Go Hockey News respects the hockey rules analyst and blogger Martin Conlon. For a long time now games are won and lost on penalty corner conversions rather than field goals. ‘Soft corners’ result in goals that normally would not be goals. At elite level individual drag flicking experts can single handily change the fate of expected losing side. Not to mention the growing concern of the associated danger of drag flicking. Finding a solution to penalty corners is in need. In this post Martin unpacks why the penalty corner should go and replaced with a Power Play. It would be foolish of any person who is in a position to change the rules not to place this on the boardroom table for consideration. For the thousands of serious hockey umpires and directors it is valued reading and worthy of a considered response. This is Martins blog which is referenced below.
Preliminary suggestions for the procedure for the taking of a power play, which it is proposed will replace the present penalty corner.
Rule 12.3. a-e Rule 13.3. a-m Rule 13.4. Rule 13.5. a-g Rule 13.6. Rule 13.7. a-f
Action. Deletion and replacement with a Power Play
Reason. The Penalty Corner, never reasonably safe, has been allowed to become stupidly dangerous and also to have a ‘stranglehold’ on the publicizing of the game, the playing tactics of it and even the development of the hockey stick (for the drag-flick). Video of match ‘highlights’ often contains little more than a showing of the taking of penalty corners – not even showing what led to the award of these corners.
There has been talk of replacing the Penalty Corner for at least twenty years (in fact ever since the drag-flick became as powerful a shot as an undercut hit) and even some limited trials of a Power Play in 9’s Tournaments (in which a substantially wider goal was used) have taken place within the last ten years, but no real will to change anything is evident. Nothing mandatory or worldwide has been imposed; certainly nothing like the extraordinary long Experimental Period given to the introduction of edge-hitting (over much protest at its introduction). There is always the excuse that next year (or this year) is a World Cup (or an Olympic) year and the qualifying tournaments (which must, to be seen as fair, be always in the same format for all teams), and which appear to be near continuous, are always “in the way”. On top of that we now have professional tournaments (perhaps a way in?). The quest and demand for spectacular goals (for television), seems to be an obstacle rather than an opportunity to try something different.
Please offer suggestions for a fair and workable Power Play.
The only information I have about the workability of a Power Play (one where the score ratio is not either 99% or 1% ) has been obtained from reading the Rules of the Lanco 9’s and from watching YouTube videos of game highlights from a few of these tournaments. What I read and saw conflicted in several areas with my own preliminary thoughts and previous writing about a possible format. For example in the Lanco 9’s the number of defenders (three rather than four), the very limited time (30secs) and the permitting of addition attackers to make (a gut wrenching) run from the half-way line, to join in the attack (but apparently prohibiting the defenders to increase their numbers in the same way – but I may be wrong about that) is very different from what I expected or envisaged.
My preliminary ideas included four defenders v five attackers, ball inserted to outside the 23m line and then passed in, with play then continuing between just those nine in the 23m area until a goal was scored or the ball was put out of play or out of the 23m area (with various options for continuation or restart of play after that) or one or other side committed an offence, with a time limit from commencement (insert of the ball) of one minute. Normal open play Rules, no first hit-shot height limit. The use of a new Goal Zone to prevent both goal-hanging by attackers and goal blocking by defenders, no player other than the goalkeeper permitted to remain on the goal-line. This format gives scope for the development of an indoor style passing game during a power play.
All the ‘bits and pieces’, reasons to award, continuation at half and full time etc. etc. already exist for the penalty corner and much can be directly transferred. A power-play even begins in a familiar way, with the ball being inserted from a position on the base-line 10m from either of the goal-posts and the attacking side must then devise a way of making a scoring shot. The significant difference is that the ball is played to a position outside the 23m line rather than the line of the shooting circle. The expectation is that the inability of the attackers to set up an immediate shot at the goal will significantly reduce danger to players.
So what is holding up other trials? Perhaps it is the fact that the present Penalty Corner Rule has a great many clauses and a replacement that splits the two teams into four groups and needs to be timed, requires even more clauses and nobody can be ‘bothered’.
“If it isn’t broken why fix it ?” is a common attitude to any suggested Rule change, but the penalty corner is ‘broken’; it has never been acceptably safe and is now unreasonably dangerous and the way the dangerous play Rules are applied within it (some being overridden) is grossly unfair. There may also be (certainly will be) resistance to the disappearance of the drag-flick, but it is mainly (but not entirely) the development of the drag-flick and the fact that absolutely nothing has been done to constrain the use of it, that has made the introduction of an alternative to the penalty corner an urgent necessity.
