Posts tagged ‘Obstruction Rule’

December 4, 2019

Change, intention and perceptions

There is a persistent perception among umpires that it is part of their task to interpret the wording of the Rules for meaning and intent and then apply the Rules according to their personal interpretations (or the personal interpretations of an Umpire Manager or Umpire Coach given in a tournament briefing). But this perception is contrary to what has been circulated to National Associations from the FIH Executive – so long ago now that the current Executive Members will have forgotten that they (their predecessors) ever did it, even if they were at one time aware of the relevant documents. According to this document even the publication of a written UMB should have been discontinued.

From an FIH Executive Report 2001-2002 .

FIH Highlights Hockey Rules Board

Introduction
In line with our overall aims, the last two years have,on the one hand, been a period of transition for the Hockey Rules Board (HRB) – while on the other it has been a period of relative consolidation. The transition has focused on incorporation of research and development of the rules within the active remit of the HRB rather than in a separate but linked Rules Advisory Panel, which has now been disbanded.


The Rules Advisory Panel, as might be expected, became a pressure group and advocated many changes that the HRB did not adopt, much to the chagrin of the Advisory Panel. It was not mere coincidence that the disbanding of the Rules Advisory Panel coincided with the announcement that only the FIH HRB had the authority to introduce or amend Rule or Rule interpretation.

At the same time, the rules themselves have been through a period of consolidation rather than significant change. But this does not mean that the HRB has not been active, as the following report will testify.

Rules Changes

One change, which has been significant, at least as measured by the range of views about it, is allowing the edge of the stick to be used to play the ball. This change was introduced as a mandatory experiment in 1999and was continuously reviewed. Views about it ranged from a welcome for an action which gave players more options and which in particular could be used for exciting shots at goal, to concern that it might lead to danger or could damage sticks. Making a decision involved a delicate and careful balance of these issues,with the HRB deciding that the experiment should run for a third year but that, with effect from 2002, the change would be incorporated as a formal rule.

I had by 2002 been advocating for some years, the abolition of the back-sticks Rule. Usually to a chorus of abuse from hockey forum contributors who made ribald comments comparing my suggestion to ice hockey and saying that stick-work would disappear. I still believe the abolition of back-sticks would have been a wiser move than the introduction of edge hitting (with a back-sticks Rule still in place).

I have posted a picture of an Internet hockey forum post below; in the same topic thread contributors write of edge hitting being snuck in via the back door – an amazing attitude considering it had a three year Mandatory Experiment. What I think they mean is that edge hitting was imposed, despite widespread protest, which was just ignored. But the upending of this 2001 change (below) in 2011, apparently had full approval despite much objection to the deletion of the stand alone Forcing Rule. I certainly objected to it because it was obvious where it would lead (which it has)

Another change, which deserves comment, was the introduction in 2001 of a rule, which explicitly makes manufacturing a foul an offence. This reflects an ongoing concern by the HRB to protect skill and encourage attractive hockey by reducing negative and destructive actions.

The forgiving phrase “finding a foot” is the term currently used for what is now, by television commentators, called a skill, rather than cheating and a foul, which it still is (another forgotten part of Rule history). Forcing is now supposed to be “dealt with under other Rules” but the FIH Rules Committee have overlooked their own announcement ever since it was made, and most umpires are completely unaware of it, which is of course no surprise. It was unreasonable to make an announcement in a 2011 rule-book and then not bother to include it in subsequent rule-books, unless of course there was another formal deletion, but that never happened. There was an initial transfer to “other Rules” in 2011, and nothing has been published by the FIH RC in a rule-book or elsewhere on the matter since then – not even note of what the “other Rules” might be.

The first forgotten Rule promise I came across when researching past Rules, related to the final deletion of Off-side in 1997 (a huge advantage gifted to attackers with no compensation at all offered to the defending team). At the time the HRB wrote that measures would be put in place to constrain the actions of attackers close to the goal (to protect defenders). They then promptly ‘forgot’ about that undertaking. In fact they have since removed the few safeguards that were in place in 1997.

Forbidding players to play or play at an above shoulder height ball when in the opponent’s circle and the introduction of a *Goal Zone could go some way towards fulfilling the now distant obligation of the Rules Committee to honour their word in this area.

: https://martinzigzag.com/2018/03/30/suggested-introd…ewrite-rule-9-14/

The 2008 forum post pictured below refers to the removal of the “old system of Obstruction” which was a very strange phrasing. But then in 2009 a clause extension which considerably strengthen the existing interpretation, by prohibiting a player in possession of the ball moving to position between the ball and an opponent who was attempting to play at it, was introduced. It was the last amendment made to the Obstruction Rule, and it remains part of the current Rule. It made no difference at all to the strange idea that a previous ‘system’ had been removed when it had in fact been reinforced. Umpires behaved and still behave as if the Obstruction Rule had been -as one put it – “deconstructed years ago”.

One of the major problems of personal ‘interpretations’ is that they tend to confirm beliefs that are already held, no matter what the wording of them may be, confirmation bias just ignores the meaning of words or attempts to find a way around them. There is no recognition of cognitive dissidence.

A study of the history of the ball-body contact Rule makes that clear, even when (in 1992) the criteria for an ball body contact offence was deliberate use of the body to stop or deflect the ball AND advantage gained, umpires blithely continued to penalise just because a ball body contact was made, exactly as they usually do now even when there is neither clear intent seen (contact is obviously accidental or even deliberately (and unavoidably) forced by an opponent) or any tangible advantaged gained because of such a contact.

The ‘system’ of interpretation of the Obstruction Rule which was put in place in a time beyond living memory, was not altered by the 1993 receiving exception (the so called ‘new interpretation’, which was nothing of the sort, the criteria for obstruction outside of the receiving situation did not change at all) or changed by any of several word alterations (called ‘housekeeping’) prior to 2009 (the last prior to the 2004 Rules of Hockey rewrite, in 2001), or by the 2009 clause expansion. The criteria for obstruction remained exactly as they always were. Shielding the ball to prevent an opponent (who would otherwise have been able to do so) from attempting to play directly the ball, is now and has been for many decades an offence. But several contributors to the forum were content with the declaration that the Obstruction Rule was (in their view correctly) no longer applied – no one disagreed.

I was in 2009 banned from this forum for persistently pointing out the text of the Rules to Keely Dunn and her followers, who did not think Rule wording relevant to umpiring practice. They wrote with scorn of “the black and white of the written Rules” which they thought of as a straight-jacket and of ‘grey areas’ that require personal interpretation (ignoring that most Rule breach is perfectly clear). I agree that the writing of the Rules could be much improved, but no suggested improvement ever came from these people, just their own very varied umpiring ‘practice’, which they regarded as being as good in each case (no matter how different) as an official replacement of Rule. The notion, for example, that a high deflection which was falling onto a contested position or a lob shot at the goal, could NOT be treated as a falling a ball, (i.e. Rule 9.10 did not apply), were Dunn inventions which she insisted were correct interpretation. She used her status as an FIH Umpire and a declaration of universal support and consensus among umpires concerning her views, to bully anyone who dared to disagree with her.

There has been no improvement in application of the Obstruction Rule in the intervening ten or more years, quite the contrary. If some of the body blocking actions that are now routinely carried out by ball holders appeared in the early 1990’s the FIH might have stepped in to prevent the total collapse of the Rule and runaway ‘interpretation’ – but maybe not. The late George Croft the former Hon.Sec. of the HRB wrote, in some desperation I think, in the preface of the 1998 Rules of Hockey “Despite what some people think there still is an Obstruction Rule”. The destruction of this Rule has taken place over a long period with the destroyers getting more brazen year on year.

Here is a typical 2019 example of non-application of Rule and the type of play that it has encouraged. The attacker breaches every one of the obstructive play clauses and the defender does not even realize that the attacker has fouled him. The comments made below the video by an individual umpire give a good insight into the current attitude to Rule interpretation and application among certain umpiring groups.

September 29, 2019

Simplification and Clarification

Rules of Hockey.

Simplification and Clarification.

Open any rule book published in the last thirty years and you are likely to find in the Introduction or Preface a statement that the FIH HRB/ Rules Committee is always seeking to simplify and clarify the Rules or an announcement that it has done so within that publication. This is announced as a if a good thing, something to be desired but the result of this work may well be the very opposite.

By 1992 we had an Obstruction Rule which had not been altered in decades

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

Technical Interpretations – a section in the back of the rule-book, gave:-
Body Obstruction and Interference (Rule 12) A player may not place any part of his body or stick between an opponent and the ball. Such actions are called obstruction and may also be referred to as screening the ball or blocking. Obstruction can only 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 (c) the ball is within playing distance or could be played if no obstruction had taken place.

I would simplify that to:- An obstruction offence by a player in possession of the ball will occur when the ball is within the playing distance of a tackler who is demonstrating an intent to tackle for the ball, and the ball could be played at by the tackler, if not shielded by the body or stick of the ball holder, to prevent this action.

It is not necessary to mention physical interfere by a tackler as this breaches Rule 9.3. And an attempt to play at the ball legally may be made impossible by a moving or stationary shielding action by the ball holder. A Rule should not impose or demand an impossibility. i.e. demand that an attempt be made to play at the ball when that has been made impossible by the actions of the opponent in possession of it.

The offence is the illegal prevention of a legal tackle for the ball by an opponent and the criterion should reflect that.

In 1993 the Rule Proper was the same but there was an enormous ‘new interpretation’, occupying one and a half pages, presented in Technical Interpretations in the back of the rule-book. As I have written previously, this “new interpretation” was not in fact a new interpretation, the criterion for an obstruction offence remained exactly as they had been in the previous years. What was introduced was an Exception to the Rule; the Rule was no longer to apply during the time an opponent, (who could be facing in any direction, including towards his or her own base-line) was in the act of receiving and controlling the ball – and only during that time.

I present here only one sentence from this ‘New Interpretation’

Having collected the ball, the receiver must move away in any direction (except, of course, bodily into the tackler) (my bold)

In 1995 the the wording of the Rule was expanded but nothing new was added. The use of the words “to prevent an attempt”. would have been better than “from attempting” (and that is still the case)

Obstruction. Players shall not obstruct an opponent from attempting to play the ball by :
• moving or interposing themselves or their sticks
• shielding the ball with their sticks or any part of their bodies
• physically interfering with the sticks or bodies of opponents.

And there was a one word alteration to the ‘New Interpretation’.

(Having received it) the player with the ball may move off with the ball in any direction (except bodily into the tackler). (my bold)

It is impossible to describe that change as either a simplification or a clarification. It changed an instruction to take a certain action – to move away (from opponents?) (presumably with the ball) – to wording that provided no instruction or prohibition, except prohibiting moving bodily into a tackler, an action already prohibited under Rule 9.3. It was (and remains in later form) an obscurantism.

Within three years of publishing the ‘new interpretation’ the late George Croft, then Hon. Sec. of the Hockey Rules Board, felt obliged to point out to players and umpires in the Preface of the 1998 Rules of Hockey that there still was, despite what some might think, an Obstruction Rule. A similar comment would not be out of place in the current rule-book.

In 2002 the following was included as clarification in the Advice to Umpires section of the rule-book and was also presented in the first of the published Umpire Managers Briefing for Umpires at FIH Tournaments (the UMB).

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.

All of which had become standard tactics at the time. The prohibition on ball dragging (shunting, crabbing) now needs expansion and the inclusion of these actions (and others) away from the side-lines and base-lines. But instead, in 2004 following a reformatting of the rule-book, using a different page size, the entire Technical Interpretations and Advice to Umpires sections were deleted. An act of vandalism referred to as a simplification. The following then became the entire Rule and Explanation.

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.

“may move off” was replaced by the equally vacuous “is permitted to move off with it” which was only an improvement because it stipulated moving off with the ball (immediately passing the ball away had always been an alternative option)

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.

The last clause confusingly mixed a player blocking or interposing while tackling for the ball, with the entirely different offence of Third Party Obstruction.The clause is badly set out and should separate these different types of obstruction into two paragraphs.

The pages of the ‘new interpretation’ were reduced to a single short sentence, the bizarre:- A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction. (instructions to a moving player were abandoned for obvious reason i.e. in practice they were exactly the same as the instructions to stationary players and should never have been presented as if there was a difference between them. It’s bizarre because no explanation for it is offered, and it led very quickly to the idea that a stationary player in possession of the ball could not obstruct an opponent – hence the development of the practice of ‘holding’ the ball in a corner of the pitch or up against a side-line or even a base-line – which in saner times would have been penalised with a penalty stroke if done by a defender in his or her own circle).

