Why does stoppage time even still exist?
I will start by defining this for anyone who does not know what it is. Stoppage, Injury time or added time is the time added on by the referee at the end of each half. It is supposed to compensate for things like the ball going out of play, the time it takes to set up set-piece situations, substitutions and injuries. Not to be confused with “Extra time”. Extra time is used in cup competitions and adds an additional 2 halves of 15 minutes each to the end of a game if it cannot be decided in regulation time.
Anyways back to stoppage time. Why do we still have stoppage time? In an age when there were no stopwatches or when the referee had to estimate how much time was left it makes sense. I wouldn’t expect a referee without a stopwatch to pause time every time the ball went out just to give the correct amount of added time. However, we live in the present day. Most people have a watch that has a stopwatch function. And if they don’t, they more than likely have a phone that can do it. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying that I want referees to run around with a phone instead of watch, that’s not what I am saying.
But referees should have a stopwatch on their wrist if not one in their pocket (if they are old school). Why not whenever the ball goes out of play, or play stops the clock stops too. If we are going to introduce large changes such as Goal Line Tech and VAR in order to achieve the correct result why is no one talking about stoppage time?
Goal Line Technology and VAR have both been introduce in recent years to the game of football. Goal line technology has come in extremely smoothly and takes all but a second to give the referee an outcome. Seamless. VAR… VAR on the other hand has caused a major change in the game in terms of result, flow and time. In some instances, the whole process to go upstairs, get checked, tell the ref to look at it, he checks it and then ultimately decides on what course of action to take. If that action is a penalty, then you have to add the time to set up and take the penalty into the equation as well. This process can take up to 5 minutes sometimes longer to fully complete. This has had a massive effect on added times. We are now regularly seeing added times exceeding the 5-minute mark as a result. If they are going to be so concerned with the correct decision being made, they should be more concerned with the correct time being shown as well.
It is no secret that added time is inaccurate at the best of times. However, until I googled it, I never realised just how inaccurate it really was. According to one study of the 2018 World Cup the expected added time was around double the actual added time given. There was 1 game where the difference between expected and actual added time exceeded 13 minutes. 13 minutes!!! Players have scored hattricks in under 3!!! Now in fairness that game did finish 5 – 2 so there was a lot of action, lots of goals and lots of stoppages.
However, what if it was your team in a big final or big game and you found out that there was still supposed to be an extra 5 – 10 mins left for your team to win or draw. But because the time wasn’t kept properly, they lost. I know I would feel hard done by.
My stance on this is pretty clear. I think that football should at least LOOK at getting rid of stoppage time. Or at the very least isolate some events that could have the game clock stopped. VAR is a good example of a situation that would warrant the game clock being stopped. “All right lads, we are having a closer look at this game clock is stopped, be back in a minute”. Most people wouldn’t complain about that, I say most because there is always one. Yes it still interrupts the flow of the game and is annoying to watch but at least it doesn’t affect the game clock, that could intern affect the result just as much as a potential handball, disallowed goal or send off.
Eventually I think it would be good to see the game clock stopped for all stoppages. Personally, I think that it would cut down on time wasting at the end of games. You can’t stop it whilst the ball is in play, but you can stop it with subs, injuries goalkicks, corners, free kicks and the good old fake throw in where one guy goes to take it sets it all up and then decides to hand the ball of to a team mate. Yes, players can still do this to slow the game down, but it would not waste time which is the primary motive behind it.
I think a gradual introduction of this would work well where more and more stoppages are added to the list. If you do it all at once it would be a disaster and there would be so many teething issues it may even get scraped. Maybe something like this would work.
2021, The time is stopped for VAR decisions and goal celebrations.
2022, The time is stopped for subs and injuries.
2023, The time is stopped for free kicks and penalties.
2024, The time is stopped for goal kicks and corners.
2025, the time is stopped for throw ins.
Many people will now argue well how would you enforce it? Who is going to keep track of all the stoppages? I think it should be the 4th official. Now, from my very limited understanding, the 4th official is there as a back up referee and his/her assistants if one of the them gets injured. As well as manage the coaching staff, and control substitutes. This sounds like a lot but consider this. They are the ones who deal with the subs so they could stop the clock for that quite easily. Same with injuries, they know when treatment occurs and know when medical staff run on the field meaning play is stopped for longer than usual. So, stopping the game clock is just an extension of those two circumstances. I think a VAR check and goals being scored are both obvious.
Those changes I think would be made with a relatively seamless transition. Free kicks, Goal kicks, Corners and throw ins are the hardest to police. Players take them quickly; they occur very often, and it can sometimes be hard to understand what decision has been given. I think for goal kicks, corners and free kicks/penalties the clock could stop on the referee’s whistle. As soon as the referee blows the whistle the ball is dead, game clock stops. It restarts on the referee’s whistle or when the players take the kick, some refs allow quick frees to take place others are insistent that it must be on their whistle.
If not the 4th official, then VAR should be able to handle it. I know they do dozens and dozens of checks throughout the game and I think for that reason if the 4th official isn’t the one keeping the time, then it should be VAR. If you really had to you could appoint a timekeeper, we already keep track of what time events occur during the game, just look at any live commentary report and you can see when players do everything besides throw-ins.
But Liam, what about amateur football? There is no VAR. There is more than likely no 4th official. Sometimes there isn’t even any Assistant Referee’s or a qualified referee. I myself play amateur football and understand this. However, having played amateur football I am also aware of how annoying it is when you are chasing a game and the defending team decides to kick the ball on the field 2 over from the one you are playing on. Or when they decide to not share their match balls, or when you are attacking have a shot at goal, and the keeper takes as long as possible to retrieve the ball that is 50 meters behind the goal.
All of this adds up to added time but is more than likely not added on correctly. Some referee’s that I have played with have stopped the clock whilst these events occur. I think they are a head of the curb. If anything, amateur football needs this rule more than the professionals do. This is because amateur football does not have the luxuries of professional football. The main issue of this is the one mentioned above where if the ball gets kicked out, you must go and get it.
As a result, yes, amateur football referees would be responsible for stopping the clock when the ball goes out if stoppage time is removed. Unfortunately, it is the only way. Most people should know how to work a stopwatch or even just have a watch with that function. Will Referees sometimes forget to stop the clock? Yes. Will they sometimes forget to turn it back on? Yes. However, I think the difference between that would be far smaller than the difference between the current expected and actual added time occurring. That wraps up my 5 part what I think about stoppage time series thanks for reading.