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March 2016 You Call It Q&A

Mr Ref

You are the center referee. You left your countdown timer watch running during halftime. After 90 minutes elapses your watch buzzes and you blow the whistle to end the match. Players are leaving the field and one of the coaches (his team is losing 2 to 1) says "NO WAY REF! We still have five minutes you're giving away the game". You suddenly realize he's right. What's your call? Your Match !Your Decision! Your Reputation!

First off thumbs up for those who admit the error, IF there is one and ensure the match is fairly and legally completed with two equal halves. While we like to look efficient and present a dignified, reliable stature to foster respect sometimes we must do what is best for the game, not for appearances sake but for the players! While we accept no biased information from non neutral officials as a basis for a decision, we still know if we are wrong or right in our own minds and if ARs or 4th are available we can confirm with them as well!!

Your Answers
Matt Bristow USA Referee
If players are still close enough to continue the game, I correct myself and restart with the appropriate restart or a dropped ball. If players have already left for home, I apologize to the coach and indicate in my referee report that the match was suspended 5 minutes early due to referee error. I would give the players a brief warm-up period to prevent injury prior to restarting the match. All details would be included in my report.

Peter Stockton CA USA Referee
I would call both teams back on the field and restart the game. The restart might be a bit complicated: if the ball was out of play when the whistle blew then the appropriate restart should be used - if the ball was in play then a drop ball would ensue at the point (or close to it) that the ball was when the whistle blew.

Jerritt Cloney Alberta Canada Referee
Law 7, pg 30. "The match lasts two equal periods of 45 minutes, unless otherwise mutually agreed between the referee and the two teams. Any agreement to alter the duration of the periods of play (e.g. to reduce each half to 40 minutes because of insufficient light) must be made before the start of play and must comply with competition rules." Both matches must be equal in length, and provided that there is no other reasons to prevent the match from continuing, the ref will explain that there is "x" amount of minute left to be played. Restart with drop ball if the ball was in play, or proceed with original restart if the ball was out of play. PS. This would probably be good reason as to why you would use to watches, as well as your AR's also keeping track of time on their wrists too. One watch can countdown, and the other would count up. When the countdown reaches zero, you would use the other watch to keep track of extra time. Also, in the event that one watch becomes disabled, (ie. struck by a ball, dead battery, etc.) you could probably get by with using the other.

Reza E SAN CARLOS United States Referee
Wow, what a mess. Let's correct the situation before we discuss what we could have done better to avoid this in the first place. There are occasions when I as a referee may have ended the game early on purpose. For example, when one side is up by a large number of goals AND there are conditions, such as weather conditions or bad lighting, which pose a risk to the safety of players, I may decide to end the game early. I doubt that decision will be contested by any responsible coach. This situation is different, since I had intended to allow the game to run to full time. Obviously, the words of a coach cannot be used as a reference for time-keeping. However, my own watch tells me that I messed up. I quickly blow the whistle, and will instruct, in a very loud voice, all the players to stay on the field and wait for my decision. I will pull aside my ARs away from coaches and payers, explain my error and ask them how much time was left in the second half when I blew the whistle in error. The time should roughly match the duration of the half-time. I will then explain to the coaches and players that there was a time-keeping error and that the match has not ended. I will restart the match by a dropped ball from the point where the ball was when I stopped the match by mistake. I will end the match when the correct duration of play has been played. I will report the incident in my match report. Now this could have been completely prevented by better communication with my ARs. In the last few minutes of each half of the play, I make a quick eye contact with each of my ARs at a stoppage of the game. I will gently point to my watch and show the number of minutes left on my watch by my fingers. I expect my AR to nod gently to confirm that they agree with the time. If they see a major discrepancy, such as the situation here, they may shake their head gently and show a different number of fingers. This gives me a chance delay the restart, quickly consult with the AR and correct any mistakes before the restart. I have seen a few ARs who show up to the match without a watch, or a pen and paper. I usually have a gentle talk with them about having the right tools for the job before the match. I also offer them to use my second, spare, watch and my second copy of the game card and pen. As officials, we owe it to the players and the game to use all available tools to avoid mistakes. Happy reffing!

