Inside FIH


Got a question about the rules of the game? See if yours makes our ‘greatest hits’ in this list of frequently asked questions.

1.What is the role of the Rules Committee?
The Rules Committee produces rules for indoor and outdoor hockey by:

  • Specifying the current rules and working to ensure they are interpreted and applied consistently and fairly at all levels
  • Providing advice to umpires and other technical officials about rules
  • Developing the rules while retaining the game’s characteristics
  • Aiming to make the game even safer and easier to understand
  • Conducting trials and promoting rules changes
  • Contributing to the development of the game including the development of equipment and new formats

2. Why is the Rules Committee always changing the rules?

  • To keep up with technical advances such as synthetic playing surfaces, player fitness, stick manufacturing and coaching tactics etc.
  • To address safety issues. For example, thirty years ago goalkeepers did not wear helmets
  • To insure that hockey stays a popular sport throughout the world and make it an attractive game to watch and to play

3. What are rules "trials"? 
When the Rules Committee considers a substantial rules change it will first encourage National Associations to try the proposed change voluntarily in various matches and report the results. The Rules Committee may then introduce a mandatory experiment.  

4. What is a "mandatory experiment"? 
A mandatory experiment is a proposed change that the Rules Committee has included in the Rules of Hockey. Everyone must play by this rule until the RC decides whether or not to make it an official rule.

5. How can I forward ideas for a change of the rules? 
Send your suggestion to your National Association and ask them to consider it and forward it to the Rules Committee. In this way the formal support of a National Association is associated with the proposal and they will also know how best to put the matter to the Rules Committee.   

6. What is the hockey background of the Rules Committee members?
All have played and/or umpired hockey. Most of them are still very active in the game ranging from coaching at the top level to playing at veteran’s level! Members come from all over the world.  

7. What is the use of a "briefing" for players and umpires? 
International umpires may be briefed at major events by the Umpires Manager and / or the Tournament Director. This is to ensure consistency. Similar advice is included in the Rules Book to reach a wider audience. The goal is to have a common understanding of rules and their application.  

8. How many rules changes can be implemented at the same time? 
Significant changes will only be implemented after extensive trial and a period of mandatory experiment. It works best  when only one change is implemented at a time. Other amendments of a minor nature are sometimes implemented at the same time.

9. Have any suggestions for a rules change ever been rejected?

Considered in the past but not leading to permanent changes (although possibly to be re-considered some time in the future):

  • Reducing the number of players on the pitch at any one time – for example from the current eleven to nine
  • Awarding a 'long corner' if the ball is intentionally played over the back-line by a defender – that is, instead of a penalty corner
  • Substitution at a Penalty Corner was initially permitted but was subsequently withdrawn from the rules.

10. Where can I find a translation of the Rules Book? 
If you are seeking the Rules in a different language, it's best to contact your National Association.  

11. Are developments in the Rules of Indoor Hockey important? 
The Rules of Indoor Hockey are equally important, however, it may not sometimes appear that way because fewer countries take part in indoor hockey. The Rules Committee keeps the rules for each game in step one with the other.  

12. I have a question on the rules, where can I get an answer? 
First seek help from your National Association. They will sometimes have an Umpiring or Technical Committee which can respond to you. You should also go through your national association to get in touch with the Rules Committee.  

13. Are the rules invented and/or developed only round the table at Rules Committee meetings? 
Every significant rules change or mandatory experiment is the result of discussions and trials in many countries. The Rules Committee is keen to consult with other interested groups. For example, it gets feedback from and its members arrange or attend seminars for coaches from around the world.   

14. Do "minor" hockey countries have input on the rules or its development? 
The Rules Committee aims to listen to everyone about rules because the rules apply throughout the globe. It has been some of the so called "minor" nations who have been most active in conducting trials - and their experience has influenced thinking in the Rules Committee.  

15. Why do we play with the same rules for every level? 
So that  the game each of us plays is the game played by everyone else in the world. For example, a young player can learn from senior and experienced players. It also encourages consistent coaching and umpiring.  

16. What is the influence of sponsors/television on the development of the rules? 
There is no direct influence from sponsors or television. This is because their aims and needs are the same as those of the Rules Committee.

17. Some rules are difficult to understand for spectators, television, etc. Can something be done? 
One of the aims of the Rules Committee is  to make the game easier to understand for spectators and television – and is constantly seeking to achieve a balance between its various aims including making the game easier to understand.

18. What is the procedure for developing a rules change?

  • Ideas come from a variety of sources including players, coaches, umpires, the media, officials at events, and so on
  • Ideas either come through National Associations and other groups or are referred directly to the RC
  • Ideas are analysed and discussed in the Rules Committee usually over a period of time in two or three meetings
  • If the change is a relatively minor one, the Rules Committee may then be able to recommend a change
  • If a significant change is involved, further investigations will take place and a working group is set up to look at all the implications
  • Significant changes are progressed through trials and mandatory experiments
  • Having received comment and advice, the Rules Committee will come to a conclusion
  • It then prepares a report about proposed rules changes for the Executive Board of the FIH (which will also have sanctioned related trials and mandatory experiments if they have taken place)
  • The Executive Board will either agree the change or refer it back for further consideration by the Rules Committee; the Executive Board cannot directly amend a proposed change
  • It does not happen often, but a change might then have immediate effect
  • Otherwise the change is incorporated in the next Rules Book

19. When does a rules change become effective?
Officially the 1 January date applies to all international competitions but National Associations have discretion to decide the implementation date at national level.  

20. Who is ultimately responsible for rules changes? 
The Rules Committee comes to a conclusion about any changes it considers desirable and prepares a report for the Executive Board of the FIH. The Executive Board will either agree the change or refer it back for further consideration by the Rules Committee; the Executive Board cannot directly amend a proposed change. Thus the ultimate responsibility rests with the Executive Board.

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