How Long is a game of Football?
90 mins of pure entertainment is what we all crave on the weekend. The Premier League is the premium product of football in Europe and we all pay to watch it. But we are not getting anywhere near 90 mins of football for our euro. In fact it might surprise you exactly how much time we are watching action and how much wasting goes on right in front of our eyes!
If you were to hazard a guess of the amount of time the ball is actually in play over 90 mins – what would it be? I’m sure everyone is understanding that play breaks up for fouls, corners, goal kicks and the usual VAR stoppages. Would you be surprised that the average game in the Premier League only has the ball in play LESS than 55 mins?
The biggest culprits
Lets not beat around the bush here. There are some teams who give you the bang for your buck. There are also some that are harvesting the “Dark Arts” and making a mockery of the game. Top of the charts are Manchester City, Liverpool and Leicester City who average nearly 60 mins of in game time each. On the other end of the spectrum we see Newcastle, Leeds and Brentford who come in closer to 52mins of game time each.
The time is wasted during goal kicks, corners, throw ins and of course VAR. Though you would think that clubs would be roughly the same in these stats, but they are not. Again Brentford and Newcastle take the longest amount of time to restart after a delay. Amounting to 30+ seconds whereas again City and Liverpool top the table with and average of 23 seconds delay. We can argue that they can waste as much time as they like and that each team suits their needs, but this does insinuate that it is 100% on purpose.
The Total Effect
When isolating the goal kicks for example. We can see that it does have a detrimental effect on the game. Arsenal recently drew with Southampton and this has ramifications towards how the league title ends up. Bazunu took 18 goal kicks in total for this game at an average of 43 seconds per kick. That means he was responsible for eating up 13mins of game action on his own!
Leeds United then broke records this season when they played West Ham at home and drew 2-2. The ball was in play for a mere 42minutes of play which is less than a proper half of football. We’ve has Mickel Arteta and Erik ten Hag complain about Newcastle for time wasting this season yet Aaron Ramsdale wasted 10 full mins taking goal kicks versus Liverpool at Anfield.
Can we fix this?
The fix is not quite as easy as you would think. The World Cup seen a drastic clampdown of time wasted but to only realistically increase the time in play to 58mins. Most of these games were dragged towards the 100 minute of overall game time. So by increasing the overall length on its own is not enough.
Arsene Wenger has used his influence to try bring in a Stopwatch type method. Reduce the game time to 60mins but every time the play stops for any reason the stopwatch waits until play resumes. This will at least bring us 60mins of proper football no matter how the teams perform.
It does feel that the game needs this type of rule to be brought in. All Referees are struggling week in week out to consistently prevent teams from following this type of game plan where they slow the game down for the full duration.
Bring on the Clock!
World Referee Chief Pierluigi Collina has said : “”I am convinced time wasting will be reduced when players know it is meaningless to waste time because that time is compensated.” Meaning he expects to see added time to be more like the World Cup if we are to prevent players from being successful.
The positive side of this will mean the average fan on the street gets better entertainment. A better fill of football for their 90mins of watching. The downside of a Stop Clock based system is we would be robbed of those precious moments in the final minutes when teams equalise. Either way i think i’d rather see a proper game of 60 mins each week than players going down with excuses in the latter stages of every game.