Archive for ‘Obstruction Rule’

December 19, 2017

Corruption

FIELD HOCKEY RULES – Obstruction.

Edited  6rd January, 2018

Cris Maloney is a personable chap and we have been corresponding amiably with each other about the Rules of Hockey for a number of years, but on this issue we go separate ways, indeed in opposite directions. I have written to him about the content of his pre-2017 season presentation to Eastern and informed him I will rebut it from within the Rules of Hockey by video and blog article, but he continues to defend what he said there by explaining it is what top umpires are doing. I believe what top umpires are doing in this area (and in some others) is indefensible, and copying them is also indefensible. These umpires should be ‘weeded out’ – an expression Don Prior used back in 2002 when referring to below acceptable standard international umpires. (The weeding out needs in fact to be done at the level of those who are coaching and managing FIH Umpires).  Cris began expounding on a change of interpretation – in fact a dramatic change to the Obstruction Rule in this forum post in 2015.

http://fieldhockeyforum.com/threads/obstruction-sultan-azlan-shah-cup-final.29855/#post-339279

 

But without waiting for the FIH to adopt his suggested change he is coaching players and candidate umpires in the USA his preferred version of the Obstruction Rule. This is wrong and it seems uncharacteristic of someone who has previously posted on the above forum in support of a literal approach to the wording of the Rules i.e. use of word meanings as given in an authoritative dictionary and used in the context in which they are presented. His approach to Obstruction could not be further from the literal meaning of what has been written into the Obstruction Rule by the FIH Rules Committee. Just as, in another area, an emphasis on player safety and what was written into the rule-book about a dangerously played ball, could never be rationally interpreted to mean that an on target shot at the goal could not be considered to be dangerous; another example of outrageous personal opinion which was imposed on the game from the top down without any authority whatsoever, and which the FIH RC failed to squash.

We don’t need another Rule detour leading us astray; it’s hard enough to get umpires applying Rules correctly without coaching new umpires (or any others) incorrect versions which are little more than ‘tongue -in-cheek’ personal opinion. I believe the suggestion given in the forum post to be ‘tongue-in-cheek’ because the positioning and actions of a player who has been charged into (in basketball) “stationary with both feet on the ground” (try judging that in hockey) are so different from the “attempting to play at the ball” required for obstruction, that no serious comparison can be made.  One of the few correct statements that Cris Maloney made during his presentation was to declare that the idea that a player could not obstruct if moving the ball or moving with the ball is bogus, but he did not expand upon that statement or try to explain it in any way.

The video clips are extracts from a lengthy pre-season Rules coaching seminar conducted by Cris Maloney.  I hope and trust that I will not be the only one to protest about the content of it. (Cris also has some novel ideas about third party obstruction and an encroaching offence under Rule 9.10 The falling ball). 

I couldn’t possibly object to anyone making suggestions for Rule changes (I deplore the idea that a period of no change and consolidation is now required, the Rules are not presently good enough for that), I make dozens of Rule suggestions and have been doing so for more than twenty years, but I have not coached and am not coaching them, as if from a position of authority, to bewildered groups. I hope I make clear that my suggestions are only suggestions and only mine and not an FIH authorized and established way of applying the current Rules of Hockey. I concede that I am dogmatic about the wording of the Rules and the literal interpretation of them, I don’t see that as a fault. I hate ambiguity in any Rule, especially when it is exploited in a bizarre or unfair way, like the interpretation of ‘back in’ given by Cris Maloney is below.

The clips with comment.

The change to the obstruction signal (a stir-like rotation of the hand and arm) did not indicate a change of the criteria for an obstruction offence or a change of interpretation of obstructive actions any more than a change to the bully signal (something Cris has ‘a bee in his bonnet’ about) would change the way a bully is carried out. The use of the cross arms signal to indicate both illegal ball-shielding by a player in possession of the ball and third-party obstruction, two distinct types of foul, was obviously (to me) not only unnecessary, but a mistake.

There may have been umpires in the USA who when coaching told players (without the reedy voice) to keep their feet towards the goal (or towards the opponent’s base-line), but I started playing hockey in the UK in the mid 1950’s and the reference Cris makes to this instruction is the first time I have heard it. I did not hear it said at all as a player or as an umpire or coach. It’s not something from an old version of the Rules of Hockey and it has never been included in any FIH Umpire Manager’s Briefing. Mind you as a rough ‘rule of thumb’ to guide players about avoiding giving obstruction in contested situations it’s not a bad suggestion, as long as it is not taken too literally.

“That’s not obstruction any more.” is an opinion that is contrary to what is given in the Rules of Hockey – and if that (turning to position between the ball and an opponent within playing reach of the ball who is trying to play at it) was ever obstruction, which it certainly was, then it is still obstruction, there has been no change to the criteria for an obstruction offence since the receiving exception was introduced in 1993 – and that did not change the criteria for an obstruction offence outside of a ball receiving situation. What has changed, and there is no justification whatsoever for the change, is umpiring practice. Cris did a good job, with hand signal and the comic voice diversions, of avoiding explaining why top level umpires do not apply this (below) from the Rules of Hockey Rule 9.12.

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.

Isn’t the attacker in a shootout a player with the ball? Wasn’t the goalkeeper trying to play at the ball, indeed prevented from playing at the ball because of the positioning (turning movement) of the player with the ball, when she would otherwise have been able to do so?

Why umpires are not applying this Rule was not explained but there was a pretense that explanation was given. It is bewildering that the team coaches, who presumably have read the FIH Rules of Hockey and possibly had a copy of the FIH published rule-book with them, did not questions the assertions that were being made. (I am mindful that USA coaches and umpires have a tough time, having to cope with two different rule-books, only one of which is written in their own language).


.

Back in. This is simply imposing a personal interpretation (and Cris also introduced in the video the phrase ‘back up’ in place of ‘back into’  – ‘back up’ is short for ‘back up to’, as in back up to a wall, not into contact, so he inadvertently contradicted himself; besides which he was retreating behind the player backing-in, avoiding contact, something a defender is not obliged to do. A defender is entitled to hold ground; that is not causing contact, contact will be caused by the player who is moving backwards towards a stationary opponent). Okay, when someone backs a car into another (stationary) car that means they hit it. But if someone backs a car into a garage or into a parking bay in a parking garage, they don’t normally keep going until they hit a wall; such contact is not necessary for them to know they are in position inside the parking place. So the analogy Cris used is at best weak, and on it’s own the Rule statement containing ‘back in‘ is ambiguous (which is something which could easily be remedied and should be).

But the Rule statement is not given on its own, there is another, already given above. A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent. I think it reasonable to assert that “back in” and “move…bodily into an opponent” mean different things: one is backing into (towards) an opponent without contact and the other is moving into an opponent with contact, and both are included in the Obstruction Rule. “So”, it may be asked what is the player who is “backing into” backing into? The answer is – the playing reach of an opponent who is intent on playing at the ball (A player who is attempting to play at the ball can be obstructed as soon as the ball is within his or her playing reach). Backing into the playing reach of an opponent is analogous with backing into a garage or a parking bay – limited and defined areas – and I think that analogy is a more accurate and suitable one than backing into and hitting another car is.

