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This section charts the history of the process by which decisions about the Rules of Hockey have been made.


The Hockey Rules Board (HRB) was founded in 1900 as the International Rules Board (IRB). From 1902 it comprised representatives of the men's Associations of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales appointed by their respective associations. The Hockey Association (England) had more representatives and also held the chairmanship under a formal constitution of 1909.


The first reference to the publication of the Rules of the Game appears in the minutes of the IRB 1908, where the minute refers to the publication of the 24th edition of the rules. Whether this publication was in the form of a rule book is not stated but rule books were published in the 1930s and published annually from the late 1940s.

From 1909 the IRB decided to deal with all aspects of hockey including the Rules of the Game and changed its name to the International Hockey Board (IHB).

Early Rules in Women’s Game

Women players used the men's rules until the late 1930's when the All England Women's Hockey Association (AEWHA, the women's hockey world leader) made a few alterations. After 1945 the women's rules deviated further from the men's rules and the women's Associations in membership of the women only International Federation of Women's Hockey Associations (IFWHA) used rules published by the AEWHA.

Discussions and contacts were, however, being made by the IHB and representatives of the IFWHA. There was the anomalous position that women hockey players, playing under the authority of the FIH, were using rules of the game formulated by the IHB whilst those women players who were solely playing under the aegis of the IFWHA were using several different rules of the game. In 1956 the FIH agreed to allow their women players to play to IFWHA rules for international matches.


The International Hockey Federation (FIH) was invited to send three representatives to IHB meetings which number was increased to four in 1957.


The Board formulated a new Constitution (revised in 1968) which provided for eight representatives from the FIH, four from England and two each from Ireland, Scotland and Wales (all men). Its name was changed to the International Hockey Rules Board (IHRB) and now concentrated solely on the rules of the game.


The IFWHA set up its own Rules Board (the WIHRB) but the IHRB met with the WIHRB in that year and agreed to work towards eventually producing rules for both men and women. However, for some time there remained differences between the men’s and women’s rules regarding substitutes, free hits and the weight of the stick but within a few years all were resolved to provide a definitive set of rules.


The IHRB dissolved itself in 1971 and from 1972 appointments to the Board were made by the Council of the FIH. In the new constitution approved by the FIH Council it was clearly stated that the Board would be solely responsible for all Rules of the Game and of requirements on hockey equipment.

It was also decreed that the Board was to be an independent body within the FIH. A new Board (still all men) was duly appointed by the FIH, comprising 10 members, a Chairman and an Honorary Secretary. In recognition of the role of England in rule-making, the FIH appointed an English Chairman.


Between 1972 and 1975 negotiations between the FIH, the IFWHA, the WIHRB and the IHRB continued including a special meeting held in Amsterdam in 1973. The most significant event was the defining meeting between representatives of the FIH and IFWHA in Edinburgh in 1975 which agreed there should be only one Board controlling the Rules of the Game. Even after the combined rule book of 1975 was published under the authority of the two Boards, there were still a few problems to overcome.

In 1973 the Board met for the first time outside London in Amsterdam followed by a first meeting outside Europe in Buenos Aires in 1978.


The remaining problems were settled in time for a new Board, entitled the Hockey Rules Board (HRB), to meet on 9 February 1980. This Board, the combined one as earlier envisaged, comprised 14 members (seven men and seven women, including a Chairman and Hon Secretary), with the Chairmanship going to Mrs Doris Crisp of the IFWHA and AEWHA. The meeting was opened by the respective Presidents of the FIH and IFWHA, Mr R Frank and Mrs E Hyndman. Three years later the two international bodies merged as one FIH. Some years later the FIH abandoned equal representation for men and women on the Board but ensured in appointments that both genders were represented.

The latter half of the twentieth century also saw many changes in equipment. For at least the first fifty years, hockey sticks were solely made from wood, hockey balls were leather cricket balls painted white and goalkeepers used cricket (batsmen's) leg-guards.

Equipment in this original fashion (plus the adoption of shin-guards) continued until the 1950s when gradually other materials (plastic coatings and synthetic materials) appeared on sticks and balls were made of non-traditional materials.

In the early 1980s protective specialist equipment for goalkeepers became the norm, including headgear and overall body padding. Prior to these innovations goalkeepers were usually only equipped with leg-guards, gloves and soccer boots as kickers.


On 23 April 1994, the FIH Council approved a new Constitution for the HRB and confirmed that the Board was solely responsible for final decisions on all matters in connection with the making, interpreting and altering of the rules of hockey and including requirements covering all equipment used in the game with the power also to prohibit the use of certain items of equipment.


In 1995, a Rules Advisory Panel (RAP) was appointed by the FIH to assist the HRB in considering new rules, trials and experiments.


The Statutes of the FIH, approved by the 1998 FIH Congress, listed the HRB as having separate status from other FIH Committees with its own constitution. However, in November 1998 the FIH Council decided to remove this complete autonomy of the HRB. The decisions of the HRB on the rules of the game (outdoor and indoor) were to be subject to the approval or rejection (but not amendment) of the FIH Council before implementation. In October 1999 the FIH confirmed that RAP would act as an advisory body reporting to the HRB and that the HRB had explicit responsibility for "all matters in connection with making, interpreting and altering the rules of hockey and guidance thereon".


With effect from 2001 when revised Statutes were adopted by the FIH, the HRB was further subsumed into the FIH structure. The RAP was disbanded and responsibility for development of the rules including conducting trials was made a specific and direct responsibility of the HRB. The membership of the HRB was revised and included more members with extensive playing, coaching and team management responsibilities in recognition of this wider remit. The HRB retains its title and modus operandi but is now effectively one of the committees reporting to the Executive Board of the FIH.

This History of Rules Decision Making is based on a Chronology of the Rules of Hockey researched and produced on behalf of the Hockey Rules Board by Ernest Wall, Evlyn Raistrick and George Croft in 2000 to mark the centenary of the establishment of the International Rules Board which subsequently became the Hockey Rules Board.

Elsewhere on this website there is:

A History of the Rules of (Outdoor or Field) Hockey

A History of the Rules of Indoor Hockey

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