The PL time wasting problem: it is far worse than you might think, and is being exploited

By Walter Broeckx and Usama

As in the Southampton match the keeper of Southampton was booked for time wasting Usama took the trouble to have a look at how the time wasting was going on when Forster had to take goal kicks. We didn’t examine the time wasted on throw ins as that would take us too far I think and as this is very rare punished by the refs. It should be more punished in fact and in some cases a yellow card should be given when a team is throwing the ball around between different players to take a free kick after one player had readied himself to take the throw in. But more to that later on when it will get punished one day.

Let us take a look at the time the two goalkeepers took to restart the match after the ball had gone out over the goal line.

You will see the time when the ball went out of play and the time the goalkick was taken. Then the time taken for that goal kick is mentioned. And then we also mention long and short. This is where the ball went out of play. Long means that the ball went out more than 15 yards from the goal. Short is when the ball went out closer than those 15 yards.

Ball Out of Play Kick Taken Time Taken Distance From Goal
11:27 11:50 23 Long
12:59 13:15 16 Short
22:43 22:51 8 Short
66:00 66:18 18 Short
71:13 71:36 23 Long
73:44 74:05 21 Short
83:36 84:00 24 Long

Cech had to take 7 goal kicks and the longest one took him 24 seconds. The shortest only 8 seconds. On average for all the goalkicks Cech needed 19 seconds.  On average for a short goal kick Cech needed 15,75 seconds and he needed 23.33 seconds on average when the ball had gone out far away from him.

Now let us see how much time Forster needed?

Ball Out of Play Kick Taken Time Taken Distance From Goal
14:52 15:28 36 Long
23:59 24:30 31 Short
25:20 25:50 30 Short
44:00 44:28 28 Long
45:38 46:03 25 Short
46:30 46:56 26 Short
52:51 53:20 29 Short
67:42 68:06 24 Long
75:26 75:59 33 Long
77:26 77:49 23 Short
84:49 85:17 28 Short
89:25 86:49 24 Short
87:11 87:37 26 Long

So what we see is that Forster had 13 goal kicks to make. And that his average time to take one was 28 seconds. The longest took him 36 seconds and the shortest 23 seconds! Compared to the Cech goal kicks this means that Cech only needed 1 second for his longest than Forster needed for his quickest goal kick.

This means that Forster on average took 47% more time to take his goalkicks than Cech.

If we look at the short goalkicks where the ball had gone out close to the Southampton goal we see that Forster needed 27 seconds to take it. Remember Cech needing under 16 seconds for the same… that is very close to almost the double of time!

For the longest goalkicks we see that Forster needed on average 29,4 seconds. Cech managed to do them in 23.33 seconds.

It is obviously something was wrong with the time wasting. The total time of wasted seconds by both goal keepers was 496 seconds. In minutes this is 8,2 minutes. So in a match of 90 minutes this is almost 10% of the time wasted! And that with those high ticket prices we have to pay… when will the supporters federations look at that? And then we haven’t added the time wasting on throw ins of course and other stops….

So what can the PL do about it?

Well they could do the same as all the other top leagues in Europe and in the CL do. They could start to work with more than one ball. Now we see that the keeper first starts shouting at his defenders (just to give the TV companies some interesting pictures). Then he will look to his left even when the ball has gone out to his right (or the other way round of course when the ball went out the other side). Oh, it isn’t there (silly me) the ball is at the other side.

Then he will walk as if he walking on some hot and sunny beach towards the ball. Meanwhile when passing his goal post he might even take a drink pause. Look for that one and only one ideal place to put the ball down. And then kick the mud of his shoes against the goal post (even when no mud is there like in the Emirates) and the finally he will kick the ball.

Now the PL must do anything to stop this. And the most important thing is what we can see at any CL match: ball boys who always have a proper match ball in their hands and who throw it immediately to the keeper who doesn’t have to go searching for the ball anymore. No it is there immediately at his feet  and hands. That will take away around 10 seconds of every goal kick I think.

Why on earth is the PL the only league that still clinches to that one ball system?? Is it because of lack of money as it would be too costly for the clubs to buy all those balls???? Surely it can’t be with all that money flowing and floating around in the PL and with all that money wasted on transfers each and every transfer window???

It is as if the PL openly mocks the spectators in the stands who pay their hard earned money to see the match live in the stadium. It would be not accepted if you go to the theatre and the movies and with 10% of the movie or show they suddenly would stop it and say: that’s it for today. You will not see the rest as our time is up and we have to go home. But that is what is happening at football. Because it is an accepted (not by me) tactic to get away with a point or a win at the expense of the paying crowd.

