There are quite a few things that happen in a football match that go uncalled. For example, many times a goal keeper handles the ball for more than 6 seconds, or a throw in is not taken from the place where the ball left the field of play, etc. One of the most misunderstood of these is impeding. That’s right…impeding…not obstruction. It drives me crazy when players start calling for obstruction. In my view, every shoulder charge, incidental contact…everything can be considered obstruction which is why it’s called impeding; there is a big difference between the two.
What is impeding and why is it a foul?
FIFA Laws of the Game classify impeding as one of the 4 technical fouls that can be committed by a player, which results in the sanctioning of an indirect free kick:
“An indirect free kick is also awarded to the opposing team if, in the opinion of the referee, a player:
• impedes the progress of an opponent” (FIFA LOTG pp. 37)
But what does that mean? How do we recognize impeding and when should we call it?
The LOTG go further to explain impeding in the Interpretations and Guidelines section of the law book:
“Impeding the progress of an opponent means moving into the path of the
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.
All players have a right to their position on the field of play, being in the way of
an opponent is not the same as moving into the way of an opponent.
Shielding the ball is permitted. 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 within playing distance and the player does not hold off
the opponent with his arms or body. If the ball is within playing distance, the
player may be fairly charged by an opponent.” (Interpretations and Guidelines, pp. 122)
As you can see, the most important parts to understanding impeding are in bold. The key to impeding, and what us referee’s should be asking ourselves when we see something that could be impeding is “Was the ball within playing distance?” Another thought that I like to use is whether the challenge, or impeding motion was similar to that of a “PIC” in basketball.
This is CLEARLY impeding by the green player at the very least (I might have even gone with an unfair charge). Either way, this referee got it wrong, in my opinion. The ball was no where near the green player, and he clearly impedes the progress of the white player by deliberately moving into the way of his opponent.
Here’s another example…
There are lots of times during a game where an impeding call can be made however, personally I don’t call it that much. It has to be blatantly obvious and the ball needs to be well out of playing distance. Personally, I like to let the game flow as much as possible so this isn’t something I am much of a stickler for. Don’t get me wrong, I have made the call and I make this call at least once or twice a season, but it’s not regular occurrence for me. The most common time you will see this is when a player is shielding the ball from going out of play over the goal line, or when the ball is rolling towards their goal keeper and they don’t want an opponent getting to it. If the ball is way out of playing distance, I will definitely make the call. However, it’s close and a 50/50 borderline impeding call, I will warn the player about it first and tell him that it’s not basketball and that PIC’s are not allowed. They usually get the message the first time. If not…they will the second time when there’s an indirect free kick against them, within their own penalty area! 🙂
If you have any questions or thoughts about this, please leave them below.
The Third Blind Mouse