 

A legal position. This coaching would be laughable if it wasn’t so annoying and the consequences of it so serious because of its impact on the fundamentals of playing hockey. It is true that a player beyond the playing reach of an opposing player cannot commit an obstruction offence – but that does not mean that irrespective of his or her positioning in relation to an opposing player (who is within playing distance and prevented from playing at the ball when intent on doing so) the player in possession is still in a legal position. Cris here repeats the senseless “Still a legal position” assertions he put in another coaching video, which showed a player taking a side-line ball and then turning between the ball and close opponents who were trying to play at it.  I wrote to Cris about those assertions and have written another blog article about that particular coaching; please read it.

https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2017/10/18/confusing-coaching/

 

Once again the quoted clause of the Rule Explanation is ignored.

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.

That can be broken down into two distinct instructions (Rules).

1) A player with the ball may not move bodily into an opponent i.e. move to make contact with an opponent in any way whatsoever. For example, by backing in or ‘crabbing’ or leading the ball (attackers have invented a number of ways of moving to impose their bodies on defenders and to prevent defenders playing at the ball – none of them are legal play).

2) A player with the ball may not move (which includes turning) to position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it (attackers have also invented a number of ways of positioning between an opponent and the ball, to prevent the opponent playing at the ball, while moving with the ball – none of them legal play)

I have not quite ‘blown’ the assertions Cris made at Eastern ‘out of the water’ because the player in the picture below, one of those he indicated as being in a legal position, was not moving. Does that mean her position, in which she is (imagined to be) shielding the ball from an opponent and preventing that opponent from playing directly at the ball, would be legal in a real game situation? Hell no.

Why not? Because the Rule also contains this Explanation clause:-

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

There is no mention of movement by the ball holder there. Was Maisie shielding the ball in a way that would have prevented a legitimate (legal) tackle if Cris Malony was an opponent trying to play at the ball with a hockey stick?  Yes she was.Take a look at Maisie’s body position in relation to the ball and in relation to Cris. She has positioned the ball so that both of her feet (and therefore her body) are closer to the opponent’s goal than the ball is. Cris is within playing distance of the ball, but he would have little chance of making a legal tackle from that position if he had a hockey stick and was trying to do so (Maisie is turned so she is positioned between him and the ball). Maisie has also turned her body so that she is closer to facing her own base-line than that of her opponents (maybe those ‘old goats’ with the reedy voices had a point about which direction a player’s feet should be facing when they were challenged for the ball and Cris is throwing away good coaching which simply needs explaining more clearly – he is doing so).

The relevance of the tackler being positioned goal-side of the ball for it to be possible for him or her to be obstructed was overlooked as was the relevance of a ball-holder being positioned nearer to the opponent’s goal than the ball (as Maisie was) to the committing of an obstruction offence when an opponent is attempting to play at the ball from his or her goal-side of the ball: important points.

I think the advice to umpires contained in the rule-book until 2003 was useful and should not have been deleted. It was thatumpires should watch for players who stand still and shield the ball when under pressure(there was also similar advice about players who ‘crabbed’  along a line while ‘protecting’ the ball with their legs or body, which was also deleted). The deletions were strange because there was no notification of any change to Rule Interpretation concerning obstruction at the time (and there hasn’t been any since).

What did the phrase in Umpire’s Advice “under pressuremean ? The pressure comes from an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and trying to play at it – a tackler (a player who is within playing distance of the ball who is intent on making a tackle for it), and the fact that such a tackler could force a ball holder to commit an obstruction offence by attempting to tackle when the ball was shielded from him or her. I have often heard it said, even by people that should know better “You cannot force an obstruction offence”. The opposite is true. There can be no obstruction unless there is an attempt to play at the ball – a forcing action. If that attempt to play at the ball is illegally blocked then there is an obstruction of the tackler. The pressure comes from avoiding illegal shielding of the ball. How is that done? By putting and keeping the ball beyond the playing reach of any opponent or by stickwork/feinting (before there is any obstruction and which is not itself obstructive) to persuade (fool) a tackler to move or reach in the wrong direction and open space into which the ball-holder can move – watch Aymar in the video below.

There is a vast difference between good movement (turning) skills on and with the ball and deliberate obstruction – or obstruction forced because the ball holder lacks the skill to avoid obstructing his or her opponents. In the video clip below the Argentinian player is playing hockey, the Australian player isn’t, what she intentionally does is contrary to the Rules under which real (genuine) hockey is played.

 

(I prefer, because of the way ‘attempting to tackle’ is interpreted[the dog-chasing-its-tail, Catch 22, assertion, that if a player within playing distance of the ball is not in a position from which to make a legal tackle (even if only because he or she is blocked -obstructed- by the body of the ball holder) then a tackle cannot be attempted and therefore there can be no obstruction. Such players are apparently not being obstructed because they are obstructed]demonstrating an intention to play at the ball‘ and have included that expression in a suggested rewrite of the Obstruction Rule. The important criteria is the illegal prevention of a legitimate tackle attempt. I.e. preventing an opponent playing at the ball by shielding it from that opponent, when, but for the ball shielding, the opponent could have immediately played directly at it).

A confusion arises because it is true that an obstruction cannot be ‘manufactured’ and the two terms ‘force’ and ‘manufacture’ are easily muddled in the context of game play. A tackler can legally force an obstruction, indeed must do so to be awarded a penalty against an opponent who is shielding the ball in an obstructive way. But a player in possession of the ball cannot propel the ball to a position just the other side of a opponent (even one intending to tackle for the ball) and then, while (pretending to) chase the ball, intentionally run into that opponent and claim to be obstructed – there is a significant difference between the two actions, so there should be no confusion.

That would a good note to finish on: there should be no confusion.

But, there will be, because I will not be allowed to finish there, confusion will continue to be manufactured, by Cris Maloney, among others and they will probably continue to refuse to recant.

I have not included in this article the wholly erroneous demonstrations and explanations (involving a river and a tree) of what was not considered to be third-party obstruction – only incidents involving physical contact were thought to be offences. A few minutes of watching penalty corners by the Dutch women’s or the Australian men’s national teams will throw up sufficient examples to demonstrate the error of that view – although neither of these teams hesitate to use physical contact in these situations to achieve their aims.

The awarded goal was disallowed after video referral.
.


The development of ‘practice’.

.
Where is this “following what FIH Umpires are doing” going? If Cris Maloney is ‘playing catch up’ he is a bit behind the curve, FIH umpires have been allowing players in possession of the ball to combine ball shielding with physical contact for more than ten years. Initially it was unusual even contentious, now it is commonplace – it has become ‘accepted practice’. The initial ‘acceptance’ was of the ‘interpretation’ that Cris Maloney is now promoting in the USA, but there was no reason to suppose that ‘new interpretation’ would stop there and it has not stopped and probably never will stop: hockey may in the not distant future closely resemble hurling.

