September 21st, 2009
07:23 PM ET

Should referees be responsible for time-keeping?

As a neutral, I couldn't care less about Manchester United beating Manchester City with a goal in the 96th minute. Neither of them are my team and it was a great game - one of the best Manchester derbies I have ever seen.

Michael Owen's late winner has re-opened the debate on whether the referee should relinquish time-keeping duties.
Michael Owen's late winner has re-opened the debate on whether the referee should relinquish time-keeping duties.

I do however, believe it raises the question as to whether the referee and his match officials should be responsible for time-keeping in this day and age, when the rewards for victory are so high, and when teams are fit enough to battle right to the final whistle.

Remember, while stoppage time is viewed as time added-on, it's really no more than compensation for the time lost during the game. In other words, the aim is for each game to last exactly 90 minutes, no more no less.

The problem is that each official appears to have a different view of what constitutes time wasted. Time lost for treatment to injuries is obvious. (Though what constitutes an "injury" requiring the trainer in today's game would have been a rub and a shrug not so long ago.)

But minutes added on for other things like substitutions, goal celebrations, delayed free-kicks, and petty stuff like not tossing the ball to an opponent when it goes out of play, are all open to interpretation.

What's more, with the various other things the officials have to watch-out for in a high tempo game often played at the very limit of the rules, it must be really hard for them to stay abreast of something as basic, but fundamental as the time.

So, why not take out the guesswork by having an official time-keeper? What's more, have the official clock visible to the players, coaches, and fans so that everyone knows where they stand in terms of how much time is left.

The clock could even be stopped every time the whistle blew for an infringement, substitution, or whatever. I know the technology exists in the NBA whereby the reaction to the ref's whistle is almost immediate.

The beauty of the idea would be that as well as ensuring that games last the full 90 minutes, avoiding controversies like the one in Manchester, it could also cut-out some of the play-acting and gamesmanship, such as the 89th minute substitution or the phantom foul, that teams quite legimately use at the moment to waste time. There'd be nothing to gain.

The clock could even stop once a goal is scored, as the ball is dead anyway. That way even the most prolonged goal celebration would not cause a double whammy for the conceding team, which, at present, gives up a goal and some of the time left to respond.

I would also favor the game ending with an official buzzer instead of the ref's whistle. After all, how often have you seen the prescribed amount of stoppage time elapse only for the ref to add on a bit in order to let a particular move, such as a corner, play-out... When time's up time's up, and if you have a buzzer and a time-keeper that would be that.

Now I doubt there'll be much support amongst the football purists for this suggestion. Too progressive. Too impersonal. Too American - I can hear them all now.

But I'm pretty sure there's at least one person in the football fraternity who might be open to the idea, and his name is Mark Hughes - manager of Manchester City.

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Filed under:  Football
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Ajero, chigbo

    i aggre with you.why should the referee indicate 4 minutes and exceede it without any visible reason. I am not a fan for any of the teams but i believe the referee was waiting for the last goal.If united had scored at 94minutes as indicated by the third official ,the match would have been stoppde.The officials are human and bias sometimes.

    September 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm | Reply
  2. George Seator

    As any UK based non Man Utd fan will tell you, this happens all the time at old Trafford (Man Utd's home ground). The generally accepted answer to the question "How many minutes extra time at Old trafford" is
    1 MINUTE IF UTD ARE WINNING OR AS LONG AS IT TAKES FOR THEM TO SCORE IF THEY ARE NOT.
    I was not alone at not being at all surprised that in a game where the 4th official indicated 4 mins extra time that Utd managed to score in the 6th minute.

    September 22, 2009 at 1:43 am | Reply
  3. George Seator

    By the way i agree fully with the time keeping comments in the article. It works in other sports but football (soccer) seems so unwilling to bring any sort of technology into helping get the correct decision. These decisions can cost tens of millions of Pounds (or even more $$$) when they affect promotion / relegation issues or progress in a competition such as the Chanpions League.

