Posts tagged ‘Ball-body contact’

November 2, 2017

Highly respected and hugely ridiculous.


Obstruction penalised.

In the above video of an incident in a match between ARG and NED the NED player is a defender and the two ARG players are attackers, so the NED player is within his own 23m area and ends up facing his own base-line.  The umpire penalised one of the ARG players for obstruction after the NED player appealed.  The incident demonstrates ignorance of the Obstruction Rule by the umpire and by the players concerned. It is not an absolute ignorance, the NED player knew there was an Obstruction Rule, but close to it. I put this video up on YouTube in 2013, the situation with respect to Rule knowledge, particularly of the Obstruction Rule is now worse than it was in 2013.

I placed the above video in this article, when I have dozens of others showing no or a poor understanding of obstruction, because the umpire awarded a free-ball for obstruction in a situation where obstruction was impossible and was anyway the result of an attempt by the player awarded the free-ball to ‘manufacture’ the offence. This umpire could not have got the decision more wrong, as the NED player had previously obstructed one of the ARG players by backing in while shielding the ball and committed two physical contact offences, the first against the opponent he backed into and the second against the opponent he shoved from behind.

Here below is a more recent example. I include this one because the NED player should have been given, as a minimum, a long yellow, for dangerous use of the stick and for barging – a physical contact offence, instead of being awarded a free ball for obstruction, which was the decision made.

The following example is from one of the FIH Umpiring Committee coaching videos presented on According to the ‘Interpretation of the action’  provided with the video (which was about advantage and the self-pass – and they got that wrong too) the player in black (NZ) obstructed the player in yellow (SA), even though the NZ player was facing towards the opponent’s base line and in possession of the ball in a normal dribbling crouch (a position from which he could not possibly have obstructed an opponent who was behind him). The SA player approach from behind (from the direction of the NZ goal) and wrapped himself around the legs of the NZ player and impeded him. The SA player should have been carded for this breaking down and physical contact action and a free ball awarded to NZ.

Ball body contact penalised.  Manufacturing. The Dangerously played ball not penalised

I am spoiled for choice when it comes to absurd application and ignorance of Rule 9.11 ball-body contact. Both of the cynical forcing actions shown in the videos below resulted in the award of a penalty corner against the team of the player hit with the ball, the first of them at a time when the offence of forcing was still extant as a stand alone Rule. The second match is not of international level, it’s an EHL game, but the world panel umpire who officiating it is considered to be “hugely experience and highly respected”.




There are too many incidents of a player being hit on the head with the ball and a penalty stroke awarded (a common extreme) to pick out the most absurd but this one, although luckily not a head hit, still makes me shudder. I posted this on YouTube in 2010, the comments it attracted there displayed common misconceptions about a shot at the goal and the ball being dangerous only if raised into a player from within 5m. The player nearer the striker, who took evasive action, was within 5m; the second defender who took evasive action but was still hit with the ball was more than 5m from the striker (but in the circumstances that was irrelevant LEA is not distance limited).

The playing level is not high and the decision the umpire (of similar level but nonetheless probably ‘qualified’) made is appalling, but it is not unusual to see FIH Umpires making similar ones. See next video clip. The umpire in the above clip might well have been following what he had seen senior umpires doing.

I trust further comment on the above decision is unnecessary because the decision made is so obviously wrong.
When I first saw it I thought this  (below) penalising of ball-body contact hilarious (the ball rebounded from the defender’s face mask to ground and then bounced up to make contact with the leg of an AUS player) but it was a ridiculous way for the umpire to deal with what was obviously a dangerously played ball by the attacker – he just ignored it – even if the decision finally given was the correct one – because of the dangerously played ball not the ball-leg contact, which certainly was not made voluntarily, the only criterion for a ball-body contact offence at the time.

The trailing umpire here immediately advised the engaged umpire via radio that the shot was going wide of the goal when it hit the defender. I have no doubt that had it been on target a penalty stroke would have been (incorrectly) awarded.

There is a need for objective criteria to clearly define a dangerously played ball – a ball played at high velocity (a velocity that could cause injury) at another player, at above sternum height at any distance, should I believe, always be considered to be dangerous play. Above knee height could be added as a criterion when the ball is raised into an opponent from within 5m, as it was in the above example (this is not presently the case in open play, the knee height criterion comes from the Rules for the conduct of a penalty corner).

There can be no doubt that players who can successfully target the cross-bar or a goal upright in practice, are targeting defenders when the ball is consistently propelled at head height towards them, with a drag-flick, during successive penalty corners. The irresponsible edge hit made towards an opponent seen in the previous video should have been punished by the umpires, not rewarded.(The trailing umpire confirmed, with signal, the decision of the engaged umpire when his opinion was looked for)

There are still those, many of them practicing umpires, who declare that a raised shot that is missing the goal is dangerous play, but will state with total conviction that the same shot if on target is not, even cannot be, dangerous. There is no rational support for either view and certainly no support for either of those statements in the handbook The Rules of Hockey. Whether or not a shot at goal in on target is irrelevant from a dangerous play point of view; what is relevant to whether or not a ball is dangerously played is whether or not it is raised at another player: that is fundamental. Ball velocity and the distance from a player the ball is propelled are other considerations when determining when evasive action, if attempted, is legitimate.  If the ball is not raised* into another player (with perhaps the sole exception of a player who has fallen to ground) the ball cannot have been played (propelled) in a dangerous way (A ball played in a way that leads to dangerous play is another matter).

  • raised means that the ball is not immediately after last contact with the stick during any stroke, in contact with the surface of the pitch. There is no upper or lower height specified in the Rule 9.8. or Rule 9.9. 
  • Do not ‘forget’ lifted, especially if the ball is raised intentionally, think potentially dangerous.


October 20, 2017

Rules and common sense


The Chief     Morning all. Question about yesterday’s game. Scenario is this. Ball played hard along the ground into the D by attacking team from outside the 23. Attacker is first to receive the ball, and has a defender within 1m of him, between him and the goal. Attacker deflects the ball up into the defenders leg, hitting him at the top of the sock. I blew for FHD, lifted into a player within 5m. Obviously the forward disagreed, and at half time the other umpire said he would probably have given a PC…………..

I have commented on the content of this topic thread and the replies made to the opening post before, but I went back to it to see if there were any more replies and any improvement in the responses made, i.e. was there Rule knowledge and common sense in them? Sadly not, the replies are generally daft or even outrageous. There is ignorance of the Rules and the invention of non-existent offences. Only Hockeyfish and S Pettit display common sense, even the usually sensible Kresby agrees with a post that Gingerbread made when he should have distanced himself from most of the statements made in it. The Chief allowed himself to be persuaded that the decision he made was wrong, when it was perfectly correct (hopefully he was just being diplomatic).

Gingerbread.  Shin or not is irrelevant for everything but the specific PC situation in terms of rules. We’ve had the guidance that below shin pad height is generally considered a foul against the defender for general play for a flick or scoop. Gingerbread redeems himself a little by stating in conclusion. “We should judge each scenario under 9.9”  but he demonstrates that he does not really understand Rule 9.9. and he shows no understanding of Rule 9.11.  A player hit with the ball should not, at any ball height, be generally considered to have offended, the criteria for offence are intent and/or advantage gained. The height a ball is propelled (and the distance from an opponent this is done) are reason, along with legitimate evasive action by an opponent, to consider penalty against the player propelling the ball, not the opposing player hit with it.

There are very few respondents, which is not a surprise when much the same question has been asked and (sic) “answered” hundreds of times on this and other hockey fora – without getting any closer to a common sense application of either Rule 9.9 or 9.11. – so I will go through them in turn.

Ravennhorde  Unless dangerously hard PC for me. The 5 metre thing comes from PC rules as does knee height. You’re not dealing with a smash from top of D into a runner here. 

Raised from within 5m towards an opponent is dangerous play according to the Explanation given with Rule 9.9. which is what applies in open play situations such as described in the opening post. Only the reference to knee height comes from the penalty corner Rules The FIH Rules Committee have not instructed umpires to consider ball velocity, but it must be supposed, that ball velocity will be considered when judging, using common sense, if evasive action by a defender is legitimate – that the player was trying to avoid injury. It would be useful if the FIH RC did make reference to ball velocity, it has relevance to dangerous play.

Ravennhorde. We tend to treat below the knee the same as a foot. And it’s perfectly normal for attackers to play it on to a defender’s foot in the D to win a PC. This is no different. Yes this is considered normal by a large number of very poor umpires, many of whom have been allowed (despite  – or because? – of their views on this issue) to officiate at international level and influence the behaviour of others.


Nij states that because Rule 9.9 (a Rule about the intentional raising of the ball with a hit) mentions only flicks and scoops raised into an opponent within 5m, then hits and deflections raised in this way cannot be considered to be within the scope of the Rule. Technically he is right but this approach is so lacking in common sense that it must be considered stupidity. Common sense suggests that the FIH Rules Committee do not want to have players raising the ball into close opponents no matter what stroke is used to achieve that.

It needs to be borne in mind that this Explanation to Rule 9.9 was originally a stand alone Rule clause which declared “A player shall not raise the ball at another player”; no distance, no height and no stroke was mentioned in the original Rule (which was more than one mistake, but at the time a common sense of what was dangerous play was assumed to exist). That what was written originally is now presented in the way that it is within Rule 9.9, demonstrates a lack of common sense from those asking umpires to apply common sense.

Nij posted five times to this topic thread and finished off with advice he would do well to heed himself Nij At this point, I have to strongly suggest reading the Rules (and I mean the document called the Rules, not just the individual listed rules) for yourself, because it seems you’re trying to build a logical argument on premises that simply don’t apply in hockey”. he is so off track with his stated opinions that he is a danger to others.

