Archive for ‘Obstruction’

July 7, 2017

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 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

http://fieldhockeyforum.com/threads/defending-blocking-a-tomahawk-reverse-shot.42872/#post-409858

 

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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June 6, 2017

Field Hockey Rules: Physical contact via obstruction, a lack of skill

I deleted more than forty articles from this web-blog at the beginning of the year, this one among them (which, seeing recent Tournament play, was clearly a mistake). I now restore it, slightly modified and with a different title, because I feel the subject matter is too important to ignore. The development of the skills involved in avoiding obstruction should be emphasised as fundamental to the playing of hockey and those skills should be encouraged and protected by correct umpiring  – which requires an understanding by umpires (and hence players) of what obstruction is and is not.  It is not simply a physical contact offence, physical contact is not an essential requirement for there to be an obstruction offence. To find out what obstruction is it is necessary to read the Rule and the provided Explanation of Application – all of it.

Rules of Hockey.

The ‘diminished’ Obstruction Rule. Shielding the ball. Hiding or ‘protecting’ the ball.    Lack of movement skills and footwork and stick-ball skills.

Cris Maloney and I have been in correspondence via email for a number of years. Many readers will be familiar with his Hockey USA Rule coaching videos on YouTube and his posts on FieldHockeyForum.com under the tag UmpireHockey.com

In a recent ‘Preseason Field Hockey Information’ presentation circular he introduces himself as follows:- ” I direct the national rules briefing videos given by Steve Horgan, write the rules comparison table, created the JUMP IN umpire training program, and I’m a field hockey umpire, author, and developer (programs and products). Over the last 40 years, perhaps the best label I’ve been given was simply field hockey evangelist. Those who are familiar with me know I have a special interest in advocating for field hockey umpires which in turn improves our sport.”

I too want to improve the sport for umpires – and for everybody else as well. I recently wrote to Cris when a question about stick obstruction was posted to FHF along with a video of the Final of the USA U15 National Indoor Championship, which contained the incident the question was asked about. I looked at the remainder of the video and it was obvious that the two young umpires who officiated that Final had no idea what obstruction was. This is the only Rule area where Cris and I do not broadly agree. He replied to me as follows:-

“Here’s the thing, it isn’t a foul to hide the ball with your body or stick. It is a foul to use your stick or your body to impede another player’s body or stick. Basically, that means there has to be contact…though no one admits it.”

That statement came as a shock I didn’t realise just how far apart we were on the meaning of the wording and the correct application of this Rule. With views like that held by those responsible for umpire coaching, it can be no surprise those two umpires had no understanding of the Obstruction Rule. That no one else admits how or explains why they are openly ignoring the very specific instructions given with the Explanation of Application of the Obstruction Rule is not a surprise.

Below is my edited (added to) reply to him.


Let’s take a look at the relevant Rule and the clauses to the Explanation of Application of this Rule to see how they fit with the following assertions made in your reply:-

“It isn’t a foul to hide the ball with your body or stick.

It is a foul to use either body or stick to impede an opponent’s body or stick.

For there to be an Obstruction offence there must be physical contact by the obstructing player (but that is not admitted).”

 

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.

Taking the above Explanation of Application clauses in reverse order. I believe “to shield” to have clear meaning and that meaning does not necessarily involve physical contact, the verb means ‘to protect’ or ‘to hide from’. Shielding or hiding the ball with the body or stick prevents (or delays) physical contact – between the stick of an opponent and the ball – it is done for that purpose: the Obstruction Rule specifically prohibits it.

As explained in previous articles about the Obstruction Rule, I read “from” in the third clause of the Explanation as “to prevent” because “from” in this context does not make grammatical sense, and I prefer to use the word legal rather than the ambiguous word ‘legitimate’ (which can mean legal or genuine or necessary depending on the context in which it is used). – shield the ball to prevent a legal tackle, with their stick or with any part of their body. does not change the meaning of the clause but is I think clearer language.

Physical contact is included in the criterion for offence, it is specified in the previous clause, physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent but it is not the only criteria nor one that is essential for there to be an offence.

– back into an opponentcan mean back into physical contact with an opponent (but why then repeat the prohibition on physical contact with. “physically interfere with”). It can also mean to back into the playing reach of an opponent without making contact: I believe that is what is meant and why the word ‘interfere’ rather than ‘contact’ is used.

The clause means that a player in possession of the ball cannot legitimately ‘back into’ a position where a tackle attempt could be made but for being prevented by the positioning of the body of the player who is backing in i.e. the ball-holder is moving to position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing reach of the ball and demonstrating an intent to play at it.

This latter interpretation is supported (word for word) by the second prohibition in the clause below. It is the part underlined, which was added to the Explanation of Application in 2009 as a clarification – that backing into is not the only ball shielding action that is prohibited, any such positioning movement is prohibited if it results in the ball being shielded from an opponent – it was the last amendment made to the Obstruction Rule:-

– 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.

Expressing the above clause more simply, by leaving aside the physical contact already described in the first part (and also in a separate clause) and by not expressing this prohibition as an exception to the unnecessary advice that a player with the ball can move in any direction (a remnant of what was once an instruction to (not a choice given to but a demand made of) a receiving player to move away from opponents having received and controlled the ball – which should be restored), we arrive at:-

– A player with the ball is not permitted to move into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

Moving into (by for example ‘backing’ or alternatively ‘turning’) “into a position between” is not a prohibition of physical contact but specifically when in possession of the ball, of positioning to shield the ball from an opponent when within the playing reach of that opponent, thereby preventing an attempt to play at the ball.

It is therefore obviously a foul to hide (shield) the ball with either the stick or body to prevent or delay an opponent who would otherwise be able to play directly at the ball from doing so – by forcing a tackler to go around the body or stick (both or either of which may be the obstruction) of the ball holder in order to attempting to play at the ball – this clause in the Explanation of Application of the Rule declares it to be so.

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

or even more clearly:-

Players obstruct if they shield the ball, with their stick or any part of their body, to prevent or delay an opponent from attempting to play directly at the ball .

