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Does substitution ‘faux pas’ throw Hockey rules into question?

The Men’s Bronze medal match, from the Robobank World Cup, between England and Argentina, ended with a triumphant podium-placing 2-0 win for, Argentina (11th in the world rankings) . However since the result, as you may have heard, it was spotted that the Argentinians were fielding 12 players for 2 minutes and 26 seconds of the second half. Scandalous?! A clear breach of the rules? Yes and yes.

As substitutions are ultimately the Captain’s responsibility during a hockey match, the penalty for such an infringement is the 5 minute suspension of the offending team Captain. However the technical board were neither aware, nor notified by the extra player, of this incident. Therefore no action was taken and the game was played with both teams seemingly unaware of the glitch.

England’s main grounds for argument here were that both of the Argentinian goals were scored during the 5 minutes where they rightfully (according to FIH rules) should have had 10 men on field…This being realised only after the game, led to England having one obvious choice in the proceedings: to lodge a formal protest.

From this “England Hockey sought:

  1. A public statement of the facts.
  2. Acknowledgment from the FIH and Argentina that these serious irregularities had occurred. This would involve a recognition that the two goals were scored at a time when, under the rules, Argentina should have been playing with 10 players.”

EH stated in their protest that the incident could have affected the outcome of the game. The full statement released by EH can be seen below…

The resultant decision from the FIH Tournament Director after interviewing the England and Argentina’s management teams and watching relevant video footage was that there was a breach of the rules of hockey, but that this breach was unintentional. The action to be taken in light of this decision is that the Captain of the Argentinian men’s hockey team will be suspended for the first match of the next World Level event. 

The full statement released by FIH can be seen below…

A few serious questions arise from this news: Was the breach unintentional? Is the penalty enough compensation for losing a medal placing? How can this problem be prevented in future?

The clue that the Argentinian team were conscious of the mistake was that the extra player withdrew from the field of play without another player replacing him – however in doing so he did not notify the technical table… sneaky. But also this begs the question, why weren’t they already aware of it? With all the technology implemented in international field hockey, surely something as simple as substitutions should be under control?

Hockey is streaming ahead of football in this department with the 2014 Football World Cup seeing the premiere of goal line technology in the sport! Perhaps a lesson could be learned from football in the substitutions department? Of course adapted to suit the flow of a hockey game, with as few interruptions as possible. The FIH have said that they intend to review the procedures relating to the issue in order to prevent future occurrence… Reassuring? Of course! We all love hockey for its dynamism and the rules are ever changing in order to improve the game, but was the penalty inflicted on Argentina enough of a compensation for the breach?

One match ban in this situation may seem a tad nonsensical. No matter how many match bans the Captain was given, some may say that Argentina’s medals are tainted forever.

England Hockey say they ‘respect the process and the decision that has been reached and has chosen not to appeal either the finding or the penalty imposed.’ – suggesting they are satisfied with the mistake being publicly admitted at the very least. If the goals were scored during the 2 minutes and 26 seconds of 11 v 12, it may have been a different story!


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