In the past, I’ve done a line-by-line sequential deconstruction of the changes. This time I’m mixing it up, grouping them by subject, and talking about their impact as a whole, with a healthy sprinkling of sass. Because you’re worth it.
Centred in Rule 2.2, the FIH has abolished (by way of a mandatory experiment) the PWGKP (aka kicking back). For those of you hold-outs, mandatory experiments are up for retraction but only when the experiment has proven to be a massive failure resulting in a revolt by players of all levels (own-goal from 2012-2013, anyone?).
The reason for taking away a non-kitted player who can use their body inside the circle to play the ball is primarily safety. Watching a player without any real protective equipment throw themselves in front of a ball for club or country has become a Hunger Games-esque spectacle (for example, from the men’s World Cup, see the Blacksticks’ Bennett running down a Peillat drag flick, or England’s Gleghorne all but decapitating Ireland’s O’Donoghue on the line at the end of their crossover match). At lower levels, the benefit to pulling the goalkeeper is still too often an exercise in futility where a hapless defender stands on the penalty spot wearing a different-coloured shirt, terrified to leave and create the numerical advantage that is the sole benefit of the exercise.
Teams are now constrained to using only all field players to create the numerical advantage (or continue playing a match where a fully-kitted goalkeeper is unavailable). It doesn’t change the fact that we have unprotected players running around in the circle, but hopefully, there will be less incentive for any one brave soul to sacrifice their limbs for goal-saving glory. I nominate this the rule Most Likely To Be Forgotten It Was Ever Different When The Next Rule Book Comes Out.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR YOU?
Way less to remember. There are no fewer than 24 instances (yes, I counted them because I’m a giver that way) in the rule book where a PWGKP was specified in addition to the goalkeeper and those are now all gone. No more arguing about putting on helmets, whether they can wear the goalkeeper’s blockers on penalty corners, or reminding attackers that YES THEY CAN USE THEIR FEET, PLEASE JUST PLAY ON NOW CHEERS.
However, you’re likely going to have more situations where you have difficult decisions to make regarding dangerous play, i.e. when attackers shoot at goal with field players in the way. Continue to keep in mind the idea that defenders who are standing in front of the goal doing their best Maddie Hinch are choosing to put themselves in danger (and really need to stop that, m’kay?). Defenders who are marking, intercepting, closing down the ball or otherwise making an attempt to tackle are NOT putting themselves in danger and need to be protected.
I don’t hate this change. Simple is usually better, and safety (when real and not imagined) is no one’s enemy. It’ll also make teams more cautious when pulling their goalkeeper. But when they do, they’ll go for goal with more rigour, making for more exciting, attacking hockey at the right moments.
SPLIT THOSE HALVES IN HALF
Early favourite for Rule Change Most Likely To Be Refused By Your Local League is the shift to harmonise the duration of matches to the FIH standard four quarters of 15 minutes in rule 5.1. What does this mean?
Lots of rewriting of other rules in the book, for one thing. In fact, 13 places the words “at the end of the quarter” had to replace “at the end of the half”. But in actual consequence, you’ve got two mandatory two-minute timeouts at even intervals in the game — no big whoop.
But wait, you say, the quarters are only 15 min, and we’re losing 10 mins of gameplay, and we may or may not be getting back those 10 mins by stopping for penalty corners. All you math types are going to say something with percentages and decimals and stuff that doesn’t equal 10 mins. Is this the end of the world?
Yes, I answered with an emoji. Because that’s not the important issue.
SO WHAT IS THEN?
Now, I don’t know about you, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve successfully given a card in a match AND managed to keep my watch running correctly as well. (Every pre-game chat I have with a colleague goes like this: “please keep time no matter what, please, I cannot be trusted with this befuddling device on my wrist”). Two cards in a game? Hard pass on that one. One of my favourite parts about stepping on the pitch for an international match was knowing that it was someone else’s job to keep time and no matter what it wouldn’t be my fault (don’t worry, everything else was instead, but I took that trade-off in a heartbeat).
