Preventing a tackle. Ball shielding



The Umpire Manager’s Briefing for umpires at FIH Tournaments. 2017.

The Rule.

The UMB and the Rule appear to agree that ball shielding to prevent a tackle attempt by an opponent is obstruction but, oddly, the Rule does not use the words ‘to prevent’ but the vague ‘from’. We moreover often hear umpires declaring that a player was not obstructed because he or she was not in a position to play the ball and therefore there could be no legitimate tackle made – even though, as in the videos above and below, that player is at the time within playing reach of the ball, in a balanced position, demonstrating an intent to play at the ball and is only prevented from playing at the ball because it is (deliberately) blocked from him by the stick or body of the player in possession of it.

As a result players in possession of the ball have become skillful at obstructing opponents who are trying to tackle for the ball and nobody expects them to be penalised for it, not even the tackler.

The defender in his turn will shield the ball along the base-line or hold it shielded in a corner with no expectation that these obstructive actions will be penalised – the obstruction shown below was not penalised. This has been going on for a very long time. Everyone knows this situation is a nonsense but nothing is being done to resolve the contradictions. Instead, if anything, excuse is being found not to penalise what is obviously obstruction.

This is not a call for Rule change, even if the minor clarification suggested above  (from -> to prevent) would be helpful, but a call to apply the Rule “As is”. Is there any argument about the illegality of ball shielding to prevent a legitimate tackle attempt? Any doubt about what the Rule is or what the purpose of it is? Is anyone suggesting that moving or even being positioned to shield the ball from an opponent is legitimate play? I don’t think so. So what is the problem? Why the wilful blindness?


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