Rules of Hockey. ‘Free Hit’. Free-ball as Self-pass – with analysis of all the umpire coaching videos on the self-pass presented by the FIH on the Dartfish website.
Main premise of this post. There are unfair situations that occur because a defender has been given no opportunity to retreat before a self-pass is taken. If the taker of the free-ball decides not to wait until all properly retreating opponents are (or any retreating opponent is) 5m from the ball, but to take advantage of the time and space and opportunity immediately available to progress an attack, than the taker has played an advantage (one possibly not available had the taker waited until opponents were the required distance from the ball). That is the choice of the taker. Having made the choice not to wait for defenders to retreat 5m, the taker should not, in fairness, also demand (the umpire demand on the taker’s behalf) that 5m of free movement with the ball be granted.
When a Rule or a Rule clause is given an explanation of intended application (eight of the seventeen Rules of Conduct of Play – Rule 9 – have additional instruction – called explanation or guidance) that explanation is generally set out directly beneath the related Rule or Rule clause. The explanation or instruction will contain either specific examples of the conduct of play which is the subject of the Rule or give exceptions to the Rule or Rule clause – or both. For example:- General action. Rule 9.2 Players on the field must hold their stick and not use it in a dangerous way. (Example) Players must not lift their stick over the heads of other players. The example is obviously not a complete list of all possible dangerous use of a hockey stick but it gives an umpire advice that this specific action should be penalised and sets a ‘benchmark’ – which is that a player need not actually hit or trip another player with the stick to use the stick in a dangerous way.
And so to the Rule and explanation I am examining in this article – and the new significance of the term ‘influencing play’ (which has been seen as a bane by many in soccer since it was introduced into the Off-Side Law), This is not a Conduct of Play Rule but Rule 13.2 Procedures for taking a free hit, centre pass and putting the ball back into play after it has been outside the field : – which now impinges greatly on conduct of play.
In 2009 A Mandatory Experimental Rule introduced the Self-pass into the FIH Rules of Hockey. Link:- fih_free_hit_rule_2009 This is now part of the current Rule and this is the part of Rule 13.2.b. (in the red frame) the interpretation of which has since become critical to conduct of play whenever there is a free-ball, corner or side-line re-start. It is exactly the same wording as it was before the self-pass was adopted. There are two Rule clauses that are very specific and unambiguous instructions.
13.2. a the ball must be stationary
13.2. b opponents must be at least 5 metres from the ball
More specific instruction follows If an opponent is within 5 metres of the ball, they must not interfere with the taking of the free hit or must not play or attempt to play the ball. (Then there is an Exception) If this player is not playing the ball, attempting to play the ball or influencing play, the free hit need not be delayed. (interfere with, because it implies physical contact or obstruction, seems to be a clearer phrase than “influencing play” because being between an opponent who is in possession of the ball and any team mate of that that opponent, may influence the play of that opponent at any distance.) So – to be clear as is possible – if none of these prohibited actions are taking place the team awarded the free-ball can go ahead and take it, even if there is an opponent who is within 5m of the ball: the taking of the free ball in these (exceptional) circumstances is not prohibited.
It is not possible to be completely clear because what would constitute influencing play is not specified, but that (used to be) not of great concern, because whatever it may be it, does not effect the right of the team awarded the free-ball to take it if they want to and if they can do so: the taking of the free-ball need not be delayed even if opponents are in contravention of clause 13.2. b.
The umpire can also in any case penalise an opponent’s contravention of 13.2.b. either before the free-ball is taken (personal penalty and/or penalty corner – when within the 23m area – are the options) or after it has been taken and an advantage has been allowed (personal penalty is the option) or reset the re-start (perhaps having issued a personal penalty).
