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Early Indoor Rules

Until 1966, the German Hockey Associations, in both West Germany and East Germany, had been producing a rules book for their domestic use which was used, after translation, by other European countries but not, at that time, by Great Britain.

The then Honorary General Secretary of the FIH, Rene Frank, later FIH President, was a keen supporter of the game not only in his native Belgium but also elsewhere in Europe. He regularly attended the Cities Tournament sponsored by the West Berlin Senate and after the formation of the FIH Indoor Hockey Committee attended their meetings which were also usually held in Berlin.

FIH Indoor Hockey Committee

In 1966, Rene Frank persuaded the Germans to hand over responsibility for the rules to the FIH Indoor Hockey Committee, which at that time had several German officials as members. Accordingly in 1966 the FIH Office in Brussels produced the first FIH Indoor Rules Book in three languages, German, French and English. Significantly, in 1968 the FIH recognised the indoor game by decreeing in its Constitution that hockey included indoor hockey.

The FIH Indoor Hockey Committee continued to be responsible for the Indoor Rules Book and its printing via the Brussels office, until responsibility for the indoor rules was transferred in 1988 to the Hockey Rules Board. The FIH Indoor Hockey Committee was also abolished in 1988 and the European Hockey Federation took over its responsibilities for competitions in Europe.

The Rules of Indoor Hockey

Before setting out the rules' changes since 1966, it is only proper to reproduce here Rene Frank's Preface to the three-language edition.

'The International Hockey Federation takes pleasure in presenting this booklet with the official Rules of Indoor Hockey in three languages: English, French and German.

In order to make these rules easier to study and to apply, their wording has been entirely modified by the FIH Indoor Hockey Committee. Many notes and explanations are also included in the new text.

The Game of Indoor Hockey which is 15 years old only, has spread quickly and its number of players is ever increasing. We want to stress the usefulness of this very fast and attractive game for Field Hockey players. As a matter of fact it gives them the opportunity to improve by playing more frequently and allows also those belonging to countries where it is difficult or impossible to play Field Hockey in the Winter to practise their favourite sport.

We hope that this first edition of the official Indoor Hockey Rules shall be welcomed, also that it will serve the Game and contribute to the improvement of umpiring'

Basically the rules taken over by the FIH are still those in force today and included the provision that all rules of outdoor (field) hockey not mentioned or altered by the indoor rules shall also apply to indoor hockey.

1966 ~ Summary of the First Indoor Rules

  • Six players, including a goalkeeper and a maximum of six substitutes, but only at specific situations in the game.
  • If any team was reduced to less than four players, the opponents were declared the winners.
  • Dimensions of pitch and goals (slightly smaller than those of outdoor hockey) ~ indoor rules have always been in metric terms.
  • Hits not allowed – pushes only and no raised ball except when shooting at goal; goalkeepers not permitted to raise the ball when kicking it.
  • At penalty corners only the defending goalkeeper was permitted to stand in the goal until the ball was pushed out, with the other five players being required to stand outside the goal behind the back line on the opposite side from where the ball was being played - they could, after the ball was played, move into the goal-mouth.
  • The game was to be played on any hard, fast surface. Players' footwear and equipment were specified and goalkeepers' gloves were to be the same as for outdoor hockey.
  • No offside and no corners.
  • Playing time (originally 2 x 15 minutes) was increased to 2 x 20 minutes with lesser time for junior domestic matches.

Several rules, of course, followed the basic principles of outdoor hockey including the stick and the ball although later the indoor ball was required to be seamless. However in 1986 when it appeared that the indoor game seemed to be departing in some respects from hockey in general the rules book was re-written to conform as closely as possible, where appropriate, to the rules and their wording of outdoor hockey.

Interestingly enough, one indoor rule in 1966 provided for a penalty stroke from 7 metres to be awarded for 'any grave and unsporting behaviour by a team in its own half of the ground'. Also, there was the rule providing that a penalty corner be awarded for a deliberate offence within a player's own half, and that still remains. In 1966 however, a player could be temporarily suspended 'for unsporting behaviour' for two to five minutes or be suspended for the remainder of the game and an incapacitated or suspended goalkeeper had to be replaced by another goalkeeper.

Finally, the use of the hand to stop the ball in the air during play or at penalty corners by players other than the goalkeeper was permitted until 1992.

