Which Rules should be amended or deleted? – Part One (11)

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.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.