This “The OP is also clear that it’s a deflection, and given that they have deflected the ball towards goal it can be assumed they intend to score if possible, so it makes no sense to mention 9.9 here at all” indicates that he is one of the lunatic fringe that believe that a shot at the goal cannot be considered to be dangerous play even when, as in this case, the ball is deliberately (The Chief had by this point in the thread posted to say that in his opinion the deflection up into the attacker was deliberate) deflected up into the legs of a defender from about 1m. No one with any common sense would consider such a deflection to be a shot at the goal and nor would anyone with any common sense think that a shot at the goal could not be a dangerously played ball.


redumpire.  PC for me. Every time.    No reason offered, but this is usual from him; he seems to believe that he is an authority and need not offer reasons for his opinions – that he holds this opinion is assumed to be sufficient grounds to oblige others to follow. The decision however must be a subjective judgement in each and every case, the only objective elements are the height to which the ball was raised and if it hit another player, which by themselves are insufficient to make a decision – and certainly not an ‘every time’ statement; there can be no “PC every time” with the information provided, to the contrary; from the description of the action (which is certainly dangerous play) no similar action (a ball intentionally raised at a close opponent) with the same outcome (opponent hit with the ball) should ever result in penalty against the player hit with the ball.

The incident arose from a ball hit hard along the ground into the circle from outside the 23m area. It is not stated whether or not it was a free ball but mention of the 23m leads me to think it could well have been. It is ironic that there is a Rule preventing the playing of a free ball, awarded within the opposing 23m area, directly into the opposing circle, put in place for the safety of players, that is to protect defenders from the same kind of dangerous deflection the attacker made into the legs of the defender; bearing that in mind, where is the common sense of those who would penalise the defender in the circumstances described in the OP by The Chief – a ball hit hard along the ground directly into the circle? (I must here repeat that the restriction imposed on the taking of a free ball awarded within the opposing 23m are is, in my opinion, a Rule which should not have been introduced and which should be withdrawn asap along with a number of unnecessary 5m restrictions which have put in place because this free ball cannot be played directly into the circle e.g. the requirement that a self-passer move the ball 5m before playing it into the circle and the requirement that defenders allow a self-passer to move 5m with the ball if the self-pass is taken before they have been given opportunity to withdraw to be 5m from the position of take)

The Rule is in place because attackers will try to deflect a ball hit into the circle up into the bodies of defenders if they believe (know – player expectation – which is created by umpires) that defenders will be penalised if one is hit with the ball. An unnecessary amendment to the Free Hit Rule has been put in place because umpires will not use common sense in such circumstances, they will penalise a defender hit with a ball that has been raised with a deflection with the intention of hitting the defender (deliberately and contrary to Rule 9,9 and therefore a ‘cardable’ offence) – penalty corner every time says this FIH Tournament Director, when he should, as part of his official duties during post match umpire debriefing, be rebuking umpires who umpire in that way –  no common sense there – but there is an evident pernicious influence.


AFJ  Was his sock below his knee? Unless he’s gone for the footballer sock over the knee, then PC. Not dangerous, he just needs to get bigger shinpads. Displaying ignorance of Rule 9.9. and the criteria for offence under Rule 9.11. (I believe AFJ is an international level umpire, so no surprise about that)


Gingerbread Regardless of distance from goal, the ball is a shot if the attacker is trying to score. You can’t blow for “manufactured fouls” any more so deliberately playing the ball into a defender for a PC is “rewarded” with a PC these days unless you consider it dangerous and to me a deflection up into a defender, unless it’s crazy high and fast, sadly has to be PC (or even PS if applicable).

I am made both sad and angry by this nonsense from Gingerbread.”Manufactured fouls” or forced offences (both terms being oxymoron) should be penalised under ‘other Rules’ when they are a breach of another Rule, such as Rule 9.9. Where such forcing of contact is clearly intentional a personal penalty should also be considered and at least a verbal warning given to the offender on the first occasion.


Johnreiss  the the 5m rule only applies at pcs. HOWEVER the op suggested that it wasn’t a shot and was deliberately lifted into the defender. Was it a bit or a deflection? If a bit and not a shot it’s illegal under a different rule.( To deliberately lift the ball with a hit is illegal unless it’s a shot. I agree that this was a probable pc as it wasn’t dangerous.. but there is a large dose of yhbt in this scenario

Ignorance of Rule 9.9.  There is no need at all to ‘be there’ to know from the description of the action, given by the officiating umpire, that it was dangerous play by the attacker (the objective criteria for offence are met – raised towards a player who is within 5m). There was no mention of intent to make ball-body contact or advantage gained by the defending team, so why is it assumed? Because by many umpires it is always assumed? Yes, it is generally far easier to assume advantage gained or intent than to identify either – especially when they are absent.


Mick Mason You can’t blow danger for something that might have happened had things been different can you? The ball was played into his shin, no danger there, surely it is a PC.      A sharply rising ball hits a close player before it gets above knee height, common sense suggests penalising for dangerous play would be appropriate. The statement following Mick Mason’s initial denial that anticipation of events is part of a decision making process, also displays an ignorance of Rules 9.9 and 9,11.


There is a rift between what many participants consider to be a dangerously played ball and what Rule 9.9 declares a dangerously played ball to be (the common sense of it is not observing the description given in the Rule – ‘common sense’ conflicting with facts so not what is generally meant by common sense). It may be a convention (the meme) to use as a criterion, above knee height, as given during the taking of a legitimate shot at goal during a penalty corner (a shot from which a goal may be awarded if the ball crosses the goal-line), but that is not the Rule in general open play. Perhaps the FIH Rules Committee should make it the Rule? But that would be to declare that no ball propelled into another player at below their knee height could possibly be dangerous (cause injury) – and that is simply not true – so they are right not to make such a declaration. It has not helped previously to take intention to make ball-body contact into account because those determined to penalise any and all ball-body contact have simply declared that intention is too difficult to see – so they see (assume) advantage gained or intention on the part of the player hit with the ball (such intent apparently being easy to see even when there is no movement by the defender). Is that using common sense?

In fact the mandatory penalising of a out-runner, with a penalty corner, for being hit below knee height with a (raised) shot (especially when within 5m of the attacker propelling the ball) – a penalty measure introduced in 2004 – conflicts with Rule 9.9. and it should be deleted (or amended to read … a shot along the ground that hits etc..) The  FIH RC could instead address the problem by describing objectively what a dangerously played ball is, using various heights coupled with various distances – and also place an absolute height limit on any ball raised with a hit, irrespective of intention. The raising of the ball into the circle with a hit is also a cause for concern – even or especially if it is done accidentally – players should be encouraged to develop the skills needed to play in a relatively safe way and penalised when they are careless and do not do so and endanger others: that is common sense.

It’s hard to believe that the Rules of Hockey has been completely revised twice since 1994. First in 1995/6 by the FIH Hockey Rules Board and then by the (renamed) FIH Rules Committee in 2004, and that year on year, for as far back as I can remember, the task of ‘simplifying and clarifying’ the Rules has continued unabated. The results of these clarifications have been declared each year in the Introduction or the Preface of the rule-book. The Rules and Explanation have been simplified and clarified (‘simplified’ often meaning ‘deleted’) to the point where the majority of participants are now very clear about very little – to misquote an old saw

What is it about the English language that defies the comprehension of it when it is put in writing?  The former British Prime Minister Mrs. Margaret Thatcher once, famously, said ”I don’t know about a thing until I have seen it in writing” (which was evasion when she was asked a question about something she should have known (and did know) a great deal about), but hockey participants would have to say ”I don’t know any Rule for certain even if I have seen it in writing” (it has to be verbally ‘verified’ by someone I know or via an internet Hockey forum). Mrs.Thatcher knew that what was said could and would change from one moment to the next (simply because it was repeated by one person to another), but what was written in an identifiable document would be the same and mean the same thing to her the first time and every time after that, she read it  – she was also sending a message to those who wished to keep her informed of events – how to do so. Hockey participants have not learned that lesson, despite the FIH Executive informing all National Associations that the sole authority for the Rules and the Interpretation of them is the FIH Rules Committee who produce the Rules of Hockey handbook (and an on-line version) they, instead of reading those Rules and the Explanations given with them, listen to ‘interpretation’ and gossip and rumour and try to imitate the actions of others without knowing why they do so.

I have to repeat what Nij wrote even if he himself would be one of the greatest beneficiaries of his own advice “At this point, I have to strongly suggest reading the Rules (and I mean the document called the Rules, not just the individual listed rules) for yourself, because it seems you’re trying to build a logical argument on premises that simply don’t apply in hockey”: Amen. When not dealing with facts he is able to write cogently and to appear to be intelligent – he reminds me of Keely Dunn.

I also suggest that it is a good idea to read posts on internet hockey fora, but then vital to try and discover the facts from an authorized source – the Rules of Hockey – and then, probably for the first time, to apply common sense to what they are reading to arrive at a sensible truth – or better – the facts.

The UMB five times advises umpires to apply or use common sense and once states that a Rule should be applied sensibly – so ‘sense’ or ‘sensibility’ is invoked six times in a short document. That seems a good idea, but what is this common sense they refer to, where can examples of it be seen – in action or in writing?

















October 7, 2017

Absurd award of a penalty stroke.


I have mixed this article up in the same way as the miscellaneous Rule 9.9. is mixed and scattered about.

The failure to observe or apply the Obstruction Rule has now become standard playing and umpiring practice ( a meme) and the example shown in the first part of second video below does not really merit further comment (Not acceptance but despair. It is impossible to know what umpires are looking for when determining if there has been an Obstruction offence – whatever it is, it is not in the published Obstruction Rule:- see the video immediately below)

Positioning between an opponent and the ball and backing into.

