Rules InterpretationSubstitution: Confusion has arisen over whether a goalkeeper who has been suspended may be replaced during a penalty corner. The wording of the Rule has been amended to make it clear that this may be done, provided the replacement is wearing permitted protective equipment and that the team plays with one less field player. The Outdoor Rules and Indoor Rules are now the same.
Ball hitting foot: There have been a number of criticisms that hockey has too many stoppages and is too technical to be understood and appreciated by those not familiar with the game. One of the main causes of stoppages is the ball hitting the foot. Most people believe that a ball hitting the foot is a breach of the Rules. Whilst this is not the case, players' expectations of such a breach have been compounded by umpires in their search for consistency. The Board now wishes that the Rule be interpreted as it is written. As a result, unintentional and insignificant breaches, which bring no clear benefit, should not be penalised. For specific details, please see Rule 13.1.2 Use of Body, Hands and Feet, and the relevant Rule interpretation.
The Stick: Discussions aimed at establishing standards and specifications for a stick continue. These specifications should be approved within the next year. In the meantime, Rule 4 remains valid, but sticks now in use with the approval of National Associations may continue to be used, provided they do not include metal or metallic components.
Experimental RulesCurrent: The Experiment under which a penalty corner had to be completed at half and full-time has resulted in an improvement in the fairness of the situation and in the image of the game. This Experiment has now been made a Rule.
New: It is both spectacular and dangerous. Such are the range of views when players play the ball with the edge of the stick. Umpires have been allowing this practice, operating upon guidance provided by their organisations. The Board has agreed a Mandatory Experiment so that current umpiring practice is within the Rules, and secondly that further consideration can be given to the safety of players, keeping in mind that the usual dangerous play Rules apply. This is considered by some to be a contentious decision, and it is hoped that during the next year consultation with all involved will bring a consensus. To this end, the Secretary invites opinions and reasons to satisfactorily resolve the problem arising from this stroke.
The FutureTrials: Last year, a number of trials of possible new Rules were sent to National Associations. Although a number were undertaken, it is clear that there was no prevalent mood for further changes, at this time. However, the "thinking" process has continued and may appear in the form of new Experiments after the Olympic Games in 2000. In considering changes, it is not intended to suggest there is need for change now, but it is prudent to progress the thinking process so that should the need for change arise, some ideas will be available. Evaluation rather than revolution has been the guiding principle. As before, opinions on changes and other related matters should be sent to Roger Webb, Co-ordinator of the Rules Advisory Panel.
Metrication: Following the general conversion, a review of detailed measurements is being made to ensure proportional relationships. Whatever new measurements are finally approved by the FIH, all existing pitch measurements will be permissable until replacement pitches are laid.
Protective EquipmentThe safety of players is of paramount importance to the FIH, the HRB and those involved with the Rules of the game. It will take time to establish specifications which will meet the developing and varied national standards.
In the meantime, the HRB asks all National Associations who can afford to enforce the wearing of permitted protective clothing to do so. It is particularly important that young people taking up hockey, and their coaches, are aware of the potential dangers and what they can wear to reduce them.
Hand protectors, whether made in a single piece or otherwise, are accepted provided that goalkeepers are able to hold the stick in at least one hand and no attachments are permitted to hold the stick when not in the hand. There must be no danger to either the wearer or other players.
Rules ApplicationAlthough a players' game, hockey at all levels is even more enjoyable when it is played in the right spirit and supported by competent umpires. The International Hockey Federation and the Hockey Rules Board are concerned that the standard of umpiring should keep pace with other developments in the game. All involved are asked to put in hand umpiring development programmes to ensure that the Rules are as effective as intended. The penalties available within the Rules should be applied strictly but fairly and sympathetically.
ConclusionThe challenges and opportunities facing hockey over the next few years will require the attention of all involved in the game, at whatever level they are involved. The Rules will be only one part of meeting the future, and the Hockey Rules Board will play its part in keeping the game in the forefront of sport.