Hockey Ireland and the Irish Hockey Umpires Association will implement the new FIH Rules of Hockey for January 2022 with immediate effect for all competitions.
The updated rulebook can be found here: https://www.irishhua.com/handbook/handbook119.pdf?20220110120903
The two main changes relate to Rule 4.2 (removal of PC protective equipment) and Rule 9.10 (aerial balls). The other updates to the rules are cosmetic.
Rule 4.2 was changed to allow for defending players using Penalty Corner (PC) protective equipment to continue to play the ball outside the circle following completion of a penalty corner (i.e. when the ball travels more than 5m outside the circle).
Players should continue to remove facemasks as soon as possible after a PC but they can continue to wear the facemask whilst playing within the defending 23m area. The aim is to remove the award of PCs for players playing the ball with their mask on.
The additional text states: “Players should remove their penalty corner equipment as soon as they are able to do so after the penalty corner is completed. If no suitable opportunity to remove equipment arises, they can continue to wear it whilst they are within the 23m area without penalty. All players must remove all protective equipment before they leave the 23m area or when instructed to by the umpire.”
Rule 9.10, the wording around aerial balls has seen the following phrase added for clarification:
“Players must not approach within 5 metres of an opponent receiving a falling, raised ball until it has been received, controlled and is on the ground. The ball may be intercepted within 5 metres but outside of playing distance provided it is done safely.”
It was changed to allow for the playing of what is commonly designated as Aerial Balls. The previous text did not cover for the possibility for players to safely intercept a falling ball, which is now seen as both legitimate and positive to the development of the game. Aerial Balls will continue to be closely monitored by all stakeholders so that player safety can be maintained.
The way it is umpired in top-flight competitions will not largely change from the interpretations that have been employed in the last year. Officials do not want to have engagement or a contest in the air, so when the ball is 20m away, if there is a clear receiver they have priority. Safety remains the priority for the umpire’s judgement.
But if someone steps in front from outside of playing distance from the clear receiver and intercepts the ball in what is deemed by the umpire to be a safe manner, then this will be allowed.
For an example of when this specifically occurs, check out the following video:
The FIH umpires briefing can be found here: http://www.fih.ch/inside-fih/our-official-documents/fih-umpires-and-umpire-managers/umpire-managers/. It offers additional guidance and information on the interpretations of key rules.