By Barry Faguy, WSF Referees and Rules Committee
Now here’s a subject about which precious little is written but which, nonetheless, is a real part of the game—sometimes to great significance. There have been multiple efforts to remove it from the rules over the years (claiming insignificance)—but thankfully, in my view, to no avail.
The state of affairs
There are only four forms of interference recognized in Squash, and stated colloquially, they are interference to the striker’s ability to see the ball, to get to the ball, to swing at the ball, and to hit the ball directly to the front wall. And, if you think about it, that’s just about all there can be—unless of course we consider electromagnetic ray guns, telekinesis, demonic possession, voodoo, and the like. We’ll need a new set of rules if any of them ever turn up! But, I digress.
Currently, two rules and three guidelines make reference to it. They make it clear that the striker’s right to see the ball applies only to its return from the front wall—which of course implies that that the opponent can do what he or she wants to hide it up to that point.
Interference to a fair view is quite distinctive
- It is the most basic requirement since not much can happen until the ball is seen.
- Unlike the other forms of interference, it rarely occurs alone.
- It’s probably the most frequent form of interference—since the ball so often disappears from view, being blocked by the opponent’s body during a cross court, length drive, drop, or boast—and this to varying degrees of time.
- It’s unquestionably the least-appealed form of interference—either because the amount of interference is considered insignificant, or because it usually happens so darn fast that the striker can’t get the verbal appeal out quickly enough before the ball is gone.
- Finally, it’s unique because the usual decision-making parameters (the striker’s direction and speed, and the opponent’s effort to clear) are not of much use.
Consideration of time
It’s certainly reasonable to conclude that the only meaningful parameter to consider for interference to the view is that of time—which can be either fleeting or prolonged. The ‘fleeting’ kinds are those measured in fractions of a second (especially for hard drives), and therefore have no significant effect on the striker’s ability to see the ball. This is the kind of situation that for the most part goes un-appealed, and if it is appealed, then it easily qualifies for a “No Let” based on the “minimal interference” provision (essentially having had no significant effect) that we outlined a couple of editions back.
However, when the blockage of the view is prolonged (typically seen when the opponent is up front and making a slower return like a drop or boast)—here we have a case that is worth your consideration as a Referee and a “Yes Let” is perfectly justified since the effect is obviously significant. These are the times when we are talking about one or two seconds—one heck of a long time in Squash. If you’re an active player, you know what we’re talking about.
Other considerations for you as the Referee
Interference to the view rarely occurs alone. It’s mostly seen in combination with one of the other three forms of interference (mostly “access”), and it is this latter form that quite naturally takes precedence in the Referee’s mind. Where you will tend to see significant blockage of the view alone is in those aforementioned drops and boasts where the striker clearly has access to whatever shot the opponent is planning up front, but the former hesitates and is often caught flat-footed, having been unable to move till the ball was sighted.
As well, due to the often rapid nature of the interference, it’s very difficult for the striker to realize what’s going on, and so often fails to verbalize the appeal immediately—and the ball is gone. The Referee views the affair as all over and done with—and tends to deny a let.
Likewise, is the very speed of all this that precludes penalizing the non-striker for failing to make the effort to clear since it is an unreasonable demand given the circumstances—which explains why you’ll virtually never see a Stroke awarded against the opponent on this basis. Having said that, one must admit that in these circumstances, the effort to clear doesn’t rank very high on the non-striker’s list of priorities.
Finally, as a Referee needing to make a decision on such an appeal, you’ll note that the closer the striker is to the opponent, the greater is the obstruction to the field of view. Just hold out your hand in front of your eyes to varying lengths to catch this principle. This is mentioned, not because this proximity to the opponent is to be held against the striker, but to sensitize you to the reality that there is likely to be a greater loss of view.
Stand-alone or not, interference to view is at the very least, a significant contributing factor in the spectrum of interference, and needs to be seriously considered since the striker must be allowed every freedom to play the ball. Fairness demands it.
MEANWHILE: If you want more information on this topic—or on just about any officiating topic, go to (http://www.squash.ca/e/officiating/tso/)—and click on the ‘Library’ link to the left to find your subject.