We have an absurd situation, where even if not hit towards an opposing player, a first hit shot during a penalty corner will be immediately penalised if raised above 460mm, but a ball flicked (at around 100mph by experts) at an opponent, that hits that opponent on the head, usually results in penalty against that defending opponent because of an advantage gained for the defending team (the prevention of a goal), instead of penalty against the attacker for dangerous play. That isn’t even rational – never mind reasonable – and the absurdity of it is obvious when it is realized that attackers using drag-flicks often deliberately target defenders on the goal-line with head high shots (usually by firing over-high (above 460mm) flicks ‘through’ out-running defenders) – they are actually coached to do so.
If the drag-flick is constrained, that is objective criteria concerning the propelling of the ball at an other player in a dangerous way, are introduced (there is hope for that now that drag-flickers have discovered that a low flick is as often as successful as a high flick – or more so) it may not be necessary to do more to the penalty corner than ‘tweak’ it a bit (introduce shooting height limits when the ball is propelled towards an opponent) – but discussion on the dangerously played ball has become as heated and as irrational as the gun control debate in the USA is. There is no sign of any drag-flick safety measures being introduced, they are not even discussed, there is refusal to discuss.
The current Rules: Penalties. Penalty Corner
A reading of the current Rule can be skipped but it is necessary to include it here for comparison purposes.
13.3 Taking a penalty corner:
a the ball is placed on the back-line inside the circle at least 10 metres from the goal-post on whichever side of the goal the attacking team prefers.
b an attacker pushes or hits the ball without intentionally raising it
c the attacker taking the push or hit from the back-line must have at least one foot outside the field.
d the other attackers must be on the field, outside the circle with sticks, hands and feet not touching the ground inside the circle
e no defender or attacker other than the attacker taking the push or hit from the back-line is permitted to be within 5 metres of the ball when the push or hit is taken
f not more than five defenders, including the goalkeeper or player with goalkeeping privileges if there is one, must be positioned behind the back-line with their sticks, hands and feet not touching the ground inside the field
If the team defending a penalty corner has chosen to play only with field players, none of the defenders referred to above has goalkeeping privileges.
g the other defenders must be beyond the centre-line
h until the ball has been played, no attacker other than the one taking the push or hit from the back-line is permitted to enter the circle and no defender is permitted to cross the centre-line or back-line.
i after playing the ball, the attacker taking the push or hit from the back-line must not play the ball again or approach within playing distance of it until it has been played by another player.
j a goal cannot be scored until the ball has travelled outside the circle
k if the first shot at goal is a hit (as opposed to a push, flick or scoop), the ball must cross the goal-line, or be on a path which would have resulted in it crossing the goal-line, at a height of not more than 460 mm (the height of the backboard) before any deflection, for a goal to be scored
The requirements of this Rule apply even if the ball touches the stick or body of a defender before the first shot at goal.
If the first shot at goal is a hit and the ball is, or will be, too high crossing the goal-line it must
be penalised even if the ball is subsequently deflected off the stick or body of another player.The ball may be higher than 460 mm during its flight before it crosses the goal-line provided there
is no danger and provided it would drop of its own accord below 460 mm before crossing the line.
l for second and subsequent hits at the goal and for flicks, deflections and scoops, it is permitted to raise the ball to any height but this must not be dangerous
A defender who is clearly running into the shot or into the taker without attempting to play the ball with their stick must be penalised for dangerous play.
Otherwise, if a defender is within five metres of the first shot at goal during the taking of a penalty corner and is struck by the ball below the knee, another penalty corner must be awarded or is struck on or above the knee in a normal stance, the shot is judged to be dangerous and a free hit must be awarded to the defending team.
m the penalty corner Rules no longer apply if the ball travels more than 5 metres from the circle.
13.4 The match is prolonged at half-time and full-time to allow completion of a penalty corner or any subsequent penalty corner or penalty stroke.
13.5 The penalty corner is completed when:
a a goal is scored
b a free hit is awarded to the defending team
c the ball travels more than 5 metres outside the circle
d the ball is played over the back-line and a penalty corner is not awarded
e a defender commits an offence which does not result in another penalty corner
f a penalty stroke is awarded
g a bully is awarded.
If play is stopped because of an injury or for any other reason during the taking of a penalty corner at the end of a prolonged first or second half and a bully would otherwise be awarded, the penalty corner must be taken again.
13.6 For substitution purposes and for completion of a penalty corner at half-time and full-time, the penalty corner is also completed when the ball travels outside the circle for the second time.
b the player taking the push or hit from the back-line feints at playing the ball, the offending player is required to go beyond the centre-line but is replaced by another attacker : the penalty corner is taken again.
