advantage gained because the ball was stopped by the body of this defender? To decide that it is necessary to determine where the ball would most likely have gone if it had not hit the second defender.

What seems probable from the video evidence is that it would have deflected into the possession of a third defender.

The less likely alternatives are that it would have run loose and have been contested for by players from both teams or that (unlikely) it would have gone off the pitch over the base-line for a 23m ball to the attackers, before any player could take possession of it.

My conclusion is that two umpires (match umpire and video umpire), appointed to this tournament, being among the best available in the world, would not miss a ball not moved 5m or either an intentionally raised hit of this sort or the illegal use of a forehand edge-hit, but they might have overlooked the first and ignored the latter two criteria and instead have focused on dangerous raising of the ball, following forget lifted – think danger. But in ‘forgetting’ lifted they also (in this instance) overlooked that opponents had been unfairly disadvantaged by three concurrent deliberate offences


The two criteria for a ball-body contact offence are routinely ignored, so it is not necessary to offer an explanation for that happening in this particular instance. But there is no reason (other than penalising the prior illegal raising of the ball or the failure to move it 5m before it was played into the circle) why either umpire – but especially the video umpire – should not have considered where the ball would have gone if it had not hit a defender – and then decided that there was no advantage gained by the defending team.

In this incident three deliberate offences by the striker of the ball, two of which could be said to have disadvantaged the defending team, were ignored and an accidental ball-body contact, incidental to the raised ball, which was not an offence, was penalised with a penalty corner, so SNAFU (Situation Normal All F***** Up)



The solution to the initial problem, the ball raised (deliberately or otherwise) into the circle is not very difficult to work out, but of course any replacement Rule must be properly observed.

The following four suggested amendments would need to be enacted together.

The first step is to remove the prohibition of the lifted hit in the area outside the opponent’s circle.

The second, to institute an absolute height limit (of shoulder height ?) on any hit ball in the area outside the opponent’s circle (not dangerous play related, dangerous play being a separate issue with other ball height limits imposed. That ‘deals’ with the long high clip or chip hit (similar to the modern long scoop) the initial ban on the intentionally raised hit was supposed to deal with; it also deals with the extraordinary number of times there is an ‘accidental’ raising of the ball, to considerable height, with an edge-hit made in the area outside the opponent’s circle.

Now we have a ‘clean slate’.

The third, prohibit any raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit. (this means a hit away from the control of the hitter and excludes low ‘dink’ hits made by a player dribbling with the ball who retains possession of the ball)

The fourth, a height limit (of knee height or elbow height ?) on any ball raised directly into the opponent’s circle with a flick, scoop or deflection.

And finally, a (belt and braces) prohibition on playing or playing at the ball when it is above shoulder height within the opponent’s circle, already covered in the suggested rewrite of the Rule concerning the playing of the ball at above shoulder height.



So what happens when the ball is deflected and raised above the limit height into the opponent’s circle – accidentally or otherwise? A free-ball, to be taken from the point the ball was raised, is awarded.

It’s perfectly possible to instead prohibit scoops or high deflections into the area inside the hash circle, if that would be considered to lead to safer and/or fairer outcomes – if the ball lands and then rebounds high off the pitch for example. It would also be providential as it would give the hash circle a function again.

The restoration of prohibition of the raising the ball (especially high) into the circle and a prohibition on playing at the ball when it is above shoulder height inside the opponent’s circle, is the very least that should be offered by way of ‘compensation’ and safeguarding following the deletion of off-side in 1997, it would also go some way to keeping a promise made at the time of the deletion.

The above video is of an example of play which is more akin to hurling than it is to hockey; there are at least three breaches of the Rules of Hockey by the attacking side.

March 28, 2018

Irresponsible umpiring


I received a strange ‘friend’ request on Facebook on Tuesday (28th March). The individual concerned just wanted to be able to send me a message and a video which demonstrated again that I was wrong. What I was wrong about he did not say but as the video and his message were about a player shooting as he put it:-

“This is what you said last time about aiming and dangerous shots!! Another example that you were wrong because this is what happend in the hoofdklasse last weekend!! Amazing Goal while the girl sits on the ground the other girls smacks the ball in the cage! No time to look up and see if someone is there!”

In other words he said that the shooter in the video he sent to me, shot ‘blindly’ towards where she ‘knew’ the goal to be and she could not have taken account of the position of a defender because she had no time to do so or was blocked (he claims both in separate messages) and the umpire still awarded a goal. Ergo my view of reckless play is wrong.

Naturally he has put what I wrote ‘back to front’. in article about the video below (see link) I declare the action of the striker to be reckless precisely because he could see both the goal and the defender and had ample opportunity to make an alternative shot or even to pass the ball to a team-mate for an easy tap-in, but chose instead to raise the ball directly at the defender (who was within 5m of him) with a hit which was raised to above knee height – or rather not to care that that is what he did (or know that it was dangerous play by all the FIH published criteria). Ironically the shooter immediately, before the penalty stoke signal was given, asked for a video referral – a request he withdrew.

