Trimming 30 minutes off the length of an international soccer game and stopping the clock during timeouts would be a “radical change” to a sport steeped in global tradition dating back 2,000 years. Yet, that’s exactly the kind of change the FIFA-supported International Football Association Board appears to be seeking.
In a recently released IFAB document titled “Play Fair!” — which proposes a five-year strategy to improve player behavior, address time concerns and make soccer more attractive — the Zurich, Switzerland-based rule-making organization emphasizes its intent “to generate discussion and take a fresh look at how the [rules] could make the game better.” IFAB officials claim fans have gotten frustrated with 90 minutes of regulation time, plus time added for stoppages at the referees’ discretion. A typical soccer game, they say, involves “fewer than 60 minutes of effective [actual] playing time.”
To back up that statement, FIFA reports that Russia’s 2-0 win over New Zealand in the Confederations Cup on June 17 at Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, Russia, included 47 minutes of actual playing time.
Should it be implemented, IFAB’s proposal (which includes two 30-minute halves) would take years to fully enact after discussions and trial periods, the Associated Press reports.
According to the AP: “The 60-minute, stop-start game clock proposal would take away the incentive for timewasting by players, IFAB suggested. A stadium clock could show spectators and TV viewers when the referee accounted for play having stopped. A second idea is for referees to stop their watch as play pauses when timewasting is most likely — the final five minutes of the first half and the last 10 minutes of the second half.”
Pat Nevin, BBC soccer analyst and a former player for Chelsea, Everton and Scotland, is intrigued. “I honestly think we have had 20 or 30 years of Luddites being in charge of the game,” he told BBC.com. “But we are now hopefully entering an era where people are willing to see if the game needs adapting, and I have to say, I applaud their efforts at the moment.”
Nevin cited the recent use of video replay technology as an example of the game heading in a newer and more contemporary direction. “The game moves on, and people find ways around the rules that are in place,” he continued. “So, I am very positive about any attempts to make the game better, and my attitude generally with most of these proposals is let’s give them a go to see how they work out.”
Click here for a closer look at the “Play Fair!” document.