I have been asked to give my thoughts on the new rule changes that have been introduced regarding no long corners and free hits being allowed to be taken from where the offence took place. I’ve broken it down into different segments trying to take various factors into account and from different perspectives. My observations are based on playing, coaching and various discussions with players, coaches and umpires. The potential issues arise when not all agree on “guidelines”
Long corners (free hit on 23)
First of all, I think it’s been a long time coming as it was becoming a real stalemate. Despite all the best intentions of trying to work something from that area the reality was that it only became effective if the ball could come back down the line and then transferred, so it only seemed a logical solution to bring the corner back parallel to where the ball went off so well done FIH.
Potential problems for umpires:
Once the ball has gone off and pending whether there are ball persons or not, which obviously there will be at International level, then the corner should to be taken on the line with little lateral variance otherwise the attacking team gain too much of an advantage as the defensive teams attention will be focussed on where they think the ball went off. If the ball person is, which I think will end up happening, stood on the junction of the 23 then a ball immediately thrown on to a player stood on the 23 could cause havoc as the defensive team will be out of position with no time to adjust.
The umpire will have to be strict on the location of where the corner should be taken and not get too wrapped up in letting the game flow. This will give confidence to the defensive team that they can set up where they feel the ball has gone off and the attacking team will understand the importance of taking it from a close proximity adjacent to where it went off. I see no reason why once the umpire has warned the attacking team of trying to gain an unfair advantage that they should not reverse the decision and award a free hit to the defensive team just like they would a free hit.
Dangers for the defensive team:
Apart from what has been discussed already, the tendency is to follow the ball out to the 23 and potentially lose your player behind you as momentarily you become ball focussed. Defenders must stick to the task in hand and recognise that the distance has now changed from potentially a few metres or less to maybe 20m or more.
Communication is essential as someone has to take the ball carrier whilst ensuring they don’t deliberately encroach within 5m of the ball carrier as it could lead to a short corner and card as would be the case for a free hit on the 23 as on the line is inside.
A potential ploy could be to send a couple of players with the ball into the corner trying to achieve a long corner. The intention of this is to have already set in motion an attacking move on the opposite side ready for a quick transfer away from the focus of play. An attacking player can be stood on the 23 waiting for the required outcome, which if achieved, immediately receives the ball from the ball person and an overload situation on opposite side is achieved. If this becomes a positive outcome then the defender the original corner side becomes susceptible to a double transfer as immediate danger is focussed on the opposite side.
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Photo is by Andy Smith.