To waste or not to waste, that’s the question

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.

14 Replies to “To waste or not to waste, that’s the question”

  1. It’s about time that FIFA change the rule of yellow card. When a player wastes time he usually gets a warning from the referee first and probably a booking on the 3rd or 4th occasion. But what’s the advantage for the non-wasting team ? NOTHING ! It just wastes more and more time by booking this player. What I want is football should adopt rugby’s sin bin rule which is when a player is booked (except goalie) this player should serve 5-10 minutes on the touchline as punishment. It’s a double advantage for the fans and the team that have the advantage. The game will be more tactical, unpredictable, and less wild.

  2. Walter – please advise us. I’ve always believed that the ref is loathe to issue a yellow card early in the game because he’s afraid that the players will commit another foul (be it time wasting or anything else) later on and there will be a need to send the player off for what might at the time be seen to be a fairly innocuous offence.
    Would a three card system not help referees? The first foul, of whatever nature, gets (say) a blue card; the second, a yellow and the third, a red. Everyone knows that it might come and there can be none of this pleading ‘it was my first foul, ref’ as Wayne Bridge (for instance) did in the Man City game v Blackpool. No foul will go unpunished and all will contribute to what, initially, will probably be a greater number of red cards. They will soon reduce as lessons are learned.
    It will give the refs greater ability to punish time wasting which will, of course, become rotational, but will always be punished and, as a result, many players will be just one foul from a yellow as a result.
    We know that, on recent evidence, Arsenal will be facing eight man opponents by half time but something has to change and as things stand we are being robbed of what we pay good money to watch.
    If teams want to ‘waste time’ then let them try retaining the ball rather than winding down the clock. Oh I forgot – most EPL teams aren’t coached to be that clever!

  3. There was a law change some years ago intending to speed up the game. This involved the taking of a goal kick from either side of the goal area. Previously it had to be taken from the side of the goal where the ball left the field of play. The problem now is a goalkeeper with the intention of time wasting will walk across to the furthest point to take the goal kick. The directive to referees should be that this is time wasting/unsporting behaviour and should be immediately punished by a yellow card.
    The multi-ball situation in Champions League games is all very well in theory, but this can also be abused. What better time wasting ploy can there be for an extra ball to be suddenly thrown/roll/appear on the pitch just as a throw-in is about to be taken?
    Perhaps the only answer is for a clock for all to see which is stopped regularly for all such time wasting incidents, injuries, real or spurious, substitutions etc. A pint after the game? Oh no the pubs have shut. Oh, b*gger I’ve missed the last train home!

  4. I think the odd thing that annoys the hell out of me Walter is the fact every throw in players walk about 15 to 25 up the side line from where the throw initaly was.

    I think that is crazy and should be pulled back especially when your playing teams like stoke who only know how to throw the ball.

    It gives unfair advantages that are often turned into goal scoring oppertunities.

  5. Apart from introducing a time limit for goal-kicks and throw-ins to be taken (which I actually assumed already existed!), there’s really no point in changing the rules. The laws of the game are adequate, the problem is with the referees’ application of them.

    As Walter pointed out Atkinson warned Stephen Carr about his team’s time wasting and told them to stop doing it. They continued and in fact got worse, and Atkinson did nothing. All it would have taken was one booking for the whole Birmingham team to get the message. You can be sure that Foster would not have risked a sending off by continuing with his wasting antics had he been booked. How do you expect teams to stick to the rules if they are not being enforced?

    There are many teams who are always looking to bend the rules to gain an advantage – time wasting is one of them, rotational fouling and blocking goalkeepers at set-pieces are two other examples. Referees and their association should always be looking out for these ‘trends’, and work together to stamp them out when they appear. But it seems as if nothing is being done, and players in the PL are increasingly left up to their own devices. To the point where these forms of cheating have become a part of those teams’ gameplans!

  6. Brainwave: When the opposition place the ball for a goal kick, or take a throw-in, Arsenal fans could shout out the seconds … One, Two, Three, etc. Nobody could stop that and if a few thousand are doing this – yet the ref does nothing about the time wasters, it’ll become obvious and embarrasing. Perhaps the ref’s would take action. (Perhaps the fattest of pigs, or wallwry, may fly). (Plural for walrus, perhaps).

  7. You sure about that 6 seconds for throw ins Walter? I have a nasty feeling that we spend more time on throw ins than any other team in the PL. Not because we want to waste time, but because no one’s running into space. How many times do we eventually see a throw in just lobbed down the wing with little hope of anyone doing anything constructive with the ball?

  8. GF60, well I was thinking of 6 seconds as this is the time that keepers have to release theb all when it is in their hands and to have the same time for it.
    And if we take to much time we have to work on this a bit more.

  9. Wrenny, I agree with the things you have said. And it gave me some inspiration to write another article on how fifa and any Fa should and could do something to support the refs and to make the rules more known to managers, players and supporters. And who knows also to the pundits. 🙂

    Because the rubbish you hear saying about the rules by all those I just mentioned is so bizar at times it really makes me wonder if they ever have read the rules in their live. And if you want to be a footballer, a manager and a pundit isn’t this the least you could do : reading the rules?

  10. Great article and I agree something needs to be done about timewasting.
    I loved the idea of Arsenal fans counting seconds when they do it loud enough it would be heard in TV’s too so It would be not so nice when whole world notices that time is wasted (as Walter said usually if you are not there you don’t notice it so well).

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