Stick obstruction.

Physical contact, impeding.

[I had notice from YouTube that the video clip I posted on the web-site was blocked, so I substitute stills and provide link to the official EHL Day 4 video  The relevant action is at 2 hours 18 mins 03 secs. The match is between Orange Zwart and Harvestehuder. Both teams were awarded a penalty stroke during the shootout, neither of which should have been given]

The action of the attacker above breached all of the criteria for an obstruction offence by a player in possession of the ball, as published in the FIH Rules of Hockey; in addition it was both a physical contact offence and an impeding offence . The attacker simply charged into the goalkeeper while leading the ball with his body and was also guilty of a stick obstruction. I can’t see any offence by the goalkeeper who made a legitimate attempt to play at the ball while it was within his playing reach, but shielded from him.


I also found the award of the free ball, following the play after the unpenalised obstruction in this second video, to be odd. 

It does not seem to me that there was intent by the player hit to use his foot or leg to stop the ball, he first presents his stick to the ball in an attempt to intercept it, and follows that action with a step towards the ball, but I can’t see any advantage gained by the defending team resulting from the contact that occurred (had the defender simply missed the ball it would have gone directly to another defender and if he too had missed it, then it would have travelled harmlessly across the circle – there being no attacker in a position to intercept it at the speed it was moving). I would not have been surprised if the attacker had been penalised for a ball-leg contact following the rebound back to the him (he also failed to control the ball so it hit his legs). Play could probably have been allowed to continue because he did not get control of the ball (or any other advantage), but blowing the whistle is now almost a reflex when there is any ball-body contact. When an umpire does allow play to continue he is usually described as “brilliant” for doing so – if things run in favour of the team opposing the player hit with the ball – but not otherwise.

In that vein I noticed an odd awarding of a second penalty corner in the match Wimbledon played against Bloemendall following a deflection off the foot of an out-runner during an initial penalty corner. I think that one was a case of the umpire thinking he was in a ‘cleft stick’ because of a daft construction in the Explanation of Application of Rule 13.3.l. A confusion caused by poor use of semantics – (when Plain English has been demonstrated to be inadequate for use in the explanation of application in the Obstruction Rule and other Rules, who needs more confusion). The penalty corner was in any case over, the ball having been stopped outside the 5m hash-line, (so that a goal if scored would earn two points rather than one) therefore Rule 13.3.l no longer applied.

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

Readers might like to consider why the word ‘otherwise’ is used at the commencement of the second sentence.

In my opinion both of these sentences from the Explanation should be struck out of Rule 13.3.l (and the second one, which is repeated in Rule 9.9, should be deleted from that Rule). The first one because umpires generally take no notice of without attempting to play the ball with their stick which the Rule hangs on, and the second because, if the ball is raised, it conflicts with the explanation of dangerous play given in Rule 9.9. – and, because it is not specific about the ball being raised (along the ground is below knee height but very different from 12″-15″ off the ground) it is too vague. It also states a penalty corner must be awarded if an out-running player is struck below the knee. Taking from the umpire scope to use judgement and common sense about intent and advantage gained – in effect turning what is supposed to be a subjective judgement of dangerous play into awrongheaded objective criterion for offence by a defender – when what is needed is objective criteria for a dangerously played ball – usually an offence by an attacker shooting at the goal ‘through’ defenders.



In the event the shot made was still on target after the deflection and caused the goalkeeper some difficulty, he could do no better than to rebound it directly into the possession of another attacker a few meters away and standing in the middle of the goal. Any advantage gained was clearly to the attacking side. The defending side cannot be blamed for the second attacker failing to make good use of the advantage handed to him – that would be contrary to instruction given with the Advantage Rule, concerning reverting to the original ‘offence’ (which was not offence in this instance, there was no reason for the umpire to intervene and award penalty).


The match Wimbledon played against Amsterdam was better than their performance against Bloemendaal and the umpiring of the Amsterdam match was also far superior. The only thing that spoiled it for me was the blindness to obstruction. I am reminded of the period before the edge-hit became legal play but was widely used without penalty.

I first saw it expertly used in 1995 in Cuba during friendly matches against Argentina. When I pointed out to the Argentinians that the stroke was illegal they laughed and said “Not in our country” (an attitude to the Rules of Hockey that was new to me). Edge hitting was not accepted into Full Rule until 2002, following an extraordinary mandatory experimental period of three years. The ‘hard’ forehand edge hit was later prohibited and is still forbidden, but I have video clips of it being used without penalty, to raise the ball at high velocity into the circle from the right flank – three simultaneous offences – and to score a goal, which was awarded, during a shoot-out).


A few players have become so skilled at obstructing their opponents (lots of unpenalised practice) that it almost looks like a legitimate part of the game – there is certainly no protest about it (and also there are now some very skilled edge-hitters – which was not generally the case when the stroke was first made legal). Other players, like the one in the second video above, use ball shielding with the body and moving into opponents to cover an absence of stick-work and other skills there is now no need for them to develop (some edge-hitters are on the other hand so inept – inaccurate – and dangerous, having little or no control of direction or ball height, that they should be banned from attempting the stroke until proficiency can be demonstrated outside of a competitive match).

I have little doubt That the Obstruction Rule will sooner or later be amended (deleted) by the FIH Rules Committee and become an offence within the physical contact Rules (some already believe that to be the case, it’s not, but that appears to be sub-official coaching in the USA) and I have no doubt that if that happens it will be defenders who are legitimately attempting to tackle – like the goalkeeper in the shootout video clip above – who will be penalised, not the players who are ball shielding and barging into them: obstructing and committing a physical contact offence.

What a mess is being made of a game that is supposed to be about eluding opponents with stick-ball skills and evading them with footwork skills combined with passing skills.

September 26, 2017

Consistently irrational


Rules of Hockey.
I wrote this article last year and deleted it at the beginning of this year to trim down the number of articles displayed in the blog menu, but I now feel it should be restored as it is (sadly) still relevant and the forum posts which prompted it are still available to read. Besides that, the ridiculous ‘Dangerous Shot on goal’ post, written by Diligent, is still pinned to the head of the Questions for outdoor umpires section of the forum, (a critique of this post by Diligent is presented here :- ) and  the FIH Circular I mention in the article (the existence of which most participants will be unaware of) is still extant and still widely ignored – every umpire appears to believe that umpires have a right to compose their own Rule interpretations and call them subjective judgements (the interpretation of the wording of a Rule, which should be a given by the FIH RC and also be a matter of common sense and a general consensus of the meanings of words (using a good dictionary), not an individual opinion, is an entirely different thing from the subjective (or objective) judgement of an action – which must be that of an individual umpire. Both the interpretation of Rule and a judgement of actions are required to reach a decision about the legality or illegality of an action during play).

This is the story of foot, foot foot and foot foot foot (and don’t think about anything else). It is also a story of consistency; consistently irrational, consistently irresponsible.

Two questions from an umpire new to FHF, posted on 31st October 2016. I’ll disregard the second question (which I have greyed out), because it is about a Rule which is now far too complicated for me to understand (I can’t explain it to anyone else), and focus on the first one. (Try to find an umpire who can explain the Free Hit Rules to you, in less than half an hour, so that you believe you fully understand them).

Here is another later sample of the kind of questions that still arise:- 

Before considering the questions arising from the ball-foot contact  it is necessary to point out that the situation here above is complicated and confused by an unnecessary Rule, the prohibition on playing a ball directly into the opponent’s circle from a free ball awarded in the opponent’s 23m area. That is, Rule 13.2.f and most of the 5m restrictions, especially those pertaining to the self pass, which arise from it. These should be deleted. Only the requirement that opponents be (or immediately try to get to be) 5m from the ball when a free ball is being awarded and the (now deleted) condition that no free ball awarded for an offence within the area of the hash circle can be taken from within it – but must instead be taken from just outside of it –  made good sense and should be retained/restored.

If the FIH are really concerned about dangerous play within the circle they should address the issues 1) the raising of the ball into the opponent’s circle with a hit – irrespective of intention. 2) the raised shot at the goal (by providing expanded objective criteria which describe a dangerously played ball – and ensuring they are properly applied) 3) the playing of the ball within the opponent’s circle when it is still above shoulder height,- which should be prohibited and 4) by replacing the penalty corner with a power-play within the 23m area (which has been talked about for at least twenty years).

Diligent          “Time to stop having second thoughts.

defender’s foot and then possession surely causes disadvantage, so it’s got to be a FH”.    ??????

That (turning of what should be, under current Rules, subjective judgements into objective criteria – ball-body contact contact and possession of the ball) reminds me of the advice to prospective Level One Umpires, Diligent wrote in his County Umpires Association Handbook (he is, bewilderingly, a Level one umpire coach) around 2009, during the period that ‘gains benefit’ was not a criterion for a ball-body contact offence (at least not in the published Rules of Hockey Jan 2007 – May 2015).

“The notes to the foot body rule 9.11 says it is an offence ‘only’ when contact with the ball is ‘voluntary’, but in practice an accidental contact that alters the balance of play is just as much an offence as deliberately playing the ball with a foot or the body.

This is just one example of interpreting rules consistently with your partner and with other umpires the teams will have. Sometimes their interpretation will differ from how the rule seems, to you, to read. But you must umpire play their way, and never apply your own version. If that leaves you uncomfortable then a bit of lateral thinking should soon enough make the same sense of it for you as it does for everyone else.”