.

2012   A video attempt to explain the receiving exception and contrast it with “bodily moving into”.

 

Examples from the development of common practice

2017
.

 

Below. The NED player at the top of the circle receives the ball and then turns over it to barge the contesting AUS player out of his way. The umpire didn’t see any offence. 2016

.

 

2014 Tackler penalised. The above incident was discussed on an Internet hockey forum, and senior umpires insisted there was no obstruction by the attacking player, despite his turning to position between the tackler and the ball when the tackler was within playing distance of the ball and then attempting to play it, and the physical contact which resulted.

.

2016

 

Tackler penalised.

.

2011

 

No umpire intervention.

.

2013

 

No umpire intervention.

.

 

2013 Above.  The umpire does not notice that the MAS player backs into physical contact with opponents while shielding the ball to prevent a tackle – or does not want to do so.

.

2013

 

Tackler penalised.

.

2010

 

No umpire intervention.
.

Above 2010 The ARG player ‘automatically’, soccer style, imposes her body between the ball and the CHN defender.

.

 

2010 The umpire initially awarded a penalty stroke to ARG, this was overturned on video referral; free ball to China. I am not sure the initial decision would currently be overturned – hockey has ‘progressed’ in the last seven years (this is doublespeak meaning “has been retarded”).

 

Typical left side obstructions.
.

2012
.

2017
.

A typical right side obstruction – also below 2011.

2011. Obliging an opponent to back off to avoid body contact. The ball holder is shielding the ball and ‘shunting’ sideways with it into the position of the defender (obstruction – moving into) – plus another example of right side ball shielding (obstruction), which the AUS players recognized but the umpire did not. In soccer this kind of action, with the ball holder falling to ground as if shot, is known as ‘drawing the foul’.

There is no shortage of video examples from international matches of players moving bodily into opponents and making physical contact and umpires taking no action at all to deter them from doing so. I could easily find another twenty examples of this happening from videos I have previously published on YouTube. This should not be happening. The initial step to it happening was allowing ball holders to shield the ball in contested situations without penalty, the second step was allowing them to move into the playing reach of tacklers while shielding the ball, without penalty (what Cris Maloney is now advocating). Umpires are already penalising defenders who are moved into by a ball shielding player in possession of the ball. It hard to see how much more extreme the opposite of what the Rules allow could become or how what is happening now can be called ‘interpretation’.

Interpretation (or translation) of what Rule wording has resulted in current practice?

Advertisements
October 18, 2017

Confusing coaching for umpires

FIELD HOCKEY RULES

The video clip below is part of an umpire coaching video presented by umpirehockey.com. Most of the content of it runs contrary to the Rules of Hockey and reminds me of the terms ‘Doublethink’ and ‘Doublespeak’ as used in George Orwell’s novel ‘1984′. Opposite (and cynical) meanings given to words.

Before looking at what advice and instruction the 2017 Umpire Manager’s Briefing for FIH Umpires in Tournaments (the ‘UMB’) and the 2017 Rules of Hockey give us about the Obstruction Rule, take a look at the video and determine what it is that the player in possession of the ball is trying to do. What is her intention and do her actions achieve that intention? Then ask:- Are her actions and the intentions that drive them, in compliance with or contrary to the intent and purpose of the Obstruction Rule as given in the FIH published Rules of Hockey? (Intent to obstruct is not a criterion for the offence but a player’s intentions are generally a good indicator of the purpose of their actions)

 Advice from the 2017 UMB (with my added comment )

Obstruction

•Are the players trying to play the ball?  (Is there an opponent of the player in possession of the ball demonstrating an intent to tackle for the ball in the incidents shown in the video?  Yes.)

•Is there a possibility to play the ball?  (Are players attempting to tackle for the ball within playing reach of the ball and in a position of balance from which a tackle could be made? Yes.

Players who are intent on tackling for the ball but who are facing or reaching or moving in the wrong direction and so have no possibility of playing at the ball until they recover to a balanced position cannot be obstructed)

•Is there active movement to prevent the playing of the ball? (Yes) (The word ‘active’ is here redundant)

•Be aware of professional use of the body to illegally block opponents from the ball, as well players trying to demonstrate obstructions by lifting their sticks dangerously over opponents’ heads. (I am not sure why these two diverse statements are contained in one sentence clause. Distraction? In the video there is use of the body (nothing to do with ‘professional’) by the ball holder in the set up scenario, to prevent the defenders from playing at the ball, but no player lifts a stick over the head of another player; the described stick lifting action is unrelated to illegal use of the body to block off an opponent on a path to the ball, which is seen in the video clip. Stick taken over an opponent’s head actions are usually associated with attempts to ‘manufacture’ obstruction by an opponent – see below – and not with illegal ball shielding by a player in possession of the ball)

(The word ‘intentional’ might reasonably be substituted for either ‘active’ or ‘professional’ in the above two clauses, and the Rule may actually be interpreted in that way, but should not be because intention is not a criterion for an obstruction offence, however where there is also intention to obstruct the penalty could be more severe than it would be if obstruction is accidental)

 

•Stick obstruction is a ‘hot issue’ for players. Judge it fairly and correctly and blow only if you are 100% sure

 

Back in 2003, before the reconstruction of the Rules of Hockey handbook in 2004, there was a section in the back of it entitled Rules Interpretations. This was part of it related to obstruction:- (my comment added)

Umpires should be aware of players who are in possession of the ball who:

•back into an opponent; (back into the playing reach of an opponent who is demonstrating an intent to play at the ball)

•turn and try to push past an opponent; (make physical contact with an opponent while moving with – turning with – and shielding the ball)

•shield the ball with body, leg or stick and stand still when under pressure; (when an opponent is trying to play at the ball – advice which has vanished)

•drag the ball near their back foot when moving down the side-line or along the back-line; (leading the ball with the body to shield it from an opponent – this advice has also vanished. Now that these two clauses have been ‘clarified and simplified’ – that is deleted from advice given to umpires, players commonly shield the ball while in a stationary position or ‘crab’ along a line while ‘protecting’ the ball – and do so without penalty, umpires are no longer watching for an obstruction offence caused by such ball-shielding actions despite such actions being an offence.

A more pernicious result of the disappearance of advice to umpires concerning the interpretation of stationary ball shielding and ‘crabbing’ post 2004 is shown in the video, it is the bizarre notion that if a turn to shield the ball from an approaching tackler is completed before the tackler is within playing reach of the ball – then, no matter how hard a tackler then attempts to reach for and play at the ball (but without breaching Rule 9.13 – contact), there can be no obstruction. This ‘interpretation’ – of what? – is plain wrong because it turns the application of the Obstruction Rule into a farce. We have the spectacle of an opposing player attempting to tackle from behind and between the legs of the player in possession of the ball when it is within his or her playing reach – and play being allowed to continue despite such clear obstruction/impeding).

