With the next round of FIH tournaments just around the corner, one of the biggest changes to FIH Regulations is about to be put to the test with the Penalty Shoot-out Competition replacing the Penalty Stroke Competition to determine the result of tied classification matches. The first tournament that will see this is the Women’s Champions Challenge 2, which is due to be played in Vienna between 7 and 15 May.

The FIH.ch team caught up with FIH Competitions Manager Martyn Gallivan to help players, officials, spectators and TV audiences better understand what awaits the game with the latest amendments to the FIH Regulations.

What are the key differences between a penalty stroke and a shoot-out?
A penalty stroke is a single shot by an attacker against a goalkeeper. The ball is placed on the penalty spot 6.4 metres from the back line. A good comparison for a newcomer to hockey would be to say that it is similar to a penalty kick in football. In a Penalty Shoot-out, the ball is placed on the 23-metre line, with an attacker next to it and a goalkeeper in goal on the back line. When the whistle is blown the attacker has 8 seconds in which to try and score a goal. This more mirrors what ice hockey has as it is permitted for the attacker to move the ball forward before taking a shot.

Why has the FIH decided to change from a penalty stroke to a penalty shoot-out?
FIH Competitions Committee has been researching whether or not to move away from Penalty Stroke competitions for the last two years. After much discussion and research, it was decided to use Penalty Shoot-outs because they ultimately better replicate real game situations and tend to require more skill, and as such are a better way to determine a tied match.

When do the new regulations take effect?
Immediately. The first time we will see them in use is at the upcoming Champions Challenge 2 in Vienna.

Does this mean all tied matches will now be decided in a penalty shoot-out?
No, there will still be matches that remained tied at the end of regulation time. Just as before with the Penalty Stroke competition, the Penalty Shoot-out will only be used in classification matches (quarterfinals, semi-finals, medal games, etc). Penalty Strokes will still remain during normal time for offences that require more than a Penalty Corner.

So is the plan for London 2012 to have a shoot-out as well?
Yes, assuming a classification game ends in a tie, then there will be a Penalty Shoot-out.

Are shoot-outs currently used anywhere else in competition?
Yes. They have been used in the Australian Hockey League since 2001 and the EuroHockey League since it started in 2007/2008.

Are there any other major regulation changes that are due to take effect?
The biggest changes that will be noticed are a few things that we have been testing for the last few events. For example, the two-minute suspension for a green card has been made permanent, while the same procedure is being applied to yellow cards. Also, the experimental rule about a defender breaking the line or an attacker entering the circle too early at a penalty corner and having to go to the half-way line, has been made permanent.

During this year’s Champions Trophy and Champions Challenge tournaments we are also trying different competition formats. For example in the Rabo FIH Champions Trophy Women being played in Amsterdam, we trying a second phase of pool matches after the initial ones, followed by classification matches. In the other tournaments we are trialing knock out matches after the initial pool matches. Both of these make for longer tournaments and should provide more interest for teams and spectators alike throughout the whole tournament.