By Randy Vogt
A soccer game consists of two equal halves. A professional match has 45-minute halves while other games could have fewer minutes in the half, depending on the competition or age group. The halves are running time. The time begins when the ball is legally put in play on the kickoff by being kicked forward, not when the referee’s whistle sounds.
The rulebook states that time can be added for substitution, injury, time-wasting or any other cause. So if a plague of locusts or some other surreal incident interrupts play, add time.
This is what works for me: I wear two watches, with one functioning as a stopwatch on one wrist and one with time of day featured on the other. Just before the game begins, I look at the time of day on the relevant watch, then write down on my score sheet what the time of day should be when the half is over. So if we are playing 45-minute halves and the game kicks off at 1:02 pm, I write 1:47 in my book. This is my insurance should my stopwatch not run correctly or if I press the wrong button, which occurs on occasion.
When you note the time of day, notice if the minute has almost expired. If so, add another minute in your book so you do not end the half early.
For injuries, I look at my stopwatch when play is stopped, then look at it again when play resumes -- always adding the time lost at the end of the half.
If it’s a close game and only the winning team substitutes in the last five minutes of the second half, I use a preventive officiating technique and put my fingers over my stopwatch while announcing that the time has been stopped.
In professional games, which have very few substitutions, time is added to the end of each half for each substitution. In youth soccer, there will be many substitutions throughout the match. You do not add time for most substitutions in youth soccer.
If time needs to be added to the half, I announce that as stoppage time is about to begin, “A minimum of two minutes of stoppage time is being added.”
The rulebook states that additional time is allowed for a penalty kick to be taken at the end of each half or during the end of each overtime period. To avoid having to disallow a goal after the ball rebounds off the goalkeeper and is then shot in, the referee allows all players to remain on the field, but, with the exception of the keeper and shooter, the other players are moved away from the penalty area. Then the penalty kick is taken.
The referee needs to use some common sense in adding time. If the half is down to a few seconds and one team is attacking in the other team’s penalty area, do not end the half until the ball has been cleared, the defense gets the ball or the ball is played out-of-bounds.
Otherwise, you will put yourself in the situation that I found myself when I started as a referee. It was a Boys Under-12 game with 30-minute halves and, at the conclusion of the first half, as my stopwatch read 30:00 with no additional time necessary, a shot had been taken and was going into the net. Until I unnecessarily became too involved in the game by disallowing the goal as the ball was about to cross the goal line. Do you think that I had a major effort controlling that team’s coach during the second half? I sure did!
All of this could have been avoided if I had demonstrated some preventive officiating and a little common sense.
When Players Want to Know How Much Time Is Left
Toward the end of each half, a couple of players might separately ask you, “How much time is left in the half?”
I have actually heard referees say, “I don’t have to tell you!” or “Go ask your coach!”
Do yourself a favor. When players or even coaches ask you how much time is left in the half, briefly glance at your watch and tell them. It costs you nothing to answer the question. And you will generally get a “Thank you!” in reply.
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 7,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In his book, Preventive Officiating, he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at http://www.preventiveofficiating.com/.)