If this feinting leads to what otherwise would be a breach of this rule by a defender, only the attacker is required to go beyond the centre-line.
c a defender, other than the goalkeeper, crosses the back-line or goal-line before permitted, the offending player is required to go beyond the centre-line and cannot be replaced by another defender : the penalty corner is taken again.
If a defender at this or any subsequently re-taken penalty corner crosses the back-line or goal-line before permitted, the offending player is also required to go beyond the centre-line and cannot be replaced
A penalty corner is considered as re-taken until any of the conditions of Rules 13.5 and 13.6 for its completion are met
A subsequently awarded penalty corner, as opposed to a re-taken penalty corner, may be defended by up to five players
If a defender crosses the centre-line before permitted, the penalty corner is taken again
d a goalkeeper, or player with goalkeeping privileges, crosses the goal-line before permitted, the defending team defends the penalty corner with one fewer player : the penalty corner is taken again
If a goalkeeper, or player with goalkeeping privileges, at this or any subsequently re-taken penalty corner crosses the goal-line before permitted, the defending team is required to nominate a further player to go beyond the centreline, and they cannot be replaced
A penalty corner is considered as re-taken until any of the conditions of Rules 13.5 and 13.6 for its completion are met
e an attacker enters the circle before permitted, the offending player is required to go beyond the centreline : the penalty corner is taken again
Attackers who are sent beyond the centre-line may not return for re-taken penalty corners, but may do so for a subsequently awarded penalty corner
f for any other offence by attackers : a free hit is awarded to the defence.
Except as speciﬁed above, a free hit, or penalty stroke is awarded as speciﬁed elsewhere in the Rules.
There are several Rules and many clauses to each Rule, preliminary amendment always leads to expansion of the number of clauses as sorting takes place and then duplication is reduced or eliminated. This instance is no exception. Numbering, syntax, tense, plural and singular etc. etc. will take several readings to sort out and these readings will have to be done at well spaced intervals and hopefully by a number of different individuals to overcome ‘blind-spots’.
There is also the introduction of a goal-zone – employed in a different way to the way it is suggested it be used in open play – and the splitting of the attacking team, in particular, into those involved in the power play and those not. In addition the timing of a power play is a new issue and there is also an effect on match timing. Substitution during a power play is to be permitted and the conditions that have to be met need to be described. For these reasons and also because this is a preliminary proposal, there may be some duplication and while many more Rule clauses have been added, not so many (from the penalty corner)have been deleted, so the suggestion is lengthy.
Whether or not it is necessary to be concerned about defenders breaking early or attackers moving early into the 23m area is debatable. The metre or so sometimes gained by such premature breaking is unlikely to be a significant advantage or disadvantage when a shot at the goal cannot be set up for immediate execution anyway, so such ‘breaking’ is not critical to outcome, but I have left these prohibitions and the penalties for them in place for the moment as they make for a ‘tidy’ if pedantic procedure. Numbering of the Rules and clauses needs amending, that is a detail I have not paid much attention to at this early stage (mainly because any addition or subtraction of clauses throws the numbering out of kilter).
The proposal can be enacted without using a goal-zone if some other workable way to prevent crowding of the goal-line can be suggested.
Useful comment and suggestions welcome
13.3 Power play procedure:
- A goal can only be scored when the ball has travelled outside the 23m area and has then been played back into the shooting circle by one of the nominated attackers.
b The ball is placed on the back-line inside the circle at least 10 metres from the goal-post on whichever side of the goal the attacking team prefers.
c An attacker pushes or hits the ball to another attacker, positioned outside the 23m line, commencing the power play (The placement of the feet of the inserting player is not prescribed)
d Three defenders will be position behind the base-line and outside the goal-zone, the goalkeeper will position behind the goal-line.
e The other defenders will be positioned on the field and behind the half-way line
f Only the goalkeeper may defend the goal from within the goal-zone during a power play, the other three defenders are not permitted to enter the goal-zone
g Four attackers will be positioned on the field and behind the 23m line, a fifth attacker will insert the ball from the baseline.
h The other attackers on the field must be outside the half-way line.
i No player other than the attacker taking the push or hit from the back-line is permitted to be within 5 metres of the ball when it is taken
j Until the ball has been played, no attacker other than the one taking the push or hit from the back-line is permitted to enter the defensive 23m area and no defender is permitted to cross the centre-line or back-line.
k After playing the ball, the attacker taking the push or hit from the back-line must not play the ball again or approach within playing distance of it until it has been played by another player.
