The first thing I have to say is that referees have to calculate time, as well as keep control of 22 players, see the dive, give the penalty - or not - decide if the ball crossed the line, dish out yellow and red cards at the right times, run into the correctposition to make all this possible and smile. Sometimes.
Watching brief: you're now in Fergie time, referee
It's time, forgive the pun, to give the timing to someone else. Let an independent official in the stand do all the calculating, just as in rugby league. Don't hide the time, put it up on the scoreboard, add some excitement in the countdown. Imagine the home team winning, with 10 seconds remaining. '10-9-8-7-6'. and so on, followed by a buzzer. Then the next time the ball is in touch, it's game over. Someone else deciding all that would allow the referee to get on with the game.
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If Sir Alex Ferguson wants better timekeeping this is the only way forward. But, wait a minute, having analysed Chris Foy's performance at Old Trafford, here's the news: he was absolutely spot on with his decision to allow five minutes in the Manchester United v Leeds FA Cup third-round tie.
Having had the benefit of studying it (Chris did not), here's the exact time that should have been added on at the end of the game.
Precise time lost in the game for substitutions, including the Luciano Becchio injury and replacement: three minutes and 34 seconds. The fracas in the 47th minute, involving players from both sides: 90 seconds.Total: Five minutes, four seconds.
Looking at the entire second half, there was no significant and deliberate time-wasting by Leeds. For instance, there was no feigning injury and the physio came on once. There were no goals and there was only one offside.
The way I refereed, I would have calculated in my head: 'Five subs, one a double sub, the fracas, add a few bits and pieces. Gut feel? Four minutes.' That would have short-changed the home side, unlike Foy.
Stoppage time is time lost unfairly, either deliberately or unintentionally, such as Argentine Becchio's injury. The Leeds goalkeeper, Casper Ankergren, for instance, took every goal kick from the side in which the ball left the pitch. Goalkeepers are prime candidates for gamesmanship by switching to the other side of their goal to use up time.
'Natural stoppages', such as the following, don't count but show Leeds had a consistency throughout the half and they did not try to delay the longer the second half went on.
Here are the natural stoppages:
Throw-insLeeds: 12 seconds, 10, 10, 15, 13, 16.Manchester United: 10 seconds, 4, 7, 7, 5, 4, 10, 7, 13, 5.
Goal kicksLeeds: 20 seconds, 20, 25, 20, 25, 20, 20.Manchester United: 13 seconds, 15.
There is no increase from Ankergren in the time it takes for him to kick the ball. He is consistent and it looks to me like he has a routine. You might argue he has taken longer than the Manchester United goalkeeper, but it evens out when you look at corners and free-kicks.
CornersLeeds: 10 seconds.Manchester United: 14 seconds, 15, 15, 17, 5, 25, 8.
Free-kicksLeeds: 35, 35, 44, 47 (after Jonny Evans kicked the ball away).Manchester United: 50 seconds, 10, 20, 18, 5.
The longest time to take a free-kick was Manchester United, who took 50 seconds. The two Leeds free-kicks were delayed by Manchester United's failure to retreat the correct distance. Again, all this comes under natural time. Within three seconds of the referee blowing his whistle, Leeds took their dead balls. There was not one occasion when the referee felt the need to hurry them up.
Verdict: Sorry, Sir Alex, you're wrong. It was an excellent display of refereeing by Chris Foy, who contributed to a rip-roaring cup tie and his timing was spot on. There is no ground for complaint.
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