Classic umpiring exam question: is it always a foul when the ball hits the foot or body of a player? Cheat on your test by watching this #RuleyTuesday!
Feeling fuzzy about players using their feet to play the ball? This #RuleyTuesday will flatten this foul into a facile folio. Let’s do this!
Hey friends! I’m Keely of FHumpires back with a hot take on one hockey rule. In this #RuleyTuesday episode, we’re covering is the Basic B foul of the hockey rules world—you know, the Starbucks latte, tank top, Ugg boot, sunglasses on a lanyard of the rule book––using one’s foot to play the ball. Or, the body. Of which the foot is also a part. Why don’t we call it “body”? No idea, but the foot foul is probably the first call you ever awarded, and you’ve undoubtedly seen a steady stream of them ever since.
Rule 9.11 – The History
Rule 9.11 unfolds as follows:
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.
The wording of the rule has passed through many forms and iterative details, which maybe isn't surprising for the most “popular” foul. Also being such a popular foul, there has always been a drive to find a way to call fewer of them so as to improve the flow of the game significantly.
Confining the review to just the last two decades, we have the following. In 2002, the guidance was:
…on many occasions when a ball hits the foot or body of a player an offence will not have taken place and play should continue.
It is only an offence if the ball hits the foot or body of a player and that player: moved intentionally into the path of the ball, or made no effort to avoid being hit, or was positioned with the clear intention to stop the ball with the foot or body, or gains benefit.
That last one: gains benefit is just the advantage rule, repeated. Just for review.
In 2004, a foot wasn’t to be called a foul “unless the player or their team benefits from” the ball hitting the foot or body (also the advantage rule).
Clearly, by 2007, the idea of advantage wasn’t been applied as strongly as the FIH wanted and the wording changed again: a player only committed an offence “if they voluntarily use[d] their hand, foot or body to play the body or if they position[ed] themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way.”
This rather extreme language was read in some quarters as placing the onus on an umpire to discover whether the player intended to get hit with the ball, and not positioning themselves in a way where they *risked* being hit with the ball as that was the preferred outcome over just letting the ball miss their stick and continue on its merry way. What a complete mind-fart. Luckily, most umpires just passed over that philosophical dilemma by applying the advantage rule. You know, the one in 12.1. Just like before.
Thankfully, the guidance slowed its roll and took a knee in 2015 when the wording was revised to, “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.” And that’s how it reads to the current day.
But Why Is This a Rule?
But why even have a foot rule? Some *may* argue, as captured in the wise words of Sir Nigel Owens, bearer of rugby’s golden whistle, “this is not soccer.” As such, a fine way to continue to hold up hockey as a skillful and superior game is to not let it become football, quite literally.
However, I always come back to this point: it’s really about safety. We can’t allow players to use their bodies because if they are not actively incented to try to move out of the way, they would happily break a few bones in their feet just for the sake of impersonating a goalkeeper, who is suitably attired for the heroic act of throwing their body in front of the ball. Let’s all just stay in our lanes, shall we?
What Goes Into “No Advantage Gained”?
In considering whether advantage is gained, there’s a few things to look for. If the ball doesn’t change direction much or at all and maintains its speed, that’s a great time to play on. Otherwise, if ball isn’t kept in play by virtue of that foot if it’s near a boundary line, and there’s no one within playable distance of the contact, illustrated in these two clips which miraculously come from the same game—I’d blame the lighting if I were them––this is the very essence of no disadvantage occurring so play should simply continue.
Throw your arms in the air
like you really do care
…but have decided there is no foul from that foot (I expect to see this meme on TikTok tomorrow)! It's a great way to communicate to the players that you have in fact seen the foot but aren’t awarding a foul for it.
Fighting Against Black & White
Generally, advantage is more likely to be gained by the use of the foot or body where the players are in or close to the circle as there are often more players in close proximity to each other. However, it can still be really difficult to discern the foot that disadvantages an opponent, and one which actually just disadvantages the player in possession. The added pressure of video referral at the very top levels is pressuring our cultural norms back towards a black and white application. If the video umpire sees a foot, they are then placed in a position of inserting their subjective judgment as to disadvantage, danger, or intention, where the best people to determine that are often the pitch umpires who experience the situation once, in real-time, at real speed.
The second part of the guidance I’ll draw your attention to is where the hand holding the stick is to be considered part of the stick. Therefore, if the ball strikes a hand holding the stick, it’s not part of the player’s body so will not be a foul under 9.11.
What About Danger?
Now, your inevitable follow-up question will be: what about balls that strike the body of the player but were dangerous? That’s covered in rules 9.7, 9.8 and 9.9, and will just to have to wait for the next outdoor episode of #RuleyTuesday.
Did you find this #RuleyTuesday fascinating? Flick us a like, fill the comments with your phrases, and don’t forget to follow us on this page or channel! If you feel these furloughs are fantastic and want to help finance them, follow your feelings all the way to fhu3t.com and sign up for an FHU Third Team green membership for only $3 a month. That would be freaking fabulous.
Chau for now!
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