Osaka, the newest brand shaking things up in the hockey market, wrote it on it’s new T-shirt line “If #hockey was easy, they’d call it football” . A bold statement some might say. But most likely you’ll support it if you have experienced hockey… However the latest change in rules, the so called “own goal” rule undermines this IMHO…
I think all of us in the hockey family would agree the recent rule changes have made our sport more exciting, both for players and supporters. It is one of the distinct advantages our sport can be proud of. The ability to reinvent ourselves step by step, little by little. Keeping up with the fast-paced world. A feature so cruelly lacking in the world’s most popular sport football… Some of these rule changes that had a major impact on our sport were:
- The cancellation of the off-side rule, allowing teams a choice between playing more compact or spread out and a greater variety in tactics.
- The introduction of substitutions without limitations to add even more energy to the game.
- The self pass allowing for even more speed and less interruptions.
However not all rule changes were equally well received. The reception of the high ball, although not that complicated, is not being judged consistently by referees already in trouble of following a high speed game. And therefore is not only frustrating for the players but hard to follow even for the experienced hockey supporters. But by far the most disputed rule change is the one from the “own goal rule”. It has always been a crucial part of our game that a touch within the “circle” by an attacker is mandatory to count the goal. The new so-called “own goal” rule changed that fact to the ball needing to be touched in the circle, it doesn’t matter anymore if this is an attacker or a defender. A small change maybe but it makes a big difference on the pitch.
A reason often stated in favor of the new rule, allowing for own goals, is that it would make it easier for spectators not used to the sport to understand the game.
The major reason against would be it making the sport more dangerous again. Another and somewhat disputed rule change from some years ago intended to prevent free hits near the circle to be hit very hard directly into the circle towards a group of players hoping for a touch. They even created new markings on our pitch for this (the dotted line 5 meter from each circle) so free hits would not be drilled in anymore. Main reason for this was making it less dangerous. The own goal rule has exactly the opposite effect. From almost every game situation it is an invitation to fierce hits into the circle, preferably aimed at a group of players and as hard as you can hoping for a bad control from whomever, deflecting the ball into the net at lightning speed. No one will dispute it creates dangerous situations…
I understand the need to make our sport more “media-friendly” and am not opposed to sometimes trying out something new, even if it’s seem to change the essence of our sport at first glance. However… once it is clear it is not a good rule it should be back to normal as soon as possible. I have not met a top coach who agrees this own goal rule is a good one and as for the players themselves? Well nothing illustrates it better than this one tweet from a recognized top player (5 times best player of the world) :
— Jamie Dwyer (@JamieDwyer01) May 8, 2013
Not all changes work out for the best. If people from outside of hockey don’t understand the simple rule that a ball has to be touched by an attacker in the circle to score a goal… well frankly that’s their problem. I have never understood the game of cricket and still it’s thriving in the world. Golf is a game full of quaint little rules but still one of he fastest growing sports all over the world. If you’re interested in our fast paced game, well make the effort and learn some of the basics to enjoy the game.
Back to normal : “Kill the own goal rule! Please!”
Let’s start by congratulating Belgium for their amazing progress resulting in a well earned silver at the Rio Games in 2016 and a first gold medal at the most recent World Cup. The secret to their success is a simple formula : a stronger domestic league + an ambitious long term plan/vision not just on […]
They say you always get what you deserve… Having witnessed the FIH congress last week I state: “we deserve better”!
So last Saturday Narinder Batra got re-elected as president of the FIH with 63 votes vs 61 for his opponent Marc Coudron. A close race. Where some have openly questioned the addition of 3 countries allowed to vote, after being voted in as new FIH members just minutes before. Or the sudden login from another country only seconds before the vote, when the congress itself started the day before and the session of that day had been going for hours with many votes before this presidential election. But I will not go into that. It serves no purpose. I am sure the administrators will have made sure all was done according to the letter of the law. So I see no point in contesting this…
I do have an issue with the fact these votes are “secret”. Following the FIH congress I asked the CEO and re-elected president of the FIH if we could know who voted for who. Thierry Weil, CEO of FIH, answered the vote was secret and this has always been the case. When I asked who asked for these votes to be kept secret, he told us this was not only already the norm. But it was even requested explicitly again by multiple NA’s at this congress and he told us for example the German representatives were among those who insisted on the secrecy of the votes at multiple times.
Batra did recognise the fact 49% of the votes were against him. Meaning these countries wanted a change. The main problem I have with him, apart from the fact his priorities are not with our sport but with the other organisations he runs, is the fact he wants to focus on growing the followers of our sport rather than the players. Other than that there are so many issues I have with his policies and governance of our sport, that I will have to get back to these another time.
I recognise the world is a very diverse place with different cultures, customs and values. Even if we try to keep an open mind there will always be surprising differences in the way we see things. But… even when you understand and accept there will always be differences, there are some common values we share all over, or should share. Some non-negotiable values. Values such as equal opportunities for all, accountability for those who represent others, transparency in governing our sport on our behalf and financially you never ever “gamble” with other people’s money. Meaning you do not spend money you have not earned before. So please consider the following an open letter to all those administrators in hockey, from all countries on all continents…
Dear hockey administrator,
Please consider making the following changes (unless you’re already there) in your own national association, in your own continental federation and within the FIH as well…
- Before everything else, make it your number one priority to promote playing hockey recreationally. The purpose of sport is to be played, not watched! You’re NOT in the entertainment industry. You’re a part of sport. Which is all about health, education and leisure. The professional and entertainment part of it should be there to serve the sport. Not the other way around…
- Please change the statutes of the FIH (and/or your continental or national association) to allow for accountability and transparency as soon as possible. The right to have a secret vote is a sacred one if we’re talking about individuals, voting for the people they would like to see represent them. However… when the voters are people who represent others it becomes a different matter. As is the case with our national associations (NA’s) voting within their continental or the international federation or even club representatives voting within their own NA. In that case accountability and transparency take precedence over the secret vote.
We will get back to you with our other concerns (and there are many) when we have taken the time to study your reports, finances and plans. Because we the players, the teams, the clubs, organisations and officials you represent will be asking for accountability and transparency whatever the current rules might be… If your role is a voluntary or honorary role or if you’re on the payroll. It does not make a difference. We are grateful for the effort you put into governing our sport. We truly are. But you need to recognise representing others can not be without accountability and transparency.