It is also a foul to lead the ball with the body (by for example dragging the ball behind the body (feet) while sideways on or directly facing an opponent and moving into the playing reach of that opponent) towards and into the playing reach of an opponent and it is also a foul to move i.e. position, so that physical contact is made or an opponent is obliged to retreat to avoid physical contact

But there does not have to be physical contact for an obstruction offence to occur. I cannot subscribe to the declaration that for an obstruction offence to occur there must be physical contact because it is plainly false. I agree with the second of the three statements Cris Maloney made in his reply to me: I vigorously oppose, as I must if I observe the Rule, the first and third of them. All his statements are justified by him as what top umpires are seen to be doing.

Watching the Rio Olympics it was clear that some umpires did penalise obstruction only when there was physical contact which was initiated by a player in possession who was shielding the ball while moving bodily into an opponent (would they admit to that when they don’t admit to misapplying Rule 9.8, Rule 9.9 and Rule 9.11 – especially where they overlap i.e. when the ball is lifted into an opponent ?). But it was also clear that other umpires did not penalise obstruction even when there was physical contact caused by a ball shielding player who was in possession of the ball,

 

despite there being not only an Obstruction Rule (as given in part above – the ‘third-party’ clauses have not been included here) but a separate Rule (9.3) which prohibit any physical contact (stick or body) and also another Rule (9.4) which prohibits impeding, (which however need not involve physical contact but may do so).

The GER player involved in the incident shown above (who himself had been guilty of a prior obstruction offence) was given a green card for voicing his opinion of the umpire’s failure to penalise the IND player for obstruction/moving into/barging.

The Obstruction Rule could be written without any reference at all to physical contact and could mention only a single purpose of it – to prohibit ball shielding or ‘hiding’ the ball, with the stick or body of the player in possession of it, to prevent an opponent who would otherwise be able to do so, from immediately playing directly at or attempting to play directly at the ball.

Ironically, now that obstruction (ball shielding) is generally being ignored as an offence, there is a great deal more physical contact than there was when the Rule was reasonably enforced, that is when attention was paid to the wording of the Rule Proper and the Explanation of Application given with it.

In the above passage of poor play the GER defender was penalised, apparently for a contact tackle, but then the ‘messy’ taking of the free-ball and the subsequent obstruction, positioning between / backing-in / barging, by the IND player was ignored. This kind of play and umpiring was not unusual in Rio, it was the norm. Not attractive hockey.

Not penalising obstruction does not significantly reduce stoppages, because tacklers must try to play the ball and are penalised for the slightest contact infringement. A second purpose of the Obstruction Rule is to reduce incidents of physical contact in contests for the ball by removing a cause of it – the frustration of a tackle attempt by ball shielding.

How to avoid giving obstruction? Put and keep the ball beyond the playing reach of an opponentmove off in any direction or pass the ball away in any direction (“off” and “away” are interchangeable words here but I feel “away” to be the clearer term) and if neither is possible, then have developed the ball-stick and movement skills to elude a tackle attempt while keeping the ball ‘open’. The latter option is the more difficult because it requires the development of a high level of stick-ball skill, which is why the unskilled (the lazy) need to find ways to avoid it. Hockey has been ‘dumbed down’ to allow participants with little skill to play it at a low level, which is fine, but players should not still be playing ‘dumbed down’ hockey once they have progressed significantly beyond the novice stage, they should be developing the skills that make the game enjoyable to play and attractive to watch.

An AUS defender almost knocked of his feet by a NED player who backed into him, while ‘protecting’ the ball and barged him out of the way soccer style – play continued.

Facts and truths are not the same thing, ‘the truth’ (according to the etymology of the word truth) is what is believed (by ‘everybody’), which may have nothing at all to do with the demonstrable facts of a matter e.g. the wording of a Rule. This is how faith is developed and how the ‘high priests’ (FIH Umpires) become highly respected practitioners, they practice, expound and develop ‘the truth’ – what they themselves believe or have been instructed to believe –  facts are an embarrassment to them.

If Cris Maloney is to base his future umpire coaching videos on what is seen of the Rule application of FIH Umpires he will have to start preaching that a player in possession of the ball cannot be guilty of a physical contact offence. It has already been declared (see article on stick obstruction http://wp.me/pKOEk-2g1) that if a player has his or her stick in contact with the ball that player cannot stick-obstruct – which is a nonsense. Such nonsense is commonplace, it has also been declared and has been maintained to be fact by many people for a long time  that obstruction cannot take place if a ball-holder is stationary. (since 2003 to be exact because in 2002 there was an instruction to umpires in the rule-book to watch for (penalise?) players who stood still and shielded the ball when under pressure). But it has also been declared, with the same certainty, that if a player in possession of the ball is moving the ball with the stick or is moving with the ball no obstruction is possible: so taken together there is, according to those who make these declarations, no conceivable circumstance in which an obstruction offence could occur. And if these declarations are not to be taken together we are left to choose which ‘interpretation’ (invention) to believe without there being any evidence to support belief in any of them, while those who make these conflicting statements umpire accordingly and continue to argue amongst themselves.

We can be sure these umpires will not stop inventing their own version of hockey, but where do they go from permitting physical contact by a player in possession of the ball – which is a fundamental change to the way, according to its published Rules, hockey should be played ?

It was noticeable that the need to penalise physical contact by a tackling player i.e. a ‘break-down’ tackle, was emphasised in the FIH video produced about the role of the Umpire Managers in Rio (this action was however still frequently ignored during the tournament see the video below – in which a GB player makes a tackle on a USA player, in possession of the ball, from a position and in such a way (a forehand tackle from the ball-holder’s rear left side) that obstruction and physical contact were inevitable and unavoidable, but the umpire suspended the USA player for the contact).

Physical contact initiated by a ball-holder, didn’t however, despite being a frequent occurrence, (see AUS v NED video, the second one above, for a blatant example), get a mention in the FIH umpire coaching video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJTfPlgknUo

May 19, 2017

Field hockey Rules: Spin turn

Found on the Field Hockey Forum website.

Edit. 14th. July 2017.  1) FIH video umpire coaching on prevention of a tackle attempt.  and  2) Comment on positioning behind the play.

Criteria for offence

Moving to position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing reach of the ball and attempting to play it.

