At the end of the traditional fall field hockey season in the USA, this video...
...was posted on YouTube by a field hockey fan showing that play was restarted following a goal while the team that scored the goal was in an NFL-like huddle and not ready to defend.
UmpireHockey.com link to the video and allowed readers to comment on the event. The decision to ask whether the umpire made the right or wrong decision to blow his/her whistle was applauded and criticized by members of the field hockey community.
Although the video does not identify the umpire in question, UmpireHockey.com's publisher received a threatening letter from a group of people claiming to be the Executive Board of Shore Chapter IV Field Hockey Officials, a field group in eastern New Jersey, USA. The letter claimed that the umpire who blew the whistle was a member of their association and that the action of publishing the survey was "extremely egregious" and "compromised the integrity of [their organization]". The survey consisted of one simple question about the situation...
At the same time, UmpireHockey.com's publisher received emails and phone calls from umpires and coaches praising the decision to publish the survey. Umpires who the publisher knows to be members of Shore Chapter IV Field Hockey Officials said that they were embarrassed and angry by the actions of the umpire and felt the umpire's actions were personally motivated and vindictive in nature. Other umpires and coaches who contacted the publisher directly felt that because so many people carry video cameras to sporting events, that field hockey umpires can finally be held accountable for actions such as this in a sport where so many people don't know the rules. Still other umpires expressed concern that a fan had made a video of the situation available on YouTube.
UmpireHockey.com stands by its decision to ask its readership whether or not they felt this umpire's decision was right or wrong.
Not surprisingly, a majority of the respondents identified themselves as field hockey umpires (59%). Umpires from six different states participated in the survey. A quarter of the respondents identified themselves as field hockey fans or parents of field hockey players. Just under 10% of the respondents said they were field hockey players while the smallest number of respondents, six percent (6%), identified themselves as field hockey coaches.
Respondents were given the opportunity to indicate, on a scale of 1 to 6, whether they felt the "Umpire Made The Correct Decision" (1) or "Umpire Made The Wrong Decision" (6). The average response was heavily weighted toward the "Umpire Made The Wrong Decision" end of the spectrum with 5 being the average response from all respondents. Overall, the umpire's decision only found support among 16% of the respondents.
The coaching community was split evenly as to whether they felt that the umpire's decision was right or wrong. Of the fans/parents responding, 75%, with an average response of 4.75, felt that the umpire's decision was wrong.
All of players (100%) felt that the umpire's decision was wrong.
Nearly one hundred percent of the umpires felt that the umpire's decision was wrong. In fact, only one respondent who identified themselves as an umpire felt that the umpire made the correct decision.
Fifty-nine percent (59%) of the respondents ask to be notified of the results of the survey.
Sixty-six percent (66%) of the respondents commented on the actions of the umpire after completing the survey question. Some of those comments, edited for grammar and spelling, are published here. The opinions expressed by our readers are not those of UmpireHockey.com.
"After a score in football time is stopped and eventually there's a kickoff. Can you imagine a kickoff in football where the ref lets the ball get kicked while the defending team is still in a huddle or isn't out on the field in position? There is no reasonable way to support what that ref did to those players. It wasn't just unfair, it was dangerous."
"If there was a problem with huddling the blue team should have received a warning. I have seen many field hockey games when the umpire has warned a team about taking too long to take the field after a timeout or after halftime. The action taken by this umpire was not in the spirit of the game of field hockey."
"The umpire was totally incorrect in the decision to re-start before the huddling team was ready. If the umpire felt that the goal scoring team was repeatedly delaying the game, they should have been given a verbal warning, or perhaps a double whistle to resume play. The clock is stopped so actually there is no delay of game play."
"This action of resuming play appears that the game was restarted to demean the coach and the umpire's emotions were evident as a get back at the coach for previous actions!"
"In my opinion, if all of the umpires would act professionally during the season, (ie, requiring the coach to remain behind the sideline, issuing appropriate cards, etc) this would not have happened."
"After the first time the team did the huddle the official should have spoken to that team about delay of game."
"If in fact time was out (after a goal), the umpire should have walked over to the huddle and voiced that she was going to blow the whistle to start play. Unless the team wanted to be charged with a team time out huddles on the field are considered a delay of game and are not allowed. Preventative umpiring!"
"Call was inappropriate and unprofessional. If umpire felt it was a delay of game, even though clock was stopped, umpire could have given captain or team a green card or maybe up 10? I'm not sure on the up 10."
"I don't know the exact rules but, he could have given them a whistle blow to get em out of that powwow."
"Very poor judgement. Umpire did not use the tools,etc she has to reslove any delay or unreadiness she may have had with the Blue team. Wrong and not fair."
"If the huddle was consistently happening after a goal the umpire should warn the huddling team. If the huddling persists then I might consider starting the game if the opposing team is ready."
"Since the clock is stopped, there is no reason to restart the game before both teams are ready. If the umpire had warned the team about excessive celebration (which this doesn't appear to be), then card the team. Neither team really looks ready."
"Where is the common sense? Gently verbally warn team to get ready and then green card, but don't put team at a disadvantage by blowing quick whistle."
"As heard in the video......'That was nasty'. Did she/he blow a fast whistle after the first blue goal? Has anyone asked her/him why?"
"If the umpire did not warn them, the umpire is being stupid. Preventive officiating would have told them not to do that after the huddle, and if it continues, play will start immediately."
"Score. Get ready to play. No huddle."
