Archive for June 20th, 2019

June 20, 2019

Obstruction Rule should be amended

Rules of Hockey.

This Rule ties with the Rule on ball body contact as the the most badly applied of the Rules and it is the most badly written Rule. The rot started in 1993 when an exception to the Rule was introduced as a “new Interpretation”. The new Interpretation was set out over two pages in the back of rule-books in a Rules Interpretations section, in such a bizarre way that it made little sense when thoroughly examined. The 1993 version of the Rule Proper did not change in any way:-

A player shall not obstruct by running between an opponent and the ball nor
interpose himself or his stick as an obstruction.

Umpires were told that they were responsible for Rule Interpretation and the application of the Rule then ‘went to hell in a handcart'(because umpires are not responsible for Rule Interpretation, the FIH Rules Committee have that responsibility and the responsibility to communicate Interpretation to umpires . Umpires are responsible for the interpretation of the actions and intentions of players (a difficult enough task) for compliance with Rule and Explanation of Rule Application as provided by the FIH Rules Committee)

The current Obstruction Rule was last amended in 2009. That amendment was an addition which should have tightened up the application of the Rule – but didn’t.  It is shown in black in the Rule set out below.

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) when a penalty corner is being taken.

 

Note that “back into an opponent” and “move off with it [the ball] in any direction except bodily into an opponent” are listed separately listed clauses. This is because they are different kinds of obstructive action. The second involves physical contact, the first does not.

I read that to mean that back into an opponent does not mean back into bodily contact, but to back, while shielding the ball to prevent a tackle attempt, towards (into the playing reach) of an opponent. I justify this by pointing out 1) that an opponent may be obstructed when within playing reach of the ball and prevented from making a tackle attempt because the ball is shielded by the body or stick of the ball holder 2) There is otherwise unnecessary repetition within the Explanation of Application of the Rule.

I have written many blog articles about the obstruction Rule and currently have eight listed in the titles menu which can be found to the right of each article at martinzigzag.com  Many video examples can be found within them. Some articles are about current coaching practice for example https://martinzigzag.com/2018/02/10/a-peculiar-interpretation/ and others are a history of the development of the Rule

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/05/08/the-obstruction-see-saw/

I finish this article with a suggested rewrite of the Obstruction Rule, which is as long as the 1993 ‘new interpretation’ was.

The suggested rewrite below is basically the Rule as it now exists, it adds only a clarification of “move into” (mentioned above) 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 the original “must move away” in place of the present “is permitted to move off”: this is a clear instruction replacing an empty statement, empty in that it is neither prohibitive or directive and therefore serves no purpose.

 

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 it is called obstruction and is an action contrary to this Rule of Hockey..

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 demonstrating an intent to play at the ball or while trying to position to tackle, who in so doing shows that the direct path to the ball is obstructed, that is the opponent who is intent on playing at 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 approaches 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 any part of the body and/or the stick between the ball and that 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 or delay a legal attempt by an opponent to play at the ball. Moving to maintain a ball shielding position, for example ‘shunting’ sideways to continue shielding the ball from an opponent is not legitimate “moving off” or “moving away”.  

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 moves 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 OR before the opponent is obstructed in his or her attempt to play at the ball (has come within playing reach of the ball and tried to play it) 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.

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. (This is almost the opposite of the ‘onus’ on the tackler to position to tackle by going around a ball shielding opponent, which was contained in the original (1993) Rule Interpretation – the onus on a ball holder not to obstruct was in that interpretation ignored)

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.

.A player in possession of the ball :-

must not while shielding the ball with any part of the body including the legs, move 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 i.e. by leading the ball with the body, oblige an opponent to give way to avoid body contact (Rule 9.3).

may not interpose his body as an obstruction to an opponent. A change of direction by a half-turn of the body with this result may amount to obstruction. It should be noted, however, that even a complete turn does not constitute a breach unless an opponent has thereby been obstructed in an attempt to play the ball.

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 an obstruction offence to occur i.e. to demonstrate that a legal attempt to play at the ball is being prevented by an opponent’s ball shielding.