Backing into (the playing reach of) an opponent i.e. moving (turning) to position between a close opponent and the ball to prevent a tackle attempt.

(There is a umpire coaching video, Obstruction 8, from the FIH Umpiring Committee, about obstruction on the Dartfish website.

http://www.dartfish.tv/Player?CR=p38316c12660m736932

The accompanying ‘Interpretation of the action’ gives prevention of a tackle attempt as the reason obstruction was called)

Riley Fulmer #23 baseline fun.

A post shared by Tim Fulmer (@tremluf) on

A video shared by Tim Fulmer (@tremuf) on May 14 2017

The Obstruction Rule and relevant parts of the Explanation of Obstruction. (my additional notes, highlighting and bold text)

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

– back into an opponent (if there is physical contact caused by the player in possession when backing in, that is a second and separate offence or a combination of offences).

– shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.(shield the ball, with their stick or any part of their body, to prevent a legal tackle )

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.

Unless the umpire was of the opinion that the defender made no attempt at all to play at the ball the initial turning action by the attacker seen in the video was an obstruction offence. Certainly once the attacker had her back to the defender and was shielding the ball from her, a legitimate (legal) tackle attempt – which might otherwise have been made – was prevented – thatis obstruction.

From a technique point of view the attacker gets far too close to the defender – within her playing reach – as she begins her turn on the ball and she then moves further into the reach of her opponent while shielding the ball i.e. she moves bodily into the defender, although she does not make contact, mainly because the defender gives way to avoid it. That close to the base-line the attacker did not have the space to turn clear of the reach of her opponent but did not use any other stick-work or footwork technique to change direction or create more space for herself.

The defending is very weak; the defender should have held her ground, made use of the base-line to close the space and also made a much more determined attempt to get her stick on the ball – with both hands on the stick.

An attempt to play at the ball is not however graded by degree, either there was or was not an attempt made to play at the ball. If there was any attempt to play at the ball made by the defender, before or as the turn was made, and/or the ball the ball was shielded to prevent her playing at the ball, there was an obstruction offence.

There is no indication in the Rule Explanation that it is necessary for a defending player who is backed into to be attempting to play at the ball at the time for there to be an obstruction offence, especially if the defender is obliged to move away to avoid physical contact occurring. Many defenders do however give way in these circumstances because they might otherwise be penalised for making contact while tackling – contrary to Rule 9.13.

9.13 Players must not tackle unless in a position to play the ball without body contact.

Once the ball is shielded the defender is in a no-win position – an unfair situation.

 

The tackle attempt.

This was weak and inadequate to win the ball, but still an attempt to play the ball which might have succeeded if the attacker had not previously interposed her body between the ball and the defender.

I expect this defence regularly lose heavily because they are not working together. The defender behind the tackler is doing nothing but decorating the pitch and the one approaching from in front of the goal is closing too late and too slowly to tackle the turning attacker at her weakest moment (which is shown in the picture). The attacker should have had no chance of making a push pass across the goal from the base-line against three defenders if they were correctly positioned.

But it does not help that the umpire does not appear to know that there is an Obstruction Rule or simply ignores the fact. It is however possible that the umpire considered the defender to be behind the play – i.e. the attacker and the ball to be nearer to the goal than the defender was – so there could be no obstruction. But at the start of the turning action the defender was the nearer to the goal – having been obstructed (prevented from attempting a tackle), she then gave way and gave positional advantage to the attacker and is behind the play during the tackle attempt she then made – shown in the still.

It is no surprise, that without offering any reason for their opinions, both of these umpires (below) reject the possibility of obstruction – (and both attempt to change the subject, and incidentally to show how observant they are – the position of the umpire and the circle line respectively). Diligent once wrote in a forum post that “obstructions occurs, if at all, about once in three hundred matches” so he is predisposed, perhaps as a matter of faith, to reject any claim of obstructive play and no better will come from him.

redumpire makes no attempt to explain his blindness to the offence (his interpretation of the wording of the Rule) but he is anyway given to making pronouncements, as here, rather than to giving explanations for his opinions.

When players question when coached to spin turn in this way (obstructively), as they must if they have read the Rules, “Isn’t that against the Rules?” do they just accept “That is not the way the wording is interpreted.” In other words, word meaning is irrelevant? Apparently so.

Such acceptance is understandable from a player in possession of the ball, who benefits from being able to shield it without due penalty, but what about those trying to defend against a player who turns to shield the ball and prevent a tackle attempt? Do these defenders not have a voice? Maybe they keep quite because umpires are also blind to  defenders ‘crabbing’ along the base-line while ‘protecting’ the ball – an offence, which when it occurs within the circle should be penalised with a penalty stroke.

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October 7, 2016

Field Hockey Rules: Obstructive tackling

Rules of Hockey. Spin tackle.

What I have termed a spin tackle may have been happening for some time, but I have not noticed it. I can’t recall seeing it during the 2012 London Olympics or the 2014 World Cup. Now however it ‘jumps out at me’ because of the frequency of occurrence – and because it seems to be seldom penalised. 
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The first GB player impedes the stick of the USA player and that obstructs her – that should have been penalised with a penalty corner (or possibly a penalty stroke). The umpire either missed that offence or allowed (a dubious) advantage because the USA player did not immediately lose possession of the ball.

The USA player does then lose close control of the ball and the second GB player gets her stick to it and ineffectually jabs at it – but the USA player, who is still in contention for it, immediately spins into a position between the ball and the GB player, barging/backing into her opponent and knocking her stick away while doing so, regains control of the ball and then moves away to give herself room to take a reverse edge shot.

(I don’t know why umpires position close to the base-line and the goal-post, at tournaments where there are video referral facilities, when from that position the umpire could not have seen much of what the USA player did to regain control of the ball.)

So we have a combination breach of Rule 9.12 Obstruction and of Rule 9.13 Tackling with body contact, concurrently by a single individual. These are fouls which usually occur between competing players, a player in possession of the ball who obstructs and an opponent who makes body contact while trying to overcome the obstruction and make a tackle but, as they say, the game is developing, it’s getting more like soccer every day.

