Its time to end time wasting in football

By Walter Broeckx

As it is the FIFA-hurt-your-players-week we could take a look at what a member said a few days ago.

We all know the tactics used by some teams where some teams will even resort to sending signals from the bench to players to stay on the ground, ask for treatment and then as soon as the game resumes they are reborn just as if Jesus Christ himself was the one that cured him by miracle.

By such a tactic the team wins over a minute of valuable time which all too often is not won back at the end of the game.

Another time wasting method that drives me mad is the goalkeeper. I think you can see it every home game in the Emirates as long as it’s 0-0 or even worse 0-1. Arsenal produces an attack but the ball goes wide.

As soon as the ball goes over the line the goalkeeper doesn’t look for the ball. No, he first runs the whole length off the pitch to point out to an attacker that it was him that lost the ball and then he goes to all his midfielders pointing where they should have been running, what they should have done, then goes to his defenders to tell them that their defending was bad because you didn’t do this an you did do that, meanwhile asking them what they would like to drink in the bar after the game.

After telling every player what he has done wrong and taking the orders, he looks behind the goal and aaaaah look there is the ball. He then walks as if it was a Sunday afternoon with bright sunshine and if he was walking with his wife and kids in the park towards that ball, checks if the ball has still enough air in it.

Looks for a spot to put the ball and it has to be precise because you don’t want to miss kick the ball don’t you. After 7 attempts finally a  decent enough spot is found.

Then you go to the goalpost. Kick some mud off his shoes, and again because there still was one little bit of grass on his shoe.  Then he looks up the pitch and sees that the players are not in the right place so he has to adjust that and you can’t believe it but those players get the message wrong and he has to adjust it once more. This can take a few minutes and when you are lucky the ref makes a signal, which the keeper didn’t see because he was too busy giving his instructions.

(May I say that the Spanish ref in the game at Standard was very good in dealing with this situation because after 5 minutes the keeper of Standard tried to pull this off but from his first attempt the ref warned him and a few minutes later he got a yellow card so he had to stop this game. )

Here’s another thing that irritates me, (and yes I saw Manonne do it against Fulham, but I really hate it and would like to see it come to an end).  When the ball goes to the goalkeeper he takes the ball with his feet to one end of the box, very slowly off course,  and then he waits for an attacker to come over and then he puts his hands 2 mm away from the ball and waits and then finally picks up the ball. Some keepers even manage to put the ball back on the ground and wait some extra seconds before they actually kick the ball.

Last week, FIFA vice president  Jack Warner, not an unspoken person himself,   said that it would be a good idea to send a player that simulates a severe injury off the field for  5 minutes.  It also is used in rugby I was told although I’m not sure about the rugby situation.

Now would this help football in general, and also help teams like Arsenal, that try to play to win a game by playing football and which don’t try to park the bus in front of goal and try not to lose, by any means?

I think it could prevent time wasting with the injury tactics. But as pointed out this is only one  of 3 general time wasting manners teams use.

I’m not a FIFA vice president but I think there could be a solution for the other time wasting by goalkeepers also.  In CL games there are as many balls as there are ball boys or girls so when the ball goes past the goal the ball can be in the hands of the keeper within a few seconds.

Maybe the 4th ref can use a stopwatch from the moment the ball is back in the playing field, put there by the ball boy and then the keepers gets 10 or 15 seconds to put the ball in play. If he doesn’t succeed a corner would be given to the other team. I bet the goal keeper would run his ass off to put the ball back in play.

The other situation described is even simpler to deal with. When the ball goes to the goalkeeper and he can take it in his hands (ie not a back pass) he has to make an immediate decision: use his hands and then has to kick within 6 seconds (that rule still exist) or not use his hands and then he cannot pick it up anymore and can only use his feet.  Not many keepers would take the risk of dribbling an attacker and they will choose to kick it up field to avoid a major blow to their team.

I think it would benefit the attacking teams and be a major blow for the park the bus teams that  use every second to stop the game from being played. After all we pay a lot of good money to see football being played and not to see the “art of time wasting” being practiced.

Walter is a passionate Arsenal follower since 1979 from Flanders, Belgium. Since a couple of years he is the main news reporter for the Arsenal fans in Belgium, Holland and Luxemburg where he tries to bring them a daily portion of Arsenal news. His passion for football goes so far that he even is a referee. In the real world he is married, has 4 children including some Gooners, and he works as a civil servant in a small town and provides building permissions.

18 Replies to “Its time to end time wasting in football”

  1. Some good thoughts Walter…especially when the keeper puts the ball on the ground and has to play it only with his feet. Equally it’s time to restore the old rule that a goal kick is taken from the side the ball went out of play. May also be a good idea to have a look at some aspects of grid-iron where 60 minutes of play occurs regardless. The average time that the ball is actually in play with our football is less than 45 minutes.