The PL must stop this at once and the only thing they have to do is to tell each team to buy another 10 match balls and give them to the ball boys. Surely is there nobody at the PL headquarters who came up with such a simple idea? Or do they not care about their product?

It is done in each and every other top league. Maybe the PL doesn’t consider itself a top league …..?

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28 Replies to “The PL time wasting problem: it is far worse than you might think, and is being exploited”

  1. Excellent work Walter. To be honest while reviewing the match I remembered about Forster’s time wasting yellow card and just decided to note down the times whilst I was going through the match. (Not time consuming, but distracting). It was sharp of Walter to expand and discuss with clarity on the topic of time wasting. 🙂

    I remember when Monreal joined us from La Liga (ESP), at throw-ins he used to turn his direction to the ball boys and be like “hey bring me the spare ball” in a quick manner. And then his reaction was used to be like that of a person waiting in line at the ATM (waiting for the only ball in the match). Now he is used to it. And when our players and players from other EPL teams play in the Champions League, they keep chasing after the ball that had gone out (with the habit of getting used to one ball system) and are surprised when the ball boy quickly throws back another one.

  2. Interesting Walter and Usama!
    Especially that bit about our players in the CL.
    Anecdotally, I sometimes see our players get caught out by the European team as they are conditioned to wait for the same ball to be used, so mentally they may sometimes ‘switch off’ for a second or two.
    In that time the opposition players have taken a quick throw and we are now reacting rather than being ready for the restart.
    Surely that is something the PL could easily change so that English teams get used to a multi ball system and are not disadvantaged?
    It’s the same when the fans hold onto the ball to waste a bit of time. That would end if a new ball was immediately available (though you’d still get the idiots throwing the ball back once the game has restarted!)
    What’s the rule about how long the keeper can hold onto the ball when he picks it up now? I see refs never penalise this. It used to be a 4 second rule but has that gone now?
    Keep the stats coming, I’m fed up of living in a post-factual world!!

  3. If there are multiple balls the actual match ball that the referee brings onto the pitch will probably get lost at sometime during the match which might be confusing for hat trick scorers although not really important.
    It’s been suggested that ball boys manipulate the returning of balls to suit the home team. Remember that situation with Hazard a few seasons back when he actually almost attacked the kid who was slowing thing s down.

  4. The rule re throw ins could be changed so that the first person who picks the ball up has to take the throw and within a certain amount of time.
    I’ve never been that fussed about time wasting as a tactic as it can be (and often is) counter productive. But as you say, we are being robbed of match play.

  5. I will show you a very good example of how a quick throw-in came change the outcome of the game. It has no link direct link to multiple balls or ball boys but it just shows the advantage that these facilities can bring.

    Napoli-Inter Quater Final Coppa Italia last minute of the match 2015

    (Just watch the first 20 seconds)

  6. If you add on all the time that is wasted in the last 10/15minutes or so for substitutions and fake injuries it becomes even clearer that the fans are being cheated.
    I would bring in a new rule to counteract this .

    1) on 80 minutes the 4th official holds up the board for time added on(let’s say it’s 3mins).

    2) at this point a stop clock in the stadium will begin with the ten minutes remaining and the time added on …. Total 13 minutes.

    3) From this point , every time there is a stop in play (injury, goal kick , substitution etc), the clock will stop .

    this will mean that for that final period of play there will be 100% of the remaining time played . There will be no time wasting, none of those stupid substitutions and no more fake injuries.

    This will be very easy to implement into the game and will make it a much more exciting finale to the match as the crowd can see the clock ticking down .

    What do you reckon

  7. Usama
    That’s a really good example of an early throw in. I’ve always been surprised that teams don’t make more of this sort of dead ball situation than they do. A player can’t be offside from a throw, so what an opportunity!

  8. I would be interested to know the average time the ball is in play during multi-ball games against single-ball games. Probably several more minutes of game time during multi-ball?

    Excellent analysis!

  9. Leon,

    I like to watch Italian Football from time to time, and saw this live last year. Remembered it today and now it fits the context of the article.

  10. The answer is easy. Take timekeeping away from the referee. The clock is stopped when the ball goes out of play and restarted when the kicker or thrower launches the ball. The only trouble will be to the TV companies who will find they have to allow an extra 20 minutes or so per game. It’ll play havoc with their time tabling.

    As an alternative book all keepers early in a game when caught time wasting and then send them off when they continue to do it.

