Football is very different to other sports when it comes to timekeeping. The traditional buzzer isn’t employed and the referee’s final whistle is usually met with relief after a little over 90 minutes of football.
As an introduction to this post, I will make a clear distinction between two key terms used in football:
- Allowance for lost time
- Extra time
Although often confused with the term extra time, allowance for lost time is the period of time added at the end of each half- the length of which is determined by the discretion of the referee. The following items are to be assessed by the referee when determining this amount:
- Assessment of injuries
This does not include time between stoppages such as when the ball goes out of play. Allowance for lost time is also colloquially referred to as ‘added time’ or ‘injury time.’
Extra time is a method of determining a winner of the match when the scores are equal at the end of 90 minutes and the competition rules state that, usually, two periods of 15 minutes are played. Extra time can have allowance for lost time as well.
Certain people are of the view that allowing the referee to determine added time can be the subject of controversy. This is because it often subjects the referee to pressure from coaches, such as Alex Ferguson, to indicate more time at the end of the match usually for a losing team to have more opportunities to achieve a better scoreline.
The topic of this post, however, is specific to a situation that occurs after 90 minutes and after the appropriate amount of time has been indicated. It is:
When should the referee actually blow the whistle?
When allowance for lost time is indicated, it is always (and should always) be mentioned as a minimum. This leaves referees with the opportunity to add on more time if and only if it is warranted for the same reasons the minimum was indicated in the first place. Timewasting, substitution and injuries often happen the most during this time period.
This means that referees should not and cannot blow the whistle before the minimum indicated. It’s unheard of for a referee to change a decision of the amount of minimum time to be added.
Now here’s something not many people know. The referee may wish to add 1 minute 20 seconds, 1 minute 40 seconds or 1 minute 59 seconds depending on what happens during the game. If this is the case, he would tell his fourth official that he only wants to add one minute. After all, one is the minimum. If two was the minimum, that would be more than he planned for. This means that after the minimum has passed, the referee may be waiting for an exact time to blow the whistle. I call this “secret discretionary time” because only one person knows how much this is.
This leaves only one alternative, blowing the whistle right at the end of the minimum or shortly after when we reach the end of discretionary time. The problem arrives when an attack begins to mount when time is up. What do you do? Do you let them play it out?
I think this is where futsal, basketball and a few other sports succeed- only allowing athletes as long as is allotted to compete. Leaving timekeeping to the referee brings more flexibility for him/her when determining time, however it also means that people will blame the referee for any issues. A simple buzzer in the aforementioned sports ends the game and has finality. Players can’t argue it. After all, it’s an electronic clock. Referees are under pressure however, to hold the final whistle until the latest attack has dissipated into a neutral zone.
Is this “waiting” time legal? Is it even fair? Does football need to change it’s mentality to expect an unexpected whistle when time is indeed over?
Here are a few scenarios of whistles going off “on time” and the fiascos that unfold.
There is one final type of time I omitted from mentioning.
The only time that the referee is to hold off blowing the final whistle after normal time, the minimum added time AND any discretional time has expired is for the following (straight from the LOTG):
If a penalty kick has to be taken or retaken, the duration of either half is extended until the penalty kick is completed.
Now the objective of this post is not to encourage referees to be blowing the whistle exactly when time is up and cutting off attacks. The results of this can be seen clearly in the above posts; ruining an otherwise beautiful match and tainting the referee’s match control. This is simply meant to be thought-provoking on the culture of football. Football’s most exciting and magical moments often happen at the very end.
Adding time… Is it enough?