Hey Ref: June 2017

by Barry Faguy

HEY REF Is there anything a referee can do about what seems to be dishonest play?

Dishonesty has many guises, but we’ll focus on two key areas. The first regards the failure of players to call their own balls down or out. Sometimes they will disingenuously claim that it’s up to the referee to do that. Unfortunately, there’s not much to be done about these instances; if the referee didn’t make the call in the first place, then it’s likely that he/she either missed it or there was uncertainty.

The second area is about created interference. A euphemism for cheating, created interference means the interference is deliberate, artificial and unnecessary. Here are its two forms:

  • Access: We see this when the striker deliberately takes an incorrect path to the ball—either trying to avoid having to get to a difficult ball or just wanting a break when tiring. Do not confuse that with wrong footing situations, where the striker goes the wrong way having made an honest mistake. With wrong footing, there is no ill intent, so unlike with created interference, wrong footing is not held against the striker. In such cases, the ref simply applies the usual considerations, mainly the player’s ability to recover to get the ball and the effort made to do so.
  • Swing: This form of created interference happens when the striker takes an unnecessarily big swing with the intent of artificially capturing the non-striker in its arc. This is a dishonest attempt to generate a stroke decision, rather than a genuine attempt to play the ball.

When faced with either of these two created-interference situations, the referee can indeed do something—which is to issue a no let.

HEY REF I’ve heard the term blocking used a lot—but what does it really mean?

There’s no official definition, but here’s some help: blocking is typically used in the context of access interference. It occurs when the non-striker has an opportunity to try to clear, yet fails to do so properly. This means that the non-striker has either cleared too slowly or not at all or in the wrong direction or has extended some body part so as to obstruct the striker.

Of course, not every interference is blocking. We can use the word trapping to make a distinction with those cases where the non-striker has no opportunity to try to clear because of being immediately trapped by the rapidly-incoming striker. When that happens, we can’t make a determination about a clearing effort. So, as a rule of thumb for such trapping cases, if the striker still needed a step to go to reach the ball, then a let is usually allowed—thus giving the non-striker the benefit of the doubt regarding a clearing effort. On the other hand, if the ball is immediately hittable, then a stroke is the proper decision, since it’s highly likely that we are now dealing with a prevented swing.

In contrast to trapping, true blocking should theoretically always result in a stroke—given that it’s clearly misconduct by the non-striker. However, standards of play are such that non-strikers quite frequently do not make every effort to clear, and referees often have a tendency to ignore that fact. To be frank, it’s often worse than that; it’s not unusual to see the non-striker make less than no effort to clear—to move directly into the striker’s direct access—and still nothing is done about it.

Look at it this way: the existence of any legitimate interference pretty much means that the non-striker has either failed to clear quickly enough or in the right direction—or quite simply has hit a return which could not have been cleared in any case. So, when you’re trying to reach a fair decision for one of these access interference situations, avoid the instinctive approach of focusing solely on the striker; consider, as the rules require, the obligations of both players.