The action of a player placing his/her body between an opponent and the ball in order to prevent the opponent from reaching the ball may be legal in some situations and illegal in others.
- The action is LEGAL when, in the opinion of the referee, a player legally places his/her body between the opponent and the ball and the ball is within playing distance while he/she is attempting to play or shield it.
Note: A player who legally impedes the progress of an opponent may be fairly charged from behind. An unfair charge from behind results in a direct free kick.
- It is ILLEGAL if, in the opinion of the referee, the ball is NOT within playing distance of the player who has worked his/her way between the opponent and the ball.
The referee determines what the appropriate playing distance is according to the teams playing.
The act of Impeding the Progress of an Opponent is penalized with an indirect free kick.
Problems arise when there is contact between the opposing players.
A player who is legally impeding the progress of the opponent does not have the right to stop or back into the opponent. If he/she makes contact with the opponent he/she may be found guilty of holding, resulting in a direct free kick. If there is no contact, there may now be a situation of no longer being within playing distance of the ball and an indirect free kick awarded to the opponent.
The opponent who lost possession may elect to push or bump the player away from the ball by the use of the body or arms. The resulting push is penalized by a direct free kick.