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Question Number: 28771

Law 18 - Common Sense 9/22/2014

RE: FIFIA/La Liga/Bundesliga etc Adult

Martin Lewis Platt of New York, New York United States asks...

I heard on a telecast this weekend of an EPL match, that at one time there was an obstruction penalty when a player protected a ball going out of bounds from a player trying to get to it. What was the rationale for eliminating this rule? One of the most dispiriting parts of the modern game (besides missed offsides calls and penalties that happen in every match) is watching over an over a player walking the ball off the pitch to get a goal kick or corner or throw in, not allowing an opposing player a chance at the ball, or attempting to play it himself. Surely this hurts the game.

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hmm The laws were altered to say impeding from obstruction and it has been my understanding that shielding a ball within playing distance has been legal for a good while?

The issue is one of definition and practicality.

A player who challenges for the ball when another has possession of it must be done in a legal manner. One can not just push or pull an opponent out of the way. To sheppard a ball out of play is usually a tactic designed to get a favourable restart or a defensive posture to safely get the ball back into play like a goal kick or throw in, ie.. more control and less challenged.

You claim it hurts the game. I grant you it does suck but I see no reasonable recourse other than to call a dfk of foul of holding if the shielding player say backs up with arms wide to hold off the opponent or a dfk of a foul of pushing as the following opponent is nudging the shielding player from the back. Perhaps a few more calls like these two dfk and it would not occur so often?

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Martin
When I played the game there was an ''obstruction'' offence which resulted in an IDFK. That eliminated most but not all of the illegal shielding of the ball over the side line / goal line. It also in my opinion prevented player looking for contact on opponents inside the penalty area as the referee could award the IDFK which was less severe than the penalty award.
In 1997 when the Laws were totally rewritten this particular offence was removed from Law 12. No explanation was given other that one could interpret that obstruction was in fact a form of holding so it should be punished by a direct free kick.

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Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

The old obstruction offense was replaced by 'impedes the progress of an opponent' in 1997. It is my understanding that the wording change was made to better translate it into other languages.

Impeding can only be an offense off the ball, when the ball is not within playing distance. I believe this also applied to obstruction, but I'm not sure as I didn't start reffing until 1998 under the new wording.

Shielding the ball is not impeding, because the ball is within playing distance.

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