The exception does not however give permit to the opponents of a team taking a restart to be within and/or remain within 5m of the ball, they must still attempt, in compliance with the Rule Clause 13.2.b. above, to get 5m from the ball as quickly as is reasonably possible when the signal for a penalty or restart is given – they cannot deliberately delay the taking of a free-ball or legitimately ‘hang’ (go inactive) in close proximity to the ball, especially in a place where they might influence the play of the taker. Not being able to get 5m away before the free ball is taken is not an excuse for not attempting to do so.
All that is (or was) straightforward, especially before the introduction of the self-pass, here are the relevant clauses of Rule 13.2. prior to 2009:-
a the ball must be stationary
d after playing the ball, the player taking the free hit must not play the ball again or approach within playing distance of it until it has been played by another player
e opponents must be at least 5 metres from the ball. If a player is standing within 5 metres of the ball but not inﬂuencing play, the free hit need not be delayed.
The word “influencing” is there, however it clearly relates to action before the free-hit is taken. But then after the adoption of the self-pass into FIH Rules in 2009, the Umpire Manager’s Briefing for FIH Umpires at FIH Tournaments (the UMB) (which is advice for FIH Tournament Umpires published by the FIH Umpiring Committee), in effect added a further clause to the 2009 Rule explanation. This slight change of wording and extension to the existing published rule-book clause – is not part of the Rules of Hockey, it appears only in the UMB – has become an ‘accepted’ part of ‘umpiring practice’ (because for some unexplained reason the UMB seems to ‘trump’ the FIH published Rules of Hockey). The interpretation of “influence play” – a very vague term – went from being almost insignificant to defenders, to being critical to their defending of set-pieces. UMB. Free HIT In all situations – if taken quickly and a player is within 5 metres of the ball but is not playing, attempting to play the ball or influencing play, the taking of the free hit does not need to be delayed; this same player can play, attempt to play the ball or try to influence play, once the ball has travelled 5 metres (my underline and bold to highlight the addition).
‘Umpiring practice’, the (many) ‘interpretations’ of the above unauthorised expansion of the ‘explanation clause’ has radically altered conduct of play in relation to a free-ball (A ‘free hit’ is more sensibly called a free-ball after the introduction of the direct lift in 2011 – a free-hit has never had in any case to be hit , so the term ‘free-hit’ was a misnomer anyway).
Besides questioning on what authority wording is added to that given in the rule book and presented as if Rule, I see a contradiction in the addition – “once the ball has travelled 5m” – and also a misapplication of advantage.
To be fair, the UMB addition is clearly an attempt to limit the exclusion from play of players ‘caught’ within 5m of the ball when a self-pass is taken but ‘in practice’ it is not often working in that way, usually because of the interpretation of “influencing play” – and sometimes because “can” is acted upon (‘interpreted’) as if it means “cannot”. Any free-ball, including a self-pass, is ‘taken’ as soon as the ball has been moved by the stick of the taker – not ‘taken’ only after the ball has been moved 5m – and if a free-ball is taken quickly (immediately) it is obviously not delayed because of any action by opponents. What is presented as, and at first reads, as if an exception to Rule 13.2.b. (this same player can play etc. etc. the ball…) and is obviously intended to convey that once the ball has been moved 5m then even a player who has always been within 5m of the ball is permitted to resume normal play – tackle etc., is in fact applied as a severe further prohibition on the actions of defenders, that is in a prohibitive way i.e. these same players cannot play the ball etc. etc. until it has travelled 5m.
If defenders are within 5m of the ball when a restart is taken, they cannot try to play the ball or even try to influence play until the ball has been moved (has travelled) 5m – and often considerably beyond 5m. The emphasis an umpire favours “can play when ” or “cannot play until” although meaning exactly the same, seems to influence their application of the Rule (and their estimate of 5m). An example of how far (the undefinable) “must not influence play” and also “5m” has being taken can be seen in the first video clip below.