  2. What you write is eminently sensible, as usual, Walter. So I guess that rules it out as far as the sweet FA are concerned, then.
    Your description of goalies wasting time was funny – and put me in mind of a post just after the Blackburn game. As Tony pointed out, their Goalie was timewasting with the best. Only, err, they were 4-2 down at the time… Priceless, and one of my many happy memories of that game. I guess he knew things would only get worse for Rovers. Sure enough, they did!

  3. Some good points Walter on the whole however there is one that I disagree with. There is no reason to stop a keeper controlling the ball and waiting for a striker to come to him before he picks it up. It’s totally within the laws of the game. It’s up to the attacking team to put him under pressure to make him play the ball, no different to an outfield player having the ball at their feet and just not playing it.

    I would also be interested in seeing how a guaranteed 60 minutes of play would work and how long it would take in real time.

  4. lol. Youre description is funny Tony.

    How about, when a player drogbates,

    english dictionary: drogbate (verb) declines like masterbate.
    meaning : to flounder around like a swan that has been shot in the wing mid-flight, and comes crashing to the ground. Also denotes any action performed with a high level of theatricality. For instance, Cleopatra swoons could be replaced with Cleopatra drogbates.

    when a player drogbates, just as the opposition is about to launch a threatening counter-attack, the referee has 3 options:

    1) he completely ignores the drogbator.
    2) the Captain of the drogbating player (or VC if the it is the Captain who drogbates) requests the referee to stop the game. The drogbator then must EITHER be substituted after a 3 minute interval, (to avoid tactical drogbating), or must take an automatic 5 minutes on the touchline to recover.
    3) Has the power, if he considers the injury genuine and serious, to stop the game.

    What do you all think?

  5. Football should have independent time keepers who stop the clock for every occasion that the ball is actually out of play, including injuries and time wasting. The clock should be publicly displayed on the big screen so that there’s no mistaking. That way, come the end of 45 minutes, there should be no need for any added on time.

    Once the independent time keeper indicates publicly that time is up say with a horn like in rugby, then the ref has no option but to blow the whistle – however in rugby, after the horn, the ref will blow the whistle when play stops next. In football, I suspect the winning team will just kick the ball out of play once the horn goes.

    I also support the sin bin idea where it’s a half way house between a red card and a yellow card. Referees should have the option of sin binning a player for 10 or 15 minutes for some crimes that don’t warrant a red card, but are more serious than a yellow. Such a move works perfectly in rugby and it seriously hurts the offending team. Even the offendign teams players will start getting pissed off with the offenders.

  6. time wasting is very hard to legislate against. its an intention thing like diving. both teams have to have enough time to take their set pieces, frees, throws, corners, goal-kicks etc.

    walters excellent piecs describes these incidents in a microcosm. and we, as arsenal fans, are so used to seeing this tactic played against us that we can spot it a mile off. but it is more a war of attrition. this was evident last season against hull in the fa match when they time wasted at every possible chance from the moment they scored to the moment we did. each one was only a few seconds, but after so many incidents it amounts to a lot of minutes.

    minutes in the hull match that tango man would have been glad of at the end.

    the only recourse is for refs to have common sense. personally the idea of bloating the rule book further is not the correct path to follow. i would prefer that the refs and players are told that it is an issue, and then ask the refs to take a wider view of the issue and penalise or add time accordingly.

    the other solution is to completely revamp the way the matches are timed and have a countdown, like in rugby, where there is no injury time, because the ref can stop the clock and start it again.

    he can then make a point of stopping the clock while the timewasting is going on and so render it useless.

  7. Interesting proposals above from Darius and pig.The fact is the law is being flaunted.Why should a team bring on a sub or two in “allotted extra time” if the only reason is to disrupt the flow of play and the advantage held.Further more what is “a minimum of x minutes” extra time, it is far too general a term.Then again a player may go down as if shot,the medics come on, wheel him off and next minute he is running up the pitch as if it was a mirage.There is too much at stake and gamesmanship is becoming more frequent, manly encouraged by the managers themselves.

  8. I’ve lost all respect for FC Barcelona.

    Of course they have the living legend Thierry


    This post breaks all the rules. First, it was on Wrighty 7 earlier, and second, it has nothing to do with the topic under discussion. Bit of a give away that. Sorry, don’t like copyists, and don’t like sudden wandering into a sunset that isn’t really there.

    If you see what I mean.

  9. Interesting debate set up by Walter.

    Many good arguments put up & I think rugby has shown some possibilities, although I prefer Pig’s argument about more common sense (a commodity rare in the footballing authorities) being applied.

    “he can then make a point of stopping the clock while the timewasting is going on and so render it useless”

    Time wasting is also used to prevent the flow of the match, which is particularly relevant when playing Arsenal.