Brad Heers United States Referee
The game isn't over until the center referee says it is over. Further, it is required that both halves be of equal time. "My" mistake--if not corrected--is a violation of the LOTG. As center referee, own the mistake, consult with my AR's (who should separately have been keeping track of time) to confirm just how much time should be left, and restart with a dropped ball for my inadvertent whistle. Finally, apologize and thank the alert coach for saving my bacon.

Mike Owens - Tennessee USA referee
As stated in Law 7, the match must last 2 equal periods of 45 minutes, and can ONLY be reduced by agreement by both teams AND in advance! I would confer with my assistant referees to make sure that the game is indeed short and by how much. If they agree, I would call both teams back on the field, shake my watch, tap it, hold it up to my ear, mutter something about "technology", and restart the game. Hopefully my backup watch still shows how long is left in the period; if not, my ARs should be able to tell me how much time is still remaining.

Our answer long version of an older time but still credible


Periods of Play

The match lasts two equal periods of 45 minutes, unless otherwise mutually agreed between the referee and the two participating teams

To do otherwise will create a protested situation as the match has not been completed according to the laws of the game! It is well within the spirit of the laws to admit an injustice and correct it! For to remain silent upon the false premise of referee discretion as keeper of time and as a fact of play knowingly cheat is absolutely wrong!


The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.

The word "terminated" will have some offer it as proof it is too late to restart if the three whistle toot says a match is over! For this to occur once a referee is appraised of the SUPPOSED time error he must decide to acknowledge it with a thumbs up yes we will continue or no I am satisfied we have played the correct time. If this is a true decision based on what a referee feels correct. As the last decision of the match he is saying that all decisions before this are binding. The referee has not lost the right to consider changing this decision given unknown factors. An example would be the AR reporting a PK foul in behind his back as he was blowing for the match to end or in our case a broken watch with the wrong data.


acts as timekeeper and keeps a record of the match;
restarts the match after it has been stopped;
provides the appropriate authorities with a match report, which includes information on any disciplinary action taken against players, and/or team officials and any other incidents that occurred before, during or after the match.

Decisions of The Referee

The decisions of the referee regarding facts connected with play are final.

While either team upset at the match duration issue can submit a protest there must be more to it then, "My stop watch says different!"
A referee who can honestly state, "By my watch we played two equal halves!" There would have to be overwhelming evidence of some kind for a competition authority to consider any protest seriously!

Decisions of the International F.A. Board

Decision 1

A referee (or where applicable, an assistant referee or fourth official) is not held liable for: any kind of injury suffered by a player, official or spectator; any damage to property of any kind; any other loss suffered by any individual, club, company, association or other body, which is due or which may be due to any decision that he may take under the terms of the Laws of the Game or in respect of the normal procedures required to hold, play and control a match.

any other decision that he may take in accordance with the Laws of the Game or in conformity with his duties under the terms of FIFA, confederation, member association or league rules or regulations under which the match is played.

While better not to make such an error we must restart ASAP upon realization of the mistake. The players and support staff must not be permitted to wander away and be unable to participate for even if the match is completed, a too long time lag could easily be protested as unfair if key players were unavailable to play. Ensure time to retie laces, put uniforms back on etc.. The same players who were on the pitch at the time of the inadvertent whistle should be the ones to return but allowances for substitutions could be considered if there was no sub limit exceeded for the match . Get under way quickly but try to make sure no team is disadvantaged.

"Sorry gentlemen I made a mistake and we must restart the match to finish the half. We still have X minutes remaining! I apologize and I will make a full disclosure in the match report outlining all details of this action. I require all those who were on the pitch at the time of the stoppage to please return and take up their positions .

The too early whistle is to be considered as an inadvertent stoppage !
If play was stopped during active play the restart will be a dropped ball at that point where the ball was at the time of the inadvertent whistle!
If play was stopped during a normal stoppage, say a corner kick, goal kick, throw in or even a free kick then that is how play must be restarted! We were all pleased to see most who deemed we must restart seemed aware of when we use a dropball and when we would continue with how the ball was out of play upon the restart of play

LAW 8 The Start and Restart of Play:
A dropped ball is a way of restarting the match after a temporary stoppage that becomes necessary, while the ball is in play, for any reason not mentioned elsewhere in the Laws of the Game.