    September 22, 2009 at 1:47 am | Reply
  4. John A.

    It is very imperative for a referee who is officiating any match to keep his own time in line the time from the stand. He should not compromise inorder to favour a home side. For a referee not to keep time during a match is like officiating the match blindly.It is the duties of both the central referee and the time keeper to insuring that proper time is kept and adhered to with out any compromization because a second can do so much damage to a game that suppose to end on a good note. Above all, a referee is human and luck counts.
    John from Nigeria Imo State

    September 22, 2009 at 3:06 am | Reply
  5. osmond orji

    I can't agree less with Terry Badoo on the need of an automated umpire in football games not just in the area of time-keeping but,not necessarily limited to,goal decisions,offside rules,infringements as these decisions go a long way in making/marring the careers of players,coaches and clubs/teams.The continued rejection of fifa to induct this reforms against their empirically evaluated results/desirability in other sports,suggests that they are collaborators in this shameful act of allowing personal bias have its way over the established rules of the game.NIGERIA

    September 22, 2009 at 10:07 am | Reply
  6. Fred A. Lewis

    Maybe all those footballers and referees should just take a year off... I mean if it is the solution to F1's troubles surely it would do wonders for Football... 😎

    September 22, 2009 at 10:45 am | Reply
  7. charles

    The idea of Uncle Ben and buzzer blast throughout the entire stadium sounds like fun. I can relate to stopping the time for goal scored, injuries, fouling (where RED and YELLOW CARDs are warrant), penalty kicks etc….. Players are going to need time for goal celebration. (90 mins is 90 mins), but there are some things money can’t replace and ref keeping time happen to be one of them.

    Charles

    September 22, 2009 at 11:43 am | Reply
  8. willis Ngore.

    England has the worset refferee's ever seen in any country. in fact worse than any country around the world. moreover, when man United plays any other time.
    this kind of system needs to be condemned. man united are always champions becoz of partisan referees who are supporters of that time. they are either awarded penalties, or one player from opponent is red carded or added more than expected time or they are given opportunity to harrass the opponents or undeserved free kicks.
    there is no fairness in englinsh football. can the federation wake up?

    September 22, 2009 at 12:46 pm | Reply
  9. Nigel McDermott

    Stoppage time awarded by the ref applies equally to both teams and doesn't discriminate; City had equal share of the time alloted to score, same as United.
    The difference being, United took that opportunity to kill the game rather than watch the clock and holding out for the draw. There's the difference between champions and also-rans.

    September 22, 2009 at 1:41 pm | Reply
  10. ekennna_germany

    for me the referee was bias,he should ve ended the game on time.sir alex u should be ashamed of ur self i thought u had respect for the game u only care for ur team and not the game.shame on you sir alex

    September 22, 2009 at 1:58 pm | Reply
  11. GEROLO

    I totally agree with your proposal, time should be kept by somebody or something external to the pitch... But (there's always a but), could we expect that the most powerful teams in the world would just let go of the enormous advantage of adding that mysterious extra injury time? =S

    September 22, 2009 at 2:56 pm | Reply
  12. A/rahman Sanad

    I Don't agree with your proposal, time should be kept by the referees who responsible for time-keeping as a neutral
    I would also favor the game ending with an official buzzer instead of the ref’s whistle to put an end,despite what was happened,it was a great game — one of the best Manchester derbies I have ever seen.

    September 22, 2009 at 7:29 pm | Reply
  13. sim

    ...Please dont take away the passion...and dont take away the poetry...
    We can not mix exactness and football in view and in light of time...in seconds...in minutes...

    September 22, 2009 at 11:32 pm | Reply
  14. clement

    i know all you manu haters feel that there is sth at the theartre of dreams,that makes referrees wanna extend time or favour us in a way or the other,but lemie tell you that if it were your team playing and down with a goal considering that goal could be tha only stroke of justice to settling an old score,am telling you,you wont be saying a thing or even worse still you would be celebrating jubilantly.so to finish this just crawl back to your mighty corner en wait for tha next game.eheheheheheh.