That is of course “everyone else” except for people like me and like Gold, who’s (miss-typed) comment was dismissed by Diligent- he ignored it. Diligent has shifted from advising ‘lateral thinking’, to his point of view (in 2009), to not having any second thoughts at all ( in 2016). Both suggestions being patronizing twaddle.

He may also, from habit, have in the more recent posting, continued to conceal the use of ‘gains an advantage’ although there is now no need to do so, as it was restored to Rule 9.11 in May of 2015. There is no longer any need to resort to a phrase like ‘alters the balance of play’ as a substitute term, when an advantage has been gained by the team of a player who makes a ball-body contact (in other words, no need to continue to change the interpretation of wording of the Rule, so that a player hit with the ball may consistently be penalised even when that player has not committed an offence).

But let’s get this ‘disadvantaged opponents’ comment put in its proper context and then consider what if any advantage was gained by the team of the defender under the present prohibition of direct play into the circle from a free ball.

According to the Advantage Rule a penalty should only be applied when a player disadvantages opponents by breaking a Rule i.e. by committing an offence – and is applied when the team offended against have or will get an advantage if allowed to play on, and are permitted to play on rather than awarded a free ball or a penalty corner.

Did this defender commit an offence? He did if an advantaged was gained for his team because of the ball-foot contact. Was there an advantage gained? In other words did he or his team get some advantage, some benefit that they would not have had anyway if the ball had not hit the foot of the defender? Diligent cites possession of the ball as an advantage gained (although possession is not stated as a fact in the opening post, let’s assume it as Diligent did).

Had the ball missed the foot of the defender it appears, as there were no attackers near (which makes me wonder what the player who took the free was trying to do), it would have travelled, without possibility of interception, the further two meters into the circle and the defending team would have been awarded a free-ball, i.e. possession. So how was possession of the ball by the defending team following the foot contact a gain of advantage or of any disadvantage to the team who took the free-ball? Were they not in fact slightly advantaged by the contact – able (if the whistle had not been blown and play had been allowed to continue) to pressure for the ball immediately in a favourable position close to the opponents circle (and be able to play the ball directly into the circle if they regained possession of it), instead of having to contain a free ball awarded to the defending team? (Such judgement is a matter of common sense and anticipating the path the ball will take)

It is a strong possibility that Diligent et al consider any ball-body contact to be not only of advantage to the team of a player hit with the ball but a gain of advantage, that is some additional benefit over and above what they would have had in any event – and also that there is always an advantage gained by the team of the player hit following a ball-body contact (which is nonsense). They totally disregard what he dismissively refers to as the “notes” to the Rule.

Gold was right to suggest that allowing play to continue would have been the correct decision: umpire intervention was unnecessary but perhaps a call of “No offence – play on” would have been helpful to the players.

So we keep going around in circles, no progress has been made in understanding and applying what is now Rule 9.11. (or what is now Rule 12 Advantage) in more than thirty years – and the next generation are being coached with exactly the same memes “A foot is a foul” “Ball-body contact always gains an unfair advantage”- except that these things aren’t necessarily so – in fact, according to the present criteria for offence, a ball-foot contact will very seldom be an offence – but it will currently be penalised as if it is always so.

Why? Because ball-body contact is an easy objective criterion to judge (see) and it is consistent to always penalise it: fairness and good judgement goes ‘out the window’ along with common sense and reasonable application of the wording of the Rule and the provided Explanation of application.


See the extremely wide, description of a meme and meme source.


The FIH HRB were so fed up with the constant unnecessary penalising of particularly ball-foot contact (which generally followed a forcing offence that was not penalised), that the Rule was re-written as follows in 1992 (when there was a different numbering system).

12. I (f) A player shall not deliberately stop, propel or deflect the ball on the ground or in the air with any part of the body TO HIS OR HIS TEAM’S ADVANTAGE (save as provided for goalkeepers in Rule 12.11(c)).

How did umpires respond to the instruction that a ball-body contact should be called as an offence only when the contact was deliberate and an advantage was gained? They didn’t, other than carrying on doing exactly what they had done before, penalising all ball-body contact – the existing meme was too powerful to break – and still is.

A couple of years later the Hockey Rules Board gave up; “deliberately” was modified to “intentionally” and the upper case text was amended to lower case.

The word intentionally was removed from the Rule in 2004 and ‘voluntarily’ was soon after substituted in. Diligent’s, fairly typical (but incredible, and irrational) response to that (as an umpire coach) was put on record in a county umpiring handbook “rule 9.11 says it is an offence ‘only’ when contact with the ball is ‘voluntary’, but in practice an accidental contact that alters the balance of play is just as much an offence as deliberately playing the ball with a foot or the body.” the memes which had been evolved, won – and hockey is poorer for it.

Rules can be no better or more useful than the people who apply them. The above coaching, of newly qualified and candidate umpires, instructs them to ignore the wording in the rule-book (not to think about it) and instead to imitate what other umpires are doing (which assumed, no doubt accurately, that other umpires were/are also ignoring or ‘reinterpreting’ the FIH RC provided wording), but whichever way you ‘cut it’ ‘accidentally’ cannot mean or be the same as ‘deliberately’, no matter what happens to the balance of play.

The gains benefit saga which began in 2007 and eventually took us, in 2016, back to the way the Rule was in 2004, in a newly destroyed rule-book (there followed several years of replacing instruction which was deleted in the 2004 rewrite), is similar; a story of flagrant disregard for the instructions given to National Umpiring Associations in FIH Executive Circulars, which set out Rules and procedures to be followed, that history does not bear repeating here – it’s a long and near incredible tale.

This FIH Circular tells its own story (Consider why was it thought necessary to issue this instruction).

An extract from a letter from the FIH Executive to all Umpiring Associations issued in January 2002.

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

‘Rules or their interpretations’ refers to those set out in the published FIH Rules of Hockey – there can be no others.

The personnel of the FIH Hockey Rules Board remained the same in the year after the Committee’s name change, from  the FIH Hockey Rules Board, as in the year before it and the renamed Hockey Rules Committee continued to work under the same Constitution and FIH Statutes.

It is still the case that no other FIH body (or of course any body or any person outside the FIH) and no FIH official can vary the Rules or the interpretation of them:   the FIH Rules Committee remain the sole authority with this power. Only the FIH EXecutive have the power to veto or approve a Rule or interpretation prior to publication – this power has not been extended to include umpire coaches, or anyone else, after publication of the Rules of Hockey.

(But for some time now I have been capitalizing the words Rule and Rules in my articles to distinguish the FIH published Rules of Hockey from memes, like those Diligent refers to above, which are ‘umpiring practice’ but treated by umpires as Rules – or better than and preferable to the Rules)

The term Guidance was changed to Explanations in the 2004 Rules of Hockey: ironically there was no explanation given for that change – and nor for many other changes of far greater significant, made in that year.

Both sides of ‘authority’ are responsible and irresponsible for creating the current mess; umpires for creating memes  (‘conventions’ evolved from their ‘practice’) and the FIH Rules Committee and the Executive for, in some instances, making it necessary for them to do so.

The meme, for example, that a dangerously played ball is one that is raised into a player within 5m and at above knee height, is not a Rule in general play and never has been. It’s taken from the conditions for a legitimate first shot (a shot from which a goal may be scored) during a penalty corner (it was amended in 2004 to ‘deal’ with ‘suicide runners’that inappropriate tag another meme) and is used in open play only because the FIH RC have failed to provide any other reasonable objective criteria for a dangerously played ball. That particular meme, supported with further Explanation and additional criteria (other distances and heights), might reasonably become part of Rule 9 Conduct of play (which it is not at present), but some other memes are just absurd and those who apply them ridiculous.

The memes:- that the falling ball referred to in Rule 9.10 cannot be the result of a deflection: that an on target shot at the goal cannot be dangerous play; that defenders positioned on the goal-line cause danger (introduced on the FHF website in August 2006); that ‘gains benefit’ was not deleted from the Rules of Hockey post 2006 (it did not appear in a rule-book again until 2016); forget lifted-think danger (neglecting that, even if not dangerous, an intentionally raised hit – which is an illegality – could unfairly disadvantage opponents); that a ball raised at a player below half shinpad height is not dangerous; that there is an obligation on a defender to defend his/her feet (even when there was a separate Forcing Rule); are but seven other memes (two of them in the UMB), that have or have had no support whatsoever in the FIH published Rules of Hockey: they are in fact corruptions or even inventions. There are many others, some extant and some, such as the memes associated with the self-pass (for example, direction of retreat), which fell into disuse (because they were so obviously unfair and/or unworkable) and now begin to fade from memory.

The book of unwritten ‘rules’ (the Book of Hockey Memes) would, if they were written (nearly all are unwritten except as unauthorized opinions in an Internet forum), be a heavy tome – and the memes just keep coming (or getting resurrected and recycled when thought to be ‘dead and buried’). A player recently wrote a comment on one of my old (2011) You Tube videos, that it was a Rule that a high raised ball (a head high shot at the goal in the video he was commenting about), could not be dangerous because it was made from beyond 5m.

That is not so, even the suggested format of this supposed/invented Rule is absurd. There is no distance or height limit stipulated for legitimate evasive action, but that is now obviously not good enough . It needs to be clearly stated in the Rules that LEA is not distance limited – or at least not limited to 5m (the distance within which, by Rule, a ball raised at a player must at present be considered to be dangerous play – which does not logically suggest that a ball raised at an opponent from beyond 5m is legitimate play ) . The FIH RC declaring a LEA limit of 15m might be reasonable for a ball directly propelled at another player (as opposed to play leading to dangerous play), to prevent irrational memes of this sort evolving. But LEA should now also go the way of the dodo; it is near useless as a criterion for a dangerously played ball, because it is a subjective judgement which is frequently impossible to be certain about: suitable objective criteria need to be put in place.