Some participants still seem to have the idea that if a player does not at some point get 5m from the ball (even after a self-pass has commenced – been taken and the ball has been moved 5m) they cannot at any point engage the player in possession of the ball (the taker of a self-pass) but that is simply not true – not at all what the UMB has added – in fact the opposite to “this same player can.” However, the fact that a player who has not retreated 5m from the place of the offence can legitimately contest for the ball once a self-passer has moved the ball 5m (this is total movement of the ball – not necessarily a straight line between the place the self-pass was taken and the place the ball sic now is) is sometimes abused by defenders who do not at any point make any attempt to get 5m from the ball. It is therefore necessary for an umpire to (be able) to differentiate between a player who has been given no opportunity to retreat or even attempt retreat and a player who simply doesn’t bother to retreat much beyond playing distance of the ball or deliberately (for tactical reasons) does not retreat as far as is required – and to take appropriate action.
The FIH Umpiring Committee have approved the production of a large number of umpire coaching videos, which are published via Dartfish.com. There are presently twenty-one videos related to the conduct of the self-pass. I have tried to analyse and compare them in this article. A careful study of the videos and the ‘Interpretation’ presented with them leads, however, only to confusion. A decision made after a particular incident in one video can often be matched with a different, even opposite decision, following a similar incident in another – with both declared in the given ‘interpretation’ to be correct. (I came across a similar situation when analyzing the videos in the ‘ball off the ground’ section)
I have embedded text frames within the videos presented but they are not always easy to read, (in fact some are near impossible) even if the video is paused, so I have posted the same text ‘stills’ outside each video here (and also added a pdf text link so the stills and text can be greatly enlarged for ease of viewing). The Interpretation with each (white text on black) is that provided with the original video. I have expanded the relevant parts of the original videos (after initial presentation of the original footage) by adding repeats of the action in slow-motion and also added ‘stills’ and comment. Most of the videos will be supplemented in the article with ‘stills’ from within them.
I started by posting the videos in numerical order as given within Dartfish.com. but amended the order as I came across interesting contrasts of interpretation or decision. I have also added some player coaching notes and a few videos of interesting self-pass incidents that are not included in the umpire coaching collection presented on Dartfish.com.
fih_free_hit_rule_2009 The wording of this aspect the ‘Free Hit’ Rule now, in early 2015, is exactly as it was when the wording of Mandatory Experiment was drafted in 2009 (the only change being the introduction of facility to raise the ball directly from a free-ball, with any stroke except a hit which was added in 2013).
The first three videos below are from matches played in or prior to 2010. They demonstrate the need for change to the Rule wording by the FIH Rules Committee in the published Rules of Hockey. The present ‘practice’ seems to be to allow changes in ‘interpretation’ via the UMB, which is not good enough, because the UMB is not the Rules of Hockey and players are not likely to be aware of the wording of the UMB (which changes and is re-published about every six months by which time is has often being left behind by ‘practice’) and certainly not familiar with the parts that are ‘cascaded’ verbally to, in and between, umpiring organisations.
The CHN player, caught out in the incident below, would have had no idea what instructions the match umpires had received from the Umpire Manager in that Tournament regarding the 5m requirement and the self-pass – she would (or should) have been aware of the Rules of Hockey and she would have known that she had reasonably complied with what was given in those Rules.
Link to pdf:- Self-pass 2010 Interpretation. Stills the pdf can be used to scale the text and pictures up for easier reading. Click on the link text NOT on the thumbnail picture. And now for something completely different. CHN v ENG.
There doesn’t appear to be any requirement in the above match that an opponent move away to get 5m from the place of an offence or stay away that distance until the free-ball is taken. The message is clear enough: the Rule is what the umpires decide it is, but that does not help tactical preparation of a team or facilitate a knowledge of the Rules. I am not sure if the above match was played before or after the one shown in the previous video. One question that arises from the above play is: Is it necessary to require retreat to 5m? There has been no experiment with any other distance.
A clip from a European Hockey League match. .
Link to pdf:- Self-pass 2010 – ‘ Influencing’ Stills Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture.