  11. Off topic I know, sorry

    Our U23s were played off the park tonight by Everton losing five nil. Men against boys I’m afraid. I can’t remember us having a serious shot on goal, two or three tame efforts straight at the keeper being the best we managed.

    A very miserable experience for the few spectators at Borehamwood. At this rate we will be lucky not to be relegated at the end of the season.

  12. Andrew
    “The answer is easy. Take timekeeping away from the referee. The clock is stopped when the ball goes out of play and restarted when the kicker or thrower launches the ball. The only trouble will be to the TV companies who will find they have to allow an extra 20 minutes or so per game. It’ll play havoc with their time tabling”

    If they followed what I suggested earlier in just putting the last ten minutes (plus time added on) on a stop clock , the TVs scheduling wouldn’t be affected.

  13. If we were to use a separate timekeeper and stop the clock when the ball goes into touch, we needn’t have a 90 min match. I would be satisfied with a 70 min match. An analysis I have seen had most matches being around 65 min of actually match play with some egregious examples of time wasting reducing matches to even 55 min. Apparently group stage matches at World Cup 2014 had around 57 minutes of playing time.

  14. Andrew. Imagine that was a pretty rough watch. My guess was 4-0 when I saw the team sheet.

    Surely not any kind of reflection of our true quality, however. Vast majority of our best or more experienced u23 players weren’t involved. Timing of tomorrow’s game made that likely but I didn’t expect quite so many to not be involved tonight.

    It was a proper chucking them in at the deep end job. Literally men against boys in terms of them having a 14 mill Senegal International against our 16 and 17 year olds.

    Noticed a couple of their other names. One has been making appearances in the first team and was one of the better players in Chris Willock’s England team, another was a cracking player in Tafari Moore’s England age group. We didn’t have our equivalents out there this evening.

    I would say it clearly shows we’re not fussed about trying to win the league, but I’m fine with that; as long as we plan it well enough to ensure no relegation, that is.

    I would definitely have kept O’Connor around, as a big relatively experienced cb, instead of sending him to a Dutch youth team, but there must be some solid reason for it.

  15. Unfortunately, all teams practice time-wasting when the occasion demands. It’s up to PGMOL to instruct match officials to come down hard on the miscreants.
    Another irritant and more difficult to stop is the practice of the winning side obtaining and then retaining possession near a corner flag. This infuriates rival supporters and is unsportsmanlike. 😉

  16. Onto the real topic : impossible for the league to not be aware of the ridiculous amount of time wasted, which can only mean they perceive some advantage in not addressing it.

    There’s only one candidate I can see : it benefits the product. Excessive time-wasting increases the possibility of upsets, and upsets are something the league prides itself upon and promotes as part of its uniqueness.

    Very ironic as time-wasting is obviously hideously boring.

    The horrible beauty of it is that you can, if so minded, deal with it correctly or abysmally from game to game with no fuss or controversy whatsoever. It’s a very neat tool, basically, at the service of the individual referees whim on any day.

    You can’t conjure an upset win on time-wasting alone, but the less the ball’s in play the better your chances are while level; and should you get a lead, even more so.

    West Ham 1st game last year was a master class. Was so bad it led me to time the stoppages afterwards. It played out like a soul-crushing game of American Football. Came in at over 10 minutes. Think Atkinson gave 4 even though play was stopped for more than 4 minutes for one incident alone (clash of heads)

    I thought of that game when Utd played Hull not long ago and applied intense pressure in the last ten minutes. Something it is almost impossible to achieve when stoppages are taking between 25 and 45 seconds (15-25 for a throw), as they were in the West Ham game.

    Were Hull not cynical enough or did the ref shut them down? I honestly don’t know but I’d be amazed if even half of it was down to the honesty of the Hull team.

    I’d say a ref studiously ignoring time-wasting can reduce your chances by about 50% of getting a goal back in the last ten minutes. If two goals behind with Atkinson in charge- it’s goodnight and game over.

  17. Interesting! Isn’t it allowed because it gives an advantage to less skilful teams especially when playing against Arsenal? Breaks up play and rhythm. Still, I agree it would be good to press for change.

  18. @Rich,

    I felt sorry for the players, it can’t do their confidence any good to be in a game that was that mismatched. The highlights on the Arsenal Player in a day or so won’t show anything like the full extent of things but with the exception of our keeper all of the Everton players looked at least two years older and four to six inches taller as well as significantly more muscular. Very one sided despite our lads best efforts.

