by Russ Cowper

This could be one long ninety minute whinge about time wasting during football matches. That though would be unfair and condescending towards the sides my team has played of late. They had a job to do, a game plan to execute and they all did it very well indeed. I can accept it is not easy playing a Manchester City side full of attacking talent who pass the ball in a relentless manner and dominate possession. No team ever wants to lose easily, be embarrassed or overwhelmed. The fans of the sides don’t want that either. They travel knowing the job will be difficult and expectations will not be high, but quite rightly they expect their sides to do everything with their powers to give them something to hold on to and something to shout about. I know what it is like to turn up without hope and expectation; to know defeat is inevitable. It is hard, it is soul destroying, yet every week all over the country we pay our money, travel in our thousands in the hope we snatch something, avoid being hammered and show some pride in our respective shirts.

So I do hope fans of Huddersfield, Feyenoord, Southampton and West Ham don’t take this the wrong way. I am not conemning your clubs, your teams, your managers or your fans for the approach taken. It is absolutely your right to approach games as you see fit and to be fair the games against the four teams I have mentioned have been immensely challenging, tiring, frustrating and fraught. The tactics used were legitimate and almost worked in every game. That is not however my beef.

The purpose of this piece is to open a debate on the whole subject of time wasting. Every team does it, mine included and it winds me up like a grandfather clock. If you pay £50 for a ticket and a goalkeeper takes a minute to take a goal-kick that is 50p of your money gone. If this happens ten times in a match £5 of your hard earned money has gone watching a goalkeeper retrieve the ball, place the ball, wipe his face on his towel, tie his laces, replace the ball, kick his studs on the goalpost and signal something obscure before he even kicks the ball. In a game of 90 minutes you can see as little as 30 minutes of actual football, so that’s £30 of your money spent watching absolutely nothing.

Time added on at the end of the game never reflects the time lost and often results in one set of fans feeling aggrieved as a 97th minute winner is scored in ‘Fergie time’.

Therefore what do we do? I don’t believe under the current laws timewasting can be stopped. The answer is to take timewasting out of the equation. Relieve the refereeing team of time keeping duties and employ a specific dedicated timekeeper. Reduce the length of the game from 90 minutes to 60 minutes of two 30 minute halves and have a clock in the stadium under the control of the dedicated timekeeper counting down to full time. If the ball is out of play stop the clock, if a goalkeeper wants to wash his face, have a bath and chat to the old girl on the front row of the stand then stop the clock. If a player goes down injured stop the clock, if it goes out for a throw in, corner, goal kick stop the clock and only restart it when the ball is back in play. If there is a substitution, stop the clock and then if the player wants to walk at a snails pace off the pitch whilst shaking everybody’s hand and reading War and Peace in the centre circle it doesn’t matter as the clock is stopped.

I know it sounds a bit American footballish but at least you see 60 minutes of football even if it takes a week to watch the game.

Yes it is extreme and it is a bit ridiculous but in my opinion time wasting, faking injuries etc is ruining the game. Football is becoming more cynical and frankly it has me questioning the validity of myself spending a huge part of my income watching the club and sport I love.

Timewasting is never discussed by the pundits, the cynicism of it is never highlighted but then they are not paying to watch the games nor do they love their clubs like we ordinary fans do. My team is playing the greatest football I have ever witnessed live; we are top of the league and breaking records yet I’m leaving games angry, frustrated and annoyed at what I am witnessing. It has to stop. It is blighting our game and ruining our sport.

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