Accordingly, what occurred in rule changes after 1966 fell into two categories. One for reasons of clearer interpretation and requirements of the game as it became more international and thus more sophisticated and the other to keep in line with outdoor hockey rules but only where appropriate. The first FIH authorised tournament matches occurred in 1972, with a European Nations Cup for men in 1973 and a women’s championship in 1975.


  • Players must not stand in their opponents' goal mouth.
  • Time prolonged at half-time and full-time to allow penalty corners to be completed, supported by a definition as to when such an award was ended.
  • Prior to a revised edition in 1976 - the provision to forbid substitutions after the award of a penalty corner or penalty stroke.


  • A player's stick must be on the ground when playing the ball for a shot at goal.
  • A player may not hit or play the ball in the air (but could stop it).
  • Players may not take part in the game whilst lying on the pitch except for goalkeepers within their own circles, introduced because players were lying on the pitch thus reducing the playing area and causing unwanted obstruction.


  • An injured player was permitted to be substituted during normal play (but only the injured player).
  • It was also made clear that an umpire's jurisdiction also extended to all players including those occupying the team benches.


  • The substitution of a goalkeeper by a field player with the privileges of a goalkeeper but who was required to wear a different coloured shirt from that of all other players – recognising what had been happening for some time.
  • A provision was inserted to permit substitution of incapacitated goalkeepers at penalty corners and penalty strokes.
  • The coloured card procedure (green, yellow, red) was formally introduced into the Indoor Rules Book and if a bench player received a yellow card, their team had to withdraw a player until the suspension time was completed. A red card meant that the team played with one less player for the remainder of the match.
  • Permitting a shot at goal after the ball had been stopped (by hand or stick) either inside or outside the circle.
  • At a free push all opposition players to be at least three metres from the ball thus giving the taker the opportunity to play to a colleague alongside them.
  • For all free pushes within three metres of the circle, all players had to be three metres from the ball.
  • Free pushes for the ball going over the side-boards could be taken up to one metre from the boards.

In 1984, Notes of Guidance for Umpires and a Code of Signals were added.


A total revision of the rules book appeared based on that of the outdoor rules book and included Guidance and Advice for Players and Umpires; Hockey Terminology; specifications on pitch marking, general and personal equipment; and many more notes and guidance on many of the rules.

  • No player (except the goalkeeper) to play with knees, arms or hands on the pitch in the act of playing the ball or stopping it at penalty corners.
  • In normal play the hand holding the stick was permitted to be on the pitch for tackling purposes.
  • Goalkeepers were not permitted to play the ball outside the circle whilst lying on the ground.
  • Players were now not permitted to deliberately enter within (as well as stand in) an opponents' goal mouth, or run behind the goals.

Hockey Rules Board First Edition

1988: The first edition, under the authority of the Hockey Rules Board included further clarification of the legitimate stop at penalty corners and made minor amendments and clarifications, many again in line with developments in outdoor hockey.

1990-92: Interpretations included in the Indoor Rule Book.

  • The award of a penalty stroke for unsporting behaviour in a player's half of the pitch was deleted as it was agreed that umpires now had sufficient authority and rules' provision to deal with this.
  • Requirements relating to personal equipment, including helmets used by goalkeepers.
  • Goalkeepers allowed to stop the ball with their stick above their shoulder.
  • Field players, when acting as goalkeepers, not permitted to wear helmets outside the circle but compulsory for defending penalty corners and penalty strokes, 1992.

The Hockey Rules Board brought indoor hockey in line with the outdoor game by abolishing all use of the hand except by goalkeepers defending their goal including also abolishing the hand stop at penalty corners. This was somewhat controversial as it was pointed out by indoor hockey followers that this would prevent a legitimate high shot at goal being stopped by hand by a field player at penalty corners. However, the rule has now found general acceptance given the fact that hockey was to be regarded as a stick and ball game.

In 1992, the push stroke was closely defined in order to stamp out the unwanted features of the dragged push stroke and dangerous follow through action.

1996: The format adopted was that which had been successful for the 1996 Outdoor Rule Book. Although the layout was extensively revised only minor changes were made to the actual indoor rules themselves, many of them just to confirm changes which had become necessary in the outdoor game. In this connection the most important alteration was to introduce the rule concerning blood injuries and blood on clothing which provided that players must leave the pitch for treatment and if necessary, change of clothing.

