Kick­ing around rad­i­cal change

FIFA panel pitch­ing move to 60-minute game clock in bid to re­duce stalling


ST. PETERS­BURG, RUS­SIA— Foot­ball’s rule-mak­ing panel wants de­bate on mov­ing to 60-minute games and stop­ping the clock when the ball is not in play.

Play­ing two halves each of 30 min­utes’ ac­tual play­ing time would be a “rad­i­cal change” to the Laws of Foot­ball, the FIFA-sup­ported In­ter­na­tional Foot­ball As­so­ci­a­tion Board ac­knowl­edged. It fea­tures in a five-year strat­egy doc­u­ment of talk­ing points and pro­pos­als with three goals — to in­crease re­spect, play­ing time and at­trac­tive­ness of the game.

“The aim of this doc­u­ment is to gen­er­ate dis­cus­sion and take a ‘fresh’ look at how the Laws could make the game bet­ter,” IFAB said in the doc­u­ment called “Play Fair!”

Any changes would take years to en­act af­ter dis­cus­sions and tri­als over­seen by IFAB, which re­vises foot­ball’s laws an­nu­ally and com­prises of­fi­cials from FIFA and the four Bri­tish foot­ball fed­er­a­tions.

Fans have be­come frus­trated that games of 90 reg­u­la­tion min­utes plus time added for stop­pages at ref­er­ees’ dis­cre­tion typ­i­cally pro­duce “fewer than 60 min­utes of ef­fec­tive (ac­tual) play­ing time,” IFAB said.

On Satur­day, there were just 47 min­utes of ac­tual play­ing time in Rus­sia’s 2-0 win against New Zealand to open the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup, ac­cord­ing to FIFA.

The game in St. Peters­burg took less than one hour, 50 min­utes from first whis­tle to last, which sug­gests a 60-minute, stop-start clock would take more than two hours to com­plete as foot­ball adapted.

The 60-minute, stop-start game clock pro­posal would take away the in­cen­tive for time-wast­ing by play- ers, 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 time-wast­ing is most likely — the fi­nal five min­utes of the first half and the last10 min­utes of the sec­ond half.

Other talk­ing points in “Fair Play!” to make games faster and fairer in­clude:

Let­ting play­ers pass to them­selves from a free kick or corner;

Award penalty kicks for de­fend­ers us­ing their hands or arms to stop a goal-bound ball;

Abol­ish en­croach­ment at penalty kicks by or­der­ing play to stop af­ter it is saved or re­bounds from the post or bar;

Pre-match hand­shakes in tech­ni­cal area for the two coaches and ref­eree “as a sign of re­spect.”

FIFA showed its de­ter­mi­na­tion to in­creas­ing play­ing time and fair­ness by re­mind­ing Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup ref­er­ees to en­force ex­ist­ing rules on time-wast­ing. Ref­er­ees in Rus­sia also must mon­i­tor stop­pages — in­clud­ing goal cel­e­bra­tions — more strictly by adding more ad­di­tional time.

Marco van Bas­ten, the for­mer Nether­lands and AC Mi­lan great now lead­ing FIFA’s tech­ni­cal depart­ment, said on Thurs­day that ref­er­ees typ­i­cally add only one minute to the first half and three min­utes to the sec­ond half.

Those were ex­actly the amounts of stop­page time added to the Rus­si­aNew Zealand game.

FIFA has al­ready sig­nalled open­ness to rad­i­cal change by van Bas­ten’s sug­ges­tion this year that the off­side rule could be abol­ished.

That idea was mostly met with con­fu­sion and de­ri­sion.

“What is go­ing to be in the fu­ture, that’s not the point at the mo­ment,” van Bas­ten said when asked about it a brief­ing in St. Peters­burg on the eve of the Con­fed­er­a­tions Cup.

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