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 evasive movement is forced to avoid physical contact being caused by an opponent in possession of the ball who is leading the ball with the leg or body and thus shielding the ball. When a ball holder moves into an opponent in either of the ways described in this clause the opponent who is being moved into is no longer obliged to demonstrate that an attempt is being made to play at the ball because such moving into will generally prevent a tackler (who may be forced to retreat to avoid contact) from attempting to execute a legal tackle.

.The ‘Receiving’ Exception to the Rule.

Exceptionally, a player who is in the act of receiving and controlling the ball is during this time 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 before an opponent is within playing reach of the ball or after having first 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 appropriate 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 ball 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 position or while so positioned move the ball to shield it with the stick or body and thereby prevent a legal attempt to play at it.

After having received and controlled the ball while facing towards his or her own defence, 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 immediately 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 who is facing towards his or her own baseline 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 with the intent 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 ‘Manufacturing’ 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 offence or according to the circumstances as a physical contact offence.

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. 

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 a compliant team-mate between the ball and 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, unable to challenge the ball holder for possession of the ball.

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.

 

June 20, 2019

Ball body contact Rule should be amended.

Rules of Hockey

Suggestion. The Rule needs a different approach. I have written a suggested replacement which I hope will provide that different approach. The emphasis, contained in an exception, is on ball body contact by a player who is in possession of the ball, rather than by a defender who is trying to tackle for or to intercept the ball.

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

There is no offence committed if the ball simply hits the foot, hand or body of a field player, play should continue unless the player hit with the ball intended to use the body to stop or deflect the ball or is injured.

Where there is injury caused by a ball contact and there was no intent to use the body by the player hit (or intent is not discernible) and there has been no forcing of contact or dangerous play by opponents, the game should be restarted with a bully.

Exception.1. Unless there is forcing of contact or prior dangerous play by opponents, for example a shot at the goal made in a dangerous way or the ball is illegally raised into the player hit, the umpire will properly penalise a player hit with the ball, even if the contact is entirely unintentional by the player hit, if that ball contact directly prevents the ball going into the goal of the team of the player hit and thereby prevents the award of a goal. The penalty will be a penalty stroke. The penalty is awarded on the basis of an undue and unfair gain of benefit from the contact.

With instances of unintentional ball-body contact by a player not in possession of the ball there are no other exceptions.

If a player in possession of the ball plays it into the legs or feet of an opponent and is disadvantaged because of that contact the umpire has no reason to intervene. The umpire’s only concern will be that the playing of the ball into a player does not injure, endanger or otherwise disadvantage that player. ‘Losing control of the ball’ so that it runs into the feet of an opponent is not a skill and nor is passing the ball into the feet of an opponent, that is a miss-pass.

If a player intentionally raises the ball into the feet, legs or body of an opponent that player should be penalised with a personal penalty and the team of the player hit awarded a free ball (for opponent’s deliberate dangerous play, a breach of the conditions of Rule 9.9). 

If a ball played along the ground is intentionally forced into the feet of a defender play should continue unless the defender is injured or otherwise unfairly disadvantaged, in either case a free ball will be awarded to the player hit.

Intention to use the body to stop or deflect the ball should be judged in as objective a manner as possible. Intentional contact will, for example, be generally foot to ball rather than ball to foot.

A player who is moving along the flight path of the ball, rather than laterally into the flight path of it after it has been propelled, and who is presenting the stick to try to intercept the ball (an out-runner during a penalty corner for example), has not demonstrated an intent to use the body to stop or deflect the ball.


A player who moves laterally into the flight path of the ball, after it has been propelled, while clearly attempting to use the stick to play the ball and is hit, has not intentionally used the body to stop or deflect the ball. That there was an intent to use the body must be clear and certain before a player hit with the ball may be penalised for use of body. Intent should not be assumed simply because a player hit with the ball was in a position where he or she could be hit.

Exception 2. Should a player in possession of the ball make body contact – usually foot or leg contact – with the ball, and that player or a member of that player’s team retains or regains possession of the ball, and the same team are then able to continue their attack, that may be considered an unfair advantage and a free ball awarded to the defending team at the place the contact occurred or, if that was in the opponent’s circle, a 15m ball should be awarded. It is not necessary, however, in line with the Advantage Rule, to penalise such contact if the opposing team has not been unfairly or unduly disadvantaged by it.