The following incident is a straightforward movement to position between an opponent and the ball to dispossess the opponent. This too is soccer-like. There is no possibility of ‘tackling’ on the forehand a player in possession of the ball from the left side in this way without body contact and also obstruction resulting -even a reverse stick tackle is not easy without making contact from this side, although a great deal easier than it was when the Rule was first framed, a time that stick-heads were long and reverse play difficult in any circumstances. The wrong player was penalised (with both team and personal penalty) in the incident below.

If the ball is beyond the stick reach of chasing players there is a different situation, competing for the ball becomes a foot-race, that was not the case here, the USA player was in possession of the ball.

Instead of attempting to play at the ball with a reverse stick, which would be more usual when attempting a tackle from the left of an opponent the NED defender goes for a forehand challenge and in doing so inserts himself between the AUS attacker and the ball and then pivots about the ball to ‘lever’ and barge the AUS player off it. A deliberate contact offence contrary to Rule 9.3 and also to Rules 9.12 and 9.13.

http://vid381.photobucket.com/albums/oo252/Conundrum_2008/AUS%20v%20NED%203%20barge%20-%20contact%20tackle_zps1ugcz2z1.mp4

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September 22, 2016

Field Hockey Rules: Combination fouls, Rule interpretation

Rules of Hockey. Combining physical contact offences with obstruction. Interpretation of obstruction.

Edited 30th September 2016. Videos with comment added.

In a recent article

https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/field-hockey-rules-obstruction-and-physical-contact/ 

I responded to the assertion that the offence of obstruction requires that there be physical contact made. The assertion is not true, but I thought it would be useful to take a fresh look at the penalising of obstruction to see how umpires respond to it when it is combined with physical contact. The results of my focused search are dismaying. It seems more likely that a defender who has been backed or shunted into will be penalised for the contact or the incident will be ignored, than that the defender will be awarded a free-ball for either offence by the opponent.

The combination of obstruction and physical contact is not new, it’s as old as hockey, but there have been developments in the technique in recent years. Here (video below) is the ‘old-fashioned’, from the side and behind obstructive barge, still in active service but not now always penalised especially if the ‘tackler’ runs from behind and between the player in possession of the ball and the ball (usually from the left) with minimal contact – this is a form of the original “running between a player and the ball” mentioned in early rule-books (another being ‘third-party’, usually occurring when both players were beyond playing distance of the ball). The umpire awarded a 23m restart for the attackers from this incident (still referred to as a corner and indicated by a comic combination of signals), seeing neither the physical contact with or the obstruction of the ball holder as a foul.

 

The video below is of an incident that occurred in a World Cup match in 2010. I was shocked by it when I first saw it. Firstly, because the separate actions of the AUS player 1) going over the top of the ball and physically blocking the GER player and 2) deliberately, and powerfully, forcing the ball into the feet of another GER player (a separate offence at the time) – are shocking in themselves because of the degree of physical force used – and secondly, because neither offence was penalised: a GER player, one of the victims of these assaults, was penalised for the forced ball-foot contact.

I am no longer shocked by such actions or by such umpiring, I have become used to it because I watch quite a lot of international level hockey via video, but I am heartily sick of hockey being played and officiated in this way. Hockey should be a game of stick and ball skills without any intentional ball shielding or physical contact at all, such skills are ‘spectacular’ when well executed (if other people prefer to see players with sticks knocking ‘seven bells’ out of each other – or even want to engage in it- there is an equally fantastic game called hurling they would do well to experience).   

This particular incident was head-on and brutal; much shielding/contact play is now carried out in a more subtle way, but it still often results in a player being knocked to the ground and to injury. 

Below is a recent example of the Dutch demonstrating to the Australians how well they have learned this trick and developed it into a ‘turn-into and lever away from the side’ approach to prising the ball away from an opponent – a slight improvement on the Australian ‘into over the top of the ball’ tactic which could possibly injure both players, but still involving strong physical contact and obstruction.

Watching the video and awaiting the outcome of the video referral by the Australians, I was wondering if the video umpire would have the ‘bottle’ to recommend a penalty stroke or go with the safe and ‘acceptable’ option of a penalty corner: he did neither. Having watched the video repeatedly, I still can’t understand why he rejected the referral and a 15m was awarded to the NED team. But interpretation and opinion are strange things, which appear to have little to do with the wording of the Rules of Hockey. At the time I posted the first video above, in January 2011, I received comment to it from a couple of individuals, that in their view the GER player had committed an offence by running into the back of the AUS player when the AUS player was in possession of the ball – I assumed, and hope, they were just trying to ‘wind me up’.

Both of the above are tackling incidents (and both contravened four Rules simultaneously, Rules. 9.3, 9.8, 9.12, and 9.13  –  plus the now deleted 9.15 in the first clip  –  which is quite an achievement considering it was a member of the opposing team that was penalised in both cases).

Direct physical contact and obstruction are also used by players already in controlled possession of the ball, especially when they are trying to break past an opponent into the circle.

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The turn and back-in with physical contact is used so frequently as a means of achieving circle penetration (and has been for a long time now) that it has become almost standard: the uninformed might be forgiven for thinking it is legal. There is of course nothing at all wrong with turning on or with the ball but it requires good timing, to avoid physical contact – most players turn too late and/or not wide enough. Unlike soccer, in which receiving players facing their own goal are encouraged to make contact with and use that contact to ‘roll’ off an opponent, in hockey there has to be movement of a ball-holder away from an opponent rather than into an opponent and there needs to be sufficient early lateral movement made to avoid physical contact. The ‘trick’ by the GER players in the video above was clever and used a turn with high foot speed, but it was two fouls – physical contact and obstruction – although of course neither was penalised.

