New Delhi: In order to make hockey more attacking, the International Hockey Federation (FIH) has recommended some drastic changes in the goalkeeper's role in the game, even giving teams a choice of not fielding a custodian.
As per the recently published hockey rule book, to be applicable in 2007 and 2008, any team will have three options as far as fielding the goalkeeper is concerned.
"We've set out three clear options: playing with a goalkeeper wearing full protective equipment; a goalkeeper just wearing protective headgear; or no goalkeeper at all," Wolfgang Rommel, Chairman of the Hockey Rules Board (HRB), said.
In the first option, the goalkeeper must not take part in the match outside the 23-metre area his team is defending, except when taking a penalty corner, the conduct of play for goalkeepers says.
As per the second option, the goalkeeper must not take part in the match outside the 23 metres area his team is defending when wearing only a headgear, but may remove it and take part in the match anywhere on the field.
The rule, however, makes it compulsory for the goalkeeper to wear the headgear while defending a penalty corner or penalty stroke.
Besides, the FIH has provided two options for the custodians as far as saving a goal is concerned.
The goalkeepers can use their hands, arms or any other part of their body to move the ball away, but only as part of a goal saving action and not to propel the ball forcefully so that it travels a long distance, the new rule says.
However, in another option, the goalkeepers can use their stick, feet, kickers, legs or leg guards to propel the ball forcefully.
The goalies are not allowed to lie on the ball and have been asked to use the stick only when playing it outside the striking circle.
The other important change in the rule book is that the defenders can now stop a high shot at goal with their sticks.
"We want to make it clear that it isn't an offence when stopping a shot above shoulder height if the defender's stick is not motionless or is travelling towards the ball. As a player and coach, I know it's virtually impossible to get to the ball and for the stick to be motionless, when you make contact with the ball," Richard Aggiss, a member of the HRB, said.
FIH said these changes have been brought in to make the game simple and easier to understand for the spectators.
"This objective is easier to state than to deliver. We have to get a balance between many things," Gill Clarke, a World Cup and Olympic umpire and now a member of the HRB, said, adding "an extremely simple game may be easier for spectators to understand and then require few skills but would not be so enjoyable and stimulating to play."
FIH has also decided to keep the rules in effect at least for two years, allowing enough time for everyone to get used to those and evaluate properly.
"By formalising this cycle, we are acknowledging that it's better to allow a slightly longer period between rules changes for them to settle down and to be evaluated and reviewed," said FIH President Els van Breda Vriesman.