The FIH has recently published The Rules of Hockey for 2007/8. Only a few innovative changes were introduced in this set of rules that marks a move to a two-year cycle for their production and publication. This means that these rules cover the period 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2008 at international level although, as in the past, national hockey associations have discretion to decide the date of implementation at national level.
In some ways, a two-year cycle was already in place because significant changes were not introduced in the periods leading to each Olympic Games and Hockey World Cup. The 2006 rules will therefore apply in the two upcoming World Cups to be played in September and October 2006, but the 2007/8 rules are being published now so that nations who are not involved in these events or who start their playing season in the next few months can adopt them sooner if they wish.
Two year cycle
Els van Breda Vriesman, President of the FIH, welcomed the adoption of a two-year cycle. “By formalising this cycle, we’re acknowledging that it’s better to allow a slightly longer period between rules changes for them to settle down and to be evaluated and reviewed. This gives everyone involved in hockey a clearer timetable on which to focus when developing the rules to make the game even more attractive to play and watch,” the FIH President stated.
In this context, there are some rules changes for 2007/8. Wolfgang Rommel, Chairman of the Hockey Rules Board (HRB) observed. “We’ve looked closely at goalkeeping,” said Rommel. “We’ve set out three clear options: playing with a goalkeeper wearing full protective equipment; a goalkeeper just wearing protective headgear; or no goalkeeper at all.”
In the middle option, the HRB has formalised what the player sometimes known as a ‘kicking back’ can and cannot do. If there is no goalkeeper, Rommel explains the following procedures. “This really means what it says: the team is playing only with field players. No player can then kick the ball in the circle and so on.” This option allows a team, if they wish, to press all their players forward with nobody committed to defending the circle. It also overcomes a previous technicality which sometimes occurred at local levels where there was nobody with goalkeeping kit or if the goalkeeper had been delayed on their way to the ground! Strictly according to the rules, a game could not take place unless there was a goalkeeper wearing protective headgear on the field.
Still on the subject of goalkeeping, the 2007/8 rules permit a goalkeeper more flexibility when defending their goal. They can now sweep the ball away with their hand. “We don’t want to make life too easy for goalkeepers but we also don’t want to restrict them in petty ways,“ Richard Aggiss, former national player, coach to Australia and member of the HRB comments. “We’re therefore happy for them to push the ball away with their hands or body but we don’t want to see them rushing to a ball entering the circle and swiping it to the centre-line with their hand protector”.
Aggiss was also pleased to see the clarification now added about how defenders can stop a high shot at goal with their sticks. “Some umpires were being far too strict because the rule could be interpreted that way,” he added. “We want to make it clear that it isn’t an offence when stopping a shot above shoulder height if the defender’s stick is not motionless or is travelling towards the ball. As a player and coach, I know it’s virtually impossible to get to the ball and for the stick to be motionless, when you make contact with the ball.”
There are other small changes and points of clarification in the 2007/8 rules which cannot be covered here. For a full version, please visit WorldHockey website at www.worldhockey.org. For the first time, they are available in an easily, accessible, indexed format.
Easier to understand
The rules changes made by the HRB follow from its objectives which include making the game easier to understand. “This objective is easier to state than to deliver. We have to get a balance between many things,” Gill Clarke, a World Cup and Olympic umpire and now a member of the HRB, commented. “An extremely simple game may be easier for spectators to understand and then require few skills but would not be so enjoyable and stimulating to play. We also have to bear in mind that the rules apply throughout the game. They apply to adults and children. To young players and veterans. To women and men. To experienced skilful players and to players just starting out in the game. Everyone, whatever their ability and circumstances, must feel that hockey is a game for them.”
This means that the work of the HRB is challenging and ongoing. Among other things, it is looking at ways of avoiding crowded defensive circles. The penalty corner is also being scrutinised and is a good example of where the HRB has to strike a balance between something which is skilful and exciting but also safe and not too complicated. There is a desire to see more attacking play while avoiding huge scores and one-sided matches which can be dull to play in or watch. The HRB is also aware that indoor hockey is an important part of the game so will be focussing on it in during the next year or so.
Comments and ideas
The Hockey Rules Board therefore welcomes comments and proposals from throughout the game. It is even the better if ideas are routed through national associations which can add broader comments and make formal recommendations. Communications about the rules of hockey should be addressed to Roger Webb, FIH Technical Manager by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post at the International Hockey Federation, Rue du Valentin 61, CH - 1004 Lausanne, Switzerland.
This information about the Rules of Hockey 2007/8 is necessarily only a summary and cannot provide the precise details of each rule. Readers are therefore encouraged to look at the full set of rules available on the WorldHockey website www.worldhockey.org or from the FIH Office in Lausanne.
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