•shield the ball with the stick to prevent a legitimate tackle. [I have recently seen it asserted on an Internet hockey forum that stick obstruction cannot occur if the stick of the player in possession is in contact with the ball – this assertion is utter nonsense (like the similar one that there can be no obstruction if a player in possession is moving the ball or moving with the ball) and is another farcical interpretation – of what?]

 

Exactly the same advice/instruction given above was written into the 2003 ‘UMB’

 

Instruction from the 2017 –  Rules of Hockey with comment on interpretation. The Rule Interpretations (previously presented at the back of the handbook) and the Rule Guidance for Players and Umpires, (previously provided beneath each Rule), was combined and subsumed in 2004 into what was termed Explanation (it is the part written in italic script beneath each Rule Proper, a format which was adopted in 1995 for the then existing Rule Guidance for Players and Umpires. The Rule Proper was and is presented in regular text)

Continuous ‘Clarification and Simplification’ since 1993 (and especially in and after 2004) led to alteration of the wording of many clauses and to the disappearance of others.

(I think of this ‘Clarification and Simplification’ as Obscurantism and Vandalism. Cynical alterations to the Rule while continuing to declare that the Rules have not changed, only the interpretation of them has, which is an impossibility. One cannot change the interpretation of words, just as one cannot change the wording of a Rule, without changing the meaning and therefore the application of the Rule (unless replacing these lost words with exact synonyms, which has not happened). Changing the application of a Rule is a change to the Rule.

This “No change to the Rule only to the Interpretation of it” has root in what was in fact an exception to the Rule, which was introduced in 1993 as a “new interpretation” of the Obstruction Rule. The ‘new interpretation’ was that a player receiving the ball could not commit an obstruction offence while in the act of receiving and controlling the ball (thus doing away with the need to make lead runs to get away from markers in order to receive the ball, without immediately being penalised for obstruction as the ball was received, while an attempt to tackle for it was being made by an opponent). As the Rule did not change in any other way i.e. what was considered to be obstruction (the criteria for offence) in 1992 remained the criteria for obstruction in 1994 and continues to do so to the present day, what was called ‘the new interpretation’ was and is clearly an exception to the Rule and this was not and is not a change to the interpretation of obstruction – which has not changed significantly since the 1940’s. There have been no other ‘new interpretations’ to the Obstruction Rule introduced by the FIH since 1993.

Once, however, ‘the door was opened’ to changes of interpretation without there being any change to the wording of a Rule, ‘interpretation’ took on a life of its own, which was independent of what the FIH Rules Committee provided as Rule in the Rules of Hockey – and this was not confined to the Obstruction Rule (FIH Umpires began inventing ‘Rules’ – even competed with each other to do so).Interpretation’ of this sort has plagued the application of the Rules concerning a dangerously played ball and the aerial ball – we have nonsense about ‘on target shots at goal’ and ‘raised shots that are missing the goal’ and about a deflection not being an aerial ball (literally ‘not a ball in the air’ and not possibly ‘a falling ball’ when any raised ball must at some point become a falling ball – unless Newton was wrong) – and a similar sort of ‘interpretation’ (wilful blindness) has destroyed the application of the Obstruction Rule.

 

Rules of Hockey 2017.      Obstruction. (with my added comment)

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

Players obstruct if they:  (the following criteria are incomplete and also require clarification).

–back into an opponent   (a player in possession of the ball backing into the playing reach of an opponent while shielding the ball)

–physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent  (a player in possession of the ball moving – including backing in – to cause any physical contact with an opponent or the opponent’s stick)

–shield the ball from (to prevent) a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.  (This applies whether the player in possession is stationary or moving)

A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction. (The explanation for the existence of this oddly worded remnant of the 1993 ‘new interpretation’ was given above – it does not apply to the action seen in the video clip because the player in possession of the ball is not in any sense or at any time a player receiving the ball  – just, incidentally, as the attacking player in a shootout is never a receiver of the ball and therefore has no entitlement or excuse to shield the ball from the goalkeeper when within the goalkeeper’s playing reach and is in fact prohibited from doing so in the following paragraph of the Explanation of application)

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.

The clarification added as an extension to the clause (bold text from the word ‘or’) in 2009 – means that a player in possession of the ball is not permitted to move to position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it – but also – see above – a player who is in possession of the ball cannot move to position between the ball and a closing opponent and then remain stationary (or near stationary i.e.not moving away to put and keep the ball beyond the reach of any opponent who is trying to position to make a tackle) while shielding the ball as that opponent moves to within playing distance of the ball and attempts to play at it. Allowing such play would confounds the purpose of the Obstruction Rule – as it is now confounded by the irrational presentation made in the above video.

Removing not Rule or Explanation, but advice to umpires from the UMB and the rule-book or presenting contrary video coaching does not alter the Obstruction Rule – A player shall not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball. The fact that an opponent who is attempting to play at the ball was not obstructed as a turn to shield the ball was made, but a second or two later, is irrelevant, there is still a breach of the Rule if that opponent closes and is then attempting to play at the ball and is only being prevented from doing so by a body blocking/ball shielding action of a player in possession of the ball. Preventing an opponent achieving a position from which a tackle may be made by movement to block that opponent’s positioning or by movement to maintain shielding of the ball from an opponent who is then within playing distance of the ball is obstruction. That is so even if there is no moving off with the ball by the player in possession of it. i.e. the player in possession remains stationary. Moving the ball or moving with the ball is not a permit to continue to shield the ball from an opponent who would otherwise be able to play at it. A player shall not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

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.

As observed in a previous article, the wording of this clause would be improved (be clearer) if the words ‘may also be’ replaced ‘is’ – in a way that is different to the way ‘also’ has recently been added to Rule 9.8.

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 may also be 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 or shootout is being taken.

Cris Maloney of Umpirehockey.com is already preaching that Obstruction must be a physical contact offence – that there can be no obstruction without physical contact.  Players have been getting away with Obstruction combined with physical contact for a considerable time, so I suppose he is trying to catch up with what he sees European, Australian, Asian, South American and African teams (the whole world) doing, but it still seems strange to see this idea coached and promoted in a video as if it complied with the Rules of Hockey – because it does not. The effort to keep up with changing interpretations by FIH Umpires is futile anyway; the more leeway that is granted in the ‘interpretation’ of what should be straightforward and simple instructions the more that will be (is) demanded that conflicts with those instructions – and then imposed, simply because it is what high level umpires are doing. That players regularly combine ball shielding with physical contact without penalty is a fact of modern hockey, but of course it should not be.

Some of these changing interpretations change with dizzying speed. In 2004 the Rule:- ‘A player shall not raise the ball at another player’ was ‘downgraded’ in the rewrite and restructure to become part of the Explanation of Rule 9.9 (with a 5m limit added to it); by 2008 it was being declared that an ‘on target’ shot at goal could not be considered dangerous play even if the ball was raised at high velocity high into a close opponent – an opposite interpretation/application in only four years, which had nothing whatsoever to do with anything that the FIH Rules Committee had published, and was therefore an impossibility, but an impossibility that existed and was almost unchallenged by ‘the hockey community’. Why do hockey writers/reporters confine their writing to match reports and to history and ignore blatant corruption of the game?

