It occurs in every game, in all divisions from the lofty heights of the Premiership down to the Ginsters Hot Pasty league, you find yourself questioning it when it happens but more often than not you give it up as a lost cause…but why? Obstruction is an illegal move in football but EVERYONE seems to have accepted it as part of the game. I say wo wo wo wo woooo and wo again for good measure.
Law 12 otherwise known as ‘fouls and misconduct’ in FIFA’s football handbook of rules and regulations states the following:
‘Impeding the progress of an opponent means moving into the path of an opponent to obstruct, block, slow down or force a change of direction by an opponent when the ball is not within playing distance of either player.
A player who places himself between an opponent and the ball for tactical reasons has not committed an offence as long as the ball is kept in playing distance and the player does not hold off the opponent with his arms or body.
Disciplinary sanctions for breaking this rule: Indirect free kick from where the offence occurred.’
Given the above, why is it therefore that referees DO NOT apply the letter of the law and penalise players (usually defenders) for blatantly obstructing an approaching player when the ball is rolling out of play over the dead ball line? If you’re like me then you probably feel a certain inner glow warming the cockles when a forward manages to retrieve a lost cause from a defender hell-bent on preventing them from reaching it by any means necessary (aka obstruction).
Many moons ago and following the rise of foreign import players, there was mention of English/British players being less technically gifted than their mainland European counterparts, especially those players filling defensive roles. One of the suggested (and obvious) ways to assist with bridging the gap at the time was for the ‘obstruction’ rule to be properly adhered to by referees, to bring an end to defenders opting to illegally block off incoming attackers and instead having to take control of the ball in a tight and dangerous position on the field of play. The defender would then require a certain modicum of skill to deal with the situation, take on the man or play the ball out of harm’s way at the expense of a corner or thrown-in to the opposing team. Every way you look at it, the proper use of the obstruction rule would be of enormous benefit to the game. Here is a list of just some of the ways it would help do just that:
- The defenders/players would spend more time practicing for such eventualities and would increase their skill factor (tekkers) as a result.
- Better skilled players would mean greater entertainment and develop the strength of the domestic and national teams.
- The ball would be in the field of play longer and provide a great deal more excitement for fans and viewers.
- Less time would be wasted whilst the ball was being re-spotted for goal kicks especially towards the end of a game when the trailing side was chasing/putting pressure on. In fact the excitement levels at the end of a game would be increased as the defensive/leading team would not be able to stifle the attacking team quite so readily.
- There would be (a greater incidence of) indirect free-kicks in and around the box which would lead to more goals, scoring opportunities and bags more excitement.
- There would be a greater number of corners/throw-ins near to the opposing goal aka attacking threat and fewer goal kicks.
- There would be even more reason for opposing players to chase lost causes and again add more excitement to proceedings.
- Read the above again…What’s not to like?!!
This currently non-adhered to rule is probably the one that causes the greatest amount of consternation amongst fans and viewers (or a very close second to the inactive player/off-side rule anyway). I believe it’s high time that the FA got to grips with this and ensured that referees were correctly applying the letter of the law for the benefit of everyone passionate about the beautiful game.