The International Hockey Federation (FIH) has brought in a set of rule changes to make the sport safer for all the athletes.
The new rules will now allow the players who are defending penalty corners to keep their protective equipment on even when the ball goes outside the striking circle.
However, the players would be required to remove the protective gear at the first opportunity inside the 23 metre area.
"Rule 4.2 has been changed to allow for defending players using Penalty Corner protective equipment to continue to play the ball outside the circle after an interception during the taking of a penalty corner. Players can now continue to run with the ball while keeping their protective equipment on but they must remove that same equipment immediately after, at the first opportunity to do so and always inside the 23 m area," said FIH Sport Director and double-Olympian Jon Wyatt in an official statement.
"No player using PC protective equipment can play the ball outside the 23 m area at any time. This has been introduced to protect athlete safety so that the focus can be on the ball and the play, and not on removing protective equipment during a pressurised defensive situation. It was trialled in the FIH Odisha Hockey Men's Junior World Cup in Bhubaneswar in December 2021, and received unanimous support from coaches, athletes and officials," he added.
The Rules are issued by the FIH Rules Committee (made up of Rules experts from the 5 Continental Federations) under the authority of the International Hockey Federation (FIH). They are updated normally every 2 years in the January following the Olympic Games or FIH Hockey World Cups.
This allows an 18-month run in to the next global tournament for all players, coaches, fans and officials to become familiar with any changes and adapt accordingly. Due to the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games, the update scheduled for January 2021 was also postponed by a year.
Earlier, intercepting a falling aerial ball was considered to be illegitimate but in the update guidelines, the FIH has granted relaxation to players.
"Rule 9.10 was changed to allow for the playing of what is commonly referred to as Aerial Balls. The previous text did not cover for the possibility for players to safely intercept a falling ball, which is now seen as both legitimate and positive to the development of the game," said Wyatt.
"This followed extensive discussions before, during and after the Tokyo Olympic Games, during which a more consistent interpretation and understanding of this element of our game was agreed. Aerial Balls will continue to be closely monitored by all stakeholders so that player safety can be maintained," he added.
The Rules of Hockey apply to all levels of the game and are effective from January 1, 2022 at international level. National Associations have discretion to decide the date of their implementation at National level, based on their domestic seasons.