“Changing the method of calculating additional time in a match is taking the risk of breaking the game”

Jout increased with the World Cup in Qatar, even added time. To everyone’s surprise, the signs held up by the fourth referee at the end of each half have been displaying, since the opening of the tournament on 20 November, very unusual figures which happily extend the duration of the matches beyond the hundred minutes.

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The referees committee of the International Football Federation (FIFA), interpreted by the Italian Pierluigi Collina, tends to take its decisions without submitting them to public debate, then to judge them formidable. During the 2018 edition, the adoption of video-assisted refereeing (VAR) was done in a hurry. The intention of the new instructions is nevertheless laudable: the calculation of additional time does not make up for the time lost during the match and gives little guarantee of objectivity. In 2018, a study on the Russian World Cup showed that it was random and insufficient.

The conquest of fluidity

The time outs were mainly due – for almost twenty-five minutes – to the execution of free kicks, throw-ins and clearances by the goalkeeper. FIFA’s objective is less to reduce them than to count them strictly in order to add them at the end of the period, in order to increase the effective playing time. From just under an hour on average, it can go down to around forty minutes. In Qatar, its increase is noticeable, deliberate time-wasters are deterred. However, we do not know which phases are reflected, the timing still comes out of the hat, and the benchmarks are canceled: a mini-overtime opens at the end of regulation time.

Temporality has always been a central issue for the laws of the game. After a 1990 World Cup marred by brutality, acts of anti-game and chopped matches, the authorities wanted to restore the rhythm and continuity of meetings. A series of reforms achieved this during that decade: restriction of the back pass to the goalkeeper, balls available around the field, release of the ball by the goalkeeper in six seconds maximum, more severe punishment for acts of anti-game, etc.

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Recently, two major changes have gone against these advances by adding interruptions and compromising this regained fluidity: VAR (2018) and the two additional replacements (2020). Or, added time didn’t follow in proportion. With this systematic count, FIFA seems to be preparing a small revolution: a truly effective playing time, in the style of American sports, with the stopping of the clock at each break and the end of the match at ninety minutes striking.

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