The other incident we ‘discussed’ (I was abused for my opinion of) was the second one in the following clip. An incident from the Rio Olympics, where an attacker unnecessarily hit the ball hard and high across and past the head of a defender from less than one meter. I had and have no issue with the velocity of the shot but I have with the raising of it, the ball could have been driven low into the backboards, there was nothing the defender could have done to stop it.

(I have frequently wished that the commentator of the first part of the video below made some attempt to learn the Rules of the game: he is a menace. His social chit-chat and irrelevant background knowledge 100%, his Rule and game knowledge zero)

I was initially quite confused by the video that my new ‘friend’ (who now I notice has no friends listed) sent, because he informed me that the shot he was describing occurred near the end of, it and there were a number of incidents in the video, which was more than 18 mins long and contained highlights from several matches, where attackers shot towards the goal when there was a defender in a low (crouched) position in front of it. I eventually realized that he must be referring to an incident that occurred during the first penalty corner awarded in the first minute of the video. The beginning of a video is at one end of it, so this simple example serves to illustrate one of the difficulties of communication – understanding common terms: like “end” or “reckless” or “dangerous” (even if the latter has both subjective and objective criteria provided within the Rules of Hockey to define it. The “within 5m” part actually proves at times to be a hindrance to correct interpretation; there is often an illogical assumption made that a ball propelled from beyond 5m of a player cannot have been dangerously played at that player)

As it happens the incident he described as correct umpiring (and demonstrating my error) contains one of the worse examples of irresponsible umpiring I have seen, and the attacker, far from shooting ‘blindly’ obviously uses a mental image ‘snapshot’ to define her target, because she clearly looks up as she approaches the ball, she does have the time and space to do so, and executes a perfect hit which is exactly on that target – the gap between the defender and the post. The problem is that the umpire should have stopped play before the shot was taken. I present video before I write any more.


Whether or not the penalty corner was correct is debatable. Had I been umpiring I would not have awarded it but allowed play to continue (there was more likely to have been some danger from swinging sticks than from the low velocity of the ball). In my view the attacker who closes on the raised ball as it is falling, is at least as responsible for the ball hitting her as the defender, who was trying to play it to ground and who had not initially raised the ball towards the attacker (and the attacker may be considered have been guilty of an encroaching offence). It is perhaps odd to view the player who raised the ball as an initial receiver, but the ball was never beyond her playing reach and the attacker was about 5m away from her when the ball was raised.

The drag-flick shot towards the defender on the goal-line was dangerous play Others may want to debate or even deny that assertion until ‘the moon turns blue’ but the actions taken by the players are a prima facie example of dangerous play – the ball was propelled directly, at high velocity, at the head of an opponent, who took legitimate evasive action but was nonetheless hit on the head with the ball.

It is what followed that hit to the head of the defender that I find astounding (I am no longer even mildly surprised at what is considered “Not a dangerously played ball”).  The umpire seeing that the ball had hit the defender on the head and that she had crumpled to ground and was obviously injured, also saw that the ball was rebounding to an approaching attacker and gave a ‘play on – advantage’ signal – putting the fallen defender in harms way.

That was dangerously irresponsible, I have never before seen any umpire do that. He had no way of knowing that the approaching attacker would hit the ball along the ground, she could have been as reckless as the shooting player in the first or second videos above. Had a second shot been raised into the defender while she was defenseless on the ground and injured her further, she would have had excellent grounds to take legal action against that umpire for damages for negligence. Geoff Erwin of Cookstown who was hit on the head with a similar drag-flick in an EHL match, suffered a fractured skull and a perforated eardrum from that single hit and was off work for a year, damages in cases where an initial injury is compounded by negligence (in addition to the negligence of not penalising the initial shot – which gives encouragement to attackers to make such shots) could be very substantial.

The umpire of the incident shown in the last video, after awarding a goal, didn’t even check to see if the defender was cut or concussed and there is no evidence he allowed medical aid staff onto the pitch to examine her or that he asked her to step off for a substitute until others considered she was fit to resume play. What was he thinking? Probably nothing at all.

As team coach at a tournament I would voice the strongest possible objection to that umpire officiating in any match my team were due to play.

There are those who consider this from page 1 of the Rules of Hockey to be a joke:

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.

my ex ‘friend’ is one of them.

The words participants and everyone both include umpires.

The umpire at the other end not long afterwards awarded a penalty stroke when a forward fell in the circle. I have looked at that incident several times and can see no justification at all for a penalty stroke. Maybe, and it is a very weak maybe, a penalty corner could be argued for.



So, at that point, 1-1  the umpires.