Friday, 19 Apr 2024

The Real Benefits of Introducing a Stop-Clock in Football

It’s a topic that sparks heated debates week after week – time-wasting in football. As fans, we’ve all been frustrated by the excessive delays caused by players, whether our team is winning or not. This issue has led to calls for the introduction of a stop-clock in football, with the aim of making the game fairer and more enjoyable for everyone involved. While there has been some push-back against this idea, I strongly believe that the common arguments against the stop-clock are flawed. Let’s take a closer look.

Is there even a problem? Why fix a problem that doesn’t exist?

Yes, there is a problem! Time-wasting is a major detractor from the overall enjoyment of the game. It reduces the amount of actual play time, giving teams an unfair advantage. It’s frustrating to watch and disrupts the flow of the game. As football enthusiasts, we should acknowledge that time-wasting is indeed a problem that needs to be addressed.

But football is more popular than ever!

The popularity of football doesn’t negate the need to address issues such as time-wasting. Just because more people are watching the game now doesn’t mean we should ignore flaws that affect its integrity. When other rule changes, like VAR, were discussed, we didn’t question their implementation based on the sport’s popularity. The same principle should apply to tackling time-wasting.

Ball-in-play time has actually not significantly decreased in recent years at all!

Even if ball-in-play time hasn’t significantly decreased, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take action against time-wasting. The impact of time-wasting is not reflected in broad averages. Close games and high-stakes matches are where time-wasting has a significant impact. It can reduce the amount of ball-in-play time relative to the regular playing pace. For example, in last year’s Champions League final, the amount of ball-in-play time in the second half was significantly shorter than in the first half. This kind of time-wasting can have a massive impact on individual games, even if it’s not evident in overall statistics.

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The referee can already add stoppage time to make up for any time-wasting!

While referees can add stoppage time, the current system is flawed. Referees have numerous responsibilities during a game and can struggle to accurately assess the correct amount of added time. The last World Cup highlighted this issue, with longer matches but not necessarily more accurate stoppage time. Asking referees to improve their accuracy is not a sufficient solution. Introducing a stop-clock would provide a clearer and more accurate indication of the remaining playing time, benefitting both players and fans.

What about the 4th official, maybe he can keep track of stoppage time?

While involving the 4th official in timekeeping may seem like a solution, it still relies on an external party. Instead, why not employ a dedicated timekeeping official alongside the referee? This would ensure 100% accuracy in stoppage time and provide the same benefits as a stop-clock. A stop-clock would display the amount of playing time remaining throughout the game, eliminating the guesswork involved in announcing stoppage time in the 90th minute.

Referees should just be stricter in giving yellows/second yellows for time-wasting!

It’s true that referees should be stricter, but enforcing this consistently is challenging. If we try to crack down on time-wasting, we might end up with frequent red cards and matches with fewer players. Introducing a stop-clock would be a more feasible and less intrusive change. The current time-wasting rules should still apply, ensuring that taking too long to resume play results in a yellow card, even with the clock stopped.

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A stop-clock will break the pace of the game!

While the concern about breaking the pace of the game is valid, it can be mitigated by maintaining the current time-wasting rules. Players who take too long to resume play should still receive penalties, even if the clock has stopped. The game itself will remain unchanged, with the only difference being that time-wasting becomes ineffective over time. The referee will still have the authority to blow the final whistle at the appropriate moment.

A stop-clock will open the doors for in-game commercial breaks!

The focus should be on enforcing the same time-wasting rules as before, ensuring that there are no longer breaks during the match than what we see currently. The introduction of a stop-clock does not create additional opportunities for commercial breaks. It is crucial to avoid anything that disrupts the flow of the game and maintain the integrity of football.

Some lower league/lower quality games will take forever

This is a valid concern to consider. Lower league games with low ball-in-play time due to the low quality of play might take significantly longer if a stop-clock is introduced. However, we should weigh this against the potential benefits of reducing time-wasting in higher-level matches. Perhaps a modified approach can be implemented for lower league games to maintain a balance and address the issue appropriately.

What the stop-clock would solve:

To summarize, a stop-clock would eliminate or render ineffective various time-wasting tactics. This includes players rolling on the pitch at every minor touch, taking forever to get off the pitch when substituted, delaying throw-ins, and taking excessive time for goal kicks or after simple saves. It would also eliminate the unfair advantage that teams gain by employing these tactics. Additionally, it would put an end to post-match discussions or complaints about the correct amount of stoppage time given.

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I hope this article provides useful insights and sparks further discussions. If additional arguments are put forward, I’m open to updating and addressing them here.


Q: How would a stop-clock be implemented in football?

A: Implementing a stop-clock would require the introduction of a dedicated timekeeping official who would monitor and display the time remaining in the game at all times.

Q: What impact would a stop-clock have on the pace of the game?

A: The pace of the game would be maintained by enforcing the current time-wasting rules. The introduction of a stop-clock would not disrupt the flow of play as long as players are penalized for prolonged delays.

Q: Would a stop-clock lead to longer match durations?

A: While some lower league games might take longer due to the low quality of play, a stop-clock’s primary aim is to address time-wasting in higher-level matches. Any potential increase in match duration should be weighed against the benefits of reducing time-wasting.

Q: How would a stop-clock affect referee decisions?

A: Referees would still have the authority to make decisions based on the current rules of the game. The stop-clock would provide a clearer indication of the remaining playing time, ensuring that the correct amount of stoppage time is given.


Time-wasting is a problem in modern football that needs to be addressed. The arguments against the stop-clock are mostly flawed and fail to acknowledge the impact of time-wasting on the game. By introducing a stop-clock, we can make the game fairer, increase actual play time, and enhance the overall enjoyment for players and fans alike.