By Rod Gilmour
World Hockey chiefs hope that England Hockey will still introduce the four quarters rule across the domestic game after a decision to implement the ruling at national level only.
With time ticking until the opening weekend of this season, grass roots clubs breathed a collective sigh of relief in the summer after England Hockey introduced 4 x 17.5 minute quarters for the 2019/20 season for just the elite game, leaving the rest of the club game to be played as halves.
England Hockey had expressed “considerable concern” over implementing sweeping changes to the quarter ruling after citing “far reaching implications for the grass roots of hockey” in its announcement last month.
“As has always been the case, National Associations can request to opt out of certain rules if they provide reasonable rationale,” an FIH spokesperson told The Hockey Paper.
“We understand that England Hockey have a concern over the length of matches when the new rules are applied as the majority of their pitch bookings are 90 minutes in duration.
“They have therefore opted to move to quarters at the elite domestic level but await introducing this at lower levels. The FIH look forward to all National Associations introducing quarters in future seasons so that the match format is consistent from club to international hockey everywhere in the world.”
The FIH was unable to give this newspaper a full list of those countries adopting the quarters ruling, while the world body said that although many Southern hemisphere nations introduced the new rules from January 2019 it was not aware of any who had not moved to quarters.
England Hockey has adopted 4×17.5mins for national league level, with the club game remaining two halves. FIH want the rule across the board but what do grass roots clubs say?
— The Hockey Paper (@TheHockeyPaper) July 19, 2019
In an edict last December the FIH said that the four quarters “has additional advantages at junior levels of the sport in which coaches often umpire youth/school matches and the additional breaks provide for coaching opportunities.”
But on a wider scale and with the new season rapidly approaching, the rule posed problems, including the lack of technical tables for timings and stopping matches.
England Hockey said it would seek further clarification behind the FIH decision to make the ruling global, ahead of any decision to adopt the rule for clubs in the 2020/21 season.
For now, the 17.5min quarters, without the clock stopping at PCs) will apply to all England Hockey leagues and Tier 1 adult club championships.
England Hockey has implemented all other FIH rulings for the 2019/20 season: removal of player with goalkeeper privileges, amendments to attacking free hits within the 23m, defensive free hits awarded within the circle and amendment to ruling around attackers entering the circle at a penalty corner.
“It is a ridiculous rule, only there to complicate running local leagues. It should be restricted to Hoofdklasse and international play. They [FIH) clearly never observed a typical weekend at our club. Stopping time for PCs is even more ridiculous and unmanageable At least we’re not doing that.”
Pinoke HC, Holland