In 2009 The clause which begins “A player with the ball is permitted…” was extended to include moving to position between an opponent who was trying to play at the ball and the ball (this addition to the Rule Explanation is largely ignored in current umpiring practice). My previous comment about preventing an opponent playing at the ball also applies to this extension

2009
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. (my bold)

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 or player with goalkeeping privileges) when a penalty corner is being taken.

The above Rule, which is current, is one of the reasons I do not want to see a Rule change moratorium. It needs restoration. Useful clauses that have been removed, what they are they should be obvious, need to be returned and further clarified.

Similar work needs to be done on the Ball Body Contact Rule (including the Forcing Rule), the Dangerously Played Ball Rule, the Raised Hit Rule, the Ball in the Air Rule (including the playing of the ball at above shoulder height and Use of Stick Rule), the Free Hit Rule, the Umpiring Rules and the replacement of the Penalty Corner, among others.

September 22, 2019

Obstruction Basics 3 The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Rules of Hockey.

Obstruction.

Twists and turns good spin turning. Spatial awareness, timing, early wide movement away from opponents.
Turning into, shunting across, blocking.
Physical contact.
Boring, near static play.

September 18, 2019

Obstruction Basics Part One

Rules of Hockey.
Obstruction.
Positioning between; backing in; moving bodily into; third party; behind the play – not onside of ball.

My apologies for the ‘blurred’ sound. I need a better microphone and also to eliminate background hum from my computer.

There were very few videos about obstruction presented by the FIH Umpiring Committe as umpire coaching via the Dartfish sports website. I present three of them here, and having seen them viewers will understand why the entire umpire video coaching production (which is littered with blunders) has now been taken down.

I start off the video with an example of umpire coaching about obstruction by a prominent umpire coach in the USA. I have asked him to replace it with correct coaching (but he will not because he says he is showing what FIH umpires are doing – cart before the horse – presenting what FIH Umpires are doing is, unfortunately, often to perpetuate error). The commentary and conclusions should have been the opposite to those presented in description of the action.

The action shown from the NZ v SA match was not presented in connection with obstruction, but with tackles and allowing advantage, that however was also inaccurately done.

September 16, 2019

Behind the play – not on-side of opponent

Rules of Hockey

Description of circumstances in which an opponent is not his or her own goal side of the ball or the player in possession of the ball and is trying to tackle. Such a tackler cannot be obstructed by the body of the player in possession of the ball (stick obstruction and fending off the opponent’s stick with a leg or arm/hand remain a possibility)

 

July 9, 2019

The destruction of the Obstruction Rule.

Rules of Hockey.

The explanation of application of the current Obstruction Rule states:-

1) A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

I’ll change the order in which the three clauses are presented, this is the third in the rule-book:-

2) 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).

The part in parenthesis should (in my opinion) read  this may also be third party or shadow obstruction because such actions may also be ball shielding by a player in possession of the ball (blocking) or carried out as an obstructive tackle coming from behind the tackled player and imposing the body between that player and the ball.

The clause below was the last amended.

3) 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 with the ball here is assumed to refer not to a player who is in the act of receiving the ball, but to one who has received the ball and has it under control.

When the exception to the Obstruction Rule, which permitted a closely marked player to receive the ball without immediately being in breach of the Obstruction Rule (that is without having first to create space to receive the ball without obstructing an opponent – usually by means of a lead run), was first introduced, instruction was given about what the receiving player had to do once the ball was in control, given that in these circumstances the receiving player, then in controlled possession of the ball, had an opponent positioned directly or almost directly behind (sic) them, i.e. within playing reach of the ball in what would previously have been considered an obstructed position.

Having collected the ball, the receiver must move away in any direction (except, of course, bodily into the tackler).

That instruction was fairly loose because it gave no indication of the distance the ball holder (having received the ball) must move away or the speed of such movement. But common practice at the time was that the ball needed to be moved immediately and rapidly beyond the playing reach of any marking defender or the ball had to be immediately passed away beyond playing reach. Critical was “must move away” the ball holder having received the ball was not allowed to dwell on it in a stationary position or indeed to dribble it away at, for example, walking speed – because that would not reasonably be considered to take the ball beyond the reach of any opponent intent on making a tackle for the ball.

The above fairly sensible instruction given in the Rules Interpretations did not last long. Two years later we were presented, without explanation for the change, with:-

Having collected the ball, the receiver may move away in any direction (except, of course, bodily into the tackler).

That is neither a directive or a prohibitive statement, it gives no instruction about moving the ball away or moving away with the ball, except not to move bodily into a tackler. It does not oblige the ball holder to move at all. From this moment on the Obstruction Rule began to fall apart as multiple personal ‘interpretations’ of the meaning of the above clause were applied. It is from this body of ‘interpretation’ that the idea that a stationary player could not obstruct arose – and persisted – despite later instruction to umpires to watch for players who “stand still and shield the ball when under pressure

Then we had A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent in the Rule Explanation – is permitted to move means exactly the same as may move (but “off” does not mean exactly the same as “away” – it is, if anything weaker) why the change to the wording was made is unclear, again no explanation was offered.

But, finally, in 2009, we had the addition of an extension to that clause:-

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. Which is a current Rule Explanation of Application clause.

That means that a player who has received and controlled the ball may not then move into a position between an opponent and the ball, that is with the ball within the playing reach of an opponent who is attempting to play at it (such moving would naturally include backing towards and moving the ball into the playing reach of an opponent while shielding it, because such moving is not excluded)- and of course a ball holder may not remain stationary in a blocking position with the ball within the playing reach of an opponent who is attempting to play at it – see the clause numbered 2) above. The 2009 amendment seems however to have come too late, by the time it was enacted umpires had become accustomed to allowing receiving players to do as they liked once the ball was in control – and they continued doing what had become an easy habit – all the ‘onus’ (to get unobstructed) had long been transferred to the tackling player, the 2009 amendment was largely ignored and remains so.

But nonetheless the Rule as written means that static blocking or a very small movement to shield the ball from an opponent can be an obstructive offence.

Here is a subtle example of obstructive play from the 2018 World Cup- Aus v Ned . There is very little movement by the ball holder but he commits three offences.

The Aus player receives the ball with his stick near horizontal to make a strong secure stop.

He then moves his left leg forward and then plants his right foot to his right making contact with and blocking off the stick of the Ned defender who is trying to tackle – this is an offence.

He moves across until he has completely blocked off the Ned defender with his body. This is moving into a position between the tackler and the ball and is his second offence (the first being stick interference). He makes no attempt at all to move off or move away from the defender with the ball once it is in his control. His obvious first legitimate direction of movement with the ball would have been to his left, as the defender was to his right rear, however he chose not to try and outrun the defender but to try immediately to make space for a shot.

The Aus player now uses a reverse stroke to feint to his right with the ball.

Then moves to his left as he leans back bodily into the tackler (an offence) and pivots off his right foot. In stepping back he traps the stick of the defender between his legs – because the defender had reached for the ball between the legs of the Aus player who was blocking his path to the ball (there is no ‘onus’ on a tackler to position to tackle or to go around a ball shielding opponent – that ‘interpretation’ was deleted post 2003) The tackler here had no opportunity anyway to move around the ball holder’s left side (and to do so would have opened the way for a free reverse edge shot) and if he had attempted to move around the ball-holders right side he would have given him a free forehand shot at the goal – he had in the circumstances to stay behind the ball holder and attempt to play at the ball from that position.

Having tangled himself with the defender’s stick the Aus player became impeded with it and made an off-target shot that went off the end of the pitch. There was therefore no need to penalise his obstructions or the physical contact as these offences did not ultimately disadvantage the Dutch team, but I doubt the umpire would have penalised the attacker anyway (if he had achieved an on-target shot). Very few umpires appear to understand the words

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.

As meaning:-  A player with the ball is not permitted to move bodily into an opponent or into a  [blocking/shielding] position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it – which the wording clearly does mean.

Once a receiving player has control of the ball he or she then becomes ‘a player with the ball’ and there is no further exception to the Obstruction Rule; any further ball shielding that prevents an opponent playing at the ball, when that opponent is demonstrating an intent (attempting) to play at the ball and would otherwise have been able to do so, is an obstruction offence.

I was surprised that the umpire did not award a penalty corner against the Dutch team for a contact tackle by the defender, even if that would have been incorrect, as Aus player’s entanglement with the defender’s stick was caused by his own turning action. Some umpires seem to regard any sort of tackle attempt as an offence. (See video below – which is another example, far more blatant, of obstruction by a player in possession of the ball, which was not penalised – but the the shadowing defender was penalised, which was absurd.)

Here we go again. Big butt skills.

June 29, 2019

Misquoting the Obstruction Rule

Rules of Hockey.

http://fieldhockeyforum.com/threads/shielding.46813/#post-443262

Why is the Obstruction Rule so ‘damaged’ that it is constantly being misquoted and assertions made about tackling requirements 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 in an Internet forum when a sensible question about either obstruction or a dangerously played ball has been (deliberately) 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 (there is an obstruction) 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 i.e. obstructed).

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 Is there any action to prevent a tackle attempt)
(A tackle from any position is legitimate as long as the tackler does not make 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.


The above clause is currently applied as if it reads only:- A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction.

Prior to 2004 we had:

Obstruction can happen when 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 at if no obstruction (ball shielding) had taken place

The utterly ridiculous ‘onus’ on the tackler, mentioned above (I understand it was a Gawley invention), 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, even those who don’t read rule-books, to become aware (or be instructed) that it is no longer there.

If umpires are going to “quote”?? and apply Interpretation last seen in a rule-book in 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 above 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 on Internet hockey forums, 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 the vague “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 actions are obstructive, are badly coached and utterly confused about the application of the Obstruction Rule:-  see the forum thread above.

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

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/02/10/a-peculiar-interpretation/

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

The answer to that question seems to be “Because nobody else is doing so.” (the peer group) 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 by those without the authority to undertake this action. 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 by letter 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, even though it should be very clear following a 2001 FIH Executive Circular, that it is only the FIH Rules Committee who may draft or amend Rule or Rule Interpretation for Executive approval. Umpire Managers and Umpire Coaches and even National Associations may not do so.

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.

 

April 27, 2019

What next, transition.

Is the player in the picture below receiving a pass or was he already in possession of the ball and then moved ahead of the it, to place himself between the defender and the ball? There is a huge difference. The second described action, which appears, from the positioning of the defender, to be what is happening, is a foul. The player with the ball might also be committing a physical contact offence.

Way back at the dawn of time (well actually in 1992) I sat a few seats away from the late George Croft, at the time Hon, Secretary of the FIH Hockey Rules Board, at a table during the AGM of Surbiton Hockey Club, of which we were both members, and listened to him expound to the assembled members on the introduction of an upcoming new interpretation of the Obstruction Rule.

I was troubled by what George Croft said because it was clear to me that what was being introduced was not a new interpretation of obstruction at all (what constituted obstruction was not being changed in any way) but an exception to the Obstruction Rule, a circumstance in which the Obstruction Rule did not immediately apply, followed by an explanation of how play was then to transition back to the usual application of the Rule.

But I sat there listened to what was said and to my subsequent regret did not voice by reservations about these proposals.

An odd thing about the “new interpretation” was that wording of the Rule Proper did not change at all. It remained:-

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

So what Rule wording the ‘new interpretation’ was interpreting was a mystery. The Obstruction Rule very quickly became what individual umpires said it was, based on very fuzzy criteria, and ‘interpretation’ became a ‘runaway train’

(In 2001 the FIH HRB asked the FIH Executive to issue a Circular pointing out to National Associations that nobody, no individual and no other committee but the FIH HRB, had the authority to change or issue a Rule or an interpretation of a Rule . The FIH Executive issued that Circular.

Some unfortunate later developments, such as the idea that a shot at the goal could not be considered dangerous play – a dangerous nonsense – and the ridiculous ‘2007 ‘gains benefit’ saga,  would probably have been avoided if the text of that Circular had been included in subsequent rule-books, but it was a Circular issued once and then rather quickly ‘forgotten’, especially by umpire coaches)

This new interpretation of the Obstruction Rule was set out over a page and a half of the Technical Interpretations section at the back of the rule-book and contained a number of ‘principles’. I will focus here on the only one that survives (sort of) in the current Obstruction Rule.