- Immediately the ball is played back into the 23m area by a second attacking player positioned behind the 23m line, the attackers and defenders initially positioned behind the half-way line may move up to the 23m line of the defending team, but may not cross it until the power play is completed. (this allows rapid transference to normal play if the ball is put out of play over a side-line by either team or played back over the 23m line by the defending team)
m Only an attacker in possession of the ball may enter the goal-zone during a power-play; that attacker must immediately move out the goal-zone if possession of the ball is lost or that attacker makes a pass to another attacker.
n No shot at the goal may be made in a way that is contrary to Rule 9.8. Dangerously played ball. (see separate suggestion for a proposed Rule)
Time and timing
On award of a power play match time is stopped.
There is separate timing of the power play.
Defenders should have no need to ‘kit up’ as they do now but thirty seconds will be allowed for both teams to prepare for the penalty.
The attacking side have one minute in which to try to take advantage of their numerical superiority by scoring a goal. The timing of the minute starts as the ball is put into play by an attacker from the base-line at the commencement of the power play.
If the one minute of time permitted expires while the ball is still in play the power play is terminated, and the defending team will restart play with a free ball to be taken from a position in front of the goal on the 23m line. Match time is restarted when the 23m ball is taken (“taken”, here, below and elsewhere, means a stationary and correctly positioned ball is moved by the player taking the free ball or restart – the introduction of a second whistle would remove all doubt about when a free or restart is taken).
When a power player is considered completed in the following circumstances, time is restarted as described in each case.
a A goal is scored – time is restarted when the restart on the centre spot is taken
b A free-ball is awarded to the defending team – time is restarted when the free-ball is taken.
d The ball is played over the back-line by an attacker – 15m ball to defending team – time is restarted when ball is moved by the player taking the 15m
e The ball is played over the back-line by a defender. A 23m restart for the attacking team opposite the place the ball when out of play – time is restarted when the 23m re-start is taken (this assumes that a ball played intentionally over the back-line by a defender will no longer be considered to be any different for restart purposes than one accidentally played out)
f A penalty stroke is awarded – if a goal is scored from the penalty stroke then as (a). if a goal is not scored then as (d)
g A bully is awarded – time is restarted when the sticks of the players engaged in the bully touch.
h If the umpire orders the resetting of a power play the timing of the initial power play will cease and one minute will then be allowed for the completion of the re-set power play as it commences. Match time will remain stopped until the re-set power play (and any subsequent re-set) is either completed or terminated and an open play restart takes place.
Exception. Where goal difference between the teams is five goals or more, match time will not be stopped when a power play is awarded but the power play will be time limited.
- If an attacking player plays the ball out of the 23m area for a second time the power play is voided – match timing resumes as a free ball awarded to the defending side, opposite to the goal and on the 23m line is taken.
- If a defending player plays the ball over the 23m line normal play resumes immediately.
- When the ball is put out of play over a side-line by either a defender or an attacker the power play is terminated and match timing resumes when the side-line ball is taken.
l The match is prolonged at half-time and full-time to allow completion of a power play or any subsequent power play or penalty stroke.
m If play is stopped because of an injury or for any other reason during the taking of a power play at the end of a prolonged first or second half and a bully would otherwise be awarded, the penalty corner must be re-set.
13.5 A power play is completed when:
a a goal is scored
b a free-ball is awarded to the defending team
c the ball is played over the 23m line for a second time
d the ball is played over the back-line.
e time to complete the power play expires
f a penalty stroke is awarded
g a bully is awarded.
- when the ball is put out of play over a side-line.
13.6 Feinting by attackers and premature moving into the power play area by attackers or defenders.
Attackers or defenders who are sent beyond the centre-line for a breach of this Rule may not return to participate in a subsequently re-set power play, but may do so for a power play subsequently separately awarded as penalty for any offence under Rule 9 Conduct of play.
b If the player inserting the ball from the back-line feints at playing the ball, the offending player is required to go beyond the centre-line : the power play is re-set but will then taken with only four participating attackers
- If during a re-set power play, re-set because of feinting by the player inserting the ball, the attacker then making the insert also feints at playing the ball a free ball opposite to the goal and on the 23m line will be awarded to the defending team.
if feinting to play the ball leads to what otherwise would be a breach of this rule by a defender, only the attacker is required to go beyond the centre-line.
d If a defender, other than the goalkeeper, crosses the back-line or goal-line before being permitted to do so, the offending player is required to go beyond the centre-line and cannot be replaced by another defender : the power play is re-set.
