Referee Watch: When does the half end?

Soccer is that rare sport where official time is kept on the field by the referee. This makes a lot more sense than the scoreboard being the official time as in college and high school soccer and the officials having the unseemly duty in determining whether the ball entered the goal before the half ended. Although it rarely happens, it did occur in a NCAA men’s semifinal a few years ago and a NCAA men’s final a generation ago and there was controversy over whether the goal should have been allowed. The controversy could and should have been avoided by simply giving the ref the official time, as occurs in games all over the world.

Law 7 on the Duration of the Match says that allowance is made by the ref in each half for all time lost in the half through substitutions, assessment and/or removal of injured players, time-wasting, disciplinary sanctions, stoppages for drinks or other medical reasons permitted by competition rules and any other cause, including any significant delay to a restart, such as goal celebrations.

Now in youth soccer, where a gazillion subs can be made in a game, the ref does not add time for each substitution; otherwise, games would seemingly never end. But the ref should certainly add time when the winning team is doing it as a time-wasting ploy. The ref can easily figure out a team is doing this if, after they are leading, they start subbing much more frequently. So, in this scenario, when the winning team subs without the losing team looking to sub too, the ref should tell the teams that he is adding time for the substitution. Consequently, the winning team should start subbing much less frequently.

If time needs to be added to the half, the ref should announce it as stoppage time is about to begin, “A minimum of two minutes of stoppage time is being added.”

Per the rules, the only restart where a half is extended is for a penalty kick.

The ref needs to use some common sense when adding time. If the half is down to a few seconds and one team is attacking in the other team’s penalty area or an attacker is near the goal on a breakaway, do not end the half until the ball has been cleared, the keeper makes the save or the defense gets the ball or if the ball is played out-of-bounds.

As refs have official time on their watch, they must administer it correctly but lately, I’ve noticed some youth soccer refs take adding time to an extreme. I questioned them after the game to make sure they did not have any stoppage time and they said that time in the second half was actually up but they wanted to give the losing team a chance to tie the game. This is not correct and, in one scenario with no time left in the game, a defender tackled the ball over the goal line for a corner kick. The match should have ended there.

Instead, the ref allowed a player to take a corner kick after he waited 20 seconds for his keeper to run the length of the field to position himself in front of the goal. And when the defense headed the corner kick over the goal line for another corner kick, the ref allowed that one to be taken too and only ended the game after the defense kicked the ball way upfield, over a minute after time had run out.

(Randy Vogt, the author of "Preventive Officiating," has officiated more than 10,000 games.)

4 comments about "Referee Watch: When does the half end?".
  1. James Madison, October 31, 2017 at 7:42 p.m.

    Time is now stopped in a college game, either automatically or at the discretion of the CR for essentially the same reasons as the CR is authorized to add time in a match conducted under the Laws of the Game, including substitutions by the leading team in the final 5 minutes, the distinctions between the two are much less significant than they once were.  Moreover, I believe it is just as incorrect not to whistle the expiration of time when a team is attacking the opposing team'spenalty area as it is to extend time to give a losing team time to tie.  When time has expired in my world, time has expired in my world, even, for example, when I have whistled for a CK or a DFK and the victim team is scheming to take it.

  2. Mark Konty replied, November 1, 2017 at 11:55 a.m.

    I agree with James.  If you're going to allow an attacking team extra time, why not allow the clock to run for any "good" reason.  There is nothing in the LotG that says the game continues until the final attack is snuffed out.  In fact, this interpretation is likely what the young referee was thinking when they allowed multiple corner kicks.

    I also find Vogt's argument regarding open versus secret clocks to be without sufficient evidence. Two "controversial" clock outcomes with a definite clock versus the weekly clock controversies we see in the professional leagues where secret time is kept does not add up to an argument against the open clock.  Partuclularly in lower leagues where the refereeing is poor, an open clock can avoid controversies with end-of-the-game decisions.  At the high school level the refereeing in my area is no better, and usually worse, than youth club games.  I honestly don't trust them to make an unbiased determination of when the game ends.

  3. Kent James, October 31, 2017 at 8:27 p.m.

    I'm not sure why FIFA does not include allowing time for goals.  It would eliminate the tussles that ensue when the team that is behind scored, but needs to score again, so they are trying to grab the ball while the keeper is trying to slow the game down. If you added time, you could just tell them to relax, and avoid the issue.

  4. Wooden Ships, November 1, 2017 at 11:30 a.m.

    IM old school O, this has been an ongoing embarrasment in the US. For gods sake we haven't earned the right to change the game everyone else on the planet plays. Arrogance has been a topic of late, here is a perfect example. 

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