Missing the ‘bleeding obvious’


A few days ago the Netherlands women beat the New Zealand women in a semi-final match and then went on to win the final. There was an article on fieldhockey.com about what was described as a scintillating semi-final match. I have been unable to find any video of this match or of the concluding shootout which decided the winner, but according to a written report, a video referral by the NED team overturned a goal awarded to the NZ team because the ball crossed the goal-line 0.2 seconds after the 8 seconds allowed. Had that goal stood it appears that the NZ team would have won.

Anyone not familiar with the way the game is officiated might be thinking “Wow, they apply the Rules to the letter“.

Published with the fieldhockey.com article was a photograph from Planet Hockey, and looking at that, the natural reaction might be “Why don’t the umpires apply the Rules?“. One or other of these players is committing an offence – and if it is the goalkeeper then a penalty stroke should have been awarded.

I know that some people will say that nothing can be determined from a still, especially a single photograph, and that what is shown could be construed as both an impeding offence and a physical contact offence by the goalkeeper. (Was a penalty stroke awarded? I don’t know) or an obstruction by the attacker and there is no way of telling which it is – which came first.

But that misses ‘the bleeding obvious’ which is that the NED player must have moved to position herself between the goalkeeper and the ball prior to what is seen in the photograph.

Did she do that when the goalkeeper was within playing distance of the ball and trying to play at it (an offence)? I don’t know.

Did she then step backwards, moving bodily into contact with the goalkeeper (two offences)? I don’t know, but it looks as if she did.

Did the attacker go on to put the ball into the goal and be awarded a goal? I don’t know.

What I do know is that what is shown in the video below has become common practice and it is highly likely that the NED player shown above initially did something similar to shield the ball from the goalkeeper.

This is from another Semi Final: this one from the World League.

No doubt those who see no offence in the video will declare that although the defender was trying to play at the ball he was never in a position to do so. But why was that?

The attacker moved to position himself between the defender and the ball – while still beyond the playing reach of the defender, so nothing wrong with that, but it is ‘bleeding obvious’ he then moved bodily into the playing reach of the defender, who was at the time trying to play at the ball, while maintaining that shielding position  – and he then shielded the ball past the defender while the defender was within playing reach of the ball and still trying to play at it. That, according to the wording of the Obstruction Rule, is obstruction on two counts (which are repeated – and extended – in the paragraph relating to movement with the ball by a player in possession of the ball).

9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

Players obstruct if they :

back into an opponent

– physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent.

shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

Note that physical contact is not necessary  –  or move….. into a position between the ball and an opponent – for there to be a moving into offence. The offence is ball shielding by positioning and not necessarily physical contact – any physical contact caused by the movement of the player in possession would be an additional offence.


The last paragraph of Rule Explanation relates well to what the NED player in the photograph is doing – blocking.

A player who runs in front of or blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this is third party or shadow obstruction). This also applies if an attacker runs across or blocks defenders (including the goalkeeper or player with goalkeeping privileges) when a penalty corner is being taken.

Such blocking is not confined to third-part offences or impeding offences.


During a shootout it is not as easy for a ball-holder to shield the ball past a goalkeeper as it is to do so past a field player, because a goalkeeper is permitted to use the body to play the ball and may ‘log’ full-length in the attempt to do so. Therefore the majority of attackers in a shootout try, while shielding the ball, to get the goalkeeper to fully commit and go to ground so that they can then use speed of foot to move away from the goalkeeper’s reach. Very few players appear to have the skill or the confidence to carry out a spin-turn on the ball that will take them sufficiently beyond the goalkeeper’s reach to make a shot while the goalkeeper is still on his or her feet. Close shielding to prevent the goalkeeper playing directly at the ball, despite being an offence, appears to be the norm. Attacking players actually prefer to get the goalkeeper very close, even in contact (while blocking him or her from the ball), so they know exactly where the goalkeeper is when they have their back to him or her, and then know how far they need to move laterally in order to be able to make a successful hit shot. At one time players would be embarrassed and ashamed to have to rely on such play to retain possession of the ball and those who needed to do so were scorned as being without stick-work skills: this type of play was certainly not coached as it is now and regarded as a desirable skill. That this kind of play is now ‘acceptable’ is entirely due to ‘interpretation’ but it is not interpretation of anything written in the Obstruction Rule.


I greatly enjoyed the last paragraph of this fieldhockeyforum post on another related topic



The play of the “Arse of Doom” was possibly informed by the defending seen from, in particular, individuals in the Australian, Dutch and Indian National teams in recent tournaments. It is clear that there is an “Ignore it” instruction to umpires regarding ball shielding: missing the ‘bleeding obvious’ has now been cascaded to become an ‘interpretation pandemic’ which is out of and beyond control.

An example from the 2014 World Cup Final




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