Other rule changes in 1996 were as follows.

  • Centre pass to start or re-start the game in any direction.
  • The free push must move at least 10 centimetres before another player of the same team can play the ball and it did not need not be taken on the exact spot of the offence but within playing distance.
  • Goalkeepers permitted to wear 'hand protectors' which were no longer referred to as gauntlets or with any reference to fingers and which were subject to size limitations (23 centimetres wide and 35.5 centimetres long).
  • The obstruction rule was simplified and included holding the ball against the side-board as an offence.

The new 1996 book also included Technical Advice, an innovation introduced to assist National Associations in their endeavours to start up or improve indoor hockey facilities. Advice was provided on such matters as flooring, lighting, pitch size and pitch furniture.

One notable change to the outdoor rules not transferred to the indoor game was the continuous substitutions' provisions including permission to substitute at penalty corners and penalty strokes. It was decided that such a change would be detrimental to the control of indoor play and accordingly the existing substitution controls were confirmed.

After the 1996 edition, some very minor alterations to the indoor rules were made for clarification, but it was not deemed necessary to reprint the rules book itself. In 1998, the FIH decree, recommended by the Hockey Rules Board and the FIH Equipment Committee, that hockey sticks must no longer contain any metallic substances, was incorporated into indoor hockey. It was also decided to incorporate into the indoor rules the experimental but mandatory provision to permit the ball to be played by the edge of the stick in appropriate indoor situations.

2000: At its February 2000 meeting, the Hockey Rules Board, apart from updating some of the text to conform to the current rules of outdoor hockey, agreed the various new rules and alterations to existing provisions, again bringing the indoor and outdoor rules closer together.

  • Stick specification was agreed - a diagram of the stick was included in the Indoor Rule Book.
  • A mandatory experiment relating to play with the edge of the stick.
  • Substitution of an attacker or defender permitted at the award of a Penalty Stroke.
  • The captain’s responsibility for team discipline was increased to include substitutes.
  • For a further offence before the awarded penalty has been taken, the penalty may be progressed up to five metres, upgraded and/or dealt with as misconduct, or reversed if committed by the previously benefiting team

2004: The indoor Rules adopted the radically revised approach used this year for the outdoor/field hockey Rules and therefore consisted of just two sections:

  • Playing the Game
  • Umpiring.

Detailed technical specifications of the pitch, stick, ball and equipment were omitted from the main publication and published separately.

This was the first update of the indoor Rules since 2000. It was therefore appropriate to incorporate the relevant minor changes which had been introduced to the outdoor Rules in the interim. The overall presentation of indoor hockey was also simplified by adopting common indoor and outdoor Rules where appropriate but retaining the distinctive characteristics of each version of the game. More generally, some minor amendments to the indoor Rules which simplify the game were incorporated.

The changes were relatively minor and in many instances were the same as those for outdoor hockey. However, for completeness in this history of the indoor Rules all the main changes are indicated below:

  • in common with outdoor hockey, permitting a captain to be on the pitch or, at particular times in the match, to be a substitute;
  • making the Rules governing substitution the same for indoor and outdoor hockey (ie at any time except within the period from the award of a penalty corner until after it has been completed);
  • simplifying and standardising how a penalty corner is completed for substitution purposes and at the end of half-time and full-time;
  • requiring field players who leave the pitch for injury treatment, refreshment, to change equipment or for some reason other than substitution to re-enter only within 3 metres of the centre-line;
  • specifying how the result of a match is decided;
  • rationalising procedures for starting and re-starting play so that the procedures for taking a free push also apply to the centre pass and to putting the ball back into play after it has passed completely over the side-board or back-line;
  • retaining the fundamental characteristics of the bully but simplifying it by requiring sticks to touch only once;
  • specifying that players must not force an opponent into offending unintentionally;
  • simplifying the obstruction Rule by referring in the Rule itself only to the fundamental principle that players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball;
  • specifying that players must not tackle unless they are in a position to play the ball without body contact;
  • specifying the 'advantage Rule' more simply and clearly;
  • introducing the Mandatory Experimental Rule to indoor hockey which permitted a defender to use the stick to stop or deflect a shot at goal at any height;
  • introducing the Mandatory Experimental Rule to indoor hockey which specified that the ball must travel outside the circle but need not be stopped before a shot at a goal at a penalty corner; this replaced the previous requirement that the ball must be stopped or come to rest inside or outside the circle before a shot could be taken;
  • requiring the player taking a penalty stroke to start by standing behind and within playing distance of the ball and not permitting them to approach either the ball or the goalkeeper after taking the stroke (ie the former limitation of taking only one step forward was deleted);
  • specifying that the whistle must be blown to start a penalty stroke when both players are in position (rather than requiring the umpire to confirm that both are ready which can cause confusion in the absence of a common spoken language);
  • rationalising how offences at a penalty stroke are dealt with; it was specified that the penalty stroke is taken again if a goalkeeper prevents a goal being scored but leaves the goal-line or moves either foot before the ball was played;
  • permitting the intended duration of a temporary suspension to be extended for misconduct by a player while suspended;
  • introducing new umpiring signals to indicate dangerous play (placing one forearm diagonally across the chest) and stick obstruction (holding one arm out and downwards in front of the body half-way between vertical and horizontal; touching the forearm with the other hand).