Not all objective criteria are suitable. Cannot possibly be dangerous play if raised at another player from, say 5.5m ? What?  That is worse than the rubbish ”a shot at goal cannot be dangerous play if ‘on target’ ” – which was (that meme should now be dead) basically a permit to ‘target’ defending players with a raised shot and expect them to be penalised if hit with the ball – which contrasts starkly, as a safety attitude, with the irritating restrictions on a free ball awarded in the opponent’s 23m area.


August 13, 2017

Vast Majority Consensus


I want to make some observations about consensus, ‘vast majorities’, and social norms and I believe the best way to ‘set the stage’ is to relay comment made about an incident shown in one of the video clips I posted on YouTube; my reply to that comment and the ensuing discussion, because Michael Magolien, the umpire who made the initial comment, then supported it with arguments which have previously been refuted many times over, in forum posts and in this blog (with no effect, except possibly ‘entrenchment’. There are a couple individuals who have told me in forum posts they hold the views they do only because those views oppose my views – which makes them sad cases really). Michael admits during our exchange (below) that he contradicts his own beliefs (he agrees with mine) when applying Rule “as others are doing” or (the same thing) as he has been instructed to do, but will nonetheless continue to umpire in the same way.

The above video opens with an umpire erroneously penalising a defender who has had the ball raised into his legs from within 5m. The umpire even says, (as an afterthought, when he began to reflect on his decision, while talking to the video umpire) “although it was raised” (betraying Rule knowledge that conflicted with his penalising the player hit with the ball).

During this first incident the commentators were prattling on about ‘great skill’ because the ESP player who raised the ball, ran a few meters with it in control on his stick, with his head up – and intended to hit the MAL player when he raised the ball at him with a flick. Running with the ball in control on the stick with the head up (holding the ball in peripheral vision) is an exercise of novice level. It’s not possible to play hockey well without this skill, so no player who does not possess it to a high degree has earned the right to be playing hockey at international level. Intentionally raising the ball at an opponent from close range is not a legitimate skill, it is an offence (commentators appear to be required to forget any Rule knowledge they may once have had)

Incidentally, illegal raising of the ball towards another player has nothing at all to do with the criteria for an over-height first hit-shot made during a penalty corner – i.e. knee height or above (penalising for dangerous play only when the ball is raised towards a close opponent, at or above knee height, is a ‘convention’ which is a result of ‘herding’ – a meme) there is no minimum limit for “raised towards” in the Explanation provided with Rule 9.9., which is the relevant Rule in open play.

The video incident Michael Margolien made comment about is the last one in the clip, in which the other umpire makes a similar decision, awarding a penalty corner against a ESP player who has had the ball intentionally raised into his legs by a MAL player, from very close range. Both umpires might  have made different decisions if the ball had been raised to above knee height (and it is only ‘might’ there are plenty of examples of players being hit with a ball raised significantly above knee height from within 5m and being penalised for failing to avoid being hit, even when evasion was not possible), but there is no reason in the Rules of Hockey to differentiate between a ball that has been raised at knee height or above from one that has been raised into the shin of an opponent.

(The statement in the Umpire Managers’ Briefing  – for FIH Umpires at Tournament level – that a ball raised to below half shin-pad height (20cms ??) in a controlled way is not dangerous, has been in the briefing for a number of years. The FIH Rules Committee have declined to incorporate that statement into the Rules of Hockey, specifically the Explanation of application given with Rule 9.9., so it is not a criteria in any Rule. But a player into whom the ball has been raised at below knee height – even if significantly above half-shin-pad height – is likely, as we see here, to be penalised, even if the contact was intentionally forced by an opponent. Other recent articles in this web-blog contain videos examples of intentional, above knee height contact forcing, resulting in penalty against the player hit – fortunately this has not become common unless the incident could have been a shot at the goal and the umpire a disciple of weird inventions).


Michal Margolien 3 weeks ago
The defender should be responsible for their feet (last section of the video), especially since there was an attacker right behind them.


ZigZagHockey 3 weeks ago

You are saying that if a defender fails to defend a forcing offence (yes forcing is still an offence if ‘other Rules‘ are contravened) and is hit with the ball then the defender should be penalised. That cannot be so, it is illogical. The attacker was in clear contravention of what is given in Explanation of application to Rule 9.9.; that is the attacker committed a dangerous play offence – and it looks to me as if he did so deliberately.
I must add that if it is considered that a defender is obliged to defend his feet and legs (which should not in any case be ‘attacked’ with the ball), then the player in possession of the ball is obliged, by the same reasoning, to have the skill to make a pass without hitting his opponent with the ball. It is unreasonable and unfair to demand a difficult skill from a defender but not to require basic competence from an attacker who is in possession of the ball.

I neglected to point out in that reply, that only a few minutes previously, the MAL players had demonstrated that they possessed the skills necessary to avoid playing the ball into opponent’s legs, when they wanted to avoid doing so – and to instead play hockey (which was very attractive – spectacular).

I have often commented that if a ‘practice’ is not in the Rule book it is not a Rule, but a half-way situation was created by the Rules Committee in 2011. The ‘deletion’ of the forcing Rule was not a deletion at all, but a ‘bait and switch’- the FIH Rules Committee stated, in the Preface of the 2011 Rules of Hockey, when commenting on the ‘deletion’, that all actions of this sort can be covered by other Rules, so in effect there are still a number of forcing Rules (not just one as previously), but they are not referred to as forcing offences and the Forcing Rule Proper has disappeared. This is not a ‘simplification and clarification’ – especially as not all actions which could previously have been penalised as ‘forcing’ under the Rules of Hockey in 2010, can be penalised under any other current Rule – it is a mystification, obscurantism. There is no forcing Rule in the Rules of Hockey but (most) forcing actions are still an offence.

Those not aware there was a forcing Rule in 2010, which has been transferred to “other Rules” since 2011, have no means of knowing, from the 2017 Rules of Hockey, that all forcing actions are offences: the fact cannot be verified without reference to a rule-book that is more than six years old, and by then establishing that no other relevant changes to the Rules have been made since 2011. The idea of carrying forward, from previous versions of the Rules of Hockey, information that has been deleted at some point, isn’t viewed very favorably by most participants – even when the deletions – carried out, it is always claimed, with simplification and clarification in mind, have resulted in some very oddly written Rules and bizarre interpretation and practice.

Michal Margolien 3 weeks ago

I do understand your reasoning and I like it 🙂 However, this is how hockey umpiring is interpreted and umpired these days and is being consistently blown (aka players expect it).


ZigZagHockey 3 weeks ago

Michal, I would prefer that you offered argument against my reasoning other than declaring ‘that is how it is interpreted these days”. why do we have bizarre interpretation; that is interpretation that does not logically interpret the wording given in the Rule and Explanation of Application? Convince me to change my mind, give me reason to do so.


Michal Margolien 2 weeks ago
I’m not trying to convince you to change your mind because I agree with your reasoning! 🙂 But on the pitch I will be consistent with other umpires and will blow it as an offence.


ZigZagHockey 2 weeks ago
What is the point of consistency when it is incorrect, when what you are penalising is not an offence by the player you penalise but by the opponent? Why be consistently wrong?

I made little progress as an umpire for two reasons. I was forty-seven years old before I joined an Umpiring Association, although I had been umpiring since the time I was at school. That was because during the period I was playing, umpiring and playing at the same time was actively discouraged to avoid conflict of interest if an umpire could be appointed to officiate in the same league in which he or she was playing – which was daft because such conflicts should have been easily avoided by an appointments official (now that officials use computers they are avoided). But also because I absolutely refused to make decisions that were contrary to the Rules of Hockey just because other umpires were doing so.

I also did not make decisions based on what players expected, for the same reason – after all ‘player expectation‘ is shaped and conditioned by the decisions umpires have previously made. Using ‘player expectation‘ as a reason for making a decision is therefore circular reasoning and not a valid excuse for not applying the Rules correctly.

It has always annoyed or amused me to hear the fatuous excuse ‘player expectation’, as it has usually come from those who frequently and loudly declare that players do not know the Rules of Hockey. Okay, that may be so, but how can players know the Rules of Hockey if umpires are applying something else? They can only learn what is in the rule-book and then become aware that this is not adhered to.

I don’t regret not being a high flying umpire, I made the choice to play on into my early fifties – and enjoyed playing, and I was in any case asked to officiate in many high level games, which I think I did without disgracing myself or annoying players more than they deserved.


Michal Margolien 2 weeks ago
I very much agree with you!


ZigZagHockey 2 weeks ago
Okay Michal, I don’t want to see a ‘train crash’ of your umpiring career but, you cannot agree with me and in good conscience continue dong what you know to be incorrect. What are you going to do about that?

I suggest you talk about Rule application to other umpires,‘ especially the ones who are officiating with you during the season. Best of luck.


Michal Margolien 2 weeks ago
Martin, well I guess that this discussion should be with the HRB and not between the two of us 🙂

As long as this is the vast majority consensus interpretation with the HRB, umpire managers, umpires and the hockey world in general, this issue is not that important to me in my life to fight for it but I cross my fingers for you.


ZigZagHockey 2 weeks ago

I see the FIH Rules Committee (no longer called the HRB), who write the Rules, as opposed to what has been created by umpires’ managers and hence by umpires. But it seems they too prefer a quite life and sorting out the differences is not important to them.