As always it helps when the opponent makes a charge or reaches for the ball and is committed to moving in a direction or is off-balance, so the space available for the ball holder to move into is obvious. It is very difficult at low speed or from a near stationary position to spin-turn past an opponent who is able to retreat and is alert to the possibility of a turn on the ball, but the high speed ‘spin-turn’ requires space and also considerable skill to execute successfully – i.e. lots of practice at full speed before it is used in a competitive match.
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Players in possession of the ball also commonly shield it behind the feet while moving sideways or leading the ball diagonally forward and they frequently knock opponents aside or oblige opponents to give way, to avoid making physical contact with them, while doing so (opponents retreat because any physical contact by a tackler might be construed as a breach of Rule 9.13, which forbids a tackle attempt by a player from a position in which physical contact will occur, and umpires are much stricter about contact tackling than they are about ball shielding, which in fact they generally ignore – that is why the decision in the second video above so surprised me, the first thing the defender did was to ensure he made physical contact, to block off the progress of the attacker).

In the incident shown below the German player, who was himself here guilty of prior ball shielding, became so irritated with the umpire for not awarding the GER team at least a penalty corner for the play of the IND defender, that he made comment which earned him a green card.  

I can understand his frustration; it is incredible that the umpire could stand watching that passage of play and see no offence that required his intervention and a penalty award. The game continued with a side-line ball.

 

It is now very noticeable in hockey matches that players usually stand off an opponent in possession of the ball when that opponent is in a ball shielding position – the extreme opposite to the way tacklers behaved towards a ball shielding opponent prior to 1992. I hope that some day a sensible compromise will be achieved, but that day is a long way off at the moment. 

 

   
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The comparatively trivial incident shown below was on the line of sight of the umpire who therefore had a foreshortened and blocked view of the players (the nearer player blocking view of the further) and it happened very quickly, so he missed it entirely. It looks to have been accidental, but the player in possession of the ball did run past it, even if unintentionally, so he was leading the ball, and he did then obstruct the defender – the defender seems to have had no idea he had been fouled or had got used to such fouls not being penalised, so made no protest. There is however no different in Rule between this incident and the first one shown above, both were obstruction and both were also physical contact offences. There should of course be a more severe penalty for offences which are deliberate and more so for those carried out so forcefully that they are dangerous to opponents.

 

The above incident contrasts well with the one below, which is a case of a not immoveable object meeting an irresistible force and having to give away. 


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Turning on the ball and with the ball could and should be a quick and attractive skill, but most of it is pedestrian. Some of it is static, in that it makes no progress and is not intended to do so – it is often done with the sole aim of positioning to ‘slam’ the ball into the feet of an opponent from close range, horrible – and we can also do without the play epitomised by holding the ball in a corner of the pitch for a couple of minutes, it’s ugly, boring and makes a mockery of the Rules of the game.

Resolving the issues. 

The Obstruction Rule, concerning ball shielding by a player in possession of the ball, is easy to understand using simple criteria regarding an opponent who is trying to dispossess the ball holder. 

The tackling player must be

  1. within playing reach of the ball.
  2. demonstrating an intent to play at the ball.
  3. in a position where he or she could play directly at the ball if it were not shielded by the body or stick of the player in possession of it.

It is the second part of the third criterion above that is ‘forgotten’ “if it were not shielded by the body or stick of the player in possession of it.

We have now instead only the first part of that statement applied “in a position where he or she could play directly at the ball”, which of course presents an impossibility if a ball holder moves his or her body or moves the ball, in response to any adjustments of position made by an opponent who is trying to tackle for the ball.

There is an impossibility created because the body (spin and pivot) movements of the ball holder, who is of course closer to the ball, can be completed more quickly than those of the positioning or re-positioning tackler, who has to move around the body of the ball-holder without touching the ball-holder. And ball movements with the stick, to position the ball, so that it is maintained in a position to the far side the ball-holder’s body from the tackler, will always be made much more quickly than a tackler can adjust his or her tackling position. 

I do not believe that the FIH Rules Committee, when drafting Rule 9.12. and 9.13. intended to set up a situation in which a legal tackle for the ball by a single individual would or could be made impossible – but that is the result of the ‘interpretation’ of “attempting to play it” (from Rule 9.12 below) that is currently being applied. It can take two or three tacklers some time to ‘pry’ a ball held by an opponent out of a corner of the pitch or away from a side-line and even then it is often done at the expense of a side-line or free-ball to the opposing team.

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 made more concise by getting rid of the use of an exception and the unnecessary observation that a player with the ball can move off (move away from opponents) in any direction – and putting aside moving bodily into an opponent – we can also then achieve the clear prohibitive statement:

A player with the ball is not permitted to move (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.

Rule 9.12.Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball. Forbids obstruction of a tackler. Rule 9.13. Players must not tackle unless in a position to play the ball without body contact. Effectively forbids a tackle for the ball when an opponent is shielding it with his or her body – because in such situations there may be body contact.

If the ball holder ensures that an opponent cannot even attempt to play at the ball without making body contact – by continually moving either his or her body or the ball – we have a ‘chicken and egg’ situation. Replacing what has been lost by ‘simplification and clarification’ “…if it were not shielded by the body or stick of the player in possession of it.” is perfectly fair and resolves the conundrum.

My search of previous rule-books  after writing the above, discovered wording in the Rules Interpretations section of the rule-books prior to the major change to the Obstruction Rule in 1992/3 (A change which allowed a receiver to accept and control the ball before moving away from opponents rather than after moving away to make space to receive the ball, without being guilty of an of an obstructive offence. This change remains the only change made to the Obstruction Rule since 1993 other than the clarification “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 wording (below) is not identical to that of the three criteria I remembered, there are in fact four criteria, there is also a stipulation that a tackler should not interfere with the legitimate actions of the player in possession of the ball (presumably a reminder not to make any physical contact in the days before a separate Rule 9.13 existed), but the criteria are otherwise similar statements.

BODY OBSTRUCTION AND INTERFERENCE
A player may not place any part of his body or stick between an opponent and the ball. Such actions are called obstruction and may also be referred to as screening the ball or blocking.


Obstruction can only happen when:
a) an opponent is trying to play the ball
b) an opponent is in a position to play the ball without interfering with the legitimate actions of the player with the ball
c) the ball is within playing distance or could be played if no obstruction had taken place.

Again, it is the second of the last criteria listed “or could be played if no obstruction had taken place.which is now ‘forgotten’.