1993.

Now the principles are:

The receiving stationary player may be facing in any direction.(the only part that survives in the current Rule Explanation)
• The onus is on the tackler to move into position, i.e. usually
to move round the receiver, to attempt a legitimate tackle.
• Thus the tackler must not crash into a receiver and thereby
try to claim obstruction, any such action should be firmly penalised.

Having collected the ball, the receiver must move away in any
direction (except, of course, bodily into the tackler).
Accordingly, the receiver is being allowed to collect the ball and
proceed with play – with the onus on the tackler to move into
position where an attempt can be made to play the ball without
contact with the receiver.

This new interpretation completely reversed the existing practice and also contained an obvious contradiction that no-one seemed to notice at the time (Maybe wilful blindness, but in those days no-one even considered challenging the Rule pronouncements of the FIH HRB). It should have been obvious to all that if a tackler has to move around a player who is shielding the ball from him, to reach the ball with his stick, then his direct path to the ball is being obstructed. No path other than a direct path to the ball was previously considered or is (sic) now suggested.

Stopping tacklers crashing into the back of receiving players while claiming to be obstructed was a welcome change and the safety aspect of this change was pushed hard, to the extent that the inconsistency mentioned above was ignored. It was declared that the new interpretation improved the game (ignoring that crashing into the back of an opponent was dangerous play and a physical contact offence anyway and should not previously have been rewarded ).

It certainly did, there was a vast tactical improvement as back-passing, always an option but hardly explored at all before this point (a notable exception was the German national team under Paul Lissek), became part of the usual tactics of high level teams. It took several years before back-passing became common in club hockey especially below First-Team level (but by then the Obstruction Rule, as was, had all but disappeared). But this ‘interpretation’ also created a muddle out of what was once a clear Rule.

Now we come to the text below the third bullet point. The transition :-

Having collected the ball, the receiver must move away in any direction (except, of course, bodily into the tackler).

Umpires found this difficult to apply and inconsistencies in application appeared. Some umpires penalised if the receiver dwelt on the ball in control longer than was considered necessary to “immediately” pass it away or move away with the ball and others didn’t (how the player was to move away and the umpire transition to the ‘non-receiving’ application of the Obstruction Rule became contentious). The result was that in 1995 a further change was considered necessary to the new interpretation – a change of one word was made – it was a change that destroyed the Obstruction Rule.

Having collected the ball the receiver may move away in any direction (except, of course, bodily into the tackler).

The change from “must” to “may” replaced a clear instruction to take a particular action – move away – with a choice; this vital aspect of the Rule was no longer directive or prohibitive, (the receiver could choose not to move away. and there then developed a ‘school of thought’ that a stationary ball holder wasn’t doing anything and therefore could not be obstructing) in other words there was no application of the Obstruction Rule in these circumstances and very quickly in any other as players already in controlled possession of the ball were treated as if they were receivers and they turned on and with the ball at will in contested situations (Many spectators of ‘the modern game’ – including match commentators – have no idea these actions are fouls because they have never seen such play penalised as it should be).

By 1998 George Croft found it necessary to point out to participants in the Preface of the Rules of Hockey that “despite what some people think, there is still an Obstruction Rule”

In 2004 the rule-book was reformatted and largely rewritten. The entire section called by that time Rules Interpretations was simply deleted. Yet umpires who had been trained when it was extant still continued to apply the Obstruction Rule as if this deleted interpretation was still in force. Many umpire coaches also continued to coach new umpires as if this deleted interpretation was extant – and still do. Only last week someone (an umpire) referred, in a comment to me, to the onus on a tackler to move around an opponent who is shielding the ball. I am not surprised this easy way of avoiding applying the Obstruction Rule is still ‘wheeled out’, because it is easy, but it hasn’t been in a rule-book for fifteen years

(the requirement to “go around” was always ridiculous and unfair as there was nothing done to prevent the ball holder from moving his body or the ball or both, to maintain a shielding position – and in any case moving to one side of a ball holder presented him with the opportunity to spin away from the tackle attempt in the opposite direction and leave the tackler behind – so it was a very foolish action for a defender to take unless the ball could be intercepted before it reached an intended receiver.

The result was (and still is) that when a ball holder received the ball and stood still or tuned over the ball to shield it, defenders tended to step back and stand off, often out of playing reach of the ball so that they would not be ‘caught out’ by a sudden turn and acceleration – and we got static and congested situations developing. It also very quickly led to the ugly tactic of holding a ball in the corner of the pitch or against a sideline, generally to run time or wait for support or opportunity to ‘win’ a side-line ball or a free ball by forcing a foot contact !!!).

The current ‘instruction’ to a receiver of the ball has been further weakened by (in 2004) replacing the word “away” (which was at one time taken to mean away from and beyond the playing reach of the player intending to tackle) with the word “off” (which does not mean “away”) and later replaced “may” (I believe in 2006) with a term that means exactly the same thing, “is permitted to” (this gives the impression that being permitted to move off (or away) was something new that was not previously encouraged rather than something that had previously been demanded).

  The receiving action and the transition to normal Rule application were then also split into separate paragraphs or Rule clauses.

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 stationary player is mentioned in the Rule Explanation because prior to September 1993 it would have been necessary for a closely marked receiver to make a lead run to get to a position beyond the playing reach of an opponent to receive the ball, thus avoiding the possibility of immediately being penalised for obstruction if he remained stationary (this is now long forgotten). Receiving the ball was a skill that prior to 1993 demanded far more of a receiver than just the ability to take controlled possession of the ball, he also needed to move to create the space to receive.  Skilled receiving players could however easily make a charging marker/tackler look foolish and take advantage of the space he had just vacated.

The reading (and understanding) of the second part of what is permitted usually stops just before the word “except”. “A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction…..” I have lost count of the number of time I have been informed in comment that a player with the ball can move in any direction and does not have to move at all but can stand still shielding the ball to prevent a tackle attempt – and if moving the ball cannot obstruct – which is nonsense. The words “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.” are vital to correct application of the Rule (I would prefer “demonstrating an intention to play at the ball”).  The wording after “except bodily into an opponent” (in blue bold above) was added in 2009 and was the last amendment made by the FIH RC to this Rule. It was an attempt to correct much of the previous damage done, but it is widely ignored.

Now a couple of visual examples. It is assumed that the near player in each of the pictures below is receiving the ball, The question between 1993 and 1995 would have been (if there had been any way of widely asking such a question at that time) “At what point should the umpire be considering an Obstruction Offence?” The answer would have been “As soon as the receiver has controlled the ball and has had opportunity to pass it away or move away with it, but does not do so” That is still the case but it is not unusual to see captions on photographs stating ball shielding to prevent a tackle attempt, as if that is a legitimate action or to hear match commentators on video praising ball-shielding as a great skill – it isn’t, it’s a dumbing down of the skill required to play hockey and it is not Rule compliant.

 

Now in 2019 an umpire might consider penalising the player in possession if he moves backwards into physical contact with a defender, but if that did happen an umpire would be just as likely to penalise the defender for the contact.

What should be happening when a player in possession backs while shielding the ball towards a defender who is in a balanced position and intent on making a tackle for the ball, is that the ball-holder should be penalised for Obstruction (illegally preventing a tackle attempt by imposing his body) as soon as he moves the ball, while shielding it, to within the direct playing reach (an objective distance generally about 1.5m) of that defender.

Would such application lead to an increase in Obstruction offences and whistle blowing? Yes of course, until players once again learned how to play field-hockey instead of a strange version of hurling or soccer that did not require much stick-work ability. That might take a couple of weeks. Prior to 1993 (when players did not have the advantage of the protection of a Rule exception when receiving the ball and frequently needed to make lead runs to create space) most players managed to play hockey without often getting themselves penalised for obstruction. I managed to play entire seasons without once being penalised for this offence. It was no more difficult for a fit and alert player to avoid offending via obstruction than it was avoiding being in an off-side position – yes we had that too in the ‘good old days’.

 

https://martinzigzag.com/2015/10/31/rewrite-rule-9-12-obstruction/

 

https://martinzigzag.com/2019/04/27/what-next-transition/

April 21, 2019

Left behind and forgotten

The original Obstruction Rule was no more than a sentence which set out a prohibition on a tackler running between a player in possession of the ball and the ball (generally while attempting to tackle), but this idea was also combined with what was later called third party obstruction. There was no distinction made between these two forms of obstruction. No mention at all was made of a player in possession of the ball obstructing a tackler.

This is taken from the Rules of Hockey for 1976 but there had been no change for at least the previous twenty-five years:-

12.1 (j) A player shall not obstruct by running between an opponent and the ball or interpose himself or his stick as an obstruction.

This wording with only slight modification has been the Rule or has been tacked onto the end of the extant version of the Rule ever since. Below is the current version of that now final Rule clause:-

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.

It should be apparent that the current version also conflates all obstructions; there is no clear distinction made between third party obstruction and any other sort of obstruction. This could very easily be addressed by moving the existing word “also” and adding the words “may … be’ to either side of it in a new position and by adding the word “also” to the last sentence. This could be done in much the same way that the word “also” was in 2019 added to Rule 9.8. It would then read:-

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 may also be third-party obstruction).

This also applies if an attacker runs across or blocks defenders (including the goalkeeper) when a penalty corner is being taken.

The current version of the Obstruction Rule does acknowledge the existence of obstruction by a player in possession of the ball even if the modern umpire very seldom does. In the picture below the PIP who is facing the left side-line, is sidestepping towards his own goal while shielding the ball to block off the defender and prevent a tackle attempt, this is contrary to Rule.

A player who blocks an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing.

in other words the prevention of a tackle attempt by blocking off an opponent from the ball, is an illegal action. Play here continued without penalty. Even the defending players don’t seem to be aware that an obstructive offence has been committed by the ball holder. Would the PIP do this if he knew it was an offence that would be penalised? Strange isn’t it? Player are obliged to know and abide by the Rules: all participants are, that includes umpires. What is preventing participants knowing the Rules and more importantly, abiding by them? It seems to be the FIH Umpiring Committee via their coaching staff, even if the UMB which is issued by the FIH UC mentions tackle prevention in this badly worded (active movement ?) (professional ?) advice:-

• Is there active movement to prevent the playing of the ball?
• Be aware of professional use of the body to illegally block opponents from the ball

All games are defined by the Rules they are played to. The players in the picture below might be playing a game called stick-ball, or something similar to hurling but with a hockey stick and ball (so not hurling). They are not playing field-hockey even if most of the skills employed in the play are similar to those of field-hockey, because a fundamental Rule of field-hockey is being ignored by all – officials as well as players.

Photo by Frank Uijlenbroek / World Sport Pics

https://martinzigzag.com/2015/10/31/rewrite-rule-9-12-obstruction/

December 30, 2018

The prevention of a tackle attempt and Rule wording

We move into 2019 with the FIH Rules Committee once again having failed to grasp the opportunity to put right some major flaws in the Rules of Hockey. Here I take another detailed look at the wording of the present advice and  Obstruction Rule as set out in the UMB and the Rules of Hockey, and point out some simple but, I think, desirable, amendments to clarify them without significantly changing the Rule. All suggestion, even if it might look new and completely alien, is taken from principles which were previously set out in the Obstruction Rule or given as advice to umpires post 1993.

The Umpire Manager’s Briefing for FIH Umpires at FIH Tournaments

Obstruction

∙ Are the players trying to play the ball?
∙ Is there a possibility to play the ball?
Is there active movement to prevent the playing of the ball? (my bold)

Be aware of professional use of the body to illegally block opponents from the ball, as well as players trying to demonstrate obstructions by lifting their sticks dangerously over opponents’ heads

∙ Stick obstruction is a ‘hot issue’ for players. Judge it fairly and correctly and blow only if you are 100% sure

Rules of Hockey 2019 –

Obstruction.

9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.  (my bold)

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.

There are problems of both syntax and semantics in the writing pertaining to the Obstruction Rule in both the advice given in UMB and the instruction given in the rule-book (the distinction between advice and instruction is an important one) and I need to start comment on them by addressing these issues. One issue is ambiguity, the UMB and the Rule Explanation both try to cover obstructive tackling, obstruction by a player in possession of the ball (the most common obstruction offence) and third-party obstruction, without making sufficient distinction between them. The UMB for example, begins:- 

Are the players trying to play the ball?

