Can you please advise on the interpretation of the obstruction rule with respect to playing marking (standing on/in front of the goal keeper) when play is intense inside the circle. Also if a player passes behind the goalkeeper and across the goal line and the keeper "steps" back onto them what would the correct decision be. On the weekend my son was playing and the umpire allowed a player to mark the goalkeeper actually pushing the keeper out of position. At the end of the game I was told there was a new rule that allowed this. I have my Queensland junior umpiring badge and umpired at the U13 Boys Queensland championships and I was not aware of this rule. Thanks for your advise in advance.
In the interests of tracking down an authoritative answer to your question, I checked with a friend of mine who is a badged FIH umpire. The following is his answer:
“In hockey, obstruction still exists. There is a bit of a new interpretation around to deal with this type of situation, but it actually protects the goalkeepers ability to see the ball, not the opponents “right” to obscure it. At the 1996 Olympics, the Dutch, and later other teams, used a field player on attack penalty corners to run down the line of the shot to block the goalie from seeing the ball. This became very dangerous as the Asian teams felt this was unfair, so they sent their “flyers” out with their sticks up – which led to a very bad injury to a Dutch player at a Champions Trophy in India. It was decided that the attackers WERE obstructing, and that type of run wouldn’t be allowed. Obviously, an attacker STANDING in front of the goalie, especially with the intent to shield the view of the ball, would be even more of an obstruction. For the attacker to actually interfere with the goalie is clearly outside the rules.
Unfortunately this gets into the realm of goalies having to protect themselves, and pushing players out of their way, or giving them a “gentle” kick in the butt. Remember that the retaliation is usually spotted by the umpire.”
Players have a right to position only if they’re attempting to make a legitimate play on the ball. Marking the keeper solely for the sake of obstructing his view or ability to make a play on the ball is obstruction. It is the umpire’s responsibility to prevent the game from becoming “argy bargy” when the tactic is used. As my umpiring friend notes, retaliation is usually what gets called as umpires usually only see who did what last. If a keeper is being obstructed, mention it to the umpire early and in a pleasant way. It’s not being a cry-baby and it’s a lot better than the yellow card you risk by taking matters in to your own hands.