Self-pass 27 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
It is extraordinary that the safe execution of the scoop pass was commented on and that a stick tackle by the Pakistan player was seen to be the reason for the award of a free-ball to India, but the obstruction of the PAK player, both stick and body, carried out by the Indian player were completely overlooked. A case of willful blindness? The actions may have been missed by the match umpires but they are ‘crystal clear’ from the camera view of the video – and the Interpretation given above is derived from that viewpoint.
Link to pdf:- Self pass 27. Prior Obstruction Stills Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture. Link to pdf:- Self pass. 27 Combination Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture. Self-pass 9 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
Link to pdf:- Self pass 9 Stills Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture. It is also noticeable, comparing the video above and the previous one, how different decisions are on the different sides of the circle. It is obvious that additional officials, as previously suggested, would help to resolve inconsistency caused by remoteness of the Umpires from the action, particularly in the left-side corners of the pitch. I have always though it daft that umpires are advised to position near the base-line and the right-flank goal-post, (so that they can see if the ball crosses the goal-line?) that job could be done by a line official and is probably unnecessary where video replay is available – but I digress.
How difficult the self-pass is to manage at present and how unfairly the terms of it are applied in practice can be gauged from the conflicts in application and interpretation which can be seen within the videos presented on Dartfish.com by the FIH Umpiring Committee as umpire coaching. It’s not difficult to find opposite approaches and interpretations among these videos being declared as correct (and by some even as “definitive”).
Self-pass 14 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
Link to pdf Self pass 14 Stills Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture. Self-pass 22 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
Link to pdf: Self pass 22 Stills Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture. Self-pass 23 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
Link to pdf: Self pass 23 Stills: Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture. Below is an example of the kind of umpiring question the present ‘interpretation’ of the conduct of the Self-pass still raised,five years after its introduction, and a reply that was given:-
Question . I had a debate yesterday with an umpire of similar experience (up to UK regional Div2) and we had a difference of opinion on this one. If a player is within 5m of a free hit, and is not attempting to play the ball or influencing play (just retreating let’s say), when are they allowed to make a legitimate attempt to play the ball or influence play. One opinion said when the ball has travelled 5m. The second opinion said not until the defending player had given 5m at some point…so running close to (but not influencing play) for 5m, 10m, 20m…they would still not be allowed to make a challenge legitimately.
Reply. When the ball has travelled 5m. The other interpretation existed when the rule first came in but was changed some time ago.
Really? Who by? (At one time shortly after the the Self-pass was adopted into FIH Rules there was yet another ‘interpretation’ (invention), which related to the direction in which a retreating defender was permitted to retreat in front of the ball. Thankfully that nonsense, like the other mentioned above, soon disappeared from ‘practice’ – neither were anywhere set out in writing i.e. were not in the published Rules of Hockey – so ‘un-knowable’ to players and coaches – but apparently agreed between umpires or imposed by Umpire Managers )
The NZ player retreats; the ESP player charges at the NZ player and intentionally plays the ball into the feet of the retreating player (such forcing was an illegal action at the time – 2010). Free ball awarded to ESP – apparently because of the direction in which the NZL player was retreating ???
Self-pass 1 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis Self-pass 25 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis A comparison with the play and decision made in Self-pass No.1.
Link to pdf :-Self pass Comparison No.1 with No 25 Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture. Unless it is to avert an obviously dangerous situation developing, for example player congregating beneath a falling ball, I don’t like to hear umpires giving players advice on how to play when the ball is ‘live’. It is very difficult to distinguish between this sort of advice and coaching, which of course umpires are forbidden to engage in. When the ball is ‘dead’ is another matter. Advising a player to ‘give 5m’ or take the ball back beyond the hash line when an offence has occurred within it for which they have been awarded a free-ball, is I think reasonable. In fact I believe the introduction of a second whistle, when a free-ball is awarded, to signal resumption of play when the ball is stationary and in the correct place, would improve the management of the game without the need for such advice to be given verbally.
