Posts tagged ‘Ball-body contact’

August 13, 2017

Field Hockey Rules: Vast Majority Consensus

Edit. Solution to ball cost problem and comment added at foot of page.

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’) 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 ‘mantra’ 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

Field Hockey Rules: Misapplication.

Edit. 20th July 2017 more video added.

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’.


August 7, 2016

Field Hockey Rules: Double offence.

Rules of Hockey.

Edited 11th August, 2016

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

Preface Rules of Hockey 2011-2013

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 31, 2015

Field Hockey Rules. Forcing, deletion of Rule.

Exactly five years ago the following announcement was made in the Introduction of the 2011-13 Rules of Hockey under Rules Changes.

Edited 28th May 2016

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

Field Hockey Rules. 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

Field Hockey Rulebook Rewrite. Rule 9.11. Ball-body contact

A suggested rewrite of the Rules of Hockey

Edited 17th February 2016.

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. Where there is injury caused by a ball contact 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 with the ball, 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 in such cases must be as clear as was previously demanded by the Forcing Rule.

Exception 2. Should an attacking player in possession of the ball in the opponent’s half of the pitch, particularly in the opponent’s circle, 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 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 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 skilful 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 pretence.

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 spoke with older members of Blackheath Hockey Club (my first club) when I was a youngster, who recalled 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. Even 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…..