Why is the Obstruction Rule Misquoted?

Rules of Hockey.


Why is the Obstruction Rule so ‘damaged’ that it is constantly being misquoted and assertions made about the conditions it contains that it simply does not contain and on the other hand, tackling requirements asserted that do not exist?

See the hockey forum thread via the above link which contains a number of misquotations of the Rule clauses in the first few posts.
(The thread later moves onto, in typical forum style, an ‘on the head of a pin’ type discussion about foot position relative to line and ball position as that concerns a ball to be out of play, which are irrelevant to the topic. This is not unusual when a sensible question about either obstruction or a dangerously played ball has been diverted with rubbish answers, the nonsense then continues)

One of the most common assertions is that if the direct path to the ball of a player intent on making a tackle is blocked by the player in possession of the ball there is an ‘onus’ on the tackler to position (reposition) to a place where he or she will be able to play directly at the ball (ignoring that an opponent within playing distance of the ball and demonstrating an intend to make a tackle attempt has already in these circumstance been illegally prevented from playing at the ball).

In effect this “go around” or “position” ‘requirement’ demands that a tackler must be obstructed twice before he or she is considered to have been obstructed at all). Here are the relevant Rule clauses (possibly) Stationary and (presumably) Moving.

Players obstruct if they shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body.

That should of course read:-

Players obstruct if they shield the ball to prevent a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body. (See the UMB action to prevent a tackle attempt)
(A tackle from any position is legitimate as long as the tackler does not make any physical contact with the player in possession of the ball – such physical contact would be a breach of Rule 9.13 as well as Rule 9.3).

Then we have movement of the ball holder:-

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.

That last clause bears repeating in another way:-

A player in possession of the ball is not permitted to position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and demonstrating an attempt to play at it.

Prior to the above we had:

Obstruction can happen when
(a) an opponent is trying to play the ball
(b) an opponent is in a position to play the ball without interfering with the legitimate actions of the player with the ball.  (possibly the seed for the “go around” idea)
(c) the ball is within playing distance or could be played if no obstruction had taken place. 

Better there would have been (and would still be)  the ball is within playing distance and could be played if no obstruction (shielding) had taken place

The utterly ridiculous ‘onus’ mentioned above did at one time appear in Rules Interpretations – (a separate section at the back of rule-books)  but it has not done so since the reformatting of the rule-book in 2004 – that was more than fifteen years ago – ample time for umpires to notice (or be instructed) that it is no longer there.

If umpires are going to “quote”?? and apply Interpretation last seen 2003 and therefore not contained in the current Rules of Hockey, why do they not also apply this Advice to Umpires from the same year, particularly in regards to ‘crabbing’ and stationary shielding of the ball? (Both of which are said to be perfectly legal in the forum thread – even though they most certainly are not)

 Umpires should be aware of players who are in possession of the ball who:
• back into an opponent;
• turn and try to push past an opponent;
• shield the ball with body, leg or stick and stand still when under pressure;
• drag the ball near their back foot when moving down the side-line or along the back-line;
• shield the ball with the stick to prevent a legitimate tackle.

“Be aware of” it has been pointed out elsewhere, does not literally mean “regard these actions as offences” or “penalise these actions”, (even though some of them were listed in the Rule Guidance of 2003 as an offence) but why else draw the attention of umpires to them and require that they be watched for?  Common sense needs to be applied.

All the necessary wording for a sensible and fair Obstruction Rule has at one time or another been in the rule-book, but most of it has been systematically removed.

Only “backing into” and “shielding the ball” with the stick survived the 2004 “clarification” (ha ha) and now the majority of umpires, having been deprived of clear examples of what are obstructive actions, are badly coached and utterly confused about the application of the Obstruction Rule:-  see the forum thread above.

I have written an article on the interpretation of “back into”-


The coach seen in the videos has defended this coaching as “following what FIH umpires are doing“, rather than following what is given in the wording of the Rule – which FIH Umpires do not follow. Why not?

The answer to that question seems to be “Because nobody else is doing so.” That’s ‘a dog chasing its tail’ argument, completely circular and avoiding any responsibility for their own lack of action when obstruction occurs.

Not since the FIH Hockey Rules Board (renamed the FIH Rules Committee in 2011) deleted the ‘gains benefit’ clause’ from Rule 9.11 in January 2007 (it was restored in 2015 as gains an advantage) has there been such a blatant twisting and deforming of a Rule condoned by the FIH Umpiring Committee.  – because a deletion was not ‘accepted’ by them, but this conspiracy regarding the deconstruction of the criteria for obstruction remains unannounced, it just IS.

But then I forget the outrageous attempts to have legitimate evasive action as a criterion of a dangerously played ball removed. First, in 2008, during the Beijing Olympics where it was asserted that an on-target shot at the goal could not be considered dangerous play ??? and secondly, – and currently – the Royal Dutch Hockey Board have issued instructions to  Dutch umpires that legitimate evasive action does not apply to a defender positioned on the goal-line during a penalty corner ??? I await the rebuttal by the FIH of this illegal instruction from the KNHB. It’s not clear nowadays who has Rule authority, but it should be.

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