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Question Number: 32006

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 11/7/2017

RE: N/A Under 19

Jacob of Wallasey, Merseyside England asks...

Hi! I just have a question about the rule regarding impeding the progress of a play.

In the laws of the game, it says that impeding the progress of a player means moving into the path of a player and thereby blocking his attempt to play the ball. I believe I am right in saying that you are allowed to shield the ball by standing still if you already have it though.

But my question is this: it says that an indirect free kick is awarded if you impede the progress of the player without contact... How exactly do you get in the way of a player and the ball without contact? What does this mean exactly? Can you give me an example?

Many thanks.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jacob
For those of us in the game long enough we remember the old obstruction foul which had an IDFK restart. The player simply physically blocked the opponents run by moving into his path. Obviously that did not sit well with the law makers in the game and it was removed in a major rewrite in 1997 and replaced with the impeding offence. One of the consequences of that decision is that it is now rarely called. So this is now a very rare offence as most times the offence of impeding now ends up with contact which is the foul that is called. The referee will always call the more serious contact foul such as holding, charging etc.
I cannot remember the last time I saw an IDFK for impeding as the norm is that without contact most referees would not call a foul. Some feel that with contact the referee has to decide if it is a penal foul or not rather than say the IDFK
Have a look at this video
There is impeding, followed by holding. Did the defender legally shield the ball? Before 1997 this might have been called as obstruction. Now the impeding part is followed by contact so the decision that has to be made is it a penalty or not.
So as we can see one of the other reasons it is rarely called is that shielding the ball is legal. For the ball to be legally shielded it has to be within playing distance. What constitutes playing distance has got stretched significantly in that we now see defenders shielding balls back to goalkeepers / team mates and over the goal line while some distance from the ball. It has become somewhat accepted in the game which also means that what is technically an offence does not get called.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Jacob,
The full wording of the law tells us that:

''Impeding the progress of an opponent means moving into the opponent's path to obstruct, block, slow down or force a change of direction when the ball is not within playing distance of either player.''

According to the law, this can be done with or without contact, leading to a direct free kick or indirect free kick respectively. I would agree that impeding without contact is an offence which is rarely seen, if ever.

If it were to occur, I think it is fairly self-explanatory - it would involve a player moving into an opponent's path and the opponent slowing down or changing direction in such a way that there is no physical contact between them. While rare, it is certainly theoretically possible.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Jacob, if you were at the match in Vancouver where Canada played El Salvador in a world cup qualifier many years ago. I saw what I considered was the ABSOLUTE clearest example of impeding that I have ever witnessed in a match YET the referee DID NOT make the call much to our/my incredulity.

My colleagues are correct it rarely is called in the modern game unless there is a actual collision which was added into the LOTG as a SEPERATE DFK foul by the IFAB given they were tired of this foul being ignored.

The impeding was crystal CLEAR a hard ball in about the middle of the field was being pursued by the Canadian striker on the dead run. The Salvadorian player being stationary turned his back and spread out his arms as the Canadian moved towards the touchlines to go around him except defender kepi side stepping out and trying to gain speed moving with the Canadian striker forcing him wider and wider towards the touchlines until the Canadian striker had to stop or run over the defender who kept this action up for several seconds and over a fair distance allowing the defenders teammates to get to the ball while allowing the Canadian no access even the though the ball was 25 plus yards away or more. The Canadian would have had to physically shove the defender out of way or run over him or stop which is what he did except Canada did not get the INDFK they deserved!


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