In its bid to make the sport more safer for its athletes, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has allowed players defending penalty corners to keep their protective equipment on even after the ball goes outside the striking circle, but must remove them at the first opportunity inside the 23m area. (More Hockey News)
Earlier, the players defending penalty corners were bound to remove their protective equipment immediately inside the circle once the flick is executed.
But the FIH has tweaked its Rule 4.2, which relates to removal of penalty corner protective equipment.
"Rule 4.2 has been changed to allow for defending players using Penalty Corner protective equipment to continue to play the ball outside the circle after an interception during the taking of a penalty corner. Players can now continue to run with the ball while keeping their protective equipment on but they must remove that same equipment immediately after, at the first opportunity to do so and always inside the 23m area," FIH Sport Director and double-Olympian Jon Wyatt said in a statement.
Elaborating further on the subject, Wyatt said: "No player using PC protective equipment can play the ball outside the 23m area at any time. This has been introduced to protect athlete safety so that the focus can be on the ball and the play, and not on removing protective equipment during a pressurised defensive situation.
"It was trialled in the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's Junior World Cup in Bhubaneswar in December 2021, and received unanimous support from coaches, athletes and officials."
Keeping in mind the players' safety, the FIH has also made another significant rule change, which relates to aerial balls.
Previously, intercepting a falling aerial ball was considered to be illegitimate but now the FIH has granted relaxation to players in this regard.
"Rule 9.10 was changed to allow for the playing of what is commonly referred to 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.
"This followed extensive discussions before, during and after the Tokyo Olympic Games, during which a more consistent interpretation and understanding of this element of our game was agreed. Aerial Balls will continue to be closely monitored by all stake-holders so that player safety can be maintained," Wyatt, a former England international, said.
The FIH Rules of Hockey are updated every two years in the month of January following the Olympic Games or FIH Hockey World Cups.
"This allows an 18-month run in to the next global tournament for all players, coaches, fans and officials to become familiar with any changes and adapt accordingly. Due to the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games, the update scheduled for January 2021 was also postponed by a year," Wyatt said.
The FIH Rules Committee undergoes an extensive consultation and discussion process with athletes, coaches, National Associations, officials and spectators together with match and competition reports, video analysis, rules trials and tournament regulations which vary the rules, as part of the review, that ultimately leads to any changes.
"Due to the short turnaround in this cycle to the 2022 FIH Hockey Women's World Cup in July this year, the amendments to the Rules in this version are relatively minor so as to minimize the adaptations required by players, coaches and officials," the FIH official said.
The FIH Rules of Hockey have come into effect from January 1 at the international level.
"National Associations have discretion to decide the date of their implementation at National level, based on their domestic seasons.
"Typically, rule changes are not introduced into domestic leagues mid-season, although we hope that with the simplification of the removal of protective penalty corner equipment rule...
"......this may be adopted immediately in many domestic leagues even if they are currently half way through as it makes this aspect of the game safer, easier to understand for players and easier to officiate for umpires," Wyatt said.