by Walter Broeckx
We all have seen the time wasting performed by Birmingham City last weekend at the Emirates.
Well those who were in the stadium saw it, that is, because for us at home sitting in front of our TV or PC it’s much more difficult to follow this. Because mostly the director uses these intervals to show us replays of the last action or a scene from earlier on in the game. Or they show us the reaction of a manager. But it is rare that they just show us the keeper picking up the ball and do his act of time wasting. And to start things up I know we have done it also in the past and I remember Jens Lehman at times doing some things that went over the top.
Time wasting is a problem that is not completely new to the game. I even remember a game between Italy and Holland long time ago when both teams needed 1 point to go to a world cup or European championship and that at the end of the game they calculated that the ball only had been in play for some 30 minutes. As both teams wasted time to perfection.
First thing: what can a ref do about it? He has a few options. First of all you could say that the ref is going to add the wasted time at the end of each half. But we all know that this never happens. A good time wasting team can win some 10 to 15 minutes each half and we mostly only get 4 minutes of extra time. And there is also a risk in it that the team that has wasted time uses that extra time to score a goal. And so in fact they get a reward for wasting time.
I once have given 8 minutes of extra time (and some yellow cards) because of the blatant time wasting in one of my games. And still it wasn’t enough for the other team to score. Not that I gave the extra time to let them score. I just did it to make the time wasting team work harder to get their 3 points. Some non paid over time you could say.
The ref can give yellow cards. I think ref Atkinson did very well around the 35 minute mark he called Carr over and made it clear with clear gestures that he was not going to take any more time wasting. This is the first step.
But the next step has to be to actually give a yellow card and in this he failed. What is the use of calling a captain over and then not do what you have warned him for. If Atkinson would have given a yellow card for the first incident after that when Birmingham had wasted time they would have thought about it and not over done it anymore. Someone mentioned the Birmingham keeper even taken a drink pause before taking a goal kick and this is totally not done and should have been punished with a yellow card. So the ref did good in the first place but then backed off when he had to act.
So the ref has a few instruments but he must act like a man and dare to use them.
But there are other things that could be done. Like in the CL games there is no match ball. Before the start every ball boy or girl gets a ball and when the ball goes out the ball boys throw another ball to the players. So no walking at the speed of a turtle to pick up the ball in CL games. I think this is something that should be done in all leagues and competitions in professional football.
But this would mean in fact that there should be a change of laws. Because in law 2 – The ball is a line that says: “The ball may not be changed during the match without the authority of the Referee”. I think they should change this because the current interpretation is that there is only 1 ball to play with and the ref has to approve every other ball that would be used.
But it also is possible that a ref instructs before the game that he will allow other balls. But to do this the ref has to check each ball that is given to the ball boys before the game. It actually is done that way in CL games. The cost for the clubs is minimal if you compare it to the total wage bill. Yes it would mean a few more balls should be bought but I don’t think the debt level of ManIOU or Red Sox Liverpool would be much higher if this would be the normal ruling.
This is a thing that could be implemented fast and with not much changing the game drastically. Because I could think of a few drastic changes myself to stop time wasting with throws and goal kicks, combined with the rotation of ball.
Like allowing a maximum of time to take a throw or a goal kick. Let us just implement the 6 second rule to take a throw from the moment the ball boys gives the ball to a player. In professional leagues it could be done by the forth ref who pushes a button and then a time clock starts running at the score board and if the throw is not taken within the time the throw goes to the other team.
The same thing for a goal kick. The moment the ball boy gives the ball to the keeper he has 10 seconds to take the kick or he will be punished with an indirect free kick at the place where he put the ball down. I would bet all my money that you will not see a keeper ever take a drink break ever again on a field. Again this should be done by the fourth official or why not appoint a fifth official who does nothing but watch the time management on the game. But I know this will have a drastic impact on the game and on the way it has been played for a long time.
But at some point we need to make up our mind. Do we want to pay lots of money to see the games and then only see a team using up our money by practising the not so noble art of time wasting. Because who is willing to pay lots of money to see a keeper taking a drink break before taking a goal kick? I’m not that’s for sure.
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