Self-pass 2 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
Link to pdf:- Self pass 2 Stills
Self-pass 3 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
The rapidly taken self-pass has become a means of ‘manufacturing’ a penalty-corner; a free ball is often taken as quickly as possible with a self-pass, with no other aim in mind but to ‘win’ the penalty. This is very noticeable when corners are taken or when there is a side-line ball awarded in the opponent’s 23m area within 15m of the base-line: a place where shielding the ball against the side-line (as in the above video) has also become a common practice of attackers (because the offence of ball shielding, to prevent an opponent attempting a tackle, is being ignored) .
Self-pass 4 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
The comment about the moving ball is very strange ‘interpretation’. It is a Rule condition of the ‘Free Hit’ that the ball be stationary. Umpires sometimes ‘bend’ this Rule if there is clearly an attempt made to make the ball stationary (something that has ‘wandered in’ from indoor hockey) but ignoring the requirement, because complying with it might disadvantage the taker, is not an option. There is a coaching video (Self-pass 8 below) showing the opposite – and Rule compliant – approach, which might seem very ‘picky’, but if players get into the habit of making the ball stationary (which can be done in an instant) the problem doesn’t arise.
Link to pdf:- Self pass 4 Stills Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture. An alternative, and Rule compliant view, of failure to stop the ball before taking a ‘Free hit’
Self-pass 8 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
An approach similar to that seen in Self-pass 4
The umpire fails to control the taking of a Self-pass. If all restrictions on the actions of the side taking a free-ball are removed then, for fairness, nearly all restrictions imposed on the defending side must be removed – but such ‘seamlessness’ between penalty and continuation, although desirable, is unworkable in practice. (In an ‘ideal world’ there would be no offences committed – contests would be displays of pure skill.)
Some umpires seem reluctant to award a free-ball for an offence and then always insist that the side awarded the penalty also comply with Rule requirements concerning placement and the moving ball. They seem to be concerned about appearing pedantic and/or removing any advantage the awarding of the free-ball may have given the team offended against – overlooking the fact that a free-ball is usually awarded because an advantage, possession of the ball, has been lost or compromised. and the award of a free-ball may not otherwise have been necessary. The result of this reluctance, that is not enforcing penalty procedure, not only often penalises the team the free-ball has been awarded against twice or even three times over – which is unfair (especially when, as is often the case, the ‘offences’ have been intentionally forced) – it is also a cause of umpires getting rushed and being unable to keep up with the play they themselves have been a party to creating.
It is not possible to award a free-ball and at the same time allow ‘advantage’ to be played: if an advantage could have been played a free-ball should not have been awarded.
Others go to the other extreme, reversing a free-ball because it was taken (quickly) in the wrong place, when a re-set would probably be the fairer option.
Self-pass 5 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis The Interpretation provided with Self pass 5 is also wildly inaccurate – the ENG player closes down on the side-line ball from considerably beyond 5m – after the ball has gone out of play. But the Interpretation provided ‘bends’ the facts and supports what the umpires awarded. It is not often that a defender – who in this case has done exactly what she is forbidden by Rule to do – is so fortunate, quite the contrary.
Link to pdf. Self-pass 5 Combination Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture. The match umpires can perhaps be forgiven for not at the time noticing the position of the ENG defender and the fact that she closed on the ball from beyond 5m of it after it has gone out of play and a side-line ball to GER had been awarded – but it is incredible and unacceptable that someone writing an interpretation of the action seen in a video intended to be used for umpire coaching purposes, has missed such an obvious breach.
Rule 9.11 in relation to the accidental ball-foot contact was also misapplied by one of the match umpires (an unintentional ball-foot contact was not in any circumstances an offence at the time this match was played) and that misapplication not pointed out (disapproved of as it should have been) in the ‘interpretation’ provided with the video.
Self-pass 6. FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
Link to pdf:- Self pass 7 Stills Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture.