These interpretations were not deleted when the entire Rules Interpretations section was removed from the back of the rule-book, they were redistributed, initially as Rule Guidance prior to 2004 and then as Explanation (of application of the Rule), often with change to the wording used, but not with a change of meaning or purpose of them. But some statements or parts of them, were lost along the way because of ‘simplification and clarification’. Unfortunately some simplification did not result in clarification, quite the reverse. For example, the following very specific list of prohibited obstructive actions, from the 2002 rule-book, didn’t all get included in the ‘streamlined’ 2004 rewrite, even though the application of the Rule would be much clearer if they (particularly the third and fourth listed) had been – and hockey would have been much the better for it.

Umpires should be aware of players who are in possession of the ball who:
back into an opponent;
• turn and try to push past an opponent;
• shield the ball with body, leg or stick and stand still when under pressure;
• drag the ball near their back foot when moving down the side-line or along the back-line;
shield the ball with the stick to prevent a legitimate tackle.

Were the missing actions (regular text) left out of the 2004 rule-book and then umpires adjusted their umpiring? Not at all, it was the other way about (just as with the offence of Forcing in 2011). Umpires were ignoring these actions so, presumably because ‘umpiring practice’ was so obviously and embarrassingly at odds with the published Rules and Advice to Umpires, that what was published was ‘adjusted’ to comply with ‘practice’. (But it is not, possible to keep up with changes to ‘practice’; backing into an opponent while in possession of the ball, a criterion that was included the 2004 rewrite and still in the Rule Explanation is now seldom penalised). 


A reminder of current ‘interpretation’ (the result of an overlooked and omitted criteria) in ‘practice’ This is the kind of play and umpiring guaranteed to drive spectators and television viewers away from the game, there is nothing attractive about it. 

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http://vid381.photobucket.com/albums/oo252/Conundrum_2008/Whereinterpretationhasgotus_zps640e3d76.mp4

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A different view.

Below is an umpire coaching video which presents an interpretation of what is not obstruction that I cannot agree with (the opening sequence for example is in my opinion only “not obstruction” because no attempt is being made to make a tackle. The backing-in then demonstrated by the ball-holder is certainly a physical contact offence, but not obstruction because there is still no attempt to make a tackle. The absence of a tackle attempt changes in the set up ‘play scenarios’ and there then is obstruction taking place).

It is the view of Cris Maloney of UmpireHockey.com, who produced this video, that physical contact is required for there to be an obstruction offence. I have been unable to get him to change his mind on this point. I asked him to withdraw this video and replace it with another based on a literal interpretation of the wording given in the Rules of Hockey, but he has not done so, which is disappointing as I need his support.

He points to current top level umpiring practice in support of his position on the matter. It is what top level umpires do – their ‘interpretations’ and ‘practice’ –  rather than the wording of the Rules of Hockey that influences the coaches of both players and umpires in their preparations for competitive matches. The wrong approach to the application of the Obstruction Rule has become a ‘runaway train’.

It is not the FIH Rules Committee who decide how the Rules of Hockey, that they draft and provide, will be applied. A strange situation that the FIH Executive, who approve the Rules drafted by the FIH RC (but have no say in the ‘interpretation’ and Rule application practiced by umpires), should address.

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The video below contains action that prompted the umpire to penalise for obstruction, but the only reason I can see that he did not penalise the offender about ten second earlier is because he penalised only when the ARG player combined obstruction with physical contact, by backing into the GER player who was attempting to tackle for the ball. In other words he did not see any of the ball shielding actions prior to the physical contact as obstructive play contrary to Rule 9.12.
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The GER player was (at least three times) 1) within playing reach of the ball 2) demonstrating an intention to play at the ball, and 3) the only reason he could not play at the ball was because it was (here deliberately) shielded from him by the body of the ARG player: that’s obstruction, it is incorrect to wait for obstruction to be compounded with physical contact before penalising it. It is difficult to know what criteria umpires are using to determine obstruction. Here (video below) is the same umpire, early in the same match, apparently penalising a GER player for obstruction as soon as he moves to position between the ball and the ARG player who is closing to make a tackle attempt. 
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Penalising obstruction in this way is very unusual but it occurs occasionally, seemingly at random. Such penalty is in stark contrast to the lack of penalty, for long ball-shielding and holding ‘dribbles’, that are used to waste time in the corners of the pitch  – which should not be allowed to happen.

(Amusing to see the ARG player attempt to take a quick self-pass and then change his mind and pretend he was positioning the ball – in the wrong place. A second whistle is needed to control free-ball situations.)
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December 4, 2015

Field Hockey Rules. Rules 9.11 and 9.12 Opposite approaches, all and none.

“A suggestion of contact”

Incidents which took place in the last minute in a match between Argentina and England Women during the last World Cup qualifying rounds. I take a close look at these because they epitomizes the difference in approach to the application of Rule 9.11. which concerns ball-body contact and Rule 9.12 which is the Obstruction Rule. First the incidents on video. It is not difficult to see what is ignored and to where the focus of attention is directed.

Breakdown

PDF links to the three sets of frame photographs and text for easy viewing.

Combination 1

Combination 2

Combination 3

CP Combination 1

CP Combination 2

 

 

CP Combination 3

The text in the last frame is a little difficult to read so I will repeat it here.

There is no frame or sequence in which it is possible to be definite about there being a ball-leg contact and of course much more than that is required for there to be an offence. As this match was pre- May 2015 (when advantaged gained was reintroduced into the Rule) there needed to be clear intent to use the body to stop or deflect the ball or a voluntarily taken action to do so. There does not appear to be any sort of intent.

Even if the post May 2015 criteria, an advantage gained, is used. If there is a contact it does not slow or deflect the ball in any way and play continues just as if there was no contact – so it is reasonable to state that there was no advantage gained

– and it is far from certain that there was any ball-body contact at all.

 

The Rules

Rule 9.12. Obstruction. (omitting third party) 

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.

 

Following the above criterion there can be no doubt that the ARG player committed an obstruction offence on at least two counts. The ENG defender behind her was within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it when her stick was kicked away from the ball. The ARG player did then move to position between the ENG player and the ball to prevent her playing at the ball by shielding it with the body.

 

Rule 9.11 Ball -use of body.

