FIH’S hard sell

Leandro Negre… “By introducing too many changes we can have confusions, but if we have a good idea I think we need to implement that.”-SANDEEP SAXENA

The reaction to the latest changes in rules has been mixed. While the FIH maintains that the changes have been made in the best interest of hockey, some are of the view that frequent tweaking of the rules is not good for the sport. By Y. B. Sarangi.

The latest changes to the rules, introduced by the International Hockey Federation (FIH), have evoked mixed response. Some have expressed their apprehension over frequent tweaking of the rules, which, they contend, is not good for the sport.

However, the apex body backed its decision, arguing that the changes were made keeping in mind the best interest of the sport.

The FIH has recently ruled that an attacking free hit, awarded within five metres from the edge of the circle, could be taken from the point of offence. “The ball still has to travel at least five metres before it can be played into the circle, or alternatively has to be touched by another player of either team, other than the player taking the free hit,” the amended rule states.

The other rule change is replacing the “inefficient and ineffective” long corner with a re-start from the 23-metre line.

According to the well-known coach and present Hockey Australia selector, Barry Dancer, the change pertaining to the long corner is “worth experimenting.”

“It should help the attacking teams score more goals. The rule change on free hits from the dotted line should also help attacking hockey. It will generate more scoring opportunities and will be better for the spectators,” said Dancer.

According to the Pakistan captain, Muhammad Imran, the players will not have too many problems in adapting to the new rules, which would be effective from January next. “We need to practise and adjust our game. We have adapted to the 60-minute, four-quarter format so quickly. The new changes should not pose a problem,” he said.

If you go back and take a flick from very close (to the circle) then it can be dangerous. They have done away with the long corner as well. They are trying to improve the game. — Van der Weerden-

Imran also welcomed the change — though a minor one — that would now allow players to wear the safer metal-grilled masks while defending penalty corners.

Dutch player Mink van der Weerden said the new free hit rule could prove dangerous. “If you go back and take a flick from very close (to the circle) then it can be dangerous. They have done away with the long corner as well. They are trying to improve the game,” he said.

Van der Weerden, nevertheless, felt that frequent rule changes might result in an identity crisis for hockey. “Only hockey lovers come and watch the Champions Trophy and the World Cup. But the Olympics is the best exhibition of hockey for the general people. There will be a big difference between the 2012 and 2016 Olympics in terms of the changes in the game. There are too many rule changes including the four-quarter format.

“The good thing about soccer is that they do not change rules and it remains as it is so that general people understand the game,” he remarked.

The German coach, Markus Wiese, had a similar view as well. “I do not know which other sport changes its rules so much. We are changing two rules every year. So, we are consistent at that,” he quipped.

The FIH president, Leandro Negre, who stressed the need to “sell” the sport through television, defended the changes to the rules though. “I think we need to make changes. I am quite sure all of you will agree that the changes we have made are for the best of hockey. The new rules are much better than how we used to play four years ago. I also know that by introducing too many changes we can have confusions, but if we have a good idea I think we need to implement that,” said Negre.