Alignment

Rules of Hockey

Bizarrely written and largely unnecessary additions to the Rules of the indoor game. No alignment.

9.13 Umpires should place particular emphasis on limiting time spent in situations where the ball becomes trapped in the corners of the pitch or close to the side-boards (especially towards the end of matches) when the player in possession effectively shields the ball such that an opponent is prevented from being able to play it. Early interventions by the Umpires will make teams aware that this type of play or tactic is of no benefit to them.

I will start by explaining what I mean by bizarrely written using  the first part of the first sentence of the above Rule Explanation (which has not been added to the outdoor version of the Obstruction Rule, even though holding the ball in a corner of the pitch while shielding it to prevent a tackle, is common in the outdoor game) as an example.

Umpires should place particular emphasis on limiting time spent in situations where the ball becomes trapped in the corners of the pitch or close to the side-boards (especially towards the end of matches) when the player in possession effectively shields the ball such that an opponent is prevented from being able to play it.

When a player in possession of the ball shields the ball in a way that effectively prevents an opponent playing at it that is immediately an obstruction offence, so why is the above explanation focused on limiting the time spent obstructing opponents and then only in corners and close to sideboards and especially towards the end of matches. This is saying in effect that obstructive actions should only be penalised when they are not brief (brief obstruction offences are therefore acceptable ???) So I suppose not carried out with the intention of ‘running-time’ to the advantage of the team of the player committing the offence. What is the time limit for this foul which, I repeat, should be penalised immediately it occurs if it disadvantages an opponent? I have no idea, that is presumably an umpire judgement.

The second sentence then presents an obstruction offence as a type of play or a tactic rather than as a foul.

I now come to Rule 9.19 which had been drafted especially for the indoor game. This Rule has two diametrically opposing parts

Part one

9.19 Players must not trap or hold the ball against the side-boards.

That is a simple and very clear prohibition. However it should but doesn’t only prohibit this action if it prevents an opponent playing at the ball. That is obvious to those who are familiar with the game, but not stipulating exactly what is meant is laziness.

Part two

A player in possession of the ball may not be ‘trapped’ either in the corner of the pitch or against the side-boards by opponents with their sticks flat on the floor. Opponents must leave an outlet of reasonable size through which the ball may be played.

That clause, besides giving the umpire a difficult judgement task, is ambiguous because it does not state that the player in possession of the ball must have the ball in an open position i.e a position in which an opponent could make a legal tackle attempt. So, following on from what is given in Rule 9.13 above, the player in possession could (briefly?) shield the ball anytime a tackle attempt was made and would, following Rule 9.19, quite quickly be awarded a free ball because opponents had him trapped against the side-boards or in a corner. This Rule appears to be written in opposition to the Obstruction Rule and to the advantage of a player who is in possession of the ball even if he or she is shielding the ball to prevent a tackle attempt.

Examples of obstructive play close to the sideboards. The second one is from the cover of the Indoor Rules rule-book.

It is not necessary to make any comment about the following add-on clauses but the second of them is an attempt to tidy a ‘loose end’ in a previous clause, that exists as a result of poor initial drafting.

Umpires should recognise and interrupt play, with a bully re-start, when the ball is either trapped between players’ sticks or becomes unintentionally trapped against the side-boards.


Repeated instances of players trapping or holding the ball against the side-boards should be viewed as an intentional offence and penalised accordingly.


Similarly, players who deliberately aim to trap the ball between their and an opponent’s stick should be penalised and not rewarded with a bully.

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2 Comments to “Alignment”

  1. This actually gives me hope that “they” are beginning to recognize that this IS obstruction.

    • I wish I could believe you are right Annette, but these Indoor Rules have been in place for several years and although they should indicate that obstruction will be penalised when it occurs there is no sign whatsoever of this happening.

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