  10. What a brilliant article as usual, Walter. Time wasting is a nuisance that can be dealt with any-which-way that makes the most sense.

    Pig: I agree with two of the 3 points that you raised.
    1. I agree that the rule book is fat enough as it is. We don’t need to add to the confusion arising from too many complex rules.
    2. Your option of a countdown clock that will make the whole thing very transparent, also resonates with me favourably. It is a brilliant idea; one that FIFA (if their corruption will allow them) should seriously consider ASAP.

    However, I completely disagree with giving referees any more discretionary recourse. You see, the so called ‘Common Sense’ is not common at all; if it were, everyone would exercise it. We have all witnessed referees exercising their discretion to the advantage of certain teams. Have you forgotten so soon the never ending time added on until a certain team scores the equaliser or the winning goal? In the past, when the fourth official raises the board for injury time added, we all use to know it signifies maximum time added. But now, that has changed to sooth a certain team. They now tell us it only signifies minimum time. We don’t want to see too many repeats of that, thank you very much.

  11. With regards to the faking of injuries one of the biggest problems is the willingness of teams to play the ball out into touch whenever someone falls on the ground. Nothing makes me madder than that. Why do teams do that? It just encourages the opposition to fall over!!! It is the referee who has the option to stop play and we all know what “serious” injuries look like.

    If players didnt think the opposition would just knock the ball out of play then they might hesitate to fake injury and put their team at risk.

    The best thing referees could do is to go into changing rooms before the game and say “I do not expect either team to knock the ball out of play for injuries, it is my job to determine seriousness and to stop play accordingly. Play on. If you do knock the ball out of play, I do not expect the oppositition to give it back to you since by knocking the ball out you are conceding possession. If you complain to me that the opposition didnt give the ball back to you I will book you for unsportsmanlike conduct”.

    That should do a lot to fix the injury problem.

  12. I think that there are clear forms of time wasting that refs can and often do clans down on; like the eternal goal kick that you have described. However, time itself is a weapon that you must deploy if it is in your favour. In my opinion, there is no difference with passing the ball deftly around, or taking the ball to the corner flag, or mannone refusing to kill the ball. In all these cases the ball is live and if the other team wants it they can come and take it. In fact , i wish we had done more of this at anfield last season.

  13. I agree Paul. Maybe Fifa, Uefa, Fa could give instructions (not rules!!) to the ref to not stop a game for an injury and to teams that they can play on untill the ball goes out. The only exception could be when blood is pooring out of headwounds or so then the ref should stop immediatly. If players know in advance that the game will continue they will soon see that it is not worth to try to win time. And if a player stays down and needs treatment they have to stay off the field for 5 minutes to help him recover.
    Well it all seems rather simple to get these things out of the game. Maybe to simple for the “very smart heads” that leads football.

  14. very good article Walter.i agree with most of it.we are paying to watch football not time wasting.
    Anyone known whats happen to the 3 sec release rule when a GK catch the ball because no referee apply it.

    And i think what worst than time wasting the constant foul play to stop our counter-attack and they are never book.this usual small thing are killing the beautiful game because players know they can stop or slowdown the attacking team without really getting book.this is the dirtiest tactic of them all

  15. A very interesting post Walter.I would have to agree with most of your observations but whatever fine tuning steps are taken ,they will surely be countered with equally ingenious newer time wasting tactics.Some form of
    regulated timekeeping must be introduced and exisiting rules for goalkeepers must be enfofced.An early yellow card will discourage any more time wasting.

  16. Just an idea that crosses my mind: like in basketball keep a register of every foul comitted and when a players makes 5 fouls he gets an automatich yellow card. 7 fouls = red.
    But then again… would it still be football…
    I think we all want to see the game played in a positive way but then again…how far can we go before we kill the game it self ?
    The things suggested here could make the game more beautifull but it could also have as result that the game we know it changes so much that it’s no more football.
    Where are the times that some teams refused to score from the penaltyspot because they thaugt it was not fair to score like that. Must be some 100 years ago I guess.. 😉

  17. “May also be a good idea to have a look at some aspects of grid-iron where 60 minutes of play occurs ”

    That’s actually wrong. Thge clock runs for 60 minutes but the ball is in play for an average of around 10 minutes in an american football game. The clock only stops when the ball goes out of bounds, someone scores or there is a change of possession.

    No countdown clocks, foul counts or any of that rubbish. Countdown clocks are for dumb people who can’t work out time for themselves adn foul counts ruin basketball. Stoppage tuime is one of the endearing parts of football and just needs to be standardised.

    FIFA wants 60 minutes of ball-in-play. 90 minutes would be rediculous. There are ways to do it within our current system but that’s not for a comment section in blog!

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