9.1 1 Field players must not stop, kick, propel, pick up, throw or carry the ball with any part of their body.

lt is not always an offence if the ball hits the foot, hand or body of a field player. The player only commits an offence if they gain an advantage or if they position themselves with the intention of stopping the ball in this way.

lt is not an offence if the ball hits the hand holding the stick but would otherwise have hit the stick.

“Gains an advantage” is now the first of the two criteria listed for offence after a player has used the body to stop, deflect or propel the ball; from 2006 – 2015 it was not in the Rules of Hockey as a criteria for offence for breach of Rule 9.11 (but was applied anyway).

So was there an advantage gained by the England team because of a ball-body contact? No because if there was a ball-body contact there was no deflection or acceleration or deceleration of the ball and no discernible change to play or outcome because of it.

Was there intent to use the body to stop, deflect or propel the ball with the body? None is discernible, therefore there was no offence arising from a breach of Rule 9.11. It is not even certain that there was a breach of Rule 9.11. There may even have been a breach of Rule 9.9. by the ARG player as the ball was flicked up and towards the ENG player.

 

Why are umpires applying the criterion for offence given in these two Rules in a way that is the opposite of the meaning and purpose of them? Ignoring obstructive offences (there can be no doubt that there were at least two obstruction offences by the ARG player) and treating all ball-body contact (or even the suggestion of a contact as the commentator put it) as an offence does not improve the game, it spoils it.

   

 

 

October 31, 2015

Field Hockey Rulebook Rewrite: Rule 9.12. Obstruction.

A suggested rewrite  of the Rules of hockey.

The current 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.

Action. Amendment.

Reason. The Rule is a fundamental element of the fair conduct of a non-contact game and is at present almost totally ignored due to deviant interpretation of Rule purpose and word meaning.

Comments and suggestions are invited from those who can remember the time the Obstruction Rule was properly applied. For those for whom the existence of it is a revelation, and possibly an unpleasant surprise, Hi.

The Obstruction Rule obliges a player in possession of the ball in contested situations to move the ball beyond the reach of opponents (by dribbling or passing) and to possess the ability, the stick-work skills, to retain the ball while facing opponents who are competing for it.

Hockey is not like soccer in this respect: soccer is a game which permits physical contact in challenges for the ball and also allows a player in possession of the ball to shield it from opponents and even hold them off, to prevent them from playing at the ball – hockey Rules permit neither action, physical contact nor ball-shielding. That naturally means that hockey is more difficult to learn to play properly than soccer is, but playing hockey without an Obstruction Rule is akin to playing tennis without an net – it requires little skill and the side/player in possession will almost always score. Keeping possession of the ball becomes for competent players almost as easy as it is in basketball, but hockey then becomes duller than basketball because the time, shooting and zone limits imposed on basketball players, to prevent endless possession by one side, do not exist in hockey.

The suggested rewrite below is basically the Rule as it now exists, it adds only a clarification of “move into” and the concept of an ‘on-side’ tackler to the existing Rule – the latter something which has always been there but never stated – and restores “must move away” in place of the present “is permitted to move off”: a clear instruction replacing an empty statement, empty in that it is neither prohibitive or directive and serves no purpose.

Suggestion.

Rule 9.12  Players must not shield the ball from an opponent with any part of the body or with the stick in a way that prevents or delays that opponent playing directly at the ball when that opponent would otherwise be immediately able to do so.

Shielding the ball to prevent an opponent playing at the ball is called obstruction.

A player in possession of the ball illegally obstructs an opponent with his body or stick when:-

the opponent is level with or own goal-side of the ball (‘on-side’ of the ball)            and
the ball is within the playing reach of the opponent who intends to play it

and
the opponent is demonstrating an intent to play at the ball                                     and
the only reason the opponent cannot immediately play directly at the ball is because the direct path to it is obstructed by (any part of) the body or stick of a player in possession of the ball.

Obstructive ball shielding is therefore an offence that has to be forced by an opponent while attempting to play the ball or positioning to tackle and in so doing demonstrates that the path to the ball is obstructed; the opponent who is intent on playing the ball is prevented from doing so only because the ball is shielded by the body or stick of the player in possession of it.

An obstructive offence may be forced by an opponent immediately that opponent comes to within playing reach of the ball and demonstrates an intent to play at it.

A player in possession of the ball

who is :-

(a)   faced with an ‘on-side’ opponent who is within playing distance of the ball  and who is attempting to play at the ball, may not move (turn) with or on the ball to position the body and/or stick between the ball and the opponent with the effect of blocking that opponent’s direct path to the ball and by this means or by moving the ball to the same effect, prevent a legal attempt by an opponent to play at the ball

A player in possession of the ball who is:-

(b)   beyond the playing reach of a closing opponent who turns on or with the ball to position the body between that opponent and the ball or move the ball to the same effect IS NOT allowed the time and space leeway, after the opponent has closed to within playing distance of the ball, that is, exceptionally, given to a player in the act of receiving and controlling the ball. The ball must be kept beyond the playing reach of a closing opponent in such circumstances, OR before the opponent is obstructed in his or her attempt to play at the ball the player in possession of the ball must again turn on or with the ball to face opponents or position the ball, so that it is no longer shielded from opponents.

A stationary or slow moving ball-holder who obliges an opponent who is intent on playing at the ball to ‘go around’ a ball-shielding position to attempt to play at the ball, when that opponent would otherwise be able to play at the ball directly, is obstructing that opponent.

Within the criteria given above, an Obstruction Offence occurs when a player in possession of the ball, whether moving or stationary, positions the body in relation to the ball or the ball in relation to the body, so that the execution of a legal attempt to play at the ball by an ‘onside’ opponent, who would otherwise be able to immediately play directly at the ball, is not possible without that opponent having to move around the body or stick of the player in possession of the ball in order to play at it.

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A player in possession of the ball :-

must not move while leading and shielding the ball with any part of the body including the legs, into the playing reach of an opponent or move bodily into an opponent, causing contact, or by moving towards an opponent while shielding the ball, oblige an opponent to give way to avoid body contact (Rule 9.3).

 

The Tackler.

A tackle may not be attempted from a position where physical contact will result (Rule 9.13), but obstruction may be demonstrated; it is in fact a requirement that obstruction is demonstrated for the offence to occur i.e. that a legal attempt to play at the ball is being prevented.