    September 23, 2009 at 6:02 am | Reply
  15. Jordan

    I have always wondered why minutes in soccer are always longer than in any other sport which uses time. In athletics the best runners are timed to the second. In boxing each round is three minutes-no more no less. In basketball each half is given equal time with stopages for time-outs. So what's with football? It doesnt matter if my team will utilise the added time; in the name of fairness time should be exact. Fifa being what they are sometimes liek to drag their feet on good ideas am not sure will take on this as a serious issue. It's not just the Manchester derby even other games in the past have shown that this needs to be addressed. Spot on Pedro. REAL FAN

    September 23, 2009 at 9:38 am | Reply
  16. Ndubuisi Okoli

    In all ramification, Manchester United is always favoured by the referees and so does not create a level playing ground. When Ronaldo was there, one out of three of his falls in the penallty box is given as penalty. Now Rooney has taken over. Man. City were really robbed. Too bad. Referees should adhere strictly to time. When it's time, it's time. Four minutes should be Four minutes.

    Ndubuisi Okoli, Lagos, Nigeria.

    September 24, 2009 at 9:56 am | Reply
  17. emmanuel chukwu

    The referee of the Man U Vs Man city march spoilt the whole fun of the game. where on earth did he get the whole extra time he added? if not to favour a particular team this time Man U. lets take away the prerogative of time from the Refs. a time keeper should ring the bell when the time elapses and that be it. man U was just favoured.

    September 24, 2009 at 6:10 pm | Reply
  18. Þorsteinn Halldórsson

    Brilliant and absolutely necessary in my opinion ....thanks and now send this on to FIFA and tell them to wake up.

    September 26, 2009 at 9:43 pm | Reply
  19. Sandeep

    well guys, i do agree the extra time was 4 mins ,but ended up to be 6 mins and everyone is commenting that it was for MANU..but what if Man city had to score ??.. even they had a chance for those extra 2 mins. its not that referee said MANU these 2 mins r for you only and only u are allowed to score... Hughes should realise this and not cry like a baby.. he was once a Red Devil , and knows MANU always fight back.....

    September 29, 2009 at 10:04 pm | Reply
  20. Cyril

    Nice idea, but just too american.I guess fifa must have thought of it, so they know better as to why it has not been implemented.As for Mark huges, some days are like that. Up ManUnited !

    October 1, 2009 at 10:33 pm | Reply
  21. Anders L

    I don't agree with Terry Baddoo due to the simple fact that this cannot be implemented to all games around the world and that is a big problem. Leagues around the world simply cannot afford or got the manpower to do this. For example in Sweden where I live this cannot be implemented in the 3 division. Im talking about having another referee keeping time or having a buzzer going off at the end of the game.

    I also want to say that when the referee says that there will be added time he says that there will be a MINIMUM of for example 3 minutes. So if he/she want's to add more time during this period then the referee can do so.

    An argument against stopping the time every time the ball goes dead is that the players will get to tired. The quality of the game will be much worse in the later stages of the match.

    And this system also adds a little excitement although it can be very frustrating at times.

    P.S I do not like Man U!

    October 13, 2009 at 9:29 pm | Reply
  22. clement

    i wonder y so many people are against what tha referee did.what if man city won in added time,could this be the scenario right now?
    ask your self ,really if it were my team there en facing a defeat,then the referee adds those golden minutes,en then ur team wins .am sure you could even kiss the ref.if chance surfaces.
    so you other fans dont be bitter,just know it the technicalities of the soccer game en get over it,k.

    October 14, 2009 at 11:19 am | Reply
  23. Tee Hamburg

    Very interesting post, thanks for sharing!

    March 11, 2010 at 9:31 am | Reply

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