Field Hockey Rules. Stick Obstruction.

Edit 29th May 2016

A photograph published on the fieldhockey.com web-site showing a player moving with the ball while in controlled possession of it (dribbling), stick-head in contact with the ball, stick obstructing an opponent who is attempting to tackle.

I am being specific about ball-holder movement while in control of the ball and/or with the stick in contact with the ball because I have read opinion from high level umpires that obstruction cannot take place if either (or both) of these conditions, movement with the ball and/or stick-ball contact are met. That of course is utter nonsense – and co-exists with another nonsensical opinion, that a player in possession of the ball cannot obstruct if not moving. Put these two together and obstruction (illegal ball shielding) becomes impossible by a player in possession of the ball – which leaves only third party obstruction. How can any sensible person believe that these ‘interpretations’ were what the FIH Rules Committee intended when drafting the Rule ?

Stick Obstruction
Given the ball-holder’s balance and foot position it is I think reasonable to suppose that he followed this stick obstruction by stepping ‘through’ the tackler’s stick and imposing his body between the tackler and the ball – this is not skilful playing of the ball with the stick  to elude opponents, a skill hockey players are supposed to develop and exhibit – it is a lack of skill and cheating: foul.  

Players would not play like this if they were not getting away with doing so.

Why are they getting away with such actions when they are clearly contrary to the conditions of the Obstruction Rule? Contravention is not difficult to see

In fact, it is usually the tackler who is penalised (for an often imaginary contact offence) when he or she has been obstructed as in the examples below:-

.

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The following incident, bewilderingly led to the award of a penalty stroke, instead of a declaration of fouls – stick obstruction followed by moving to impose his body between the ‘keeper and the ball – against the attacker.

The offences could not be clearer or the opportunity to see them more conveniently presented then in a shootout, yet they are not seen – or if seen, not acted upon. Why? Why is the Obstruction Rule in hockey applied as if a cross between the way obstruction is applied in soccer and in basketball i.e hardly at all, when it is fundamental to the fair and proper conduct of this non-contact game ?

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6 Comments to “Field Hockey Rules. Stick Obstruction.”

  1. The first and last ones, I believe are a deliberate attempt directly to shield the ball. Close in to the body, stick in the way of the player’s stick, constantly forcing the attacker to clash.

    The issue I have with the 2nd one, the Australian deliberately avoided ‘shoving’ his body at the opponent, playing the ball around in a clear circle ‘away from his body’ towards the sideline. In this case, I believe the opponent should have tried to get around, not just tackling through the legs. Any contact in this situation should be penalized against the att.

    • The ENG defender does attempt to get around the Aus player in possession before attempting to play at the ball through the the ball-holders legs – then the only option available having been blocked off by movement of the player in possession three times – such blocking off should be penalised on the first occasaion. What was the umpire waiting for?

  2. A blue moon I think.

    In either case the ref was too slow. If he thought the ENG player was obstructed, he should’ve blown it in the first instance. If he thought the aust was in the right, the first tackle by the eng player should’ve been penalized.

    The reason why I don’t have a issue with this, is that the Australian did turn with the ball, but kept it clearly open up until he came close to the sideline – there is no rule stating you have to run towards the goals, you can move around and ball play in any direction.

    I will say in the English defence though, the Australian planted foot at the end was extended to far towards the eng defender causing a foul, but the defender had already tried through the legs….

    • Once a player is in controlled possession of the ball he or she must not move to position between an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play at it. A claues extension added to the Rule in 2009 makes that perfectly clear.

      What has apparently become unclear but was at one time also perfectly clear is that if a player intent on making a tackle for the ball closes to within playing distance of the ball, when it is being shielded by an opponent who has turned prior to being closed on, and then attempts to play at the ball, that tackler is obstructed if the ball holder continues to shield the ball by moving either the ball or the body (to block the tackle attempt). The clause containing this aspect of the Rule has been in place for a very long time but the guidance (noteably wording indicating…. if but for the shielding of the ball the tackler intent on playing at the ball could play at it the tacker is obstructed…..) has been whittled away. Now we are left to ponder the debate about what the words ‘attempt’ and ‘position’ mean.

  3. I do remember the original clarity of that section, and agree it has been whittled away.

    It’s too the point where in Umpire training, we were instructed that “the defender must make a serious attempt to attack the ball, not the player, when approaching a tackle” with the instruction that if a player was playing the ball the other way before the approach, they must attempt to go around to tackle. IE the debate of position and attempt….

    • The Obstruction Rule (Rule 9.12) should be about what a player must do or not do if an obstructive offence is to be avoided. Instead it has become a more detailed version of Rule 9.13 – which is about what a tackler is prohibited from doing.

      The exception, introduced in 1992/3, concerning a receiving player – and what that receiving play must do and may not do after having received the ball, vital to an undestanding of the Rule, has been reduced to a statement that a stationary receiver of the ball may be facing in any direction – which is near meaningless, why shouldn’t any receiver of the ball be facing in any direction? We are not told but a multitude of unwritten ‘interpretations’ are spun off from this statement.

      The ‘go around’ advice (clearly written by someone who had played very little hockey) was included in the original long ‘Rule Interpretation’ in 1993, but had disappeared by 2001 prior to the complete rewrite and change of format that took place in 2004, but it is still trotted out in umpire coaching sessions, while other more useful guidance from the same period (reinforcing the Obstruction Rule) has simply been forgotten. “Attempting to tackle” was for example preceeded by “demonstrating an intention to play at the ball” and a tackler was considered obstructed if but for the positioning of the ball holder he or she would have been able to play at the ball.

      It would be possible to ‘cut and paste’ a very acceptable Rules of Hockey by using a great deal of what has been removed in the process of “simplification and clarification” since the major rewites post 1994.

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