Despite the coaching given in the above video clip, shielding the ball in any way that prevents or delays an opponent playing at it directly, when they are trying to do so and would otherwise (if the ball were not shielded from them) be able to do, is an obstruction offence.  That may not be a simple sentence but I trust the meaning of it is perfectly clear.

‘A player must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play at the ball’ is a simple enough Rule statement, unfortunately its meaning has, quite deliberately, been made unclear – by the muddying of the ‘interpretation’ of ‘obstruct’ and of ‘attempting’ – by those who, I think, for two reasons, one of which is a desire that hockey be played in a way that is similar to the way soccer is played. I don’t understand this because there is no possibility of a non-contact sport, which hockey is (and I hope will remain), being played in the same manner as a contact sport, which soccer (Association football) is. The fact that physical contact is permitted in soccer would make the introduction of an obstruction rule for soccer, similar to the Obstruction Rule in hockey, farcical. Only what hockey umpires would recognize as an impeding (holding) offence and third party offences are practical for application in soccer. In the same way, because hockey is a non-contact sport, not having the Obstruction Rule properly applied, results in farcical situations in hockey.

The second reason, which is perfectly understandable, is that if ball shielding in various ways is not considered an offence, but physical contact remains so, then there is no need to look for ball shielding and penalise it and umpring (it is supposed) becomes much easier. That the skills of hockey and the game as a participation and spectator sport “goes to hell in a handcart”, is a side effect of making the life of a hockey umpire less difficult in the short term, it’s an incredibly selfish approach to Rule application.

One problem which arose very quickly, has been (and is) that physical contact caused by a player in possession during ball shielding has also ceased to be penalised or worse, the wrong party is penalised for the contact – there is often a bias against a player who attempts to tackle a ball holder for the ball. This can be no surprise, having ‘disposed’ of one of the fundamental criteria it is easy to ‘lose’ the other and ignore the offence completely – a similar process has occurred within the dangerously played ball Rule and, in the opposite way, in the ball-body contact Rule, where the criteria for offence are routinely ignored and penalty applied: not applying these Rules as they should be applied is very easy.

Those who want to combine the games of soccer and hockey (and some elements of the game of rugby) could instead attach themselves to hurling – I wish they would. Hurling is the fastest and without doubt the most violent ball-stick team field sport in existence, and it is a contact sport. What an attraction (marketing opportunity) for those who are busy at the moment trying to destroy the skills of the game of hockey by ‘selling’ the ‘excitement’ of ‘the product’.

These people are trying to ‘dumb down’ the skills that playing hockey requires, by promoting the allowing of resort to obstruction and physical contact to maintain possession of the ball – and incidentally making the game much more dangerous to play by also advocating the degrading of the dangerously played ball Rules (and finding ways to increase the number of penalty corners awarded). This does not make hockey significantly more exciting or spectacular and it will not draw to hockey ever larger numbers of players or spectators (many players and umpires have given up the game rather than put up with the current ‘interpretation’ of obstruction, as shown being coached above). Those who believe that doing away with the skills required of players to elude opponents when in possession of the ball, will attract and retain increasing numbers of either players or spectators to hockey are deluding themselves. High levels of stick/ball skills, speed, footwork and great ball passing skills, which are combined to get the better of opponents, are the real attractions of the game.

 

VVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVV

I have come across another coaching video which comes close to contradicting what is stated in the above example but is still not as accurate as it should be. This coaching is however on the right track – that moving to position the body between an opponent and the ball to prevent or delay a tackle attempt is an obstruction offence. But I take issue with the action given as ‘correct’ (and have covered over the ‘correct play’ label in the slow-mo repeat). The clip below is an edited out-take of the original (slow motion added) which included other elements of play.

.
In the (sic) ‘correct’ version the player with the ball turns to position between her opponent and the ball after she has moved to a position within the defender’s playing reach (a very common misjudgement) and then continues to move towards her (back in) – this too is obstruction – because the initial positioning of the leg of the ball holder prevented the defender from attempting a legal tackle when she would otherwise have been able to do so, by blocking her path to the ball and shielding it from her.

The turning movement (which will position the ball holder between her opponent and the ball) needs to be started just before coming within the playing reach of a player intent on tackling – not after doing so. And the turn should be used to achieve significant lateral movement, rather than mostly forward movement (to avoid backing/turning into the defender with contact – two offences, obstruction and physical contact – or backing into the defender’s playing reach) so that the ball is put and then kept beyond the playing reach of the opponent who is being eluded.

The example given as correct play in this second video is not obstruction only because the ‘tackler’ in this example is just acting as a dummy and is not actually making any real attempt to play at the ball – she would certainly have been obstructed if she made a genuine attempt to play at the ball with her stick as the ball was brought into a position within the playing reach of it – it was a blocked and shielded position.

There can be no obstruction offence unless it is forced by a tackle attempt. (forced not ‘manufactured’ there is a significant difference between these two terms. When an obstruction is ‘manufactured’ it is generally the ball holder not a defender, who tries to demonstrate that he or she is obstructed). Below is an example of a player in possession of the ball (Kwan Brown of T &T) successfully ‘conning’ an umpire into awarding him a free ball for what was a ‘manufactured obstruction’, in fact a physical contact offence by Brown who had control of the ball prior to playing it to the far side of his opponent and then deliberately running into him. Brown is a very talented player who does not need to resort to this sort of thing.

October 14, 2017

Misjudgement of Timing and Distance.

FIELD HOCKEY RULES

http://fieldhockeyforum.com/threads/you-make-the-call-xvi.44122/

A video question uploaded to this Internet hockey forum.

The speed of the action combined with the small scale of a video viewing makes a decision difficult. Repeats and slow motion (not available to a match umpire) help to sort it out. The umpire (if mobile and alert) has the advantages of being able to choose the viewing position and a close, life size view of the action.

The attacker seems to have been unaware of:-

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

which is part of the Explanation given with Rule 9.12 Obstruction.

That means that a player, having received the ball i.e who is in possession of the ball cannot then move to position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

By the time the attacker had control of the ball and had begun her turn to shield it from the approaching goalkeeper, the goalkeeper was within playing distance of the ball.

The attacker’s mistake may be the result of this kind of erroneous coaching, which is being provided in the USA – part of the video shows players taking up such ball shielding positions (from a side-line restart) and being advised that what they are doing is not obstruction – when it most certainly is:-

Lest it be though I always think there is obstruction or that it is always, when penalised, correctly penalised, here is an example where obstruction was called and I am not at all sure the call was correct – and I would certainly here have awarded a card to the defending tackler even if awarding a free to his team for obstruction by the attacker. The defender’s pushing action was deliberate and the obstruction called not as obviously a foul as the obstruction of the goalkeeper in the first video above. Did the tackler at any time get his own goal-side of and in front of the ball? That is not easy to see from the video camera angle – but if he didn’t he wasn’t obstructed and a penalty stroke with yellow card should have been awarded.

