Now after 25 years.


In agreement with the point made in this article:-

I have over the years come to the conclusion that those who umpire, especially those who are considered to umpire well, cannot explain to anyone else what the Rules of Hockey are and haven’t the slightest idea about improving them, either by re-writing them in simple English or by removing contradictions within them or by suggesting new ideas, new Rules or new ways of applying existing Rules. They just don’t consider these things and seeking improvement and change does not occur to them. In general they tend to have learned the Rules of Hockey by ‘boning up’ on them just prior to a test taken many years ago and continue to apply those Rules as they were, come what may, until they are no longer offered appointments. At which point, or perhaps earlier, they become umpire coaches and perpetuate these same ‘own’ views. Many umpires were probably coached by such people. Here is a high level umpire coach, coaching on the Obstruction Rule (from the FIH Umpiring Committee’s published Umpire Managers’ Briefing – not from the Rules of Hockey)



The coach, Jan Hadfield (above), speaks as if attempting to ‘manufacture’ an obstruction offence is a common occurrence, when it isn’t now (but it was up until the 1970’s), it now seldom happens (it is generally a waste of effort anyway because obstruction is so seldom penalised). The most common obstruction by far is by a ball holder who illegally shields the ball from an opponent to prevent a tackle attempt, but she does not mention this type of obstruction at all. It is ignored, perhaps in order to “take the whistle out of the game”. Examples of this kind of ‘application’ are seen in the videos below. Umpires should not of course interrupt the game with the whistle to award penalty more than is necessary, but they also should not fail to award penalty when it is necessary (required by Rule) that they do so.




What I have written in the opening paragraph may seem to be a bit harsh, but aside from the evidence of practice seen in the videos, which is not at all unusual, there is the writing of the Rules as published (that is piecemeal – bits being added or deleted over the course of years without any editing or incorporation or consolidation of the existing text) which results in conflicts and contradictions and absurd assertions, which I have only touched upon in the two videos above, to support that view. The Obstruction Rule is a case in point.

As I demonstrated in the first video. The major rewrite of 2004 left us with three bullets points under the heading ‘Players obstruct if they’; to those there can be added another four points, two from what is written (badly) about third party obstruction and two from the paragraph which was extended by amendment in 2009 (to prohibit a player moving to position between an opponent and the ball) ; this ‘tightening up’ which prevented players who were “moving away in any direction” shunting sideways with the ball to maintain a ball shielding position, was the last amendment made to the Obstruction Rule.

But then in 2002 Advice to Umpires in the rule-book (which was also presented in the 2002 Umpire Managers Briefing), contained three sensible additional points (or sub-points) that simply disappeared in the 2004 rewrite without ever making it into acceptance in what is termed Full Rule. Part of what was deleted in 2004 (from the 2002 advice) was restored in 2009 but the language used is (it’s still there) not as specific i.e. it is vague. There are a total of ten possible “Players obstruct if” bullet points (with some overlap and repetition) – and these do not specifically cover the two circumstances (aside from ‘manufacture’) in which an obstruction offence is an impossibility, one of which (on-side of the ball and the player) I try to explain in the second video above (the other being when an opponent is receiving the ball – because receivers, moving or stationary, are permitted to be facing in any direction).

There is, as further example of potential confusion, the assertion made in the Rules Interpretations up until 2003, that there is an onus on a tackler to position to make a tackle, which, it was written within Interpretation, usually meant that a tackler should move around the player in possession of the ball. (This entire interpretation was taken out of the rule-book in 2004 (deleted) but is still being applied by many umpires as if extant – the coaching video below ARG v GER is an example of this ‘interpretation’)

In the days when a receiving player could be guilty of an obstruction offence (pre -1993) the best time to attempt a tackle, other than an interception before the ball reached the intended receiver (which is still the most advantageous way to gain possession), was as the ball was being received. In those circumstances obstruction was always seen as occurring before the tackle attempt and the obstructing player penalised if the tackler was or came to be within within playing reach of the ball before the ball was played away or the receiving player moved away to keep it beyond the playing reach of opponents (so considerable skill, besides collecting the ball, was required of a player receiving the ball – which is no longer the case Practically the Rule application really demanded that a closely marked receiver made a lead run to ‘create’ space in which to receive the ball without obstructing his marker).

The ‘new interpretation’ (in fact an exception to the Obstruction Rule) reversed this situation. A receiver no longer needed to make a lead run to create time and space to receive the ball and among the worse times to attempt a tackle was (and is) as the ball was being received (these days such a tackle attempt is likely to be regarded as a contact offence even when there is no contact made). A player already in controlled possession of the ball, but shielding it, is in an even stronger position if the umpire sees no genuine and legal attempt to play at the ball by a tackler  – and what constitutes an attempt to play at the ball might actually be an impossibility when the ball is shielded to prevent such a thing happening – this is a circular situation, but one that is usually interpreted to the ball-holders advantage (which is hardly fair).

The video immediately below is a clip that was published by the FIH Umpiring Committee via the website. The ‘Interpretation of the action’ provided with it failed to describe most of the action which occurred between the time the GER player received the ball and when she had completed her turn about it, to once more face the ARG player, but concluded that the ARG player made no attempt to play at the ball and so could not have been obstructed. Such coaching can only cause great confusion, as the tackle attempts made by the ARG player are obvious, as is the deliberate blocking off of the ARG player by the GER player (it was with much relief that I discovered recently that the FIH Umpire coaching videos that were produced are no longer available on that website. It was infuriating to see such a potentially valuable coaching tool so badly produced. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, replaces them.)  I have overwritten this clip with my own comment.This is the interpretation of the action that was provided with the video by the FIH Umpiring Committee (in fact whoever they appointed to do the job).



The only thing that was (and is as a lone player) even worse than attempting to tackle a player in the act of receiving the ball was (is) to attempt to go around a player receiving the ball to try to make a tackle. That simply provided the receiver, then in control of the ball, with opportunity to turn away to the other side and into the space just vacated by the player attempting to tackle. Whoever drafted the conditions of the ‘new interpretation’ clearly had no idea what was involved when defending or tackling during a hockey match.

There is no onus on the opponent of a receiving player to make a tackle attempt, there cannot be, and there certainly should not be direction given that a tackler must go around a ball holder to make a tackle attempt (or even the impression given that this is the case). In most circumstances sensible defenders will try to block movement by an opponent with the ball and hold their ground until they have sufficient numerical advantage to actively confront a ball holder and try to win the ball without the risks associated with loss of defensive position. This is of course not a hard and fast statement, a forward will try to tackle a full-back in possession of the ball in the full-back’s own circle whenever the opportunity arises, but in general defenders do not rush to tackle forwards outside the 23m area, when the attackers have good control of the ball and unmarked support, that is just common sense.


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