2005: The main change was that the two Mandatory Experimental Rules referred to above were incorporated as formal rules of the game:

  • permitting a defender to use the stick to stop or deflect a shot at goal at any height;
  • requiring the ball to travel outside the circle before a shot at goal at a penalty corner but not requiring it to be stopped.

In addition, the field, stick, ball and equipment specifications were re-incorporated in the main rules publication instead of being published separately as in 2004. Otherwise, there were only minor clarifications of the wording of some rules.

2006: The only change this year was to the maximum bow/rake permitted in the stick. It was reduced from 50mm to 25mm. The reason quoted was a concern about an increase in the power with which some players could flick the ball, especially for shots at goal, using an extremely bowed stick.

2007/8: a significant change in common with the outdoor rules was the move to a two-year cycle for the production and publication of the rules of indoor hockey.


Specific changes included:

  • permitting a team either to have a goalkeeper on the field (with full protective equipment or only with protective headgear) or to play entirely with field players (in which case no player has goalkeeping privileges).
  • specifying the face protection which field players are permitted to wear especially in relation to defending a penalty corner.
  • clarifying that a defender must not be penalised if their stick is not motionless or is travelling towards the ball while attempting to stop or deflect the shot even when the ball is above shoulder height.
  • permitting a goalkeeper to use their hands, arms or any other part of their body (and not just their stick, kickers and leg-guards as hitherto) 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.

2022: during 2007/8 the HRB established an Indoor Rules Taskforce to conduct an in-depth review of the indoor rules.  As a result, various significant rules changes were made:

  • a pitch should be the full-size of 44 metres by 22 metres unless this is not possible in particular sports halls;
  • to enable teams to review their game plans and tactics, “time-outs” were introduced; 
  • as in the 2022 rules for field/outdoor hockey, the player taking the free push may use a “self-pass” whereby they continue playing the ball immediately after taking the free push;
  • additionally, free pushes taken by a team inside the half of the pitch they are attacking must not be played directly into the circle from a free push; it must be played by another player or touch the side-boards.

The major changes above were all implemented as Mandatory Experimental Rules to ensure they were monitored and reviewed.  Other smaller changes provided clarification and explanation of certain rules:

  • how to deal with a team which has too many players on the pitch;
  • the roles and actions when playing with a goalkeeper, a field player with goalkeeping privileges or only with field players were clarified;
  • the circumstances in which a goalkeeper or field player with goalkeeping privileges can move the ball away using their hands, arms or body;
  • the ways in which a penalty corner is completed were all consolidated within the penalty corner Rule.


In any story of rule changes not everything can be covered and, as mentioned in the text, many alterations and amendments were made to the indoor book which followed previous action taken for hockey as a whole. All this was in line with the policy of keeping the indoor game as near as possible, where appropriate, to the rules of the game of outdoor hockey

Note Editions of the Indoor Hockey Rules Book were issued as follows:

FIH 1966, 1974, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1986-88

HRB 1988-90, 1990-92, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2005, 2007/8, 2022

This History of the Rules of Indoor Hockey is based on research initially conducted on behalf of the Hockey Rules Board by Ernest Wall in 2000.

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