So no more trotting around with your phone tucked into the strap of your sports bra (I have witnessed this on many an occasion and yes I JUDGE YOU) or in the pocket of your shorts, because if you misplace some precious seconds either way and then have to sell blowing your whistle when one team is in the circle in a close game at the end of that fourth quarter, you’re officially dead meat. There is no selling that decision to anyone.
Further, you’d better be using a nice timing watch that provides a loud enough beep you’ll actually hear or strong haptic feedback so you can keep your eyes on things like, oh, that attacker taking a swing after they should have, or whether a player feints or breaks early on the injection. Worse, this isn’t like an FIH match where if a retaken PC is called (i.e. another PC is awarded when one is being played) the clock *doesn’t* stop for the 40s. No, you get to stop and restart your watch. Every. Single. Time.
Yes, we’ll be able to handle it, but there are going to be some unnecessarily ugly moments for umpires as a result of technical errors with watches for the 95% of matches worldwide that are played without a technical table to control the match time for you. And I hate anything that makes umpires’ lives unnecessarily difficult. I’m a strong 👎 on this one.
IT ENDS AT THE END
There’s a bit of early confusion over this one, but I nominate this as The Rule Change That Makes Umpiring Instructors The Happiest. The entire provision around ending the penalty corner with two additional conditions for substitutions and the end of time has been scrapped, and now we have a nice, easy list of 7 conditions (you can read them yourself, I’m not your mother) that signify the end of a penalty corner all the time. So much easier to teach, this will shave a good 10 minutes off every clinic I run.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO REMEMBER?
Just watch for the ball leaving the 5m dotted line, in addition to the other six events. It gives more of an opportunity for sub-clause e) to get used, which no-one understood anyway, where if the defender commits a foul which doesn’t result in a penalty corner (read: a free hit for the attack is given inside the 5m dotted line but not inside the circle). However, be vigilant for defenders breaking down the play outside the circle so they can end the game–there is a LOT more incentive for them to do so with this change.
FREE HITS INSIDE THE DOTTED LINE
Speaking of that 5m dotted line, let’s talk about another small simplification which is the change Most Likely To Be Discussed To Death For No Good Reason Because It Really Changes Very Little Because Smart Defenders Would Do It Anyway.
Rule 13.2(f), otherwise known as the sub-clause with the longest guidance in the history of ever, has cleaned up the set up for a free hit awarded to the attack within the dotted line. If a defender is “caught” within 5m of a quick self-pass, it’s the same as before. Shadow just inside the circle but don’t interfere until the ball has travelled 5m, simples. What’s changed is if the defenders have the time to back up 5m, they have to back up 5m. Which is the smart thing to do anyway, right?
I’ve truly enjoyed watching defenders at ALL levels make the truly dumb decision and ELECT to move right up to the circle edge as the ball is placed near the spot of the foul. In their red mist-coated brains, they must think they are intimidating the heck out of the attacker about to play the free hit, who now is guaranteed to have 5m of unfettered dribbling distance. Add that the attacker may even be able to hoodwink an umpire into thinking that secondary defender who *did* start 5m away and then closed the space was infringing illegally but did nothing wrong. Okay, defenders of the world: would you prefer to grant an attacker all that time to figure out what the heck to do, *OR*, stay with me here, would you like to back up to 5m away, and then close hard on that self-pass when it can’t come straight into the circle and limits the options of the attacker?
I know what my pick is.
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO MANAGE THIS?
If you have time to get the words out, “5m please!”, say it and enforce it. Otherwise, you’re counting 5m on the self-pass. You’re welcome.
COMMON SENSE FOR FACE MASKS
When players wore face masks to defend penalty corners in the past, umpires had to be strict about making sure they were removed before that defender could play a free hit out (ahem, you were doing this, right?). Requiring a retake resulted in terrific amounts of frustration for players wanting to take advantage of fast breaks and created ugly restarts while the ball was being brought back 40m to the top of the circle again.
