I don't know about you but I get heartily sick and tired of managers and players complaining incessantly about the amount of additional time the referee adds at the end of a game.
If a team is winning at ninety minutes they will contest that too much time has been added and, if they're losing, they want more.
Towards the end of a recent Man Utd game, being broadcasted live on Radio 5, Alan Green observed that there were five minutes of normal time remaining, plus whatever additional time Alex Ferguson decided to add on. "I don't think he's informed the referee yet," joked Green.
At the end of nearly every match there are gasps of disbelief or excited roars of approval from the benches, and the fans, when the board goes up.
To the neutral observer, however, a feeling of bewilderment often prevails as to just how the ref has, apparently arbitrarily, reached the magic number which flashes up.
The two main reasons for added time are substitutions and injuries, both of which can be subtly (or not) manipulated by canny players and managers. According to a recent referees' directive, there are clear guidelines regarding substitutions, in that 30 seconds should be added for each one.
This is sort of acceptable, I suppose, but, can be, and often is, abused.
Teams wishing to waste time can get a message to the player about to be subbed to make sure he is as far as possible away from the halfway line when the substitution is about to be made to increase his 'exit' time. He can then slowly amble off, even limping a bit to suggest he has been subbed for an injury ( rather than because he's been playing like a drain), turning to unenthusiastically clap his jeering supporters as he departs.
This tactic can be employed three times by a manager during a game. Ninety seconds of added time will be accrued but probably more time than this has actually been wasted.
Conversely, it is possible to 'gain time' by rushing through your substitutions in less than 30 seconds (although perhaps I am being a bit fanciful here!).
Why not let the game continue while substitutions are being made? A player coming off would have to come to the halfway line during play where the fourth official would supervise his exit and only allow the substitute on (from the same location) when he has left the pitch. This way the game can continue and there would be no 'argy bargy' over time wasting.
Feigning injuries is another cynical method of, not only wasting time, but also breaking up the rhythm of opponents who may be in the ascendancy at the time. This practice, initially learnt from 'Johnny Foreigner', in our early forays into European competition, has become endemic in the British game in recent years and, has the effect of gobbling up the minutes whilst the patient lies writhing in his apparent death throes.
It is not unusual to see the same player, within minutes of the game restarting, sprinting off at full pace having been miraculously cured of his displaced compound fracture by a squirt of freeze spray and a wet sponge.
I contend that referees, as in rugby, should be given the authority to allow play to continue if they consider that an injury is not serious or and the trainer be given permission to treat the injured player on the pitch. This should completely eradicate the lead swinging antics we see continually in the Premier League and, particularly, the Champions League and keep the game flowing.
If the referee sees fit to stop the game because of a more serious injury, why not follow the example of our Rugby Union cousins and have an independent time keeper who stops the clock on the instruction of the referee. In effect, this official could be the sole arbiter of time control during the match and would stop and start the clock whenever the referee instructs him. Thus, we take the contentious issue of deciding the overall length of a match away from the referee and allow him, or her (no, right first time.him) to concentrate on implementing the laws of the game.
After all, this task on its own often proves too much for many refs. Legitimate time wasting, such as taking the ball up to the corner flag and inviting your opponent to take you off at the knees, is often intensely irritating but is, nevertheless, within the laws of the game.
The underhand methods described above, however, have no place in our game and should not be tolerated.
That is why I am initiating a militant action group to confront the problem at the coalface. Going under the name of T.W.A.T (Time Wasting Action Team), we will protest inside football grounds wherever we see unfair time wasting taking place.
Become a TWAT and sing 'The Grandfather Clock' song when time wasting is taking place or look at your watch and chant, anarchically, "What's the time Mr Wolf?" along with other TWATs.
After all, desperate times require desperate measures!
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