"I was at this game and was shocked by the call. This was nothing more than a referee making a ridiculous call against a coach she doesn't see eye-to-eye with. This 'call' led directly to a penalty corner and a goal was scored on the penalty corner. Jaws were dropped on the sidelines. NEVER have I seen a call like this in all my days of playing and watching my daughter play. A new 'low' in umpiring!"
"Since time is stopped, the umpire should have warned the huddling team to take position on the field, and should have held the whistle to begin play until that team was ready. If that team continued to delay, then the umpire should issue the proper penalty for a misconduct foul. Under the heading of Game Management, a warning first is usually a better solution. No telling how many games this team has played, where the umpires have allowed this behavior in the past, and they may have believed that it was perfectly ok. A positive response after the warning would show no intent to delay."
"If they wanted to chat, that's what timeouts are used for. Opposing team was ready to play they should have been as well."
"Wow, that's a difficult call. I haven't seen many teams who huddle after THEY score, rather many who huddle after they have been scored upon. The official most likely saw the huddle as a delay of game, which is understandable especially if that last 30 seconds are ticking off the clock in a close match. This video and this article provide neither the time remaining or the score, so the ref may or may not have made a fair decision. HOWEVER - I think a warning or a simple 'Let's hurry it up or we are going to card you,' would have sufficed. The ref was in the wrong for starting play so quickly IF nothing was first said to advise both teams."
"Call an officials time out, call the Blue team captain over and verbally warned of potential card for delay of game. I would have considered a green card, and if it occurred a second time, called time out and yellow carded the Blue Team Captain and sat her down for 5 minutes. That should have been the correct way to do it. Next time...red card and get rid of the captain."
"I was at the game. She didn't notify the players to get back in their position. She didn't give them any warning. She caught the Blue team completely off guard. The White team got a penalty corner and scored off of the inexplicable call."
"I was at that game. It was one of the most awful things I ever witnessed in youth sports. Both for the ref to blow the whistle (starting play) while that team was in a huddle and for the other team to try and take advantage of it. That ref should find another profession. She has no business officiating a youth sporting event or any event for that matter. A terrible message was sent and it even exploited the other team who tried to take advantage of the team in the huddle. Many of them had to know it was poor sportsmanship but they were enabled by that ref. Horrible thing to watch."
"The umpire acted in an emotional manner rather than to the rules of the game. If they did not like the huddle post scoring, then words should have been said to the Blue side's captain and if they feel the 'huddle' is taking too long then a delay of game can be called."
"I'd just say that it was unnecessarily 'gotcha' umpiring, which can make players irritated and less 'co-operative'. There was no time-wasting, as time was stopped, and no rules were broken, but huddling like that is a silly and unnecessary habit, which, IMO, should simply have been verbally discouraged ... the first time it happened."
UmpireHockey.com finds that more than anything else this one-off situation highlights a broader issue impacting field hockey within the USA.
This situation presents a conundrum due to modifications made to the Rules of Hockey by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Under the Rules of Hockey, time is not stopped following a goal but, in games governed by the NCAA and the NFHS time is stopped following a goal.
Umpires and teams are not provided with any delimiting information with regard to how long the clock is to be stopped after a goal. On the other hand, both the NCAA and NFHS have a modification to the Rules of Hockey that allow for team time outs and specify exactly when the clock is to be resumed. By rule, after the clock is stopped in NCAA games, the clock is to be restarted in exactly two minutes (120 seconds) and after the clock is stopped for a time out in NFHS games, the clock is to restart in exactly ninety seconds. As there is no instruction in the NCAA or NFHS rules as to when to start the clock after a goal is scored, the time between the score of a goal and the moment the umpire restarts play is in limbo and lacks consistent governance.
While one could say that it is common sense that the umpire should have waited until all the players were ready, this is not governed by rule. Both teams were in their half of the pitch, and that is the only governance provided for in the rules (that the teams have to be in their side).
Would it have been a better tactic if the team had huddled on the opponent's side of the center-line or, might that have been judged to be taunting?
While one could say that the players should have been cautioned or even warned (carded), they are not breaking any rule. They are not time wasting because time is out. Shall the umpire really be left to judge the team's behavior as misconduct? What is the misconduct? Huddling? There is no rule against huddling --- so there can be no misconduct for huddling --- and attacking and defending teams often huddle prior to penalty corners (while the clock is running). Umpires clearly allow for huddling so, again, what would be the misconduct allowing the umpire to caution or card the team's captain? Does it make any sense to say that you can huddle while the clock is running, but huddles aren't allowed when time is stopped?
Some people didn't like that the team huddled and one noted that they've seen the team that allowed a goal to huddle but never the attack. Is it okay for the defenders to huddle but not the attackers? Would the reverse apply on penalty corners?
What if the team didn't huddle, but just stood around on the opponent's side of the field? Is the problem the huddle or the amount of time that passes before the umpires restart the clock?
UmpireHockey.com recommends that the NCAA and NFHS remove their modification that stops time after a goal in field hockey. Allowing the clock to run would then allow for all post-goal activity to be governed under the rules. The umpires would be able to consider whether or not to rule the huddle or other post-goal actions as a conduct violation (delay of game) and caution or card the captain for time wasting. Alternately, if time will continue to be stopped after each goal, those governing bodies could either announce a time period for which the clock is stopped following a goal (to allow, for example, time for a commercial break when games are televised) and/or add language to their rules that instruct umpires to wait until both teams to be ready prior to the start of play.