Changes are Coming in 2019

March 20, 2019, 12:10 p.m. (ET)

By Steve Horgan, USA Field Hockey's Director of Umpiring

The 2019 Outdoor Rules of Hockey rulebook is now for sale for $8.00 for USA Field Hockey Members and $10.00 for Non-Members. USA Field Hockey Umpire Members will receive a complimentary copy in the mail within the next few weeks. Click here to purchase.

Back in September, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) Rules Committee met and had lengthy discussions on the safety and direction of the game. The Pan American Hockey Federation (PAHF) and USA Field Hockey have a direct representative on this committee. Even though there may be questions or concerns about the 2019 Rules of Hockey, both PAHF and USA Field Hockey can be assured that the changes were discussed and voted on in a proper manner for the betterment and successful future of field hockey. As with rules proposals for all sports, safety is paramount and field hockey is increasingly under scrutiny to evolve with the times to ensure the rules allow for the game be exciting, yet safe without losing the iconic aspects established over the years.

It is highly recommended that all players, coaches and umpires download the 2019 FIH Rules of Hockey, and the Rules of Hockey app on the Apple Store or Google Play. This app will allow for the rules to be on your phone, and there are quiz questions to test your knowledge of the most current application of the 2019 Rules of Hockey.

One of the most significant changes in 2019 will be the timing of a standard match. The FIH Rules of Hockey has established a four-quarter system with fifteen minutes per quarter, with the stopping of the clock when a penalty corner is called. First, the four quarters are being instituted from information from not only the top level, but also domestic levels from around the world. With a two-minute break between the first and second quarters and the third and fourth quarters, in addition to the normal halftime, teams are able to discuss, strategize and regenerate themselves. This is intended to allow for teams to play at their best for the entire match and minimize the loss of endurance that comes with a full 35 minutes of continuous play. Second, the stoppage of the clock when a penalty corner is called is so that the actual playing time is not lost while the penalty corner is being set up. Statistics have shown that in the history of the game, each penalty corner would take and average of 30-45 seconds to get set up and ready for play. This process should be relatively easy for both the timers and umpires to administer. The only addition for timers is that they have to recognize and be aware of when a penalty corner is called, and react to the whistle and signal of the umpire. There will be no need for an umpire to signal time out separately after calling a penalty corner. Once the play is set up and ready to go, the umpire only has to bring time back in and then let the players know to “play.” The inserter would then be permitted to play the ball and start the penalty corner. Any undue delay of setting up a penalty corner should be administered the same as the current rules of delay of game misconduct. As in all aspects of field hockey, the time starts and stops with a whistle from the umpire.* Therefore, is not acceptable to have the timer start the clock on the insertion without the umpire bringing time back in.

*Note: For USA Field Hockey National Events, the timing of the matches may be modified to fit into the timeframe dictated by the need of the event, facility or daylight. Many events like the National Hockey Festival and Disney Field Hockey Showcase may not allow for the stoppages required by the FIH Rules of Hockey. Modification will be distributed to all participants as necessary.

Another notable change is the elimination of the “player with goalkeeping privileges” or “kicking back.” This change is a true safety and risk management issue. For the rules to allow for a player to have the same abilities or responsibilities as a goalkeeper without the proper protection was felt to be a conflict of duties and one incident away from something possibly catastrophic. Teams will now have to make a decision if they want to play with a player advantage in the field of play or have the proper protection of the goal inside the circle. When a team plays with only field players, no one on the team will have any ability to play like a goalkeeper, even on a penalty corner.

In addition, there are three procedural changes to the 2019 rules:

  1. For free hits close to the circle, it has now been made clear that players other than the attacker taking the free hit, must be at five meters distance, including when they are in their circle. If the attacker chooses to take the free hit immediately (self-start), then defenders who are inside the circle and within five meters from the ball, may shadow around the inside of the circle as per the explanation of the rule before 2019. Therefore, all free hits inside the 23-meter line will be administered the same.
  2. Just as in indoor hockey, a defender may now take a free hit awarded in the circle anywhere inside the circle or up to 15 meters from the back-line in line with the location of the offense, parallel to the side-line. This is for a “free hit” awarded when a foul is called only, not for a ball that goes over the back line off the attack. The out of bounds ball must still be in line of where it went over the back line.

  3. Rule 13.6 has been eliminated which stated: 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. Now, for substitution purposes and for completion of a penalty corner at the end of any period, the penalty corner is over when the ball passes outside the 5-meter dotted line. The ending of a penalty corner is now consistent with Rule 13.5 and all of its parameters unchanged from 2017.

All of the above changes will be implemented in USA Field Hockey sanctioned events, except for a possible variation for timing during youth events.

This article is featured in the 2019 issue of FHLife magazine. To read more inspiring, knowledge-packed and fun features revolving around hockey, fitness, healthy eating and how to strengthen your game, subscribe to our quarterly publication by clicking here.