And there the conversation ended. I need to insert two more videos (both posted on YouTube in 2011) and describe a match incident which will illustrate points related to the above conversation. The first video:-

The above incident was discussed at length on a hockey forum and the consensus (with no dissenters) was that the umpire blundered. There is clearly no intent to use the foot, advantage gained was not in the Rules at the time (but applied as if it was  – which was the result of bullying by a single individual FIH official and not at all a majority decision), but there is clearly no advantage gained by the defending team, so there was no offence and a corner should have been awarded, not a penalty-corner. Just as obviously (even though this would be relevant only if there has been an offence – so not relevant in this instance) the attacking team were not disadvantaged because of the contact. Had the umpire concerned previously been in a forum discussion about a similar incident there can be little doubt that he too would have said during that discussion that the award of a penalty corner was incorrect and a corner correct. So what is going on when these kinds of decisions are made, why do umpires make decisions they know to be incorrect?

Such decisions are not uncommon. I recall another, in an international match involving the Argentinean Women’s team (against Germany I think), where the ARG goalkeeper kicked the ball into the back of the legs of an ARG defender positioned within 1m of the base-line. (Had the ball not hit the defender it would have gone to another ARG player, positioned wide, near the edge of the circle and the base-line.) After hitting the defender the ball spun on the ground and then trickled out of play over the base-line; no attacker got close enough to take advantage of the loose ball (but not much effort was made to get to it as all the players expected a penalty-corner to be awarded). A penalty corner was awarded. I believe that if the umpire concerned saw that incident in a game officiated by someone else, and thought about it, her view would have been that the award of a penalty-corner was not correct. Even if she had *(bizarrely) considered the ball-leg contact to have been an offence, there would have been no reason to award anything other than a corner, because the opposing team were not disadvantaged by the contact (they in fact gained advantage because of it – correctly a corner should have been awarded and the award of that corner would have been an advantage to the attacking team in the circumstances i.e compared with what would probably have happened if the defender had not been hit with the ball ).

* The award of a penalty-corner when a goalkeeper kicks the ball into the back of the legs of one of her own team is a bizarre decision. The player hit never intends to be hit with the ball and it is extremely unlikely that there will be any advantage gained by the defending team – the only other criteria for offence – quite the contrary, so what possible offence could there be? I have video clips of this happening in four different matches and on each occasion the umpire awarded a penalty corner, instead of, correctly, there being no significant injury to the player hit, allowing play to continue.  When the player hit is injured, then what? A bully is probably the fairest decision – there will be a no fault stoppage. I can see these assertions, particularly the last one, causing apoplexy in certain quarters, but I make them nonetheless, because unless an attempted clearance kick by a goalkeeper is dangerous to another player and also disadvantages the opposing team, there is no reason for the umpire to intervene.

A problem seems to be that umpires at the highest levels are receiving very simplistic coaching aimed at producing consistent decisions (which are supposed to be subjective rather than objective decisions, but cannot be subjective because of the nature of the instructions given). What the top umpires are doing is then cascaded to other levels – but a cascade is not a suitable method of passing down what are supposed to be subjective (i.e. personal judgements)  based on two criteria – intent or advantage gained – which both require judgements to be made. Simplistic coaching, based largely on a meme such as “a defender’s foot contact in the circle is an offence for which a penalty corner must be awarded” and “a ball-body contact will be of advantage to the team of the player making it.” does not make allowance for the exceptions, the numerous instances where a ball-foot or ball-body contact in fact disadvantages the team of the player who made it – and is not by any criterion an offence.

A simple instruction, which possibly fits in many cases, becomes, when blindly followed, a cause of blunder. The only hope is that a blunder will be pointed out immediately by an umpire coach or TD (but too late for the team that suffered because of it) and the umpire will learn from the experience and do better next time. Too often however a blunder is ‘whitewashed’ or denied and the decision endorsed and the mistake is repeated – and possibly even pointed to as an example of good practice – maybe in a hockey forum.(Some of the decisions and the ‘Interpretations’ explaining them, posted as umpire coaching on, fall into this category of mistake. Obstruction 3 and Obstruction 6 for example.

Without very similar specific experiences to draw on the umpire needs to take time to reflect (not difficult if the ball has gone dead, but there is anyway generally no great rush required when considering whether or not to award a penalty-corner – blow the whistle to stop the game and then think!) and decide if an exception to a general instruction would be correct. This is referred to, in the physiological and social sciences, as using System 2 (slower deliberation and reflection) rather than System 1, (where the decision is made ‘automatically’ and is more reaction and reflex than it is thinking – the decision is made before there has been sufficient time allowed for conscious though – such responses are generally more useful to well trained players reacting to events in play, such as avoiding or stopping a raised ball, rather than to umpires making Rule decisions based on those same actions).

To illustrate this kind of automatic thinking, here is a question from a physiological experiment, which has become the kind of thing asked on some job and college application forms to test the ability of applicants to think clearly (logically). It is not difficult to arrive at the correct answer if the information given (by analogy the Rules of Hockey) is taken note of, in fact it is a very easy problem, but unless candidates have seen it before, the majority, especially when under time pressure, give a wrong answer.

A child’s bat and ball cost a total of £1. 10p.    The bat costs £1.00 more than the ball.     How much does the ball cost?

Now that you have been primed to take care you should have little problem arriving at the correct answer. (allow yourself three minutes, System 2, even if your initial answer occurred to you in less than three seconds, System 1 – and you believe it to be correct). You can if you wish post your answer as a comment. A solution is provided at the bottom of this page.

I embedded written comment in the second video, below, when I posted it back in 2011. It is one of the most outrageous examples of an umpire following player expectation I have seen (but others come close to it). At the time the match was played (2010 World Cup) the intentional forcing of a ball-body contact was still a stand alone offence – and there can be no doubt about the intent of the ENG player. Why would any umpire reward such a blatant breech of a Rule , by an attacker, with a penalty-corner? The umpire who was officiating at that end of the pitch did so. (This particular breech, by the way, because the ball was not raised, contravened no other Rule except the now deleted Forcing Rule). I believe that the vast majority of umpires would say, if asked, that the umpire blundered – given time to think it over, he probably would himself.

The second video:-

I have not used many examples but I believe that the vast majority of umpires (and even those directly involved) would not – on reflection – have awarded a penalty corner in any of the above instances. I don’t think that the vast majority consensus is as Michael has portrayed it to be. How many senior umpires disagree with the instructions they are given, but, as he does, carry them out anyway, so that they can continue to be appointed to umpire at a high level – and to ‘progress’? Probably the vast majority. The cascade system and social or peer pressure to conform to “what others are doing” that it produces, will also hide the fact that the vast majority of club umpires don’t have a clue why they are being pushed in a direction that makes no sense at all, but this apparently is not important enough to them, for sufficient of them, to want to try to do anything about it.

There is hope; the seemingly unassailable Soviet Union and its Communist government collapsed with astonishing speed when the majority of its citizens realized that they despised the style of living that was imposed on them by this system – and that they could do something about that, even if it was very hard to do so – impossible is nothing.


A child’s bat and ball cost a total of £1. 10p.    The bat costs £1.00 more than the ball.     How much does the ball cost?

The response generally given almost immediately, the reflex or intuitive answer (gut feeling) is that the ball costs 10p., but a closer examination of the given costs, starting with the fact statement that the bat costs £1.00 more than the ball shows that to be an error.


if it is assumed that the ball costs 10p and it is given that the bat costs £1.00 more than the ball, then the bat costs £1.10 – but £1.10. is given as the total cost of both together – and a ball price of 10p would give a total of £1.20.

It should now be obvious that the cost of the ball is 5p – that the bat costs £1.05 (£1.00 more than the ball) and then the total is £1.10. which matches the initial fact statement.

The solution can be arrived at by constructing an algebraic equation, by substitution (which was used to demonstrate) or by trial and error, but whichever is used it will take more time to arrive at a solution than a ‘gut reaction’, unless you happen to be very used to doing maths problems and can work out the answer in the same way that you ‘work out’ what 2 + 2 comes to (‘working out’ is here deeply embedded knowledge – learning – together with long experience, or simply memory)


It has to be pointed out however that if an umpire makes a decision based on remembering what he or she did the last time there was a ball-body contact (or worse, follows a decision another umpire made in a previous match) it is very unlikely (impossible) that a subjective decision has been made. Every incident of ball-body contact is unique and requires a separate subjective judgement to be made, this judgement must be based on the actual actions seen in relation to the criteria for offence provided in the Rules of Hockey.




July 15, 2017



World Cup Final 2014.  Sports commentators, perhaps misguided by the notion that if an FIH Umpire applies or fails to apply a Rule in a certain way (using ‘common practice’) then that way must be correct, cause confusion among viewers by lauding a foul by a NED player as if it was proper and a desirable skill.

Below is what the FIH Rules Committee wrote under the heading ‘Rule Changes’ in 2011 in the Rules of Hockey – when ‘forcing’ was deleted as a stand alone offence.

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 bold)

(My apologies that above statements, which remain extant, are more than six months ‘old’ and were given in writing in a previous rule-book – and are therefore ‘black and white’ and ‘ancient history’ – unlike the ‘latest interpretations’, stories of unknown origin, which are passed on by word of mouth – it is difficult to think of a more inaccurate form of communication – or in Internet hockey forum, the worse form of cascade).

If an illegal playing action results in penalty in the opposite direction to that which it did (or should have) previously then there has been a fundamental change to the way in which the game is officiated and therefore played i.e a change in its characteristics.

The aim of simplification was achieved, it is simple to always penalise, no matter what the circumstances, a player who makes a ball-body contact: this is what is happening and it is simple-minded.

The words “any action of this sort can be dealt with under other Rules” can only mean in the context, that any forcing action can and should be penalised using other Rules already in place at the time. But by 2014 ‘the interpretation’ was the opposite, it was always the player forced to ball-body contact who was penalised.

