Attempting to play the ball


Attempting to play the ball.

There were at one time two videos about obstruction presented by the FIH Umpiring Committee via which referred to an attempt to play at the ball.

The Interpretation given on the Dartfish website of the above incident was as follows:-
The ARG attacker enters the 23 metres area and just before she reaches the edge of the circle plays a pass which is intended for her team mate. The GER defender tries to intercept the pass, but the ball deflects off her stick. The GER defender regains control of the ball. The second ARG attacker tries to claim that she is being obstructed. The Umpire allows play to continue, because at no point did the second ARG attacker ever legitimately attempt to play the ball.

The GER player who blocks the ARG player who is trying to move towards the ball clearly commits three offences 1) physical contact 2) Interference 3) Third-party Obstruction and whoever wrote the above interpretation, supporting the decision made by the match umpire, lacks not only Rule knowledge but common sense. There was no attempt by the ARG player to play at the ball because she was illegally prevented from getting to within playing distance of the ball when trying to do so.

The interpretation provided on the website with the next video was:-
The GER team try and pass the ball out of defence. The GER player receives the ball and initially moves it out of the playing distance of the ARG player. When the GER player turns with the ball, the ARG player is not actively trying to tackle or play the ball, so there is no obstruction. When the GER player plays the ball over the stick of the ARG player, it runs out of her playing distance for an ARG side-line ball. The contact between the two players’ sticks is accidental and does not affect play.

There is a substantial chunk of the action missing from the actions described in the provided interpretation which can be seen in the video. I have embedded comment in my remake of the video and included slow-mo of the relevant action.

Both of the above interpretations, which declare no tackle attempt was made, are absurd, taking no account of the prevention of a tackle attempt or the illegal thwarting of a tackle attempt as it was in progress (initially, in the second video, by stepping over the stick of the player attempting to tackle as she was reaching for the ball and bodily blocking her path to it). Both interpretations support the decisions made by the match umpires: what a surprise !!

My previous objections to the inclusion of these two videos (and many others) presented as umpire coaching go back to the launch date of FIH Umpire Committee sponsored coaching on the Dartfish website – a potentially great coaching tool was being mismanaged and wasted by those responsible for producing the interpretations, mainly because they ‘bend over backwards’ to support decisions made by match umpires no matter, as in the two examples above, how mistaken they were.

All the FIH Umpire Coaching videos at one time presented on the Dartfish website have been taken down. So many were flawed or simply wrong in their ‘Interpretation of the action’ that I am relieved that this step was taken

Cris Maloney refers in his coaching session (see link below) to “What FIH Umpires are doing” as justification for the interpretation he is coaching. Here is an example of what they are doing.



This umpire allows the NED defender to ‘crab’ along the base-line and to move into the playing reach of the GER forward while  – deliberately – shielding the ball from her opponent and thereby preventing an attempt by that opponent to make a legitimate tackle.The GER player would immediately have been able to play directly at the ball if the NED player had not shielded it from her in the way that she did.

(moving along a line in this way was an action which umpires were advised to watch for (penalise) up until 2003, when it was deleted from Advice to Umpires without comment. This instruction needs to be restored to the Explanation of application of the Obstruction Rule – along with 2) turning into and pushing past, and 3) standing still and shielding the ball when under pressure – the latter also seen in the video – described ‘watch for’ actions which were deleted at the same time as shielding the ball while moving along a line was).

The umpire does not penalise until a second GER forward attempts to tackle for the ball and is also obstructed in the same way while the first one continues to be obstructed. The penalty awarded was a penalty corner and not as it should have been, because there was nothing accidental about this obstruction, a penalty stroke. The obstructing player obviously had no idea she was committing an offence. Why not?

Common sense should have told this umpire that a deliberate obstruction offence was occurring ‘right under her nose’ long before she did intervene.

(Incidentally the earlier breakdown tackle near the centre of the circle looks like an offence that should have been penalised with a penalty stroke)


This following example is worse, the umpire awards the offending NED player (who commits three offences) a free ball.

Cris Maloney ( would doubtless have seen the first action by the NED defender after he got possession of the ball as backing into, because there was physical contact, but the FIH Umpire concerned did not. Why not? Will Cris Maloney eventually follow what this umpire, and others, are doing?

On the above evidence, basing Rule application on a clear understanding of the written Rule, obtained by using literal interpretation of the wording, is more likely to produce sensible decisions than copying what other umpires are doing, no matter what level they may have reached, because it is often impossible to know why they are doing what they do – and the “Why?” or “Why not?” is important.

I doubt that the umpire who made the above decision could explain why he did not penalised the NED player for obstruction and/or physical contact, the offences could hardly have been clearer and the written descriptions of them in the Explanation of application of Rule 9.12 are clear enough to be fit for purpose if common sense is also employed.


I hope no other umpires will follow these examples.


3 Comments to “Attempting to play the ball”

  1. Unfortunately, you are in the minority, but that is also the way I see it. It doesn’t matter much. I am a rookie.

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