No more, friends! Defenders are free of their chains! The guidance in 4.2 now explicitly allows a defender to wear their face mask for the duration of that penalty corner “including the immediate taking of a free hit awarded after a penalty corner when passing the ball to another player”.
WHY IS THIS AWESOME?
More flow, more excitement, and fewer reasons to get in the way.
EVEN MORE COMMON SENSE ON FACE MASKS
We need a much-needed tweak to 12.4 which governs the reasons why we award penalty strokes. We can be sure now that if the ball hits a piece of defender’s equipment laying in the circle and that prevents a probable goal, we can give a penalty stroke.
ALL THE LITTLE CHANGES YOU DIDN’T REALISE WERE THERE, BUT THIS IS WHY I’M PAID THE BIG BUCKS
- The definition of “Offence” has been updated such that the action contrary to the Rules which may be penalised by an umpire must be “against an opponent.” That’s right, just in case you’re still calling a ball that only threatens the life of a player’s teammate as dangerous, stop it. Let them sort it out in the bar after. Don’t believe me? Clause 9.8 repeats the same sentiment: “a ball is also considered dangerous when it causes legitimate evasive action by opponents” (update bolded).
- On the topic of dangerous things, all the guidance in Rule 9.6 about forehand edge hitting and what it is and isn’t is gone. I guess we’re good with this one, more than two decades after it emerged on the scene.
- The definition of a push now includes that the stick can be “in contact” as well as close to the ball before the pushing movement commences. Glad we covered that one off!
- Under More Face Mask Things: you’ll be shocked to learn that we no longer need to specify that white is considered a “single colour” and simply require a “smooth preferably transparent or single coloured face mask.” The punctuation needs serious work in there though.
- The Least Called Rule About Goalkeepers has been deleted, as there’s no longer a prohibition against goalkeepers using parts of their body other than their kickers and leg guards to propel the ball long distances. Can’t wait to see some enterprising goalkeeper start passing the ball 60m upfield with their blocker now! No?
- In Other Goalkeeper Changes: the redundant guidance to 10.4 that said goalkeepers were to be considered a field player outside their circle is deleted.
- Ante Upped On Early Breaks: if an attacker breaks into the circle early on a penalty corner injection, now the injector goes to the halfway line. Pretty awkward, but they’re trying to make it a bit more a penalty in taking one of the more potentially specialised players out of the play. Explaining this one to players is going to be no fun at all.
- Free Hit to Defence (“FHD”) Inside the Circle: stay with me here. Back in the 2009 Rules of Hockey, FHD could be taken anywhere inside the circle OR up to 15m from the end line in line with where the offence occurred. The 2011 Rules of Hockey removed the “anywhere inside the circle” bit. Now, in 2019, we’re back to allowing “anywhere inside the circle” again (which, incidentally, has been the case throughout that time in the indoor rules). Stay tuned for this to be changed back around 2027.
- Same = Re-taken Penalty Corner: Some subtle revising of the language in 13.6(d) may help you keep straight what to do when a goalkeeper breaks early on a penalty corner. Or maybe not. The guidance now reads that if “the action of breaking early [note: appears to be only by the goalkeeper again] is repeated during the *same* penalty corner,” another defender is nominated to go to the centre line, and now the team defends with two fewer defenders. The usage of the language “same” appears to be intended to be interchangeable with re-taken, but here’s an idea: just use re-taken. It’s defined in the next paragraph of guidance, and “same” is not.
- There’s a Typo: sub-clause 13.7(e) has (f) tagged onto it, but it isn’t marked that way. So (f) is actually (g), and (g) is (h), and I’M NOT A PEDANT YOU’RE A PEDANT.
DID I MISS ANYTHING?
Probably, but an exhaustive review of any big set of changes is always a challenge without the benefit of weeks of re-reading, lots of discussion within the hockey family, and some experience of the rules out on the pitch to find the loopholes.
So tell me everything. What did I miss? What do you disagree with? Find me on all the socials @fhumpires and let me know!