That cannot reasonably refer to a situation where an obstructing player is in controlled possession of the ball. This is a trivial point and does not make a significant difference to the possible understandings of the question put, if common sense is used, but not all of the ambiguities are trivial.

Is there a possibility to play the ball?

Presumably, the writer means:-  Is a player who might claim (or is claiming) to be obstructed in a position from which he could play at the ball? The UMB, in the advice on tackling, warns umpires against pre-judging where a legal tackle could possibly be made from, so it is acknowledged that this is not always an easy decision to make and a tackler can often attempt to play at the ball from what looks to an umpire to be an impossible position. This seems to me to be a way of denying that an obstructed player is obstructed because he or she might actually somehow be able to play at the ball, even if it looks unlikely that that is the case. It gives a ball shielding player great scope in positioning between an opponent and the ball, I think too much scope in most instances.

Is there active movement to prevent the playing of the ball?

There is a syntax error there, it is not possible to make an inactive movement, movement is an activity. The word “active” is redundant. This minor error is a pity because it spoils the flow of one of the most important pieces of advice in the UMB. An umpire might pause to consider what an active movement is. Is it a movement that is relevant rather than irrelevant?  This sentence is, however, problematical in another way, it gives the impression that the illegal prevention of a tackle attempt, i.e. obstruction, depends entirely on there being a movement to obstruct by the obstructing player, a point I will come back to.

Be aware of professional use of the body to illegally block opponents from the ball,…

That is better in one way (there is no suggestion that movement is necessary for there to be an obstruction offence). But what does “Be aware” mean (penalise?) and why is the word “professional” inserted in the statement? That is an insult to professional players.

The advice given about the penalising of stick obstruction is also unnecessary, an umpire should not penalise for any offence unless he or she is certain that it has occurred, but should not fail to penalise when a team is disadvantaged by the illegal action of an opposing team player.

The Rule Proper. 

9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

We are then presented with Explanations of Application of the Rule, set out in several clauses most of which are definitions of obstruction. We are also provided with an Exception to the Rule. Unfortunately, many of these clauses are badly constructed or incomplete or both.

Explanation of Rule Application

Players obstruct if they:
– back into an opponent

This apparently uncontentious instruction has proved to be extremely contentious because of the way it has been interpreted, something that would not have been an issue, if it had been properly written and explained, has turned the application of the Obstruction Rule ‘on its head’. I have written more than one article on this matter. Here is one, reading it and looking at the videos within it will be helpful.

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/02/10/a-peculiar-interpretation/

I will place links to other articles about the Obstruction Rule at the foot of this article.

Put briefly, this clause does not say or mean back into contact with an opponent and I have put the case for interpreting it to mean ‘back into the playing reach of an opponent, while shielding the ball from that opponent, to prevent a legal tackle attempt being made‘ longer but unambiguous and accurate.

– physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent.

The Rules about physical contact are duplicated and  ‘pop-up’ all over the place in the Rules of Hockey and this is but one example of this repetition, but it is true that these actions may also constitute an Obstruction offence. When combined with “back into an opponent” we have both two obstruction offences and possibly two different physical contact or interference offences, to body and to stick. To see them all together (unpenalised) watch a shootout in almost any senior match decided in this way. The video below is of a high school championship and demonstrates  the complete unawareness of the Obstruction Rule that is now typical in hockey, world wide. This may be directly attributed to the poor standard of umpire coaching disseminated by FIH Umpire Coaches in this area of Rule.

– shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body. (my bold)

Here is another vitally important clause spoiled by a poor word choice. The word “from” is just ‘skimmed’ and accepted as is for no better reason than the fact that it is contained in a long-standing phraseology. But its use makes no sense at all, in fact takes the sense away from the ‘sentence’ because it is generally the case that no tackle can be attempted, never mind a legitimate (legal) one, when the ball is shielded (to prevent a legitimate tackle) by a player in possession of it. It would make good sense if the clause was written ‘Players obstruct if they shield the ball to prevent a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body. This is one of the very few examples of better word use in the UMB than is given in the Explanations of Application of the Rules. It should be noted (going back to my point about the absence of need for a movement to obstruct an opponent) that there is no mention of any movement by the obstructing player in this clause. Shielding the ball to prevent or delay an opponent attempting a legal tackle – because a tackle is made impossible, due to the ball shielding, for the intending tackler to immediately make a tackle for the ball, is an Obstruction offence. Advice used to be given in the rule-book to umpires that an obstruction occurred when a tackler who would otherwise have been able to play at the ball could not do so because it was shielded by the body or stick of an opponent. That sensible advice mysteriously (that is without any reason being offered for its deletion) disappeared. Umpires were also at one time (around 2002) advised (in the rule-book and the UMB) to “watch for players who stand still and shield the ball when under pressure” Standing still is clearly not an active movement so the FIH RC and the UMB have been very inconsistent with their advice about obstruction since 1993.

  In compliance with existing Rule, defenders who attempt to run-down time by holding the ball in a corner in their own half, should be penalised with a penalty corner (and a yellow card) and those who ‘crab’ the ball along their own base-line to ‘protect’ it from opponents while taking it out of the circle, with a penalty-stroke. Intentional offences should be penalised more severely.

A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction.

This Rule Exception is what is left of what in 1993 was mistakenly called the ‘New Interpretation’ of the Obstruction Rule, which at the time, was set out over two pages in the Rule Interpretations section in the back of the rule-book.

The divisions into The Stationary Player and The Moving PLayer contained in that Interpretation were ridiculous (and the above clause is silly for that reason – a receiver who is moving can also be facing in any direction as the ball is received). What the writer (who I believe was the late John Gawley) was trying to say was that a stationary receiver could remain stationary to receive the ball, even if closely marked, without immediate penalty for obstruction. Up until the date of this change a receiver needed to make a lead run to get space, away from the playing reach of a close marking opponent, in which to receive the ball and to avoid being penalised for obstruction as the ball was received within the marker’s playing reach.  That previous interpretation made hockey very difficult for a novice player to play as receiving the ball when marked required considerable skill (and made the more confined indoor hockey very difficult even for experienced players)

Also ridiculous was the “onus” on a tackler to position where a tackle could be attempted and then to make a precise play at the ball with the stick (often an impossibility because there was nothing to prevent the ball holder moving to maintain a ball shielding position. The blatant obstruction of the goalkeeper which usually occurs during shootouts is condoned by suggesting that the GK makes no attempt to play at the ball, even when to legally do so was an impossibility).  But there was no mention of any onus on a ball-holder not to obstruct an opponent who was within playing distance of the ball and demonstrating an intent to make a tackle. All this heavily slanted ‘new interpretation’ (which was the extreme opposite of previous practice and not just a reasonable modification) was struck out of the rule-book in 2004, but there are still today umpire coaches, who were probably active umpires in 1993 and after, who continue to coach to new umpires the ‘interpretation’ extant at that time – which was basically, if a tackler could not play directly at the ball he or she could not be obstructed. The flaw in that approach should be obvious to all, the illegal prevention of a tackle attempt was not considered at all in a Rule which should have been primarily about exactly that.

To be clear, I think the introduction of protection for a ball receiving player was an excellent idea because it opened up tactical opportunities, which had existed before (as the German teams under Paul Lisseck had demonstrated) but which were very rarely used. I do not want to go back to a situation where all a marker had to do to win a free ball was clatter into the back of an opponent who was receiving the ball while pretending to be attempting a tackle. That said the protection given to a receiving player, a temporary exemption from the Obstruction Rule, must not be extended into the play after the ball has been received and controlled. I am then in favour of the original “must move away” rather than the present “is permitted to move off” which is neither directive nor prohibitive, so a choice between opposites and not a Rule instruction at all.

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 is probably the most badly constructed clause in the rule-book. It starts by making a Rule statement that, as mentioned above, is neither directive or prohibitive and which it is therefore unnecessary to make (and which could, in fact, have been omitted entirely) and then gives two exceptions to that statement which both prohibit described actions. Setting out the proscribed actions alone would have been simpler and clearer and would probably have led to better Rule application. I think this, below, would be much better even if somewhat longer, because it is directive and, I think, unambiguous even if perhaps unduly recursive in construction:-

A unambiguous version

A player with the ball is not permitted to move bodily into an opponent or into a position between the ball and an opponent, who is within playing distance of the ball,  in a position of balance to make a tackle, i.e. not facing or reaching in the wrong direction, and is demonstrating an intent to play at the ball.

Having received the ball a receiver must then, without delay, either play the ball away or immediately move with the ball away from opponents, to put and keep it beyond the playing reach of any opponent. Keeping the ball beyond the playing reach of an opponent may include eluding a tackle attempt by an in-range opponent as long as the ball is constantly kept open to that opponent and not shielded in any way, with body or stick, that prevents a legitimate tackler attempt.

And finally we have the afterthought, which was at one time, all that there was of the Obstruction Rule.

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.

That clause is and always has been a muddle of two very different kinds of obstruction. The word “also” is also in the wrong place. But importantly it does state that a player who blocks an opponent to prevent that opponent attempting to play at the ball is obstructing.

An expanded suggested alternative which includes some long ago deleted but still relevant previous guidance for players and umpires:-

A player who runs in front of or blocks off an opponent to stop them legitimately playing or attempting to play the ball is obstructing (this may also be third party obstruction). Third party obstruction may occur if an attacker runs across or blocks off out-running defenders (including a goalkeeper) when a penalty corner is being taken.

It is not necessary for the obstructed player to be within playing distance of the ball at the time a third-party obstruction occurs, all that is required for offence is the prevention of opportunity to intercept the ball or challenge an opposing player for the ball, when but for the obstruction the obstructed player would have been able to achieve one or other of these objectives. 

The Rule on ball-body contact – 9.11 – could also be reconstituted and greatly improved with  a combination of current and previous wording, but it really needs a new approach. That basically is a focus on ball-body contact by a player in possession of the ball rather than by a tackler or defender hit with the ball.

https://wordpress.com/post/martinzigzag.com/11605

The Rules on dangerous play (there are several scatted throughout the Rules text) need a rethink, particularly the Rules concerning the dangerously played ball. 9.8, 9.9, 9.10 and those contained in the Rules of the penalty corner. I have written articles with suggestions for all of these Rules. The dangerously played ball needs to be judged far more objectively, for example, more height limits introduced. Legitimate evasive action has long been ignored as a criterion largely because it is both difficult to determine and is inadequate. A player hit with the ball has anyway often no opportunity to try to get out of the way of it. As John Gawley wrote in another umpire coaching document back in 2001. “No player should ever be forced to self-defence”

Elephants in the Room

Elephants in the Room. We have recent Rule changes, like the facility to play at the ball above shoulder height, which ought to be far more restrictive than they are and some ancient Rules (written back in 1908) which are no longer fit for purpose.

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/12/30/the-prevention-of-a-tackle-attempt/

Links to some other Obstruction Rule articles.

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

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/07/08/preventing-a-tackle-ball-shielding/

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/03/08/why-did-this-happen/

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/02/10/attempting-to-play-the-ball/

https://martinzigzag.com/2015/10/31/rewrite-rule-9-12-obstruction/

There are also many articles about other Rules in which I make reference to the Obstruction Rule or post videos of examples of breach of it, but attempting to read through the above list should be enough to make you as crazy as I am. 

 

https://martinzigzag.com/2015/10/31/rewrite-rule-9-12-obstruction/

September 8, 2018

Now after 25 years.

FIELD HOCKEY RULES

In agreement with the point made in this article:-

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/25/opinion/sunday/college-professors-experts-advice.html

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)

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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.

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Bizarre

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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 dartfish.com 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).

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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. 

 

https://martinzigzag.com/2015/10/31/rewrite-rule-9-12-obstruction/

 

 

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/09/08/now-after-25-years/

 

May 8, 2018

The Obstruction See-saw

FIELD HOCKEY RULES.

Reducing cognitive dissidence; wilful blindness and confirmation bias.

Let us consider that we are all partially insane. It will explain us to each other; it will unriddle many riddles; it will make clear and simple many things which are involved in haunting and harassing difficulties and obscurities now.” Mark Twain.

