Archive for ‘Interpretation’

March 8, 2018

Why did this happen.

FIELD HOCKEY RULES.

How did this happen….

.

.

all but the last two obstructive incidents were ignored by the umpires and even then, the penultimate one was revered on video referral after the silly award of a penalty stroke and the other, the last, was only penalised after several seconds, when a second opponent was obstructed in the same way as the first one continued to be. The penalty given was a penalty corner and not the penalty stroke that should have been awarded.

…. from this?

9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball. (The Rule, aside from the clauses relating to third party and the clause ‘physically interfering with the stick or body of an opponent’ , assumes possession of 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. (my bold and upper case).

(I have not here included the clauses that describe third party obstruction)

vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

Restating the last clause above in its parts and in the prohibitive format previously used.

A player in possession of the ball is not permitted to:-

move bodily into an opponent

move into a position between the ball and an opponent who is attempting to play at the ball.

The clauses ……

Players obstruct if they:-

back into an opponent (back into the playing reach of an opponent – not into contact with because that action is separately listed)

physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent. (includes interfering with a stick by a stick) 

move bodily into an opponent (physical contact)

…….do not require that an opponent (a tackler) be attempting to play at the ball at the time of the given action. This is reasonable because backing into the playing reach of an opponent (forcing retreat to avoid physical contact) or physical contact/interference by a ball holder with an opponent who is trying to position to tackle could make a tackle attempt impossible or make an attempt to tackle unfairly difficult.

vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

The complete list:-

Players obstruct if they:-

move bodily into an opponent

physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent.

back into an opponent

move into a position between the ball and an opponent who is attempting to play at the ball.

(that is ball shielding to prevent a tackle attempt without there being any form of physical contact).

The unsatisfactory answers to How? and Why? are “Interpretation” and “The acceptance of this interpretation”.

But where do these interpretations come from? That appears to be anybodies guess.

I can’t see any reason that the interpretations of the actions seen in the video clips (that ‘saw’ nearly all of them as legitimate play) should be accepted by anybody, because such interpretation is clearly contrary (provided word meanings remain consistent) to what is given in Rule 9.12 Obstruction.

Are word meanings reasonably consistent? Is it likely (probable) that A player shall not move bodily into an opponent has several meanings in this time and place and one of them is that players are permitted to move bodily into an opponent – and, irrationally, that is the one used in hockey? If this is so we can despair of ever having a written Rules of Hockey that is adhered to.

It must however be acknowledged that for many years, from 1993 to 2004 for example, we had a provided interpretation in the back of the rule-book that could not be adhered to. That it was written by someone who did not understand how hockey is played is evident from the fact that he wrote it as he did. It contained the same kind of impossible conditions and contradictions that ‘The Lifted Ball’, an umpire coaching document by the same author, contained. Here is part of it:-

The Moving Player

The variations in this instance are many but the principles are:

∙ the onus is on the tackler to be in, and if necessary move to, a position from which a legitimate tackle can be made. Once in the correct position the following conditions must also be satisfied before obstruction can occur.

∙ there must be an intention to make a tackle. in essence the tackler must be attempting to move the stick towards the ball.

∙ the timing of the tackle must be precise because, until the tackler is in a tackling position and intending to make the tackle, the player with the ball may move off with the ball in any direction (except bodily into the tackler).

This interpretation of obstruction allows players to receive a ball, play or pass it in any direction, and only to be penalised if obstruction takes place at the time a properly placed tackler tries to make the tackle.

However, umpires should note certain forms of obstruction which are often incorrectly overlooked. In particular, preventing a legitimate tackle by intentionally shielding the ball with the body or leg is obstruction.

Stick obstruction and interference is prohibited; no player may strike at or interfere with an opponent’s stick. The player with the ball may not use the stick to shield or protect the ball from a legitimate tackle.

To be fair, the above interpretation was written about the exemption from the Obstruction Rule of a player who was in the act of receiving the ball, and it was not intended as an interpretation of obstruction at all (which remained exactly as it had before 1993. What constituted an obstructive action, the criteria for obstruction, continued to be exactly as it had been previously) but as an explanation of an exception to the Obstruction Rule, vis-a-vis tackling, when the ball was being received by a player: the dramatic change the author sat down to write about and mistakenly called a new interpretation.

This ‘new interpretation’ was very quickly being applied to a player who was already in controlled possession of the ball – not at all what was intended to be taken from what was written in the first four paragraphs above – and this mistake became universal as it was copied and ‘cascaded’.

Why there was differentiation made between a stationary receiving player and a moving receiving player, I can’t even guess. A more sensible differentiation could and should have been made between a player already  in controlled possession of the ball and a player receiving the ball – moving or stationary. The stationary/moving divide only confused participants further because there is in fact no difference in the application of the Obstruction Rule between them.

