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28th October 2018

Much has been made recently of the amount of football we are actually getting during a ninety minute game - the ball is actually not in play by as much as twenty minutes during some games.

Questions have been asked about timewasting and one particular aspect is the amount of time taken for substitutions to be completed, especially those that are made late on in games and are designed purely to waste time and more importantly disrupt the flow of the game making gaining momentum for a team to try and get back into a game. What is the answer?

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Firstly, as I have often said in the past, surely we should have independent time keeping linked to a stadium clock. That would end the arguments about just how long is left in games. Whilst this would make the topic of time left transparent to players, fans and managers in itself it would create another problem with game possibly lasting 55 minutes or more a half.

It wouldn't though do anything to stop timewasting and gamesmanship. Referees have it in their power to caution players who delay restarts but quite often the yellow card seems to be the final course of action usually after many warnings that have frustrated both players and most definitely supporters.

It seems that match officials don't want to potentially spoil games with too many 'cheap' cautions for technical offences that could inevitably lead to second yellows and subsequent reds. Perhaps it's a management tool that the clubs are prepared to accept rather than see a flurry of cards.

That though runs against match officials actually applying the laws. Take for example throw ins - how often do we see an attacking throw in being taken ten yards from the corner flag when the ball went out very close to the flag. Very important especially to teams like Boro who build much of their attacking game on long throws. The angle into the penalty area for the throw in is vital and an angled trajectory rather than a flat one gives a significant advantage.

Refs, rather than being seen to be fussy and create even more delays, seem to turn a blind eye. The laws of the game over the years have been amended and that doesn't always help the issue of time wasting. Players having to leave the field for treatment was supposed to assist as players would be less likely to feign injury merely to delay restarts. That hasn't been entirely successful and the down side is that teams can be significantly disadvantaged by being reduced in number annoyingly when they were the victims of foul play against them.

Giving keepers the opportunity to choose which side to take goal kicks from hasn't helped either - it just gives them an opportunity to waste more time.

By far though one of the most annoying and calculated delays in games are substitutions, we tire of watching a subbed player dawdling from the furthest corner of the pitch, where he just happened to be prior to the board going up, shaking hands with all and sundry, acknowledging the crowd and walking off as slowly as possible. One day we might see a referee issue a yellow card, possibly a second yellow for this blatant act of unsporting behaviour. I won't hold my breath though.

Some have suggested rolling subs to prevent any delays at all, an idea, but I don't see it working mainly because you can't have twelve or more players on the field at the same time. I would envisage disciplinary problems and most certainly clubs using it as a tactical ploy.

So independent timekeeping for a start would be a help but wouldn't in itself end all of the problems.

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