I have been driven mad trying to make sense of the the Rules of Hockey, when compared with the current (sic) application of them, particularly the Rules concerning a dangerously played ball, ball body contact and obstruction. I have no difficulty at all in accepting that those who wrote these Rules are not quite sane and that I should feel sorry for them, as well as joining them.

This article is an attempt to unravel the history of the Obstruction Rule and explain how it came to be written as it now is. I will not attempt to explain why it is applied as it currently is, because it is impossible to explain the contradiction of literal word meanings or to reasonably explain irrationality or willful blindness (other than in the legal sense of the term), but examples of current practice will be shown in video and comment about current practice will be included.

The 1986 Rules of Hockey provided the following Rule and Guidance about obstruction. At the time there was nothing on the subject given in Advice to Umpires (a separate section at the back of the rule-book). I am not certain in which year the following Guidance for Players and Umpires was first written but it was the same in 1958 (a year for which I have a copy of the Rules) and probably for a considerable number of years before that. I chose 1986 as a start point because in 1987 Advice to Umpires included in the rule-book for the first time advice on the application of the Obstruction Rule.

1986 Rule Proper
12.1. A player shall not:-
(k) obstruct by running between an opponent and the ball nor interpose himself or his stick as an obstruction.

Obstruction was at this time regarded by the FIH HRB as an offence that a tackler, rather than a player in possession of the ball, was the more likely to commit, but that was a ‘traditional ‘ view which did not fit with fact. Then as now the majority of obstructive offences were ball shielding (to prevent an opponent playing directly at the ball) by a player in possession of the ball.

In recent years obstruction by tackling players, usually referred to as ‘breakdown tackles’ and generally committed together with a physical contact offence have become more common. In the Umpire Briefing video produced for the 2016 Rio Olympics concern was expressed about this kind of obstructive contact and umpires were instructed to watch for and to penalise it. There are some startling examples of umpires doing the opposite, even penalising the player in possession or about to get possession of the ball after he or she had been obstructed and physically impeded.

Examples of Obstructive tackling. 1) Penalty against the wrong team and personal penalty against the wrong player 2) No penalty, despite video referral (When a penalty stroke ought to have been awarded).

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1986 Guidance for players and for umpires.
(prior to 1995/6 set out in the rule-book as far as possible on the page opposite the page on which the Rule Proper was printed).

L2.1 (j) (k) Body Interference and Obstruction.

Subject to the “advantage rule” umpires should be particularly strict on obstruction and other forms of interference dealt with in this Rule. It should be noted that obstruction does not necessarily depend on the distance from the ball of the players concerned.
That last sentence of the above clause is badly misplaced, because for an obstruction (ball shielding) offence to occur, a tackler had, in practice, to be within playing distance of the ball, although the Rule and Rule Guidance makes no mention of this requirement – a curious oversight which caused a deal of confusion and conflict. That sentence should have been placed in the clause relating to ‘third-party’ obstruction and made clearer about the possibility of an offence occurring because the player obstructed by a third party was thereby prevented from reaching the ball when he or she could otherwise have done so

A player, even if in possession of the ball, 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 above clause could usefully be included in the current Rule.

Obstruction occurs at hit-ins and should be watched for carefully.
(the ‘tram-line’ which ran parallel to the sidelines at a distance of 7 yards – all players had to be outside of it when (first a roll-in from the hand) and then a hit-in from a side-line took place – was done away with long before 1986, but the associated Guidance remained in the rule-book. It is possible that it was left in place to save on reprinting costs and umpires were told during verbal briefings to put a line through it (something they are now used to doing with other Rule clauses – even if only in their heads).

A player must not interpose any part of his body or his stick as an obstruction between his opponent and the ball.

Watch too for third party interference i.e. a player interposing himself between his opponent and the ball so that a fellow player has an opportunity to clear or play the ball.

1987

The same Rule and Guidance as previously (see above), but the following was new in Advice to Umpires (which was set out in the back of rule-books):-

BODY OBSTRUCTION AND INTERFERENCE
(Rule 12)

A player may not place any part of his body or stick between an opponent and the ball. Such actions are called obstruction and may also be referred to as screening the ball or blocking.

Obstruction can only 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

(c) the ball is within playing distance or could be played if no obstruction had taken place.
(sentences, particularly the (c) part, that could usefully be included in current Rule).

Obstruction may result from the actions of a player from the same team who does not have possession of the ball preventing an opponent from playing the ball. This is known as third party obstruction.

Not every situation, when a player finds himself between an opponent and the ball is obstruction. To obstruct, a player must be active. He will have to move to place himself between his opponent and the ball. If the aforementioned conditions are not met, there can be no grounds for penalising a player for obstruction.


The above clause was the introduction of the idea (it was not Rule but advice given to umpires) that to obstruct the obstructing player must first have moved into a position that obstructed an opponent (rather than a player intent on tackling for the ball moving towards an opponent in possession of the ball). It later found expression in the meme “A stationary player cannot obstruct” and proved to be a stumbling block to the writing of a rational Rule. The idea was later defended by some who declared that a stationary ball holder wasn’t doing anything – shielding the ball while remaining stationary wasn’t considered by these people to be an ‘active’ obstruction – i.e. an action. However being hit with a hockey ball isn’t usually the result of an action taken by the player hit but penalty generally follows (even when it shouldn’t), so was the demand for ‘activity’ reasonable when a tacker was clearly prevented from playing at the ball only because it was deliberately shielded from him or her? I think not.

Obs 130

This clearly obstructive play, with both stick and body, was not recognized as an obstruction offence because there was no attempt to make a tackle – but neither, because of the ball shielding, was there any possibility of the opposing player playing directly at the ball, even though within playing distance of it.

Players who run into the back of an opponent or by any other means try to create the impression that they are being obstructed can be penalised under Rule 12.1(1) (The ‘manufacturing’ offence which preceded the offence of Forcing).

The above “or by any other means try to create the impression that they are being obstructed” was also irrational, because a tackler was (is) obliged to demonstrate they were (are) trying to play at the ball in order to be awarded a penalty against an obstructing player, i.e an obstruction offence has to be forced by means of a legitimate tackle attempt: obstruction cannot otherwise occur – a conundrum is created by the above clause.

This example, below, from a match played in the past few weeks, demonstrates the weakness of ‘active’ or ‘movement’ arguments. The defender in this case should have been penalised with a penalty corner, there is nothing accidental about his obstruction of the opposing forward. The umpire was oblivious to the offence – trained blindness.

1993

Rule and Guidance was as previously given above.

This was the year of the introduction of a so called “new interpretation” of the Obstruction Rule, which was not a new interpretation of obstruction at all but an exemption or exception to the Rule granted only to a player who was in the act of receiving and controlling the ball.

What constituted obstruction did not change in 1993 in any way except as it applied to a player receiving the ball. The current Rule (2019) still states that a receiving player may be facing in any direction, it does not state that a player in possession of the ball (so not, or no longer, a player receiving the ball) may face in any direction irrespective of the positioning of opponents who are attempting to play at the ball (a clearly written Rule would have ‘spelt out’ that difference – the exception – instead of relying on deduction and common sense – that  is generally poor deduction and a lack of common sense). See:

https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2018/02/10/a-peculiar-interpretation/

The current clause is read and interpreted and acted upon as if the word “receiving” is not contained within it: that is players in possession of the ball are permitted to face and move in any direction irrespective of the presence and positioning of opposing players who are trying to play at the ball from within playing distance of it – which is simply wrong.

 

RULES TECHNICAL INTERPRETATIONS.

1993 BODY OBSTRUCTION AND INTERFERENCE
(Rule 12)

Interpretation of obstruction in hockey has changed significantly over the last few years. The main reasons for this are the increased use of artificial pitches on which the ball and player can change direction quickly, a desire to let the game flow and a wish to develop and protect skills on the ball.

The reasons given in the above clause for change to interpretation were untrue and silly, interpretation of obstruction changed because it had been declared in 1987 that a obstructing player had to move to position between an opponent and the ball in order to obstruct; that was interpreted to mean that players who were in possession of the ball, but stationary, could not obstruct. This was a dramatically different approach from what had gone before, but there was no acknowledgement of this fact other than to, wrongly, declare that there was a new (very poorly explained) interpretation.

There followed some ‘woolly’ statements that demonstrated that the writer knew little about playing hockey (particularly as a defender). There was also the presentation of one way of looking at obstruction (without considering any others). Why ‘The Stationary Player’ and ‘The Moving Player’ were chosen as divisions for Rule Interpretation, is a mystery to me. ‘A Receiving Player’ (the subject of the exception) and ‘A Player in Possession of the Ball’, are I think much more appropriate divisions of circumstances in what was to be a new approach to Obstruction (the introduction of a single exception to the usual application of the Rule).

This note gives guidance on the resulting current interpretation of obstruction. In doing so, it suggests principles which can be applied; it does not aim to be a detailed treatise describing every potential obstruction situation. Indeed, it concentrates on two primary playing circumstances. (flimflam, an Obstruction Rule must be applicable to every potentially obstructive situation and should be fully explained)

The Stationary Player
In the past, only the direction the receiving player was facing was considered rather than what the receiver and tackler were trying to do. (meaningless pap)

Now the principles are:

The receiving stationary player may be facing in any direction.

The onus is on the tackler to move into position, i.e. usually to move round the receiver, to attempt a legitimate tackle. The only time an opponent can reasonably move round a player receiving the ball is when the ball is still a considerable distance from the intended receiver and there is a strong possibility of making an interception before the ball reaches him.

Thus the tackler must not crash into a receiver and thereby try to.claim obstruction, any such action should be firmly penalised.

Having collected the ball, the receiver must move away in any direction (except, of course, bodily into the tackler) (my bold)

The last above clause conflicts with the previous Rule Interpretation statement that a stationary player cannot obstruct. It is also very vague. What does “away” mean? (Away from a opponent intent on making a tackle for the ball?) When? How far away? At what speed? For what purpose?

Accordingly, the receiver is being allowed to collect the ball and proceed with play – with the onus on the tackler to move into position where an attempt can be made to play the ball without contact with the receiver.

The Moving Player
The variations in this instance are vast – so a few principles for making the necessary judgement are suggested.

From here on the advice about application of the Obstruction Rule is not about obstruction but about what a tackler must do to avoid a physical contact offence.

One way of summarising these principles is to consider the position, intent and timing of the tackler.

 Just as with the stationary receiver, the onus is on the tackler to be in, and if necessary move to, a position from which a legitimate tackle can be made. Even once in the correct position, the following conditions must also be satisfied before obstruction occurs.

There must be an intention to make a tackle. In essence, the tackler must be attempting to move his stick towards the ball.

The timing of this movement of stick towards ball must be precise – because until the moment the tackler is in a tackling position and intent on making the ‘tackle, the player with the ball can move off with the ball in any direction.

This demand for precise movement of the stick towards the ball at the right time and from the right position destroyed the Obstruction Rule. There was nothing to prevent a player in possession of the ball moving the ball at any time to maintain body shielding of it or at any moment from moving (turning)  so that the tackler who was about to achieve a position from which a tackle could be made, was no longer able to achieve such position. The tackler who was trying to position to make an attempt to play directly at the ball (“usually to go around the player in possession”) could be made to be like ‘a dog chasing his own tail’ without the ball holder having any fear of penalty for obstruction.

An attempt by a tackler to go around a ball holder to position to make a tackle, simply offered opportunity to the ball holder to turn away with the ball to the opposite side, easily preventing any tackle attempt and simultaneously ‘beating’ the defender while maintaining ball shielding. Defenders then had no option but to stand-off a receiver of the ball who remained stationary or a ball holder who had turned to shield the ball from them but did not then move away. To attempt a tackle was to invite penalty for physical contact (the ball-holder could easily make sure of that) or just as easily turn into the space vacated by the tackler.

This is the essence of the current interpretation of obstruction: allowing a player to receive a ball, play or pass it in any direction, and only penalising him if obstruction takes place at the time a properly-placed tackler is intent on making the tackle.

It is clear from the above clause that ‘a receiving player’ was, until the ball was in control (a very short period in top level hockey), exempt from what would usually be regarded as an obstruction offence, but that obstruction by a player in possession was then a possibility.

It is the illegal prevention of a legitimate tackle attempt, when but for the ball shielding, an opponent who is demonstrating an intention to play at the ball, would be able to play directly at it, that is the ‘essence’ (the critical criterion) for an obstruction offence. That was true in 1993 and it is true now.