The part about a player already in controlled possession of the ball begins at paragraph five with “However, umpires should note certain forms of obstruction which are often incorrectly overlooked. In particular, preventing a legitimate tackle by intentionally shielding the ball with the body or leg is obstruction.and that paragraph is all the attention body obstruction by a player in possession of the ball (the most frequently contravention) gets in “the new interpretation” – and it is mistaken, bringing into consideration for the first time an intention to illegally shield the ball from an opponent, which has never been a consideration. Shielding the ball can be obstruction, but as an obstruction offence must be forced by an attempt by a tackler to play at the ball, intent to obstruct is irrelevant if there is obstruction.

In 2001 the words in the first paragraph “and if necessarywere deleted (I don’t know for certain why, there was no explanation offered at the time, but the cynic in me can make a guess). The 1993 ‘interpretation’ otherwise remained, as presented in part above, until the rule-book was re-formatted and rewritten in 2004 – when it was deleted. Hockey coaches and umpires in the meantime (and since, despite its deletion) have used this ‘interpretation’ to destroy the game by coaching and applying it inappropriately.

In 2009  the Explanation of Application clause to the rewritten Rule, A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent., was extended, to read:-

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.

But this damage limitation attempt, the last amendment made to the Obstruction Rule by the FIH Hockey Rules Board, was too little too late (the penalising of obstruction had practically vanished by then) and most umpires today seem to be unaware of it – never mind to be applying it. This is generally because they are still applying the interpretation of ‘attempting to play at the ball’, extent up until 2003 (which was as explained above originally intended to be applied to a player attempting to tackle an opponent who was in the act of receiving the ball  – the ‘interpretation’ came instead to be about the positioning of a tackler and not about a player committing an obstruction offence). This ‘interpretation’ (which included the pre-2004 version) was handed down by word of mouth from older umpires to those taking their places with all the personal opinion, inconsistency, variation and mistake such a method of communication enjoys.

The only mention, following the 2004 deletion and rewrite, the revolutionary exception of 1993 gets in the 2009 (and the current) Obstruction Rule, is a statement that a stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to be facing in any direction. How’s that for clarification? The current, mistaken, view, ‘interpretation’ coming from that statement, is that a player in possession of the ball may at any time be standing facing in any direction regardless of the positioning of opponents and the position of the ball; not at all what the Rule now stipulates and not what was intended in 1993.

The story of the ‘development’ of the interpretation of the Obstruction Rule is one of a losing battle, beginning I think with the idea that a stationary player in possession of the ball could not obstruct, even if facing his or her own goal and within the playing reach of opponents who were intent on playing at the ball which came from this:-

OBSTRUCTION AND INTERFERENCE (Rue 13.1.4)

This note describes two primary playing circumstances: the stationary player and the moving player.

The principles are :

The Stationary Player
∙ the receiving, stationary, player may be facing in any direction
∙ the onus is on the tackler to move into position, for example usually to move round the receiver to attempt a legitimate tackle

No tackler with any common sense is going to try to tackle by moving around a stationary opponent in possession of the ball – the ball holder will of course just turn away in the opposite direction and into the space just vacated by his or her opponent. This interpretation just set up a situation where a single tackler could not tackle a competent player who had possession of the ball and who was prepared to shield it and wait for a tackle attempt or for team support (it slowed the game and ‘holding’ the ball in the corner of the pitch or against a base-line or side-line became a common tactic).The above Interpretation was deleted in 2004. Only this fragment of it remains in current Rule.

a stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to be facing in any direction    (this does not state that a player in possession of the ball is permitted to be facing in any direction when an opponent is attempting to play at the ball)

Cris Maloney an American umpire coach is currently coaching what he says FIH Umpires are doing, that is going beyond the above ‘stationary player’ statement to include a player in possession of the ball and also allowing a ball holder to move backwards towards an opponent while shielding the ball from that opponent – as long as the ball holder does not make physical contact with the opponent – which is his own interpretation.

https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2018/02/10/a-peculiar-interpretation/

But it is clear from the video posted at the head of this article that that ‘interpretation’ is ‘old hat’. FIH Umpires have for many years been allowing full-on contact by a player who is receiving the ball or who is in controlled  possession of the ball – it’s only an opponent who positions to block the ball or who attempts to tackle such a player, who risks being penalised – for impeding or physical contact. The application of the Rules – some Rules more than others – is in a state of anarchy. The back-into interpretation presently being promoted by Cris Maloney et al was but a step along the way.

Hockey has generally become ugly and less, not more skillful, as it should have done, over the last twenty-five years. Oh, we see videos of people with amazing juggling skills practicing in uncontested situations, moves that are not legal in a hockey match, but the free-flowing passing and dribbling game, the ‘new interpretation’ was supposed to herald an expansion of, has all but vanished. The fact that defenders can shield the ball and move with it while shielding it without any fear of penalty, equates with the unwelcome turning, shielding and barging tactics of attackers trying to penetrate the shooting circle in possession of the ball and turns hockey into a farce, a game without applied Rules.

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