What a Waste of Time

Time wasting. The party piece of goal keepers across the globe.  It's all part and parcel of the game, right? But is it about to become a thing of the past? Richard Jeffery ponders the possiblity.

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We’ve all felt the impotent frustration caused by the opposition team time-wasting to hold on to a lead or draw, baying for the referee to book someone for it but to no avail. Of course, we nod approvingly when it’s our team that’s doing it, great game management lads. But that doesn’t make it right.

I don’t blame the players, they will push the boundaries of the laws to the limit in order to achieve their aims. That’s their job. But it is us, as fans, that are getting short-changed.

The latest example of this occurred on Tuesday night when Burton Albion held us to a goalless draw at FCR. The frustration was seething from every corner of the ground, except the away fans, natch.

I can remember much worse examples too. Fulham last season was up there, as was Derby County when they visited on another Tuesday night in March 2007. They dived, cheated and time-wasted their way to a 2-1 win that night on their way to the Premier League via the playoffs. Their keeper that evening? Stephen Bywater, now Burton’s number one. His dishonest play acting during that game still sticks in the craw, but they got the win so he’d have considered it a job well done.

Anyway, I digress.

The rule that a goal kick can be taken from either side of the six yard box is relatively new; it used to be taken on the side on which the ball went out of play. This was changed to allow play to be re-started more quickly, yet it often has the opposite result.

We see goalkeepers slowly jog to get the ball, then slowly jog to the furthest part of the six yard box from where they are, and take their time to place the ball. But wait- it’s moved imperceptibly as they step away from it, so they go to re-place it. Then comes the slow walk backwards to take the kick. They wave at their teammates to move about a bit, then start their run up, but no, they have to abort it as their teammates haven’t moved where they want them to, so they walk slowly back to take the kick and finally, after running on the spot for five seconds, run to the ball and kick it.

That can easily waste 30 seconds and more often than not go unpunished by the referee, either with a word, a card or time being added on.

Say there are five goal kicks in one half-that adds up to two and a half minutes of ‘playing time’ wasted. Or five minutes per match.

Add to that time wasted at throw-ins and free kicks as well as not enough time being added on for injuries and substitutions and you can see how long the ball is not in play. But just how much exactly?

Opta statistics for the 2016 - 2017 Premier League season show that on average the ball was in play for only 55.65 minutes per match. That’s an astounding amount short of the ‘full ninety’ we all go along to watch.

So, the boffins at The International Football Association Board have come up with a proposal. 60 minute matches. On average that’s actually more playing time than we see now. This is not the first time such an idea has been mooted.

They propose that a match would consist of two 30 minute halves, with a timing official sitting in the stands. The official would stop the clock when the ball goes dead (either due to the referee’s whistle or it leaving the pitch) and start it again when it’s back in play; i.e. the moment it’s kicked or thrown.

Referees have enough to contend with, so taking the responsibility of timekeeping away from them makes sense; they can concentrate on running the game.

The ‘in play’ time could be displayed on clocks around the stadium, so the players, managers and us the fans know exactly how long is left, with no guessing involved and no end of game recriminations about not enough/too much time being added on.

We’d get to see more football for our money and the frustration of time-wasting would end as it would be pointless. We would hopefully see more focused and better refereeing and would all know exactly how long was left in the game.

I think this is a great idea and should be trialled and implemented as soon as possible.

After all, it’s about time.