The 1993 ‘new interpretation’ of obstruction did not specifically mention a player in possession of the ball illegally preventing an opponent from playing directly at the ball – it concentrated on tacklers and mentioned obstruction in passing, without explaining what obstruction is. It was in other words, nonsense.

What constituted obstruction by a player in possession of the ball did not change at all in 1993 (or later). But a major difficulty for umpires was judging the moment a receiving player became a player in controlled possession of the ball (and therefore subject to the Obstruction Rule). They ‘solved’ this difficulty by ignoring it, players who were obviously no longer in the act of receiving and controlling the ball but had it in close control (were for example moving it from side to side with the stick), were permitted to continue to shield the ball without moving away (or even attempting to move away) from an opponent who was intent on making a tackle for the ball – today we have umpire coaches instructing that a player in possession of the ball can legally back into opponents (back into their playing reach) as long as they do not back into physical contact and this opinion is based on nothing more than a quirk of language, the analogy – that a car that backs into another car makes contact with that car (how daft this is as a basis for interpretation for obstruction can easily be illustrated by extending the same analogy, the driver of a car who “backs his car” into a parking bay or a home garage does not normally keep going until he hits something) .

That is, the player with the ball can play hockey and is penalised only if Obstruction is actual rather than implied.
(I have no idea what the above sentence is meant to convey to a reader, it’s just more flimflam)

1995

The Obstruction Rule was rewritten

13.1 .4 Obstruction. Players shall not:-

a. obstruct an opponent from attempting to play the ball by:

∙ moving or interposing themselves or their sticks

∙ shield the ball with their sticks or any part of their bodies

∙ physically interfering with the sticks or bodies of opponents.

OBSTRUCTION AND INTERFERENCE (Rule 13.1.4)

There was a reformatting of the Rule and Rule Guidance after 1995. The Guidance to each Rule, previously given on the facing page, was not changed at this time but hereafter presented beneath the relevant Rule in italics.

There were two changes to Appendix B Rules Interpretations pertaining to obstruction.

Having collected the ball the receiver may move away in any direction (except, of course, bodily into the tackler).

Here the word “must” was replaced with “may”. This was a huge change although it might, being a change of only one word, appear to be insignificant, but a prohibition (against remaining stationary) and a directive (to move away), were deleted and replaced with a choice. A receiving player having received the ball could now remain stationary if they so wished. This change also removed the conflict introduced in 1993 (the contradiction of the 1987 stationary player meme) but it would have been much better if the 1987 statement which effectively declared that a stationary player could not obstruct had been removed instead of the ‘fudge’ in the above clause being introduced.

At the time it was made the change of word from “must” to “may” was incomprehensible to me and I wrote to the Hon. Sec. of the  FIH HRB about it – without reply. In hindsight, a distance of many years, I can see that it was made to address the 1993 contradiction of the 1987 statement and maintain that 1987 statement, a double error that effectively ‘gutted’ the obstruction Rule.

This was added at the end of the 1995 Interpretation of the Obstruction Rule.

Preventing a legitimate tackle by intentionally and continuously shielding the ball with the body or leg is obstruction. Stick obstruction and interference is prohibited; no player may strike at or interfere with an opponent’s stick. The player with the ball may not use the stick actively to shield or protect the ball from a legitimate tackle.

The inclusion of the words “continuously” and “use the stick actively” was worrying but no explanation of either phrase was offered. I believe it was from ‘use the stick actively’ that the odd idea that stick obstruction could not occur if a player had his or her stick-head in contact with the ball, first arose. Umpires have proved capable of ignoring entire paragraphs in a Rule but, then extrapolating an ambiguous phrase from Interpretation into a new (and unofficial) Rule or Rule Interpretation.

By 2002 the officiating of the Obstruction Rule had become such a shambles, that what was by then called Appendix B Rules Interpretations, was revised to include some objective criteria to judge if an obstruction offence was taking place. The Rule wording and the structure of the Guidance and Rules Interpretations remained the same but the wording of the Rule Interpretation changed.

2002

APPENDIX B RULES INTERPRETATIONS

Rule 13.1.4 Obstruction

The interpretations of obstruction below allow players to receive a ball, play or pass it in any direction, and only to be penalised if obstruction takes place at the time a properly placed tackler tries to make the tackle.

(No mention there of the exception of the Rule in the case of a receiving player, all playing of the ball and attempting to tackle is rolled into one general – and meaningless – statement: obstruction is not defined)

In a Rule about Obstruction the Rule Interpretation below still says more about a player attempting to tackle than about a player who is or might be obstructing

It is important for umpires to be vigilant in observing the obstructions referred to in the following paragraphs. Players gain unfair benefit and opponents can become frustrated if the obstructions described are not penalised. (this is advice for umpires. ‘padding’ in a Rule Interpretation)

The Stationary Player

The same as previously – post 1993

Then for the first time a description of some of the actions that might objectively be considered to be obstructive actions (actions that had by that time become commonplace) was included in Rules Interpretations. There were of course those with their own agendas – who believed the obstruction Rule ought to be deleted – and who declared on Internet hockey forums that “be aware” did not mean “penalise” (they themselves were not penalising any of the listed contraventions) even though some of the “be aware of” actions that were listed in this Rule Interpretation were mentioned in Guidance as offences.

Umpires should be aware of players who are in possession of the ball who:

back into an opponent;

The meaning of “back into” has lately (2017) become the subject of a bizarre interpretation (again see https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2018/02/10/a-peculiar-interpretation/ )

turn and try to push past an opponent;

shield the ball with body, leg or stick and stand still when under pressure;

(which rebutted previous Advice to Umpires “To obstruct, a player must be active. He will have to move to place himself between his opponent and the ball. If the aforementioned conditions are not met, there can be no grounds for penalising a player for obstruction” and also rebutted the 1995 change from “must” to “may” – because if a played is not permitted to stand still and shield the ball when under pressure, then he or she must either move away or not shield the ball if stationary, as a tackle attempt is being made. A see-saw amendment.

Perversely, the above clause, instead of deterring stationary shielding, which generally remained unpenalised, led to the idea that a player who was moving with the ball (or even just moving the ball) could not obstruct, so we had umpires, sincerely believing (because that was what they were coached) that a stationary player in possession of the ball could not obstruct and nor could a player who was moving the ball or moving with the ball. These umpires apparently did not suffer from cognitive dissidence (an uncomfortable feeling that their belief was being contradicted by fact – what was written in the rule-book) and they saw no reason to do anything to reduce dissidence. Their common sense apparently did not tell them that if all the above statements were true then there was in effect no Obstruction Rule because obstruction by a player in possession of the ball was not a possibility in any circumstances.

drag the ball near their back foot when moving down the side-line or along the back-line;

That seems clear enough, but it was commonly ignored quite early on and still is.

shield the ball with the stick to prevent a legitimate tackle.

.

Third party or shadow obstruction

Players who run in front of or block opponents to deny them the legitimate and feasible opportunity to play the ball are obstructing. This can happen, for example, at penalty corners when attackers run across or block defenders including the goalkeeper.

Rule 13.1.5 Manufactured offence

Players must not be allowed to disadvantage opponents by forcing them to offend unintentionally. Examples of manufactured offences include:

forcing an opponent into obstructing, often emphasised by running into an opponent or by waving the stick over an opponent’s head. This action should be penalised.

2004

In 2004 there was a reformatting of the rule-book (a new book size) and a major rewrite, which was described as a simplification and clarification, but consisted largely of deleting previous Rule clauses and all previous Rule Interpretation. The additional criteria added in 2002 were not (as had been expected they would be)  included in “Players obstruct if they:-” they were simply deleted. The Rules Interpretations previously given in the back of the rule-book before 2004 just disappeared. The Obstruction Rule and provided Rule Interpretation was then comparatively sparse.

9.10 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. (my bold italic)

The original “must” now became “is permitted to”, following the change to “may” in 1995. I have no idea why “is permitted to” replaced “may”, it seems an unnecessary change as both have exactly the same meaning, but the FIH HRB could then declare that an amendment had been made to the Obstruction Rule and put a line next to it in the text of the rule-book, even though they provided no reason for the change and the change had no significance. The word “away” was also replaced, with “off” (which does not mean away); this was a fudge which has been interpreted to mean that a player in possession of the ball is allowed to move towards (even into the playing reach of an opponent trying to make a tackle attempt) while shielding the ball, despite that being a contradiction of one of the criteria (back into) for an obstruction offence.

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.

2009

There was one amendment made to the Rule Explanation in 2009. Nothing else in the Obstruction Rule was changed.

This clause:- A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent.

Was expanded, to read:-

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.

Few umpires appear to be aware of this last amendment to the explanation of application of the Obstruction Rule; in fact it added nothing that was not already in place and was generally ignored. Perhaps the FIH HRB wanted to be seen to be doing something, anything no matter how futile, about the way the Rule was (not) being applied. There are still some very peculiar opinions about what is and is not obstruction being coached to umpires, prospective umpires and to players. Commentary to the video below is absurd.

https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2018/05/18/contradiction/

As was written in the Rule Interpretation in 1993 “……One way of summarising these principles is to consider the position, intent and timing of the tackler.

Another way would have been to consider the positioning and other actions (including stationary ball shielding) by player in possession of the ball and also of a player in the act of receiving the ball. To have done so would have made more sense as we already have separate Rules which prohibit any form of physical contact – and it is not possible to rule about the position a tackler needs to adopt to make a tackle attempt (e.g advising or insisting that a tackler should “go around” is inappropriate, actually stupid).

The existing Rules, which forbid all physical contact, are sufficient to deal with any physical contact. Once physical contact is taken out of consideration under another Rule (e.g. 9.3 or 9.13). The Obstruction Rule can and should be about preventing obstruction; that is what a player must do or not do to avoid obstructing an opponent: which is preventing an opponent playing directly at the ball when he or she is within playing distance of the ball and would otherwise have been able to play at it.

It was an error (to put it mildly) to introduce in 1987 the idea that could be interpreted to mean that a stationary ball holder could not obstruct an opponent. The error was compounded by swinging back and forth, next, in 1993, demanding movement away by a ball holder who had received and controlled the ball, removing that demand in 1995 (“may move away”), then reimposing it (“watch for stationary ball shielding when under pressure”) in 2002, and then (perhaps?) removing it again (“is permitted to move off”) 2004. This sequence gives a sense of disagreement and discord within the FIH HRB, which there can be no doubt existed (still exists?) and was surpassed in absurdity only by the ‘gains benefit’ fiasco of January and February 2007 (Ball body contact Rule). 

The original (1987) clause, which appeared to sanction stationary ball shielding (even if the ball was being moved), has not appeared in a Rule or Rule Interpretation since 1992, but it is still regularly trotted out as if current interpretation or even part of the Obstruction Rule. Many umpires will not penalise a player who is shielding the ball to prevent an opponent making a legitimate tackle attempt if that player is stationary and/or is moving the ball. There is now no clear justification for this approach to the offence but, years of “simplification and clarification” have left us with a vague and ambiguous wording of the Explanation of Application for which many interpretations are offered and ‘in practice’ obstruction offences are virtually ignored. The game has suffered as a spectacle, it is at times actually ugly to watch, and so has the general level of stick/ball skills suffered, because ball shielding with the body requires little stick-work skill.

Only the last two incidents shown in the video below were penalised (and then one of them with a penalty corner when a penalty stroke should have been awarded) I can find no rational reason why obstruction, even when combined with a physical contact offence, is so frequently ignored. I have a few, but very few, videos showing an umpire penalising an obstruction offence, so there is some ground for supposing that umpires are (or should be) aware of the existence of the Obstruction Rule, but no rational explanation of their general refusal to apply it – other than that they find it difficult to do so (because it is not what their peers are doing) – it is easier just to ignore offences, in spite of the frustration this causes to players who are obstructed and the incidents of physical contact that result from this frustration. One of the reasons for the difficulty umpires encounter is the absence of a clear definition of obstruction within the Obstruction Rule and the absence of criteria – similar to those introduced in 2002 – to use as a guide to correct application.

There have been no amendments made to the Obstruction Rule since 2009 but ‘interpretation’ is ‘the wreckage of a runaway train’.