I watched the match on video and as far as I can recall this was the only occasion on which that umpire awarded a penalty for an obstruction offence – and there was no shortage of these offences which were very clear and which he could and should have penalised.
.
.

There has been no progress on three major issues The dangerously played ball, Obstruction and Ball-body contact, in the last thirty years. If anything even the fundamental principles necessary to an understanding of the intent and application of these Rules has been badly eroded – even completely lost. This loss seems to have begun around 1995 and accelerated greatly after 2004. Those dates coincide with the two major rewrites of the Rules of Hockey, but things have got really crazy since 2008 – that was about the time the FIH Umpiring Committee starting producing the umpire coaching videos and interpretations presented on dartfish.com. A few of the ‘Interpretations of the action’ that are presented are okay, but that is nowhere near good enough, they should all be flawless, not riddled, as they are, with error and omission. 

I wrote critiques of many of those interpretations, particularly those about the self-pass, ball in the air and obstruction. The response from whoever within the FIH was responsible, was to block my facility to download the coaching videos directly from the darfish website – and only that. A minor inconvenience to me, but a major failure of communication and a lack of response, on their part, to the valid criticisms made. None of the flawed ‘Interpretation of the action’, some of which conflict with each other, have been either amended (corrected) or removed and replaced.

September 3, 2017

Positioning between an opponent and the ball.

FIELD HOCKEY RULES

Second goal for Netherlands in Women’s Euro Nations Final 2017 Belgium v Netherlands

Obstruction. Rule 9.12 Explanation (part)

Originally (1993) this was part of Rule Interpretation which was framed to instruct a receiver of the ball to move away with the ball from opponents (or pass it away)  immediately it had been controlled.

Current wording

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.

Clarification.

A player with the ball is NOT PERMITTED to move to position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

any directiondoes NOT include a direction of movement which will cause obstructive positioning – such positioning is specifically excluded – “except“.

The BEL #2 player was obstructed and a free ball should have been awarded to the BEL team for this offence.

August 7, 2017

Pictures and words

FIELD HOCKEY RULES

It is most peculiar how something which is just an oft repeated personal opinion (which, in my view, is mistaken) becomes something “we” have established.

There is a great deal of academic and scientific interest in ‘precisely nothing’ (an acceptable definition of ‘nothing’ has been avidly sought for years) when all the time all these people had to do was to look at a photograph of a hockey match in progress. But, sadly, a photograph of an incident during a hockey game is not picture of precisely nothing and one can ‘tell’ a great many things from a photograph.

redumpire began dismissing photographic evidence before it became possible to embed video clips into posts (and video clips were always, in his opinion, selected to portray a ‘slant’ – of course they are, but the fact that videos show that a Rule has not been applied in particular incidents, does not mean it usually was properly applied by that umpire – or others – in other similar incidents. An absence of evidence could be said to be precisely nothing. I would be delighted if someone could post a video clip showing an umpire correctly penalising a ball-holder for obstruction, but it has to occur in a videoed match before a video of it can exist).

I prefer the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” It is relatively easy to demonstrate that the wording of Rule, or the interpretation of the wording of a Rule, is being flouted by showing pictures and videos. It is true that a reasonable hypothesize about what happened just prior to and/or just after a photographed moment may have to be made, but that does not mean a silly wild guess is necessary, but that intelligent speculation is required,  and that must be based on experience and what is seen in the picture. In the matter of body contact (which is what the above remark from redumpire was about) and many cases of obstruction, a reasonable deduction can be made from the positions and obvious balances of the players – and any obvious physical contact.

For example, it is obvious from the picture to the left  (by looking at the ball holder’s  feet and knees) in which direction he is moving and where his next step will position him relative to the player trying to make a tackle. It is also obvious that the defender is within playing reach of the ball and is demonstrating an intention to play at it. In fact an obstruction offence (with leg and stick) is already occurring and an umpire need not wait for the ball holder (in this case a forward attacker) to be fully positioned, bodily between the defender and the ball (blocking him off completely) – as he will do, before calling the offence.

This is not just guesswork – like ‘find the ball’ contests usually are – it is deduction. The attacker’s balance dictates his next movement, he cannot next lift his left foot off the ground, he must first place his right foot on the ground, and to do that he needs to complete his step to his right. One could say that the attacker may not be going to move to the right with the ball, he will plant his right foot and then may move (turn) to his left; his stick position indicates this is an easy possibility, he will nonetheless obstruct the defender, already has done so, with the positioning seen in the picture (see Rule Explanation below). Did he reach that position legally? It’s hard to see how he could have done.

All but one of the following pictures shows an incident of obstruction, none of them were penalised and none of the original captions to the photographs mentioned obstruction , that would be very ‘old fashioned’.

The right side picture in the middle of the page above, shows an obstructing player (in red) who has not prevented a tackle, the ball has been knocked away from him by the defender. but he will no doubt continue to obstruct the tackler and may regain possession of the ball while doing so.

In the picture bottom right the CAN attacker makes contact with the BRA defender, with an elbow to her face and a hip to her arm, when turning into her just outside the circle: It might as well have been a soccer match for all the notice taken, by the CAN player, of the Rules concerning obstruction and physical contact. The aim of making hockey similar to soccer has been achieved, but no good will come of it.

Interpretation of the actions seen in the above photographs must be slanted to convey what is seen.

And now the wording of the Rule and an interpretation of the Explanation of Application provided in the rule-book, or rule-apt.

[I see that the recently released apt is going to be updated automatically – that is very worrying; the ‘glanced at once’ rule-book in an umpire’s bag had the merit of not changing after he or she had skimmed it. The days when the Rules Committee – the HRB – met once a year to discuss changes to the Rules were very frustrating because the process of change was so slow, but the possibility that the Rules may be ‘updated’ (reinterpreted) almost weekly, gives the impression of a lack of forward planning and proper consideration for the consequences of any previous change (to interpretation not to Rule), that may be made, (there is still a procedure for Rule change which must be observed). The ability to ‘update’ interpretation at any time facilitates Double-think and Doublespeak].

The present Obstruction Rule

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.


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.

The Rule does not tell us what obstruction is. So here is a common sense definition:-

Obstruction is illegally preventing an opponent playing at the ball when, but for the illegal action, that opponent would have been able to play at it.

The Rule then outlines the illegal actions that cause obstruction to occur

– back into an opponent. This means that a player while in possession of the ball cannot back into the playing reach of an opponent who is demonstrating an intent to play at the ball – that is illegal (see explanation below).

physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent.  Besides Rule 9.13, which prohibits illegal (contact) tackling, there are two other Rules (9.3 and 9.4) which forbid any physical contact with an opponent, so it is fairly safe to assume that this prohibition refers to physical contact by a player in possession of the ball,  by for example, backing into physical contact with an opponent, thus causing an obstruction, or obliging an opponent to give way to avoid physical contact, again an obstruction, because that prevents the opponent making a tackle attempt. These two points were at one time emphasized in the instruction/guidance about what a player, who received the ball, then could and could not do ( or previously, was obliged to do) – nowadays that is not very clear.


