Rules and Regulations 

Thursday august 23rd 2017


“The more rules and regulations, the more thieves and robbers.”

Lao Tzu, from the Tao Te Ching, chapter 57


Last night this editorial watched an excellent high tempo game of Hockey. You would expect that when the ladies from Spain and Belgium take each other on for a place in the semi-finals at the Euro’s. And we thought it was well adjudicated. But it did remind The Reverse Stick of a couple of issues that have long bothered us.


We have previously mentioned what we regard as the two levels of adjudication that exists in all sport, not just Hockey. Essentially we see the problem as this. We all play under the same rules regardless of level. Yes, there are, and there have, been minor differences over the years at the elite level. Many have been experimental and not lasted past a single tournament while others have passed the trial at international level to make there way down to the lowly levels that The Reverse Stick ply’s it’s trade in. A stick check is the same at the Olympics as it is in Sub-District Division 9. But your chances of the same offence getting you a free hit are vastly different.


This is not a crack at umpires. If we cannot as a sport accept the basic truth that the quality of umpiring is far superior at the top of the game than lower down we are kidding ourselves. And that is the way it will always be. We can however endeavour to make the bottom closer to the top than it is.


And a very easy way to start this process is to make Hockey simpler too umpire. For those of you who can remember, the abolition of the offside rule made a big difference for umpires. There positioning was no longer restricted by the need to keep an off-side ‘line’ and freed them up to concentrate on the play, rather than players positions on the field.


That is one reason we have called for the ‘foot’ rule to be simplified. It is one thing for an elite level highly trained umpire to determine what does or does not constitute influencing play. Another completely for someone doing it to help out friends or because they have to. If the ball hits your foot, it is a free hit. Simple. No need for interpretations or opinions and it minimizes mistakes.


There has also been a sharp rise in players swinging wildly at balls in the air. There were several instances in the Spain-Belgium game where any aerial ball saw several players attempt swats at it. Any ball off the ground seemed to be an invitation for a hopeful swing.


Dangerous by skilled and talented athletes. Recipe for disaster on a Saturday afternoon at the local park. We don’t know if it’s a rule thing or just a phase. The lifted ball has always been a problematic area for the rule makers. And they have generally done there best to minimize the chance of injury.


What is technical at the top level is confusion lower down though. Perhaps the FIH could investigate the possibility of not only trialing new rules among elite programs with elite umpires but also at lower grades with less skilled players, and less skilled umpires.


And this game also confirmed our dislike of any proposed rule to change the way the game is scored. Spain was attacking relentlessly in the final few minutes, needing a goal to draw. The had opportunities, from both penalty corners and from the field, but could not find the net and Belgium held on for a well-deserved victory. Had Spain scored a last second equalizer it could perhaps have been seen as fitting considering their attacking domination across the game. But under the proposed new system that last minute goal could very well have meant a loss to Belgium. It’s just not right.

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