There could be much dissent, negative comments and even abuse directed your way. Try to appeal for calm while you sort things out. It could be that you wind up cautioning or sending off before you restart, if indeed you do! Emotions aside you must focus on the remaining time to be played and get things moving. Although this was a created controversy, your attitude and man management skills will go a long way to soothing it into a simple restart rather than a scream fest of recriminations! Mind you if a goal is scored to tie or two to win you will be facing much heat and candid though you were to freely admit your time defect you will likely take some flack! While we are likely to allow some discourse there are limits here as in all things. Mistake or not you are the referee and still the authority to be respected!

It is important to understand that for this error to occur several things must go wrong or be omitted. A single referee with no ARs and only club linesmen in a tournament setting with differing time slots for teams this could occur far easier than in an dual AR match with a 4th official! I saw several responses that indicated both how this could occur and steps taken that might have prevented it.

The ARs should be on a countdown of time at the last ten and again at the last 5 minute communicating with the referee. ARs should be kept informed by the referee of how much time is left in a match. If I was at 5 minutes left and I signaled 5, they look at their watch and see ten minutes, at the next stoppage I want to know why we are so far apart?

I personally dislike watches that beep as players may respond with questions as to why the game continues or argue that it should be over!The count down should be reset at each 45 not a 90 minute run. My senior AR or 4th carry a stopwatch of all running time through the match including the half time interval.
I suggest two watches, a 45 minute countdown and one that that shows running time that is stopped and started with allowances for time added! I strongly urge you to reset for each half!

The rest of the answer here deals with the effect of a mistake at half time rather than full time and is for only presented for information and reflection

FIFA Q&A LAW 7 #4. Can the referee compensate an error in the timekeeping during the first half, adding or subtracting time in the second half?


This does not mean we can not finish a half, what it states is that the 2nd half cannot be lengthened 45 +5 =50 minutes to make up a shortfall or shortened to compensate an over run. 45-5 =40 minutes once the 2nd half has begun with the kick off!
WE must play out the 1st half before the start of the second half and if the 1st half was too long as a referee you have NO option to extend the 2nd half of the match. YOU ONLY play the scheduled time slot agreed at the match beginning 45 minutes.

You report the mistake and likely the match will be decided by the league or competition authorities to be replayed!

This is from the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game"


If the referee ends play early, then the teams must be called back onto the field and the remaining time must be played as soon as the error is detected. The half time interval is not considered to have begun until the first period of play is properly ended. If the ball was out of play when the period was ended incorrectly, then play should be resumed with the appropriate restart (throw-in, goal kick, etc.). If the ball was in play, then the correct restart is a dropped ball where the ball was when the referee incorrectly ended play (subject to the special circumstances in Law 8).

If a period of play (first half or first overtime period) was ended prematurely and this fact was not discovered until the next period of play had been started, the referee will complete the match using the correct length of time for the period of play as prescribed by the competition authority and then include full details of the error in the match report-

If you note the this excerpt from the above ATR
"The half time interval is not considered to have begun until the first period of play is properly ended. "

While our situation deals with the end of the match it is prudent to understand the situation in either circumstance. If we are into a half time interval and the time error is then brought to the referee's attention and he accepts it as an unfortunate mistake. I suggest we talk to both coaches ASAP and explain the problem and depending on the amount of time already wasted by the inadvertent whistle players are recalled back to finish the half and then it should be asked as to how or if the interval should be altered

The reason is is if we are 1, 3, 5, 10, minutes in to a 15 minute interval or even if the full fifteen has been reached and we have restarted the first half and there is a goal or some serious activity, caution or send off in that short time it will affect the coaching decisions that many will have initiated for the second half keeper switch , substitutions, defending tactics etc

If the competition allows for a half time interval it must occur after the HALF TIME which is not possible until all 45 minutes have been played. Now if it was 15 minutes and the two teams are completely in agreement we could shorten the turn around to restart the 2nd half but an interval after the half time is necessary under the laws!


Half-Time Interval

Players are entitled to an interval at half-time.

The half-time interval must not exceed 15 minutes.

Competition rules must state the duration of the half-time interval.

The duration of the half-time interval may be altered only with the consent of the referee.

To those who took the time to answer good for you for thinking about the game. We have published some of the answers we felt best answered the question or had added insight into a particular aspect of it along with our own. Whether you were 100% correct or partially correct or even of a different opinion remember as referees we seek to do the right thing as consistently as possible and our discretionary powers must be held accountable when held against the laws and the spirit of the game!

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