A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction. This has been badly put. What is a fact and what is meant is that a player when receiving the ball may be facing in any direction, because, when a player is receiving and controlling the ball, the Obstruction Rule is suspended, it does not apply to this player.

It does not matter whether the receiving player is stationary or is moving at the time the ball is received. ”Stationary player” is a remnant of a previous version of Rule Guidance which pointed out that a receiving player could not obstruct even if stationary when receiving the ball. This needed to be pointed out, because prior to this change a receiving player would be obliged, if closely marked, to make a lead run to get sufficiently far away from a marker (beyond his or her playing reach) to receive the ball without being immediately penalised for obstruction as the ball was received. (This guidance was later ‘misread’ to create the invention that a stationary player could not be guilty of obstruction when in possession of the ball – the opposite of what the Rule Guidance indicated).

The ‘new interpretation’, introduced after 1992/3, which was in fact not a different interpretation of obstruction (what constituted obstruction did not change – and still has not changed) but an exception to the Rule: it relieved a player receiving the ball from the task of creating the space previously necessary to do so. (There was a lot of talk immediately after the introduction of the ‘new interpretation’ (the exception) of a receiving player being used as a high pivot in the style of basketball or soccer, immediately ‘bouncing’ the ball back to supporting and overlapping attackers – no one envisaged the static blocking or backing into the opponent’s circle while shielding the ball, that now takes place – it was simply inconceivable. It should still be seen as an unacceptable action i.e. considered contrary to Rule – but generally isn’t)

What a receiving player had to do once the ball was received and controlled (a very brief time in high level hockey) was previously set out, but like A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction, what was previously known as Rule Guidance has been ‘simplified’ (but not clarified), so that it is no longer understood, and is also unrecognizable as a reconstruction of the previous Rule Guidance (rewriting for simplification and clarification should not change the meaning and original purpose of an interpretation, it should do what it says, make the existing interpretation clear by expressing it more simply)

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent.   Originally this clause began Having received the ball the receiver must pass the ball away or must move away in any direction except bodily into an opponent. ”Away” meaning the ball had to be passed away immediately or the receiver had to immediately move, to put and keep the ball beyond the playing reach of opponents, (or evade any opponent who was chasing the ball, using stick-work and footwork skills, but without shielding the ball while doing so). Umpires were advised to watch for players who stand still and shield the ball when under pressure (so much for the impossibility of obstructing if stationary when in possession). Shielding a ball along a line and turning into an opponent were other listed actions to be watched for.

The fact that a player in possession of the ball cannot shield it with stick or body to obstruct an opponent, means that a receiver, having controlled the ball, should still move away at once to take the ball beyond the playing reach of any competing opponent.  But the current  ”is permitted to move off” does not convey anything of the sort (the ‘clarification’, in a two step process, going via may move away ‘muddied’ what had originally been a clear instruction must move away. Compare “is permitted to move off” with “must move away” Is the first (the current Explanation) a simplification and clarification of the second (the original Guidance) ? Do they mean the same thing?. No and no.

In 2009 there was a clarification of the first criteria given above  back into an opponent. The wording or (move) into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it. was added to give the current clause. This made it clear that it is a position between the ball and an opponent that must not be moved into (and that physical contact is therefore not necessary for there to be an obstruction offence). In other words (to repeat) a player cannot legally back or turn into a position between the ball and his or her opponent i.e. into the playing reach of an opponent – nor of course can a player in possession of the ball legally remain, while either moving or stationary and while shielding the ball, in a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and demonstrating an intent to play at the ball. (Demonstrating an intent to play at the ball is superior wording from a previous version of Guidance, which I have borrowed for this article to explain the Rule as it now is – this phrase ought to be restored to give clarity to the Rule as the phase ‘attempting to tackle’ is used as an excuse not to apply the Rule when a tackle attempt has illegally been made impossible).

Moving the ball from side to side or slow ‘weaving’ of the body while dribbling to maintain a shielding position is non compliant if the ball is still within the playing reach of an opponent, but cannot be played at, because it is shielded from that opponent with either stick or body. That is if the direct path to the ball for an opponent is obstructed by a ball holder and that prevents an opponent, who is trying to play at the ball from doing so, there is a breach of the Obstruction Rule. Not a lot of people know that, as Eric and Ernie (the comedians, Morcombe and Wise, famous in the UK) used to say.

The last clause:- 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.

is very close to the entire Obstruction Rule as it was written before the 1950’s. It unfortunately mixes and muddles third-party obstruction and obstruction by a tackler – which were all that were considered at the time – with, the currently more prevalent obstruction by a player in possession of the ball, so it needs some clarification. Re-positioning of the word also helps, as does extending the list of scenarios in which obstructions occur. 

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 may also be third party or shadow obstruction). This applies if an attacker runs across or blocks defenders (including the goalkeeper or player with goalkeeping privileges) during a shootout, when a penalty corner is being being taken or when a tackle attempt is made.

But more work is needed on the above clause; third-party obstruction probably needs a separate clause, as does obstructive tackling.(i have written a separate article with suggestion for a rewrite of the Obstruction Rule

https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/field-hockey-rulebook-rewrite-rule-9-12-obstruction/

There are only two forms of body obstruction (1) running between an opponent and the ball to block the opponent’s path to the ball. This is often carried out as a forehand tackle, generally from behind and from the opponent’s left or as a ‘third-party’ blocking action (from any direction) to allow a team-mate to take possession of the ball, or (2) the more recent development, rarely seen prior to 1993; an ongoing ball shielding action, maintained to prevent an opponent attempting a legal tackle. Form (1) is generally well umpired (although there were some startling exceptions during the Rio Olympics). Form (2) is generally ignored, sometimes even when combined with physical contact. When there is physical contact during an obstructing action is is generally the defender who is penalised – even when entirely innocent (like the innocence of the stationary BRA defender in the picture commented about above).

It’s a very simple Rule – so simple that it is difficult to avoid repetition when explaining it being carried out by a player who is in possession of the ball.  If a player is compelled to ‘go around’ (or try to go around) an opponent in possession of the ball, or an otherwise path blocking opponent not in possession of the ball, (a third party), in order to attempt to play at the ball, that player is obstructed – if, but for the blocking/shielding action, he or she would have been able to play at the ball.

It has become a complicated Rule because there is an inexplicable reluctance to apply it and all sorts of ‘reasons’ are invented to avoid doing so e.g. “too difficult”, “players do not expect to be penalised” (circular reasoning), “everybody umpires this way” or “this is what I have been told to do” (both of which are a ‘cop out’ when a subjective judgement is called for), “not attempting to play at the ball” or “not in a position to play at the ball”, (when either or both actions – 1)  attempting a tackle, without making physical contact and 2) positioning to tackle – have illegally been made impossible by the prior actions of the obstructing player.

(In much the same way excuses are found for not applying the Rules concerning dangerous play, particularly a dangerously played ball).