The Obstruction Rule needs to be rewritten without the previously embedded and hidden conflicts and with clear definition and criteria, here is an attempt to do that.

https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2015/10/31/rewrite-rule-9-12-obstruction/


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

March 8, 2018

Why did this happen.

FIELD HOCKEY RULES.

How did this happen….

.

.

all but the last two obstructive incidents were ignored by the umpires and even then, the penultimate one was revered on video referral after the silly award of a penalty stroke and the other, the last, was only penalised after several seconds, when a second opponent was obstructed in the same way as the first one continued to be. The penalty given was a penalty corner and not the penalty stroke that should have been awarded.

…. from this?

9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball. (The Rule, aside from the clauses relating to third party and the clause ‘physically interfering with the stick or body of an opponent’ , assumes possession of 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. (my bold and upper case).

(I have not here included the clauses that describe third party obstruction)

vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

Restating the last clause above in its parts and in the prohibitive format previously used.

A player in possession of the ball is not permitted to:-

move bodily into an opponent

move into a position between the ball and an opponent who is attempting to play at the ball.

The clauses ……

Players obstruct if they:-

back into an opponent (back into the playing reach of an opponent – not into contact with because that action is separately listed)

physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent. (includes interfering with a stick by a stick) 

move bodily into an opponent (physical contact)

…….do not require that an opponent (a tackler) be attempting to play at the ball at the time of the given action. This is reasonable because backing into the playing reach of an opponent (forcing retreat to avoid physical contact) or physical contact/interference by a ball holder with an opponent who is trying to position to tackle could make a tackle attempt impossible or make an attempt to tackle unfairly difficult.

vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv

The complete list:-

Players obstruct if they:-

move bodily into an opponent

physically interfere with the stick or body of an opponent.

back into an opponent

move into a position between the ball and an opponent who is attempting to play at the ball.

(that is ball shielding to prevent a tackle attempt without there being any form of physical contact).

The unsatisfactory answers to How? and Why? are “Interpretation” and “The acceptance of this interpretation”.

But where do these interpretations come from? That appears to be anybodies guess.

I can’t see any reason that the interpretations of the actions seen in the video clips (that ‘saw’ nearly all of them as legitimate play) should be accepted by anybody, because such interpretation is clearly contrary (provided word meanings remain consistent) to what is given in Rule 9.12 Obstruction.

Are word meanings reasonably consistent? Is it likely (probable) that A player shall not move bodily into an opponent has several meanings in this time and place and one of them is that players are permitted to move bodily into an opponent – and, irrationally, that is the one used in hockey? If this is so we can despair of ever having a written Rules of Hockey that is adhered to.

It must however be acknowledged that for many years, from 1993 to 2004 for example, we had a provided interpretation in the back of the rule-book that could not be adhered to. That it was written by someone who did not understand how hockey is played is evident from the fact that he wrote it as he did. It contained the same kind of impossible conditions and contradictions that ‘The Lifted Ball’, an umpire coaching document by the same author, contained. Here is part of it:-

The Moving Player

The variations in this instance are many but the principles are:

∙ the onus is on the tackler to be in, and if necessary move to, a position from which a legitimate tackle can be made. Once in the correct position the following conditions must also be satisfied before obstruction can occur.

∙ there must be an intention to make a tackle. in essence the tackler must be attempting to move the stick towards the ball.

∙ the timing of the tackle must be precise because, until the tackler is in a tackling position and intending to make the tackle, the player with the ball may move off with the ball in any direction (except bodily into the tackler).

This interpretation of obstruction allows players to receive a ball, play or pass it in any direction, and only to be penalised if obstruction takes place at the time a properly placed tackler tries to make the tackle.

However, umpires should note certain forms of obstruction which are often incorrectly overlooked. In particular, preventing a legitimate tackle by intentionally shielding the ball with the body or leg is obstruction.

Stick obstruction and interference is prohibited; no player may strike at or interfere with an opponent’s stick. The player with the ball may not use the stick to shield or protect the ball from a legitimate tackle.

To be fair, the above interpretation was written about the exemption from the Obstruction Rule of a player who was in the act of receiving the ball, and it was not intended as an interpretation of obstruction at all (which remained exactly as it had before 1993. What constituted an obstructive action, the criteria for obstruction, continued to be exactly as it had been previously) but as an explanation of an exception to the Obstruction Rule, vis-a-vis tackling, when the ball was being received by a player: the dramatic change the author sat down to write about and mistakenly called a new interpretation.

This ‘new interpretation’ was very quickly being applied to a player who was already in controlled possession of the ball – not at all what was intended to be taken from what was written in the first four paragraphs above – and this mistake became universal as it was copied and ‘cascaded’.

Why there was differentiation made between a stationary receiving player and a moving receiving player, I can’t even guess. A more sensible differentiation could and should have been made between a player already  in controlled possession of the ball and a player receiving the ball – moving or stationary. The stationary/moving divide only confused participants further because there is in fact no difference in the application of the Obstruction Rule between them.

The part about a player already in controlled possession of the ball begins at paragraph five with “However, umpires should note certain forms of obstruction which are often incorrectly overlooked. In particular, preventing a legitimate tackle by intentionally shielding the ball with the body or leg is obstruction.and that paragraph is all the attention body obstruction by a player in possession of the ball (the most frequently contravention) gets in “the new interpretation” – and it is mistaken, bringing into consideration for the first time an intention to illegally shield the ball from an opponent, which has never been a consideration. Shielding the ball can be obstruction, but as an obstruction offence must be forced by an attempt by a tackler to play at the ball, intent to obstruct is irrelevant if there is obstruction.

In 2001 the words in the first paragraph “and if necessarywere deleted (I don’t know for certain why, there was no explanation offered at the time, but the cynic in me can make a guess). The 1993 ‘interpretation’ otherwise remained, as presented in part above, until the rule-book was re-formatted and rewritten in 2004 – when it was deleted. Hockey coaches and umpires in the meantime (and since, despite its deletion) have used this ‘interpretation’ to destroy the game by coaching and applying it inappropriately.

In 2009  the Explanation of Application clause to the rewritten Rule, A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent., was extended, to read:-

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.

But this damage limitation attempt, the last amendment made to the Obstruction Rule by the FIH Hockey Rules Board, was too little too late (the penalising of obstruction had practically vanished by then) and most umpires today seem to be unaware of it – never mind to be applying it. This is generally because they are still applying the interpretation of ‘attempting to play at the ball’, extent up until 2003 (which was as explained above originally intended to be applied to a player attempting to tackle an opponent who was in the act of receiving the ball  – the ‘interpretation’ came instead to be about the positioning of a tackler and not about a player committing an obstruction offence). This ‘interpretation’ (which included the pre-2004 version) was handed down by word of mouth from older umpires to those taking their places with all the personal opinion, inconsistency, variation and mistake such a method of communication enjoys.

The only mention, following the 2004 deletion and rewrite, the revolutionary exception of 1993 gets in the 2009 (and the current) Obstruction Rule, is a statement that a stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to be facing in any direction. How’s that for clarification? The current, mistaken, view, ‘interpretation’ coming from that statement, is that a player in possession of the ball may at any time be standing facing in any direction regardless of the positioning of opponents and the position of the ball; not at all what the Rule now stipulates and not what was intended in 1993.

The story of the ‘development’ of the interpretation of the Obstruction Rule is one of a losing battle, beginning I think with the idea that a stationary player in possession of the ball could not obstruct, even if facing his or her own goal and within the playing reach of opponents who were intent on playing at the ball which came from this:-

OBSTRUCTION AND INTERFERENCE (Rue 13.1.4)

This note describes two primary playing circumstances: the stationary player and the moving player.

The principles are :

The Stationary Player
∙ the receiving, stationary, player may be facing in any direction
∙ the onus is on the tackler to move into position, for example usually to move round the receiver to attempt a legitimate tackle

No tackler with any common sense is going to try to tackle by moving around a stationary opponent in possession of the ball – the ball holder will of course just turn away in the opposite direction and into the space just vacated by his or her opponent. This interpretation just set up a situation where a single tackler could not tackle a competent player who had possession of the ball and who was prepared to shield it and wait for a tackle attempt or for team support (it slowed the game and ‘holding’ the ball in the corner of the pitch or against a base-line or side-line became a common tactic). The above Interpretation was deleted in 2004. Only this fragment of it remains in current Rule.

a stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to be facing in any direction    (this does not state that a player in possession of the ball is permitted to be facing in any direction when an opponent is attempting to play at the ball)

Cris Maloney an American umpire coach is currently coaching what he says FIH Umpires are doing, that is going beyond the above ‘stationary player’ statement to include a player in possession of the ball and also allowing a ball holder to move backwards towards an opponent while shielding the ball from that opponent – as long as the ball holder does not make physical contact with the opponent – which is his own interpretation.

https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2018/02/10/a-peculiar-interpretation/

But it is clear from the video posted at the head of this article that that ‘interpretation’ is ‘old hat’. FIH Umpires have for many years been allowing full-on contact by a player who is receiving the ball or who is in controlled  possession of the ball – it’s only an opponent who positions to block the ball or who attempts to tackle such a player, who risks being penalised – for impeding or physical contact. The application of the Rules – some Rules more than others – is in a state of anarchy. The back-into interpretation presently being promoted by Cris Maloney et al was but a step along the way.

Hockey has generally become ugly and less, not more skillful, as it should have done, over the last twenty-five years. Oh, we see videos of people with amazing juggling skills practicing in uncontested situations, moves that are not legal in a hockey match, but the free-flowing passing and dribbling game, the ‘new interpretation’ was supposed to herald an expansion of, has all but vanished. The fact that defenders can shield the ball and move with it while shielding it without any fear of penalty, equates with the unwelcome turning, shielding and barging tactics of attackers trying to penetrate the shooting circle in possession of the ball and turns hockey into a farce, a game without properly applied Rules.

 

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/03/08/why-did-this-happen/

February 10, 2018

Attempting to play the ball

FIELD HOCKEY RULES

Attempting to play the ball.

There were at one time two videos about obstruction presented by the FIH Umpiring Committee via dartfish.com which referred to an attempt to play at the ball.

The Interpretation given on the Dartfish website of the above incident was as follows:-
The ARG attacker enters the 23 metres area and just before she reaches the edge of the circle plays a pass which is intended for her team mate. The GER defender tries to intercept the pass, but the ball deflects off her stick. The GER defender regains control of the ball. The second ARG attacker tries to claim that she is being obstructed. The Umpire allows play to continue, because at no point did the second ARG attacker ever legitimately attempt to play the ball.

The GER player who blocks the ARG player who is trying to move towards the ball clearly commits three offences 1) physical contact 2) Interference 3) Third-party Obstruction and whoever wrote the above interpretation, supporting the decision made by the match umpire, lacks not only Rule knowledge but common sense. There was no attempt by the ARG player to play at the ball because she was illegally prevented from getting to within playing distance of the ball when trying to do so.

The interpretation provided on the website with the next video was:-
The GER team try and pass the ball out of defence. The GER player receives the ball and initially moves it out of the playing distance of the ARG player. When the GER player turns with the ball, the ARG player is not actively trying to tackle or play the ball, so there is no obstruction. When the GER player plays the ball over the stick of the ARG player, it runs out of her playing distance for an ARG side-line ball. The contact between the two players’ sticks is accidental and does not affect play.

There is a substantial chunk of the action missing from the actions described in the provided interpretation which can be seen in the video. I have embedded comment in my remake of the video and included slow-mo of the relevant action.

Both of the above interpretations, which declare no tackle attempt was made, are absurd, taking no account of the prevention of a tackle attempt or the illegal thwarting of a tackle attempt as it was in progress (initially, in the second video, by stepping over the stick of the player attempting to tackle as she was reaching for the ball and bodily blocking her path to it). Both interpretations support the decisions made by the match umpires: what a surprise !!

My previous objections to the inclusion of these two videos (and many others) presented as umpire coaching go back to the launch date of FIH Umpire Committee sponsored coaching on the Dartfish website – a potentially great coaching tool was being mismanaged and wasted by those responsible for producing the interpretations, mainly because they ‘bend over backwards’ to support decisions made by match umpires no matter, as in the two examples above, how mistaken they were.

All the FIH Umpire Coaching videos at one time presented on the Dartfish website have been taken down. So many were flawed or simply wrong in their ‘Interpretation of the action’ that I am relieved that this step was taken

Cris Maloney refers in his coaching session (see link below) to “What FIH Umpires are doing” as justification for the interpretation he is coaching. Here is an example of what they are doing.