  19. @ Going
    On the few occasions I have checked for the total time lost it has been about 25 mins counting time lost as I suggested. I would also settle for two halves of 35 minutes with the clock stopped when the ball is out of play.

  20. Andrew

    Hopefully just a one-off. It seemed a bit of a lambs to the slaughter selection. There’s at least a few in there I’m 99% sure won’t make it (at Arsenal). Can’t imagine us thinking we’d win with the team selected.

    Might have been a bit of method to it in that they decided with so many missing they would put a selection of those remaining under extreme pressure. Plus a chance to play one or two who are struggling for game time.

    If we had any serious intentions of trying to get a good result I suspect they’d have played the two older lads Eyoma and Robinson to fractionally improve our chances.

    I was actually ok with a stinking result tonight, which is unusual for me, given the exceptional circumstances.

    No doubt I’d have felt differently if I’d been watching our lads struggle badly though

  21. During added time at a throw in taken by the Spuds , Sunderland’s manager , David Moyes was seen counting off the time taken with his fingers .
    Maybe he should have held his hands higher to get the ref’s attention or called on this coaching staff to continue the count too !

  22. “The rule re throw ins could be changed so that the first person who picks the ball up has to take the throw and within a certain amount of time.”

    Not going to happen.
    Football matches have become highly tactical and most managers instruct their fullbacks to take throw ins while the whole team moves up the pitch.

    Besides, even if such a change was made , players would simply wait for fullbacks to retrieve the ball and put it in play.
    The only time teams introduce the ball into play via other position players during throw ins is when they are chasing the game.

    I don’t know why the PL doesn’t introduce the multiple ball system ,but maybe it has something to do with the speed of the game in league matches. While most teams seem to be content with shifting their formations up the pitch while keepers get ready to reintroduce the ball into play, managers like Klopp and Guardiola give their teams an advantage by short playing it in from the back.

  23. I heard via a friend that when Tony Pulis was manager of Crystal Palace his main tactic was to ‘take time out of the game’. The ball out of play is the best leveller of two teams that can possibly exist and it’s a tactic used by the vast majority of teams (even the good ones) that play Arsenal home or away.
    I agree with the point about supporters groups taking this up with clubs. Now that the freezing of prices seems to be well established (for two years ahead at Arsenal) the next move must be to improve value for money. We’d probably get more points as well!

  24. @ insideright

    sure all teams used the tactic on occasions. Arsenal in a tight game with only a ne goal lead towards the end for example. The difference is that we commonly see at the Ems, teams who do ot expect to beat us will time waste from the first minute.

    The thing that annoys me most (and we have seen it at the Ems on countless occasions). A opposition team is hanging on for a point and wastes a inordinate amount of time. The goal keeper will always walk to the opposite side of the penalty box to the side where the ball goes out. We see the time wasting as demonstrated in the article above. But wait and see what happens if we then go one up with 10 min to play, the keeper is running to collect the ball and take the kick as quickly as possible, sometimes in just 3 or 4 seconds. I would love to see an analysis of that type of game just to see the difference in averages.

    Unlike Nicky, I have no problem with teams taking the ball into a scorner. If the ball is in play, it’s up to the opposition to win it back……that’s the game.

    The only answer for me, as advocated by others, is a stop watch on the game. If the ball is out, the clock is stopped. There’s no advantage to players who are substituted walking off the pitch as slow as possible or for players feigning injury to “run down the clock”. And what the hell does the fourth official do all game anyway? Let him hold the stopwatch and be responsible for blowing for extra time.

    I actually got to the point where I would not pay to watch Stoke City (for many reasons but)mainly because about 20% of the cost of the match ticket was paid to watch Rory Delap crossing from one side of the pitch to the other and drying the ball prior to taking every throw in.

  25. It would be interesting to add to this analysis how long the keepers keep the ball in their hands. Because unlike goal kicks, there is actually a rule limiting the keeper to hold the ball for a maximum of 6 seconds.

    I’ve seen hundreds of times a keeper keeping the ball for 20+ seconds, yet only once I saw the referee penalize the keeper (Mignolet in a Europa League match vs Bordeaux, Bordeaux actually scored from the free kick)

  26. Its time to really introduce some value for money. At full time, Time wasters should be tied to the goal post 😉 & the opponents should have a shot for each second wasted. It would entertain the crowds & keep full stadia past the last whistle. TV well they’d just have to miss out on the best entertainment since cock fighting!! 😉 😉

  27. Goonermikey
    September 20, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    You’re right nothing worse than paying to watch football & being subjected to Rory Delap towelling down his balls!! 😉

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