There can be no disputing that if an opponent intentionally remains within 5m of the ball i.e. does not immediately retreat from the ball when a free-ball is awarded and does not genuinely attempt to put 5m distance between the ball and themselves, then that opponent may be subject to further penalty – a card - but to be an illicit action I believe that such interference must occur before the taking of the Free or as it is being taken, to influence or prevent the taking; not after the free ball has been taken i.e. the ball has been (and is being) moved, because then the taking of the free-ball has not been delayed.
The critical point is:- When has a free-ball been ‘taken’ by the taker? Demanding 5m of ball movement when a properly retreating opponent is ‘caught’ within 5m (and that is often made unavoidable) has in effect, even if not in fact, ‘blurred’ the matter of “taken”.
A retreating opponent, who has retreated at once and at reasonable speed (a speed commensurate with a need to maintain self-defence – the player may be running backwards so that the stick can be positioned for protection) has done no wrong, even if not 5m from the ball when the taker decides to play the ball. Such a player, providing the retreat is as rapid as is reasonable possible, has done nothing to unfairly influence or delay the taking of the free-ball – and that, retreat to attempt to get 5m from the ball and not interfere until the free-ball is taken, is all the Rule actually requires of the players defending a free-ball.
(Defending players should not be permitted to ‘hang’, rather than retreat from the place of penalty and the ball, when a free-ball is awarded, that is obviously not Rule compliant)
From the opposite perspective to that of defenders failing to retreat far enough and in a timely way. There are unfair situations that occur because a defender has been given no opportunity to retreat before a self-pass is taken. If the taker of the free-ball decides not to wait until all properly retreating opponents are (or any retreating opponent is) 5m from the ball, but to take advantage of the time and space and opportunity immediately available to progress an attack, than the taker has played an advantage (one possibly not available had the taker waited until opponents were the required distance from the ball). That is the choice of the taker. Having made the choice not to wait for defenders to retreat 5m, the taker should not, in fairness, also demand (the umpire demand on the taker’s behalf) that 5m of free movement with the ball be granted.
Once the advantage of such an immediate ‘take’ has been played, the umpire should not, I believe, then insist (be advised within the UMB) that the original 5m requirement of the free-ball be maintained while the ball is moved, unchallenged, a distance of 5m. To repeat:- the Rule explanation of application states only that the taking of the free-ball sic (Free Hit) need not be delayed if opponents are still within 5m. – not that it cannot be considered taken until the ball has been moved 5m, by any player who was within 5m of the ball at the time it was played (but can be considered ‘taken’ by opposing players who were beyond 5m of the ball at the time).
This ‘advantage played’ view ‘hangs’ of course on the immediate retreat with all due speed of the players of the penalised team. Defenders who make no attempt to retreat as required (or are tardy in movement) cannot be allowed to interfere with the playing of the ball by the taker (i.e. attempt to tackle for the ball) before the ball has been moved 5m. In fact such tardy defenders should be further penalised either during the self-pass or at the first ‘dead ball’ opportunity, whichever is of more advantage to the team awarded the free-ball.
Self-pass 15. FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
Link to pdf. Self pass 15 Stills Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture.
Self-pass 16. FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
Link to PDF:- Self pass 16 Stills Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture.
Self-pass 17. FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
Link to PDF:- Self pass 17 Stills Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture.
Self-pass 24 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
Link to PDF:- Self pass 24 Stills Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture.
Self-pass 21 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis .
Link to PDF:- Self pass 21 Stills Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture. Self-pass 20 FIH Umpiring Committee umpire coaching video – Analysis
Link to PDF:- Self pass 20 Stills Click on the link text not the thumbnail picture.
Umpires are presently being advised that to award a free-ball when there is an offence by the defending team inside the 23m area and especially when it occurs close to the circle, may be a greater advantage to the attacking team than allowing play to continue, because of the availability of the self-pass option. This advice, however, overlooks that in open play – and also when an advantage is allowed following an Offence – the ball may be played directly into the circle at any time: the so called ‘Free Hit’ is very restricted by comparison – it’s not at all ‘free’.