A player who is within playing distance of the ball and intends to make a tackle, but who is not in a position of balance from which a tackle attempt may be made, is for example, facing or moving or reaching in the wrong direction to play at the ball with a reasonable expectation of making contact with it with the stick, cannot be obstructed except as already noted, when the movement is forced to avoid physical contact from an opponent who is leading and shielding the ball.

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The ‘Receiving’ Exception to the Rule.

Exceptionally, a player who is in the act of receiving and controlling the ball is temporally exempted from the possibility of a ball shielding offence.

A receiving player is permitted to receive the ball while facing in any direction and while either in a stationary position or while moving. Such a receiving player will not be obstructing any opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play at it, even if shielding the ball from that opponent while receiving it.The receiving player, however, having received the ball and controlled it, must in these circumstances then immediately either:-

a) pass the ball away or

b) move away from opponents with the ball to put and keep it beyond their playing reach and/or turn on or with the ball to face opponents, so that the ball is no longer shielded from them.

 

It will be necessary for a receiving player who elects  to turn on or over the ball, after the ball is in control or as the ball is controlled, to:-

a) make such a turn 1) before an opponent is within playing reach of the ball or 2) after having taken the ball beyond the playing reach of the opponent or

b) create space for a turn having duped the opponent into moving or reaching in the wrong direction, before there has been any obstruction.

 

Once an opponent is within playing reach of the ball the only options then available to the ball holder will be:-

a) to either turn on the ball while moving the ball away from the reach of the opponent (which may be achieved with foot-work and stick-work ) or

b) to move away with the ball to put and keep the it beyond the opponent’s reach, and then to turn on or with the ball  – and/or to pass the it away.

 

Once the ball has been received and controlled the receiving player may not,  in a way that shields the ball from opponents who are within playing distance of the ball and demonstrating an intent to play it, dwell on the ball in a stationary or near stationary position or while so positioned move the ball to shield it and thereby prevent a legal attempt to play at it.

After having received and controlled the ball, making feints over the ball while stationary or slow moving or ‘dribbling’, which comprises of ‘weaving’ from side to side without taking the ball beyond the playing reach of the opponent and while maintaining a ball shielding position (thus preventing an opponent from playing at the ball or from positioning to do so), will be considered an obstruction offence.

The receiving exception to the Obstruction Rule facilitates the receiving and controlling of the ball and continuation of play without the receiver immediately committing an obstruction offence when closely marked by an opponent who is intent on playing at the ball – nothing more.

The ‘Manufactured’ Exception to the Rule.

A player in possession of the ball who plays it to the far side of an opponent (who is, for example, attempting to channel the ball holder or block the ball with the stick or execute a tackle) and then runs into that opponent claiming to be obstructed, has not been obstructed if there has been no movement to obstruct by the defending player. If there is physical contact the player who was in possession of the ball is, in these circumstances, the one more likely to have committed an offence. (This was a part of the previously deleted Forcing Rule which should be restored).

 

Third-Party Obstruction.

A player who is not in possession of the ball who moves in front of or blocks the path of an opponent to stop that opponent legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing. This form of obstruction is known as third-party obstruction because the obstructing player often carries out this action so that a team-mate (the second party) has more time and/or space to reach and/or play the ball. It can also be regarded as an impeding or even as a physical contact offence in these circumstances.

It is not necessary for the obstructed player to be within playing reach of the ball at the time a third-party offence is committed, it is only necessary that but for the offence, the obstructed player would have been able to intercept the ball or would have been in a position to challenge a team-mate of the obstructing player for the ball and was denied that opportunity. This form of obstruction is often carefully planned to create passing space in mid-field and is often deliberately carried out during penalty corners to a) give the stopper and shooting player more time to set up and make a shot and b) to block line of sight to the ball to defenders. It is in the latter case often a very dangerous action and should be watched for and penalised. 

For there to be a third party obstruction It is generally necessary for the obstructing player to move to block the path to the ball of the obstructed player and third party obstruction cannot otherwise occur, but exceptionally, a player in possession of the ball may deliberately use a stationary team-mate as a shield by dribbling the ball very close to him or her so as to impose the team-mate between an opponent who is intent on tackling for the ball – leaving the tackler, with the choice of going around or stopping or barging into the stationary third player i.e. in an obstructed position.

Stick Obstruction 

The same principle applies to stick obstruction as applies to obstruction with the body. Positioning the stick between the stick of an opponent and the ball is obstruction if that action prevents the opponent playing the ball. It makes no difference if the stick of the player in possession of the ball is in contact with the ball or not. If, for example, the stick is positioned Indian dribble style with the stick-head over the top front of the ball in contact with and covering it, or the stick is used away from the ball to fend off the stick of a tackler as the tackler’s stick is moved towards the ball. Both these kinds of action are obstructive, if direct playing of the ball by an opponent, who is within playing distance of the ball and is attempting to play at it, is thereby prevented.

 

The other difficulty the soccer player coming to hockey has is the insistence that the ball not be played with the back (the rounded side) of the stick. This often causes the novice player, unable to easily turn the stick-head, to turn anti-clockwise with the ball on the face side of the stick-head and in so doing to obstruct opponents (such obstruction, even by top level players, is currently being ignored).

Since the introduction of the use of the edges of the stick to play the ball in the 1990’s (previously specifically forbidden) the retaining of the offence of back-sticks makes little sense, especially as even with slow-motion video replay it is often impossible to determine if a player used the edge or back of the stick to play (hit) the ball.

Abolishing the offence of back-sticks would make introduction to hockey to the novice significantly easier and also considerably broaden the range of stick/ball skills available to the competent player and would not now lead to a fundamental change in the way hockey is played (or indeed to the ‘Indian dribble’ disappearing – field hockey stick-work is not and would not become, similar to the style of stick-work used in ice-hockey – not least because the sticks used as well as the objects played with (ball and puck) are dissimilar). 

Ignoring the Obstruction Rule, an action which does fundamentally alter the way in which the game is played, while being strict about back-sticks offences (where they are seen) is absurd.