The emphasis is moved from requiring a defender who is ‘attacked’ with the ball to have the skill to defend his or her feet (often an impossibility if the defender is at the time attempting a tackle for the ball), to requiring a player in possession of the ball to have the skill to not lose control of it with the stick and make contact with it with part of their body.

Goalkeepers.

Goalkeepers are not permitted to throw the ball. Goalkeepers are not permitted to pick the ball up – raise the ball off the ground – by gripping it in any way, nor are they permitted to hold the ball to the ground in any way except with the stick (but without thereby preventing an opponent from playing at the ball), by for example, lying on it or by trapping and holding it under a kicker. These latter ball-body contact actions will be considered obstructive play and penalised as such.

The current Rule

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

It 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.

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

 

 

I think this Rule ties with the Obstruction Rule as the most badly applied Rule in the rule-book but the Ball-body contact Rule is more miss-applied (applied when it should not be) and the Obstruction Rule the least applied when it should be applied. In third place I would put the Rules concerning a dangerously played ball – again not applied when they should be.

It might be thought that a rewording of the Rule might improve the matter*, for example restoring the word “intentionally” to the Rule Proper rather than referring to intent only in the Explanation of Rule Application (the part in italics).
*The matter is an apparent belief that any and all ball foot contact in particular, but any and all ball body contact by a player, is an offence that should be penalised unless there is a very substantial advantage to be gained by the opposing team by not penalising. There is large body of support for this utterly wrong interpretation of the current wording. The truth is that the majority of ball-body contacts are inconsequential and play should just be allowed to continue without interruption. That is the intent behind 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. But current practice is to see all ball-body contact as a gain of advantage and all defensive positioning (on the goal-line for example) as positioning with an intent to use the body to stop the ball if it is missed with the stick. Both of these views have been strongly advocated on Internet hockey forums by senior umpires.

Video examples in this article on the same subject :-

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/07/29/if-only-only-if/

but my researches have led me to the conclusion that a change to either the wording of the Rule Proper or the wording of the Explanation is not the answer. Here is a Rule instruction that was contained in rule-books prior to 1998.

Players should not be penalised when the ball is played at them from a short distance.

It was completely ignored by umpires and the FIH dealt with that by removing the instruction.

The Rule proper was briefly amended to say that for a ball-body contact to be an offence the contact had to be deliberately made and (not or) gain an advantage for the team of the player who used his body to stop or deflect the ball. Umpires ignored that too, they just carried on penalising ball-body contact as they habitually had previously. That change was quickly withdrawn, probably because the difference between what was given in the Rule and umpiring practice was so obvious it was embarrassing.

The following two clips show even clearer examples of no intent, no advantage gained. In the first clip the first and second penalty corners resulted in a shot that hit the outside of the defender’s foot, which was positioned outside the goal-post, before going out of play over the base-line. The second clip requires no further comment.

.

.


Players who have been active participants for about fifteen years will remember (before and after) the replacement of “intentionally” with the word “voluntarily” and the attempt by the FIH Rules Committee, post 2006, to remove “gains benefit” from the criteria for this offence.

This resulted in the Chairman of the FIH Umpiring Committee ‘overruling’ the FIH Rules Committee (an impossibility) and insisting that “gains benefit” be continue to be applied as it was in 2006, even though the term no longer appeared in the Rule in the published rule-book.

(“Gains an advantage”, a much older wording, then replaced “Gains benefit” in the rule-book, but not before 2016, a gap of eight years). This saga gives a good idea of the stranglehold the FIH Umpiring Committee, who do not have the authority to make or amend Rule or the Interpretation of Rule, have on umpiring practice – which many if not most umpires follow as if it is (has to be) correct Rule and correct Interpretation.

“Gains benefit” was a blanket ‘catch-all’ with many umpires following the idea that any ball body contact would always gain an advantage for the team of the player who made the contact – even if the contact was forced – which is why the FIH Rules Committee wanted to remove it. But removing it completely was a mistake, it simply needed amendment in the hope of achieving a more realistic application. There are occasions when an unfair advantage is gained by a ball-body contact, but this is very rarely the case when the contact has been intentionally forced by an opponent and such forcing is anyway an offence, despite the deletion of the stand alone Forcing Rule. Forcing offences are supposed to be dealt with under other Rules.