Instead of there being an onus on players not to obstruct opponents, which is what an Obstruction Rule is (or should be) about, there is now, apparently, an obligation on an obstructed player to become unobstructed (to go around). That is analogous to the notion that a player defending the goal causes danger, by positioning or has the responsibility to have the skill to defend him or her self, if the ball is raised at him or her by an opponent – gobbledygook and switching of responsibility in both Rules.

 

Tags:
May 21, 2016

Physical contact and Obstruction

FIELD HOCKEY RULES

Edited  27th May 2016

There seems to be an assumption being made – which has no Rule support –  that obstruction/shielding of the ball requires physical contact to be initiated by the ball holder before an obstruction offence can occur when the ball is being shielded by the player in possession of it from an defending opponent within the defender’s playing reach and the ball holder is moving into/towards the defender.

 

This is the opposite to the attitude taken to a player who is trying to tackle for the ball, where not even an attempt to tackle can be made from a position where there will be (may be?) physical contact (Rule 9.13). This is heavily slanted in favour of the player in possession of the ball, who has the advantage anyway – in other words the current ‘interpretation’ (of what part of Rule 9.12 exactly?) is unfair; the balance, which is supposed to exist, between Rule 9.12 and 9.13 has been lost.

 

What a receiver of the ball should do, having received the ball, has been ‘watered down’ since 1993 (must, may, is permitted to) to the point where there is now no direction/instruction and no prohibition at all. In fact there is now no difference ‘in practice’ between what a player in controlled possession of the ball is permitted to do and the way in which a player in the act of receiving the ball is permitted to shield it. What was permitted only to a receiver of the ball, while receiving and controlling it, has become (by ‘interpretation’) what is allowed in the play of a player already in controlled posession of the ball – the exception has become the Rule i.e. there is no Rule. 

 

The changes due to the ‘new interpretation’ which made such a huge tactical difference to the game after 1992/3 (a time before a great number of the current high level players were born and certainly before the vast majority of them had any Rule knowledge at all), are insignificant compared with what a ball holder is now being allowed to get away with.

 

I write “get away with” because the only significant addition (*) to the Obstruction Rule since 1993 was made in 2009, to clarify (not successfully) with an unannounced clause extension in the explanation of application (no reference was made to this change in the Preface of the rulebook), which states that a player in possession of the ball may not move to position between an opponent and the ball when that opponent is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play at it.

*(there were extensive deletions of necessary guidance (and of all of existing Interpretation) made in 2004 when the rule book was rewritten in a metric page size format; nearly all instruction concerning a receiving player, and what that player should do after having received and controlled the ball, the foundation of the ‘new interpretation’, simply disappeared, and what is left – that a stationary receiver may be facing in any direction – does not make much sense in isolation

 

The present interpretation, which I think is perverse and not what the (sic) Rules Committee intended in 2009, seems to be that if such ball shielding occurs before an opponent intent on making a tackle comes to within playing reach of the ball (or is moved/backed into/towards by the ball-holder when beyond playing range), which is not contrary to Rule,  then that shielding can legitimately continue after the ball holder is within the playing reach of an actively defending opponent – but such ball shielding is contrary to Rule.

an opponent cannot legally attempt to play directly at the ball because it is being shielded by the body of a ball-holder : such ball shielding cannot therefore be legitimate as it obstructs the path of an opponent to the ball, but the (non) application of the Obstruction Rule at the moment is to ‘say’ to a player in possession of the ball that it cannot be shielded from an opponent unless he or she feels like shielding it, certainly no action is taken by umpires to deter ball shielding or enforce the Obstruction Rule; by enlarge the Rule is simply ignored.

 

The remedy (and there needs to be a remedy to restore balance to the contest between attackers and defenders) is simple; clearly prohibit ball shielding when a player who is in controlled possession of the ball is or moves to become or is closed on to become within the playing reach of an opponent who is demonstrating an intent to make a tackle – thus requiring movement in good time away from the playing reach of a tackler to avoid an obstruction offence – in other words demanding player movement and ball movement, that is ‘game flow’, rather than ball shielding and the blocking off of opponents, often with the ball-holder in a static or near static position: that is apply the Rule as it is intended to be applied. 

 

I believe that this is how the Obstruction Rule was intended to be applied anyway pre 2009 and certainly post 2009. (prior to 2004 Rules Interpretation included the advice to umpires, that if a defender could have played at the ball directly but was prevented from doing so only because of the movement and/or positioning of the player in possession of the ball, then that defender was obstructed  – clear and simple) This advice seemed to have been deleted because it was contrary to a different agenda, that is to make hockey look similar to soccer so that television viewers could understand it: the Rules that got in the way of this aim were/are considered unimportant. 

 

The 2009 amendment was made to try to address the misjudgement (lack of response) which had by that time become prevalent and which was basically ignoring that the ‘new interpretation’, (which was in fact an exception to the Rule rather than an interpretation that in any way changed what obstruction was – and is) allowed temporary ball shielding only to a receiving player and then only while that player was receiving and controlling the ball prior to moving away (from?) with it or immediately passing it away.  

 

The original (1992/3) intention was to enhance game flow and encourage tactical development (particularly backpassing and the opening of angles) by preventing/deterring tacklers from demonstrating ‘obstruction’ by clattering into receiving players (who were previously technically often illegally shielding while receiving the ball if they had not made a lead run to create the space necessary to get beyond their marker’s playing reach). The need to make a lead run away from markers to create space in which to legitimately receive the ball was eliminated post 1994 (not entirely a good thing, lead runs are useful for other space creating and angle changing purposes and those skills are lost as many players have never needed to develop them for another purpose – in order to receive the ball

 

Now, at the other extreme (Rules always seem to be applied at one extreme or the other – without common sense – there can be no denying that the pre-1992 interpretation was extreme ), we have players in controlled possession of the ball using their body to shield the ball past opponents and even clattering into opponents who are trying to position to tackle or to block the ball and it is the defenders who are being penalised (for contact) not the ball holder who is making illegal use of the body and usually initiates any physical contact, the defender often being stationary or even trying to back out of the way.

Doing the direct opposite of what was unfairly done before is not usually a sensible compromise, it just reverses the direction of unfairness.

Here is a fairly recent example (2015) of deliberate obstruction by a defender which should have been penalised with a penalty stroke. The contrast between this and the ‘automatic’ penalising of any ball/foot contact, even when there is no intent and no advantage gained from such contact, is astonishing.

But it is not a new development.

This obstruction was eventually penalised when a second attacker was also obstructed at the same time as the first one continued to be, the much delayed penalty was not however a penalty stroke for a deliberate offence, as it should have been, but a penalty corner.

 

 

And it just keeps getting worse and worse, as attackers also explore and expand ball shielding options – which appear to be unlimited:-

 

In each case opponents move out of the way of ball-holders, moving bodily towards them , to avoid physical contact: while the ball holder is moving into the defender’s playing reach or when already within their playing reach moving towards them. It seems to be the case that if a defending opponent ‘holds ground’ in these circumstances it is they who are likely to be penalised for any body contact made and not the ball-holder who is clearly the offender: this is wrong.