Football: Replace the 90 Minutes Official Time by 65 Minutes of Actual Playing Time


Which football supporter has not been irritated by it? Two football teams play each other. The one team (in my memory often an Italian one) is happy with the current score, the other is not. The former team tries to survive the rest of the game without conceding a goal. An effective strategy: don’t play at all. This is referred to as the practice of  running out the clock, stonewalling, killing the clock, stalling, time-wasting, or sandbagging.

The winning team has a variety of tricks at its disposal. Muscle cramp attacks and all kinds of feigned injuries. Ball boys and girls of a winning home team who cannot find a ball, or throw it in a wrong direction. Players of the winning team who kick the ball away when the game is stopped (fortunately nowadays most of the times rewarded by a yellow card). Substitutions at the end of the game. Substitutions during overtime. More substitutions during overtime. And the players coming off, always happen to be on the exact opposite side of the pitch when they are subbed, and walk agonisingly slow to get off the pitch. Interestingly, men seem to stall notably more than women do: regarding injury interruptions, the “stronger sex” remains on the ground 30 (!) seconds longer. The keeper in the clip below is particularly cunning:

For obvious reasons, you cannot expect to see 90 minutes of actual playing time. Free kicks, actual injuries, goals scored, balls going out of play – they all take time. Some people have determined that on average in a football game there is only between 61 and 65 minutes of actual playing time. In some games, the interruptions take up as much as 53% of the time.

Referees try to take it into account by adding extra time at the end of the game, but that only helps to a limited extent. They also give stalling players (notably keepers) a yellow card if it is super-super-super-obvious.

The nice thing is, there is a straightforward solution. Abolish the “official” 90 minutes, and replace it by 65 (or something like it) minutes of actual playing time. Does the ball go out of play? Stop the clock. Cramp attack? Take your time, but we stop the clock. Many sports have actual instead of official playing time, and I don’t  see any serious objections to implementing this rule, if there are any at all.

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4 comments on “Football: Replace the 90 Minutes Official Time by 65 Minutes of Actual Playing Time

  1. jumpingpolarbear says:

    Interesting idea. Nowdays few teams actually play 65 minutes active play anyway. I think the tradition of the 90 minutes will be hard to remove though!

  2. Purely bureaucratic reasons i should imagine. Sounds a solid enough idea, but to implement it would be seriously difficult, I’ve never even heard the issue raised before. Possession football can look like stalling sometimes, but as you said, it’s tried and tested to win games. I like the idea of the clock stopping for fouls and other such occurrences though,

  3. In college (university) soccer in the United States, they already do this. The clock counts down from 90 minutes instead of up, and when the ball goes out of play or someone is injured, the clock is stopped. When the clock reaches the 2 minute-to-go mark, the clock is stopped and the end of the game is at the referee’s discretion.

  4. […] of matches – and needlessly so! For the solution, look at countless other sports and, as argued before, replace the 90 minutes official time by 65 Minutes of actual […]

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