In fact this was also the case prior to 2011, when the forcing (of ball-body contact in particular) was still clearly an offence, by the player doing the forcing. So as far as umpires were concerned there was no fundamental change in 2011, they just kept doing what they had ‘always’ done and misapplied the ball-body contact Rule – often when the forcing action was also clearly dangerous play.

At one time (1992) ‘what umpires had always done’ i.e ignored the written Rule or ‘interpreted’ it in a bizarre way (in a way opposite to the way it was intended to be applied) so infuriated the Rules Committee (at the time called the FIH Hockey Rules Board) that the criterion for a ball-body offence was changed to – both deliberately using the body to stop or deflect the ball and the gaining of an advantage.

That change to the criterion for a ball-body contact offence made no difference whatsoever to the way umpires applied the Rule, they just continued doing exactly as they had done prior to 1992, when the two criteria were –  intentional use of the body or a gain of advantage (and they umpired as if any ball body contact always gave an advantage to the player hit with the ball, which was what led to the change made in 1992. That ‘penalise all’ approach to ball -body contact is familiar to us now, in 2017).

(‘Gaining a benefit’ was deleted in Jan 2007 – without making any difference at all to umpiring practice (Peter von Reth would not allow it to), and only reinstated, as ‘gains an advantage’, in May of 2015, so we have recently completed yet another cycle of the ball-body contact ‘no change to umpiring practice’ merry-go-round.

The most recent development in the forcing and ball-body contact saga has been the introduction (2017) of a ‘drilling’ dangerous play offence in indoor hockey (dangerous forcing using high ball velocity combined with a spin with the ball from a shielding position)- but with no counterpart in the outdoor game – despite a declaration from the FIH that the Rules for the two games will be kept ‘in sync’ as far as is possible.

The action of the NED player in the first video is a ‘shield, spin and drill’ and the defender had very little chance of avoiding the ball-body contact the attacker intended would result. I can’t see what advantage the defending team gained from the ball-leg contact, so I don’t know why the defender was penalised. The match commentators had no doubt that the forcing of the contact was carried out deliberately, they just had no idea that such forcing is supposed to be penalised (as any forcing may be) under “other Rules” – that is no surprise, this action never has been penalised as it should be.

‘Drilling’ following a spin-turn from a ball shielding position developed because ball shielding (obstruction) has not been penalised as it should be since around 1994.

The following video shows an attacker deliberately raising the ball into the legs of a defender from within 1m; the ball then deflecting off the defender to the advantage of the attacker (so the defender could not possibly have gained an advantage because the attacker did, the ball-leg contact was clearly not intended by the defender, so according to the Rules of Hockey the defender did not commit an offence). The attacker declined to play on, the umpire awarded a penalty corner


Dangerous play, arising from a dangerously played ball, has not been penalised as it should be since around 2002 (following the publication of The Lifted Ball an umpire coaching document, produced in the previous year). There followed in 2004 a number of Rule deletions and amendments which eventually led to the ‘on target shot’ nonsense.

An blatant example (below) of deliberate forcing by an attacker who preferred to ‘win’ a penalty corner rather than attempt to shoot at the goal even though he was in the circle and goal-side of the defender he fouled. This was combined with what is technically dangerous play (the ball propelled at low velocity so unlikely to cause injury, but contrary to Rule 9.9 as it hit the defender, from within 5m – and also at at above knee height – but that latter point is not a criteria for the offence, the Explanation of application of Rule 9.9. mentions only the raising of the ball towards an opponent, it does not stipulate a minimum height). Penalty corner awarded.


Here is another blantant example from the 2014 World Cup Final.


The umpire was positioned directly behind the player who was hit with the ball and could have had no idea how high it was raised (it hit the defender on his thigh) but he waved away protest from the NED players. He should however have been aware that the AUS player charged bodily into the NED defender following raising the ball into him. Why the NED players did not go to video referral I don’t know; bitter experience perhaps, but the goal scored against them from the corner must have been more bitter to swallow. What was laughable about this incident was the amount of trouble the umpire went to to ensure that the ball was placed on the base-line before it was inserted, very close to the line was not good enough: an insistence on technical Rule compliance which was at odds with the seriousness of the deliberate dangerous play/forcing Conduct of Play offence he rewarded the AUS team for. The match commentators saw nothing untoward about the AUS player’s forcing action, the physical contact or the award of a penalty corner against the NED team; they expected the award of the penalty corner the AUS player went ‘looking for’.

Rule 9.9. Explanation of application. 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.

There is a lot of confusion between this Explanation of application given with Rule 13.3.l. which is about a first shot at the goal during a penalty corner:-

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.

and what is given as Explanation to Rule 9.9 regarding dangerous play.

In open play, which is subject to Rule 9.9 but not Rule 13.3.l. a ball may not be raised towards (at, into) an opponent within 5m – there is no minimum height given for there to be a dangerous play offence when the ball is so raised. The Umpire Mangers’ Briefing(which is not the Rules of Hockey) states that a ball raised into an opponent, in a controlled way, at below half shin-pad height (20cms?) is not dangerous (this statement conflicts with what is given in Rule 9.9 – such conflicts should not happen)

General practice is to (sometimes) penalise for dangerous play only if the ball is raised into an opponent at or above knee height, but there is no Rule support whatsoever for this practice in open play. The video umpire based her recommendation for a free ball to the AUS team on the ball being played into the AUS defender at knee height. The match commentators were sure a penalty corner would be awarded – so the Rule knowledge of the video umpire was marginally better than that of the commentators, but not correct. There can be no doubt that had the ball been raised into the defender’s shin, rather than into her knee, a penalty corner would have been recommended by the video umpire.



The fundamental characteristics of hockey have been dramatically changed in the last twenty years because of changes to the application of the Rules. Some, but very few, of the changes made to the Rules have resulted in betterment of the game, however, if applied correctly, many more of them would have done (and fewer changes would have been made necessary). The self-pass is a good example of an opportunity missed, caused first by bizarre ‘interpretations’ (for example direction of retreat by opponents) and then by the introduction of unnecessary Rules in relation to it (moving the ball 5m before playing it into the circle, which was a result of the unnecessary Rule that a free ball awarded in the opponent’s 23m area may not be played directly into the circle) The prohibition on an intentionally raised hit is an example of an unnecessary Rule which led to a need to introduce more Rules and also to ‘interpretation’ “forget lifted” to circumvent it (why not instead clarify the dangerously played ball Rule by adding objective criterion?)

There are still a number of ‘loopy’ Rules in place (as dangerous or nonsensical as the now deleted ‘Own goal’) but the biggest danger to players and the future of the game is ‘interpretation’ and ‘common practice’ (umpires being instructed to ‘overrule’ the Rules provided by the FIH Rules Committee), examples of which are seen in the above videos from some of the most senior umpires in the world  – i.e. personal opinion – derived from direction and coaching – that bears no resemblance to the meaning of the wording given in and with the FIH Rules of Hockey.

Players, who are required to be aware of the Rules of Hockey and play according to them, have no chance of doing so with the ‘interpretations’ shown above. While players who deliberately breach the Rules, are coached to flout them, get away with doing so because what they are doing has become ‘accepted’ and ‘common practice’ – the memes of hockey.


August 7, 2016

Double offence.


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. 

December 31, 2015

Forcing, deletion of Rule.


More than six years ago the following announcement was made in the Introduction of the 2011-13 Rules of Hockey under Rules Changes.

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.


Both of the above statements, whatever the original intention, turned out to be false.


(There was also a new Rule (13.7) introduced, dealing with penalties for an offence during the taking of a penalty corner and amendment to Rule 13.10, the penalty stroke, as well as what were referred to as clarifications, indicated by margin marks).

Interpretation of the change.  Any forcing action made (intentionally or otherwise, because intent is not mentioned in any of the “other Rules” referred to* – a welcome simplification) which directly caused an opponent to be unintentionally in breach of a Rule could (and presumably would) be penalised under other existing Rules.  Rule breaches are ‘dealt with’ in only two ways, by the use of penalty or by application of the Advantage Rule, so this interpretation of “dealt with” can be considered to be reasonable.

*(The only other Rules that could be contravened by a forcing of ball-body contact are Rule 9.8, the Rule concerning the dangerously played ball – legitimate evasive action is however not confined to balls propelled from within 5m – and Rules 13.3.k and 13.3.l, which respectively concern non-compliant and dangerous shots made towards the goal during a penalty corner


Here is an example of an intentional forcing action    – forcing a ball-body contact from an opponent by (here deliberately) raising the ball into his legs from close range, in this case from within playing distance of the ball.



Instruction given with Rule 9.9. 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. 

Flicks and scoops are by definition raised.

The above instruction given with Rule 9.9. is what remains of another Rule which was ‘deleted’ (in fact transferred to become part of the explanation of application of Rule 9.9.) in 2004  (in much the same way as the once separate offence of forcing was transferred to other Rules in 2011). 

Players shall not raise the ball at another player. 

Neither the present Rule 9.9. or the deleted 2003 Rule 13.1.3 d, (sic) mentions height or velocity; the only differences between them (other than the very significant addition of a 5m limit which has been ‘interpreted’ by some to mean a ball cannot be dangerously raised at a player from more than 5m – a nonsense) is that this instruction is now guidance or explanation of Rule application, rather than Rule Proper.

To the text of the current Rule 9.9. explanation of application “within 5 meters” and “is considered dangerous” has been added and “towards” has replaced “at“, none of these amendments significantly changes the way in which contravening play at close range should be dealt with. 

