Home Menu
Umpire Kelly Hudson in action. Pic credit: Getty Images/FIH

Talking a good game: an umpire's perspective

August 2, 2018

What happens when a group of umpires get together around the breakfast table after another action-packed day of hockey? Well, they discuss the matches of course.

"We have just spent ages debating one moment in a game," says USA umpire Maggie Giddens, "And it is fair to say that initially there was a split."

The moment in question was a penalty corner in the Spain versus South Africa game and the debate centred on whether a player had passed the ball or if it was a shot at goal. The height of the ball was a factor. If it had been a pass, then the following shot, a deflection - which rocketed in above the backboard was a goal; if it had been a shot, then the following deflection of the high travelling ball would have been deemed too high as that first high ‘shot at goal’ was a hit from a penalty corner.

Just writing that explanation was tortuous; and as Trinidad and Tobago's Ayanna McClean laughingly acknowledged, that is the type of debate that rages in the head of an umpire in the preceding split-seconds as he or she is preparing to make a decision.

The Vitality Hockey Women's World Cup in London is providing an opportunity for international umpires to come together and discuss just these issues. That is not unusual – talk to a group of umpires and you will find them constantly talking through moments that have happened on the field. Where this World Cup differs is the growing relationship between the coaches and the umpires.

"It was great," says Giddens, "we were sitting in the stand in the row behind several coaches and while decisions were being made by the video umpire, we were discussing with the coaches how we view the incident. It is so great to be able to see things through their eyes and also for them to understand our perspective. As their teams weren't involved, we were able to have a really relaxed conversation."

An understanding between the players and umpires has also developed over the past few years.

"It is clear that the teams are also really happy with the process," says McClean. "When I was umpiring at a 4 Nation Junior World Cup preparation tournament, it was really noticeable that the captains would hush their players and then come over to calmly ask about a decision, a few years ago that was far from the case. And these young players are taking that attitude to the senior game."

A regular comment in recent months in light of the FIFA World Cup has been how successfully hockey has adopted video referral and the positive example it has had on the game. Rather than seeing a challenge to a decision as a challenge to their authority, the umpires welcome the chance to get things absolutely right.

New Zealand's Kelly Hudson says: "We have no problem with referring something up to the video umpire, if anything we welcome it because it allows things to calm on the pitch and actually the pressure is off the players and on-field umpires while the video umpire takes a look at the facts of the situation. We, as an umpiring team, must use all the tools we have to make accurate decisions - and the video referral system is a part of that.

"The players understand that we are all after the same thing, which is to make the correct decision for the game."

The umpires also explained their own use of the video referral process. In the match between Ireland and India, Scotland's Sarah Wilson had called an umpire referral after a goal was scored. While the decision looked clear-cut, Hudson explained that as an umpire there are sometimes times when the game deserves certain scenarios to be double-checked, especially around a goal scoring situation.

Having the ‘umpire referral’ as an extra tool for on field officials to use allows the goal to be awarded and then let the referral process review the facts of the decision clearly and objectively.

Players and coaches are continuously seeking to improve their performances but a little eavesdropping around a table full of umpires reveals that the third team is also fully committed to making the sport as good as it can be.


Title Partner
FIH Global Leadership Partner
FIH Partners
Event Partners
FIH Suppliers
Event Suppliers