The result of withdrawing the ban on direct playing of a free-ball into the circle should be to persuade the taker to take a more considered approach – instead of immediately charging towards retreating opponents as rapidly as possible -(in the hope of ‘winning’ a penalty corner) when the free-ball is awarded in the opponent’s 23m area , there should then be the (restored) option of a direct pass into the circle to consider, as well as the possibility of the direct-lift of the free ball and the self-pass. The ban on a direct pass into the circle (which was put in place for safety reasons) could reasonably and more sensibly be replaced with a ban on any raising of the ball with a hit into the circle in any phase of play – and also prohibiting of the raising of a free-ball (to above knee height) into the opponent’s circle with any other stroke.
That would in turn allow the amendment of the Rule concerning intentional raising of a ball with a hit (Rule 9.9), which could drop the word ‘intentionally’ and the raised ball (using any stroke), with suitable criterion added, could become part of Rule 9.8. Dangerous play. The present Rule 9.8 and Rule 9.9 are a mishmash which requires sorting out. There is no good reason to forbid the raising of the ball in the outfield or in a player’s own circle as long as other players are not endangered and there is a height limit imposed to prevent the near pitch length hits which were ‘in vogue’ for a few years prior to 1988. The same height limit (shoulder height?) could also prevent the present ‘accidental’ clearances using an edge hit, which are quite clearly deliberately made despite the existence of a Rule banning any intentional raising of the ball with a hit unless shooting at the opponent’s goal (How strange it is that players are only permitted to intentionally raise the ball with a hit in the place it is most likely to be dangerous to their opponents).
Although when I suggested the self-pass, back in 2000, I did not anticipate the introduction of a Rule prohibiting a direct pass into the circle from a free-ball awarded in the opponent’s 23m area (or obviously, the ‘inventions’ that would spin-off from that). I did anticipate that a player awarded a free-ball might be so keen to take advantage of a self-pass opportunity immediately, that the ball would often be some distance from the correct place and/or not stationary when a self-pass was taken, and for that reason I also suggested a second whistle when a free-ball was awarded.
(There have since been some quite extraordinary incidents in which umpires have penalised defenders with a penalty corner – for not retreating 5m – for example when:- a) the self-pass has been taken 10m or more in advance of the place of the offence for which it was awarded, and/or b) there was not even an attempt to make the ball stationary before a self-pass was ‘taken’ and the ball was ‘run into’ retreating defenders – sometimes two or three times in succession with the aim of ‘winning’ a penalty corner. The umpires being either unable or unwilling to take control of the taking of the penalty – and when necessary order a retake or reverse it)
The first whistle would stop play, the second would restart play when the umpire was satisfied that the ball was in the correct position and stationary (an incentive to the side awarded the free-ball to comply as rapidly as possible). The second whistle would therefore in most instances follow closely, without delay, on the first one. I am now more convinced, than I was when I first suggested the idea, that a second whistle signal would be a useful, and is possibly now even a necessary, control tool for umpires.
In incidents where an offence has been committed against a player in possession of the ball and that player is able to play on immediately, it will usually be the case that umpire intervention was unnecessary anyway; in such circumstances advantage can generally be allowed and the offence dealt with later, if considered appropriate,with a card. When an advantage is played, instead of a free-ball being awarded following an offence by opponents, there is no requirement that opponents retreat from the ball or allow the side in possession to move it 5m without challenge, play just continues. The same should happen if, as defenders are properly retreating, a free-ball is quickly taken as a self-pass to obtain an advantage from the quick take – normal play should resume immediately – that is fair, the choice to take the free quickly, that is before opponents have been given opportunity to retreat the required 5m, is with the side awarded it: they are not allowing their opponents to comply with a Rule requirement, why should their opponents be penalised for that?
Players look at the umpire, the ball is in the correct place and stationary; the offending player retreats quickly and the other plays a self-pass before the opponent is 5m away; “advantage played, play on”, normal play resumes, everybody is happy: with the addition of a second whistle, why should this be a problem?