If a defender at this re-set power play or any subsequently re-set power play crosses the back-line or goal-line before being permitted to do so, this offending player (unless the goalkeeper) will also be required to go beyond the centre-line and cannot be replaced
If a defender crosses the centre-line or 23m line before being permitted to do so, the power play may be re-set if the umpire considers the action to have disadvantaged the attacking side. A warning or a caution may in any case be given to this player.
e If a goalkeeper crosses the goal-line before being permitted to do so, the defending team will be required to nominate a player to go beyond the centreline, and that player may not be replaced for the re-set power play. The defending team will defend the re-set power play with one player fewer.
If a goalkeeper, at this re-set power play crosses the goal-line before being permitted to do so, the defending team will be required to nominate a further player to go beyond the centreline, and that player may not be replaced for the re-set power play. The goalkeeper should be cautioned or warned.
Should any defender cross the goal line or base line before being permitted to do so during a power play previously re-set for the same kind of offence, a warning or caution should be given as well as sending the player behind the centre line. For a third infraction a penalty stroke should be awarded.
f If an attacker who is a member of the five initially engaged in the power play enters the 23m area before being permitted to do so, the offending player is required to go beyond the centre line and may not be replaced : the power play is re-set.
g If an attacker who is a member of the five initially engaged in the power play enters the 23m area before being permitted to do so, during a power play previously re-set for a similar offence, a free-ball will be awarded to the defending team.The free ball will be taken from in front of the goal and on the 23m line.
h If an attacker who was initially positioned behind the half-way line moves into the 23m area before a power play is completed a free ball will be awarded to the defending team on the 23m line in a position opposite to the goal.
i if a defender who was initially positioned behind the half-way line moves into the 23m area before the power play is completed the power play may be re-set if the umpire considers that the action disadvantaged the attacking team. Even where the power play is not re-set the player concerned should be cautioned or warned on the first occasion.
A power play is considered as untaken or incomplete until any one of the conditions of Rules 13.5, 13.6, and 13.7 for its completion or voidance is met.
13.7 Illegal entry of the goal-zone
a If a defender enters the goal-zone during a power play and in so doing prevents a goal or denies opportunity to an attacker to score a goal a penalty stroke will be awarded.
b If a defender enters the goal-zone during a power play but this action does not disadvantage the attacking side a re-set of the power play may be ordered at the discretion of the umpire. In the event of a re-set the offender will be sent behind the half-way line and may not be replaced for the defense of the re-set power play. Even if the power play is not re-set the defending player should be cautioned or warned on the first occasion there is such a transgression.
c If an attacker makes illegal entry into the goal-zone or illegally remains in the goal-zone instead of vacating it as quickly as possible, a free ball will be awarded to the defending side, to be taken opposite the goal on the 23m line.
13.8. Substitution during a power play.
Re-set power plays must be executed and/or defended by players remaining from the initial nine participants unless injury disables one or more of them.
Substitution because of injury will be permitted for the re-setting of a power play only from the players who were on the pitch at the time the initial power play was awarded and who are still on the pitch.
When a power play is awarded substitution is permitted by either team immediately the power play commences. No player substituted onto the field of play after a power play is awarded may participate in that power play or in any re-set of it because of breaches of Rule 13.6. but may participate in a subsequently awarded power play for any offence under Rule 9. A player substituted off the pitch at the commencement of a power play may not participate in a re-set of that power play.
That is a fair bit to ‘chew on’ and I doubt that I have covered everything that needs regulation, but a start needs to be made somewhere if any desirable change is to be achieved . I also referred above to a second whistle and a goal-zone, both of which I had previously presented articles about when I first wrote this article. Those articles have now been taken down but can be replaced.
It is also necessary to consider replacing the award of a penalty corner with a less severe alternative penalty for several accidental occurrences and actions that are not offences (e.g. ball trapped in equipment, or ball deflected up off a goalkeeper or another defender’s stick in the circle). Most of these were previously dealt with by the award of a bully and could now be more fairly result in the award of a free ball to opponents on the 23m line.
The deletion of the prohibition on playing a free into the circle when it is awarded to be taken within the 23m area, is essential to free the game up and improve flow (it is a silly restriction because it has no counterpart in open play): as is the deletion of the raft of 5m restrictions surrounding the free ball, especially when it is taken as a self-pass. Only the repositioning of the ball outside the hash circle when an offence is penalised between the hash circle and the shooting circle need be retained (restored), because the advantage of a free close to the line of the shooting circle, without 5m limits, would otherwise be greater than the award of the present penalty corner.
Martin Conlon. A former player (Blackheath HC, Slough HC, Hounslow HC, Surbiton HC, Maidenhead HC, and Lusitanians) former umpire (Surrey Umpires Association), former hockey coach (Cuba to Junior World Cup and Pan American Games), retired but still alive and kicking.