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This umpire allows the NED defender to ‘crab’ along the base-line and to move into the playing reach of the GER forward while  – deliberately – shielding the ball from her opponent and thereby preventing an attempt by that opponent to make a legitimate tackle.The GER player would immediately have been able to play directly at the ball if the NED player had not shielded it from her in the way that she did.

(moving along a line in this way was an action which umpires were advised to watch for (penalise) up until 2003, when it was deleted from Advice to Umpires without comment. This instruction needs to be restored to the Explanation of application of the Obstruction Rule – along with 2) turning into and pushing past, and 3) standing still and shielding the ball when under pressure – the latter also seen in the video – described ‘watch for’ actions which were deleted at the same time as shielding the ball while moving along a line was).

The umpire does not penalise until a second GER forward attempts to tackle for the ball and is also obstructed in the same way while the first one continues to be obstructed. The penalty awarded was a penalty corner and not as it should have been, because there was nothing accidental about this obstruction, a penalty stroke. The obstructing player obviously had no idea she was committing an offence. Why not?

Common sense should have told this umpire that a deliberate obstruction offence was occurring ‘right under her nose’ long before she did intervene.

(Incidentally the earlier breakdown tackle near the centre of the circle looks like an offence that should have been penalised with a penalty stroke)

 

This following example is worse, the umpire awards the offending NED player (who commits three offences) a free ball.

Cris Maloney (https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2018/02/10/a-peculiar-interpretation/) would doubtless have seen the first action by the NED defender after he got possession of the ball as backing into, because there was physical contact, but the FIH Umpire concerned did not. Why not? Will Cris Maloney eventually follow what this umpire, and others, are doing?

On the above evidence, basing Rule application on a clear understanding of the written Rule, obtained by using literal interpretation of the wording, is more likely to produce sensible decisions than copying what other umpires are doing, no matter what level they may have reached, because it is often impossible to know why they are doing what they do – and the “Why?” or “Why not?” is important.

I doubt that the umpire who made the above decision could explain why he did not penalised the NED player for obstruction and/or physical contact, the offences could hardly have been clearer and the written descriptions of them in the Explanation of application of Rule 9.12 are clear enough to be fit for purpose if common sense is also employed.

 

I hope no other umpires will follow these examples.


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https://martinzigzag.com/2018/02/10/attempting-to-play-the-ball/

February 10, 2018

A peculiar interpretation

FIELD HOCKEY RULES

Cris Maloney is a well known, enthusiastic, and well liked umpire coach in the USA. He has produced a number of videos and written three books on the playing and umpiring of field-hockey. He has also been involved with Steven Horgan (the Pan American representative Member of the FIH Rules Committee since 2017) in the production of the USA Field Hockey Rules Briefing videos since 2012 – so he should know what he is talking about (even though there has not been a single mention of the Obstruction Rule – the subject of this article – in the USA Briefings for as far back as I have been able to track them: so no mention since at least 2012). It is therefore something of a surprise to discover that he has concocted a bizarre interpretation of part the wording of the Explanation of application of the Obstruction Rule (that turns the Obstruction Rule ‘on its head’) and which he presented in a pre-2017 season coaching session at Eastern. The video clip below is a small segment of that session.

Like the ‘curate’s egg’ what is said is not all bad, the opening statements he makes in the video, about the possibility of obstructing when moving the ball or moving with the ball, are accurate (but see video below for a different interpretation which was previously ‘fashionable’), but he very quickly departed from the rule-book and referred to an offence called ‘Misconduct’ which was deleted decades ago, and also refers to tackle prevention, which is not specifically mentioned in the Obstruction Rule – although instruction about the prevention of a tackle – “if  the opponent could otherwise have played at the ball” – was at one time included in Advice to Umpires in the back of the rule-book and should still be included in the Rule or Explanation of application, but isn’t. Strangely ball shielding when an opponent is within playing distance of the ball and clearly intent on playing at the ball – making a tackle for the ball – is no longer seen (interpreted) as the prevention of a tackle attempt. (That said “attempting to tackle” is presently very poorly defined and absurdly interpreted – see separate article

https://martinzigzag.wordpress.com/2018/02/10/attempting-to-play-the-ball/).

He then, after describing backing in as a contact offence, asks a player to back into him in demonstration, and declares when she does as she is asked, that she is not backing into him (but backing up), as he retreats behind her, because she does not make contact with him. When he stops retreating and the player does back into physical contact, he then declares that she is backing in and therefore obstructing him. The flaw in this reasoning should be obvious as the player with the ball simply continued with exactly the same action – but he did not.

The question that needs to be addressed is “Does ‘back in’ mean backing into physical contact?” Without additional information it is not possible to determine that because the term is ambiguous. Certainly (as Cris Maloney pointed out) someone who backs into another car hits that car. But, someone who backs into a parking bay or a garage does not normally keep going until they hit something – the terms used are the same and both interpretations can be correct, meaning clearly depends on the context in which the term is used. It is therefore necessary to go to the published Rule to see if there is other wording within the Explanation of application to support the contact interpretation or to make it doubtful or to contradict it.

There are other criteria described and I will set them out without setting out the entire Explanation of application, Third Party etc. 

9.12 Players must not obstruct an opponent who is attempting to play the ball.

Players obstruct if they :

– back into an opponent

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.

The last clause needs breaking down to highlight its component parts.

A player with the ball is permitted to move off with it in any direction except bodily into an opponent which can be accurately transcribed into the previously used prohibitive form: – A player with the ball is not permitted to move bodily into an opponent. and  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. transcribes to become A player with the ball is not permitted to move into a position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

Summary

A player with the ball is not permitted to:-

  • back into an opponent
  • move bodily into an opponent
  • move to position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it.

I believe the separate listing of ‘back into’ and ‘move bodily into’ call for different interpretations of the two terms.

Because a player may be obstructed once that player is within playing distance of the ball, ‘back into’ can reasonably be interpreted to mean ‘back into the playing reach of an opponent’ and not only or just, back into contact. The separate ‘Move bodily into an opponent’, which is otherwise unnecessary, is then justified as a different action from ‘back into’.

Why then is another action described separately ‘move to position between the ball and an opponent who is within playing distance of the ball and attempting to play it’. listed ? Is this not unnecessary duplication? No, one reason is because it is possible to turn (move) into a position between an approaching opponent and the ball without backing towards that opponent and a second, important one, is that if a ball holder is moving into an opponent while shielding the ball – which is likely if there is ‘backing in’ or ‘moving bodily into an opponent’ – it is not necessary for the opponent to be attempting to play at the ball at the time for there to be an obstruction offence; this requirement is omitted from the first two criteria listed in the Explanation to the Rule. That is a reasonable interpretation because if a player is forced to back away from a moving ball holder to avoid physical contact or has been barged into by the body of the ball holder, an attempt to play at the ball may have been made unfairly difficult or impossible (prevented) by either of these actions.

I assert that there are sufficient other terms and reasonable alternative interpretation to discard the idea that ‘back into an opponent‘ must mean back into physical contact with that opponent. Backing into physical contact is an offence, but so is backing into the playing reach of an opponent, while shielding the ball but without making physical contact, because this contravenes two other clauses of the Explanation of application 1) shielding the ball  2) moving to position between an opponent and the ball. (both actions separately or together preventing a tackle attempt) 

A difficulty with interpretation might disappear if the Explanation of application was clarified to read –  back into the playing reach of an opponent. but I think it better to expand the clause to include all leading of the ball into the playing reach of an opponent while shielding the ball from that opponent to prevent direct playing at the ball: this would include the common ‘crabbing’ actions – leading the ball with shoulder and/or hip and with a leg. So:- A player obstructs if leading the ball with any part of the body into the playing reach of an opponent, while shielding the ball to prevent that opponent playing directly at it.

Cris Maloney also presented some very strange ideas in the coaching session (shown in the video below) which appear to be based on this clause from the Explanation of application:- A stationary player receiving the ball is permitted to face in any direction. They are strange because that clause refers only to a player who is in the act of receiving and controlling the ball. A player in possession who is therefore not in the act of receiving and controlling the ball is subject to a player shall not shield the ball from a legitimate tackle with their stick or any part of their body and must, when in possession of the ball but not in the act of receiving and controlling it, take account of the positioning of opponents to avoid an obstruction offence, i.e such a player is not always permitted to be facing in any direction. The shielding clause applies whether a player who is shielding the ball from an opponent is stationary or is moving at the time. That is something Cris Malone mentioned but did not expand upon when he referred, at the beginning of the first video clip above, to players who were moving the ball or moving with the ball.

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In fact the only times, other than when in the act of receiving and controlling the ball (receiving is not ‘in possession’) , a player in possession need not be concerned about the positioning of opponents vis a vis the possibility of obstruction, are when there is no opponent within playing distance of the ball or no opponent rapidly approaching who will be within playing reach of the ball before it can be put into an open position or when the ball holder and the ball are the opponent’s goal side of any opponent, (which includes any opponent who is within playing distance of the ball). An opponent who is ‘behind the play’ as described (behind – not own goal-side of – both the player in possession and the ball) cannot, no matter how close he or she may be to the ball, be bodily obstructed by a player in possession of the ball (but obstruction of a tackler’s stick, by ‘protecting’ the ball or fending off with stick or leg or hand/arm, is still a possibility).

Whether or not a player in possession of the ball is in “a legal position” or is “still in a legal position” when an opponent is attempting to make a tackle does depend on how they respond/position when a tackle attempt is made. The correct response when the group were asked “Is she still in a legal position” as a tackle attempt was demonstrated to be blocked by the body of the ball-holder was “NO”: Cris Maloney should have been explaining why it was “NO”. The “Yes” reply was an example of ignoring cognitive dissidence (between Rule wording and action) that is wilful blindness.

The Obstruction Rule is intended to put pressure on a player in possession of the ball to encourage movement with the ball (dribbling and stick-work) and movement of the ball (passing) – and to discourage physical contact, illegal ball shielding and static ‘play’: it by these means promotes game flow and all aspects of skillful play. ‘Diluting’ the criteria for obstruction does the opposite: it ‘dumbs down’ the game so that very little skill is needed to keep possession of the ball. The result is that many players, who are coached to shield the ball whenever possible and do so ‘automatically’ in contested situations, do not develop necessary stick-work and footwork skills or passing skills to properly (legally) play the game.

There is not much backing in taking place during the boring action shown in the video below, so what is seen complies with Cris Maloney’s view of “not obstruction”  – but not with what is written in the Rules of Hockey Rule 9.12.- besides it not being Rule compliant, could anyone want hockey to be played like this?

 

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The answer to that last question is possibly “Yes”. Now nearly everyone plays hockey like this because this, despite Rule 9.12, is the way it is umpired. (which is the justification Cris Maloney has offered to me for his coaching of obstruction) Are umpires umpiring as ‘everybody’ wants them to or only as umpires want to? In the following video there are many clips showing players shielding the ball while leading it into an opponent in a way that obliges that opponent to give way to avoid physical contact or moving into body contact (sideways or backwards) while ball shielding or alternatively, going over the ball and barging into an opponent. Only the last two incidents were penalised for obstruction, the first of them the reversal, after video referral, of a silly penalty stroke decision made by the match umpire, and the second, after a long delay, when a second player was deliberately obstructed in the same way as the first one continued to be deliberately obstructed – and even then the penalty awarded was a penalty corner and not, as it should have been, a penalty stroke.


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What Cris Maloney is currently coaching is at least two steps ‘behind’ what is now permitted, contrary to the Obstruction Rule, by FIH Umpires. To rescue the game we need to go back three or four ‘development’ steps, to where ball shielding to prevent an opponent playing at the ball, when he or she would otherwise have been able to do so, was considered an obstruction offence, and opponents were eluded or ‘beaten’ by passing and stick-work skills rather than, commonly, by barging and body blocking.

We are no longer trying to understand the wording used in the Obstruction Rule; we are trying to understand the umpiring which is supposed to be based on the provided wording, but clearly is not. What the above umpiring is based on is a mystery.

 

https://martinzigzag.com/2015/10/31/rewrite-rule-9-12-obstruction/

 

https://martinzigzag.com/2018/02/10/a-peculiar-interpretation/