Umpires may also feel obliged (even though it is not part of the Rules of Hockey) to follow the UMB advice, which declares that a ball that has been raised over an opponent’s stick in a controlled way and hits that opponent below half shin pad height (20cms?) is not dangerous, but there is no reason at all to suppose that any ball raised into an opponent at above half shin pad height should not be penalised, especially if the player is hit with the ball or otherwise disadvantaged in any way.

So why is it current umpiring practice to make directly opposite decisions to the those the Rules of Hockey instruct should be made? It is not a skill or even legitimate play, to raise the ball from close range at or into another player’s legs or body, it is a foul.

December 4, 2015

Rules 9.11 and 9.12 Opposite approaches, all and none.


“A suggestion of contact”

Incidents which took place in the last minute in a match between Argentina and England Women during the last World Cup qualifying rounds. I take a close look at these because they epitomizes the difference in approach to the application of Rule 9.11. which concerns ball-body contact and Rule 9.12 which is the Obstruction Rule. First the incidents on video. It is not difficult to see what is ignored and to where the focus of attention is directed.


PDF links to the three sets of frame photographs and text for easy viewing.

Combination 1

Combination 2

Combination 3

CP Combination 1

CP Combination 2



CP Combination 3

The text in the last frame is a little difficult to read so I will repeat it here.

There is no frame or sequence in which it is possible to be definite about there being a ball-leg contact and of course much more than that is required for there to be an offence. As this match was pre- May 2015 (when advantaged gained was reintroduced into the Rule) there needed to be clear intent to use the body to stop or deflect the ball or a voluntarily taken action to do so. There does not appear to be any sort of intent.

Even if the post May 2015 criteria, an advantage gained, is used. If there is a contact it does not slow or deflect the ball in any way and play continues just as if there was no contact – so it is reasonable to state that there was no advantage gained

– and it is far from certain that there was any ball-body contact at all.


The Rules

Rule 9.12. Obstruction. (omitting third party) 

9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

Players obstruct if they:

– back into an opponent

– physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent

-shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and
an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.


Following the above criterion there can be no doubt that the ARG player committed an obstruction offence on at least two counts. The ENG defender behind her was within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it when her stick was kicked away from the ball. The ARG player did then move to position between the ENG player and the ball to prevent her playing at the ball by shielding it with the body.


Rule 9.11 Ball -use of body.

9.1 1 Field players must not stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their body.

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

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

“Gains an advantage” is now the first of the two criteria listed for offence after a player has used the body to stop, deflect or propel the ball; from 2006 – 2015 it was not in the Rules of Hockey as a criteria for offence for breach of Rule 9.11 (but was applied anyway).

So was there an advantage gained by the England team because of a ball-body contact? No because if there was a ball-body contact there was no deflection or acceleration or deceleration of the ball and no discernible change to play or outcome because of it.

Was there intent to use the body to stop, deflect or propel the ball with the body? None is discernible, therefore there was no offence arising from a breach of Rule 9.11. It is not even certain that there was a breach of Rule 9.11. There may even have been a breach of Rule 9.9. by the ARG player as the ball was flicked up and towards the ENG player.


Why are umpires applying the criterion for offence given in these two Rules in a way that is the opposite of the meaning and purpose of them? Ignoring obstructive offences (there can be no doubt that there were at least two obstruction offences by the ARG player) and treating all ball-body contact (or even the suggestion of a contact as the commentator put it) as an offence does not improve the game, it spoils it.




October 30, 2015

Rewrite. Rule 9.11. Ball-body contact


A suggested rewrite of the Rules of Hockey

The Current Rule 9.11.

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

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

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

Action. Amendment. 

Reason. The Rule is poorly written and incomplete, giving for example, no meaning or limit to the term ‘advantage’ in the exception – which is not clearly set out as an exception to the Rule.

The current Rule is not ‘working’, here is an example of typical application:-

The umpire disregarded the criterion for offence (intent by a field-player to use the body to stop, deflect or propel the ball or advantaged gained from doing so unintentionally) in other words ignored instructions given for the application of the Rule and ‘automatically’ (without further thought) awarded a penalty corner as the ball rolled off the pitch after hitting the defender: there was clearly neither intent nor advantaged gained by the defending team, they were in fact disadvantaged by this accidental contact but umpires and players are long trained to respectively carry out and to expect this incorrect reflex penalising of any ball-body contact (the weak excuses offered are consistency of decision and player expectation).


With the exception of the Rules concerning the penalty corner, this Rule has been amended more often than any other in the past thirty years (without any effect at all), so it should only necessary to choose from the parts of previous renditions that made sense and then add one clause (concerning goalkeepers), to devise a fair and workable Rule: getting it applied correctly will be another matter entirely but we should at least start with a non conflicting Rule and instruction for application. 

Useful comment and or suggestion is welcome.

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

There is no offence committed if the ball simply hits the foot, hand or body of a field player, play should continue unless the player hit with the ball is injured or intended to use the body to stop or deflect the ball. Where there is injury caused by a ball contact and there is no intent to use the body by the player hit and there has been no forcing of contact or dangerous play by opponents, the game should be restarted with a bully.  

Exception.1.  Unless there is forcing of contact or prior dangerous play by opponents, for example a shot at the goal made in a dangerous way or the ball is illegally raised into the player hit, the umpire will properly penalise a player hit with the ball, even if the contact is entirely unintentional, if that ball contact directly prevents the ball going into the goal of the team of the player hit and thereby prevents the award of a goal. The penalty will be a penalty stroke.

With instances of unintentional ball-body contact by a player not in possession of the ball there are no other exceptions. If a player plays the ball into the legs or feet of an opponent and is disadvantaged because of that contact that will be of no interest to the umpire. The umpire’s only concern will be that the playing of the ball into a player does not injure, endanger or otherwise disadvantage that player. Any intentional forcing of ball-body contact must be considered to be a foul by the forcing player. If a player intentionally plays the ball into the feet, legs or body of an opponent that player should be penalised with a personal penalty and the team of the player hit awarded a free ball.

Intention to use the body to stop or deflect the ball should be judged in as objective a manner as possible. Intentional contact will, for example, be foot to ball rather than ball to foot. A player who is moving along the flight path of the ball (an out-runner during a penalty corner for example), rather than laterally into the flight path of it, has not demonstrated an intent to use the body to stop or deflect the ball. A player who moves laterally into the flight path of the ball while attempting to use the stick to play the ball and is hit, has not intentionally used the body to stop or deflect the ball. Intent to use the body in such cases must be as clear.

Exception 2. Should an attacking player in possession of the ball, particularly in the opponent’s half of the pitch, make body contact – usually foot or leg contact – with the ball and that player or a member of that player’s team retains or regains possession of the ball and the team are then able to continue their attack, that may be considered an unfair advantage and a free ball awarded to the defending team at the place the contact occurred or, if that was in the opponent’s circle, a 15m ball should be awarded.


Goalkeepers are not permitted to pick the ball up – raise the ball off the ground – by gripping it in any way, nor are they permitted to hold the ball to the ground in any way except with the stick (but without thereby preventing an opponent from playing at the ball), by for example, lying on it or by trapping and holding it under a kicker to prevent an opponent from playing at the ball. These latter ball-body contact actions will be considered obstructive play and penalised as such.


The above Rule proposals and the penalties suggested are slightly different (okay, hugely different) to much of what will be seen in current practice (generally the ‘automatic’ penalising of all ball-body contact, especially by defenders in the circles), but I believe that they are fair and in keeping with a stick and ball game which is supposed to be played in a skillful way. The offence of forcing should not of course have been ‘deleted’ (supposedly to be “dealt with” under other Rules) in 2011, and is restored: the statement that forcing would be “dealt with under other Rules” was one that was quickly forgotten or only ever a pretense.

Sports that developed as club games in the same era as field-hockey did – hurling, shinty, lacrosse, ice-hockey – have always permitted the use of the feet or other parts of the body, to stop, deflect or propel the ball or puck. Field-hockey also initially permitted this. I listened to older members of Blackheath Hockey Club (my first club) when I was a youngster, recounting the skill of trapping the ball under the foot within the opponent’s circle and then hitting a shot at the goal during the taking of a penalty corner. Trapping the ball under the sole of a boot or trapping it with the instep during play was perfectly acceptable under the Rules of Hockey in the 1930’s.

What was not permitted by that time was to propel the ball by kicking it. I don’t know the year in which it was decided that any ball-body contact that gained an advantage should be considered an offence and playing the ball was something that field-players could legally do only with the stick. Whenever it was, the idea was to promote stick-ball skills and discourage the lack of them. But, as is so often the case, the good idea has been taken to a ridiculous extreme and become an absurdity. The forcing of ball-foot or leg contact or otherwise raising the ball at an opponent, now often covers a lack of ability (skill) to elude an opponent by fair means. (The needless introduction of a mandatory penalty corner, if an out-runner at a penalty corner is hit on or below the knee with the first shot taken, was the low-point of this absurdity – but it has got lower since then. That was probably the seed for the incredible idea (complete nonsense) that an on target shot at the goal could not be dangerous play)

Accidental and especially forced ball-body (foot) contact is not per se (by or of itself) an offence by the player hit with the ball. It is possible to state with certitude that an intentionally forced ball-body contact is never an offence by the player hit with the ball no matter what the outcome in terms of advantage. Unavoidable ball-body contact is usually due to reckless or dangerous play by opponents.

An advantage is not always gained by a player when hit with the ball – if advantage always resulted there would be no need for the Rule Explanation to state The player only commits an offence if they gain an advantage.. 

Apart from the two exceptions mentioned in the re-write suggestion, players should just get on with the game following any unintended ball-body contact and umpires should encourage play to continue uninterrupted by unnecessary (and thus clearly unfair) penalty.

Obstruction on the other hand…..