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Question Number: 21710

Law 7 - Match Duration 7/28/2009

RE: Rec, Select, Club, NFHS High School

Joe Griego of Bishop, CA USA asks...

My question is regarding timekeeping protocol. As a coach, I've always instructed my captains to approach the Referee to politely ask how much time is left.

During a match last season, we had a referee who refused all such requests, regardless of how nicely my players asked. This was a three person referee team, and the ARs would usually say 'oh, about X minutes left' but that would be an estimate as they are not the official timekeepers.

The Referee always responded forcefully to my captain's request with, 'Go ask your coach!' I wasn't keeping the official time, which is why I asked my captain to get the official time from the Referee in the first place (politely, of course).

Now, as a coach, I can always keep time myself, but I didn't for that match. I did ask the Referee afterwards why he wouldn't give us the remaining time, especially since there was no fourth official available to ask, and he said it was so he wasn't inundated with player requests of, 'How much time left, Ref?!?!' in the closing minutes of the match.

When I'm referee, I always respond when politely asked for the time, and it's not distracting me from my job. I can understand not wanting to respond to many such requests. But, it's the first time I've heard of a Referee who denies ANY such requests for time remaining, and barks at players to 'Ask your coach!'

What do you recommend as the proper mechanics for Referees and players or coaches? How should a coach best request the remaining time in the match if there is no fourth referee, only the Referee knows how much extra time is added?


Joe G.
Bishop, CA

Answer provided by Referee Gary Voshol

I will usually answer players if asked politely, but there is nothing in the Laws that compels me to answer. I will also try to find a time somewhere around 2-3 minutes to make a loud announcement. But sometimes I'm just too busy at the moment to look at my watch, or even to reply to a player.

I get a bit irritated when the 'how much time, ref?' starts after we haven't even played half the allotted time yet. I'll usually just answer, 'Lots' until we get down to 10 minutes or so. I also tend to not be pleased when someone asks me, just moments after I've announced the time quite loudly.

A coach will sometimes ask me as an AR, 'How much time do you have, I forgot to start my watch.' If it's an opportune time, I have no problem answering, 'I've got 27 minutes gone.'

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

There is no uniform protocol.

In my matches, I announce to the players when there is about 10 minutes and about 5 minutes left in regulation time. I also announce adding at least X minutes of time. Player appreciate knowing how much time is left.

Referees need to be careful about taking their eyes off active play and looking at the watch. Assistant referees know their time is not official, and need to answer coach's questions more vaguely 'under two minutes' or 'we're in added time now' rather than a precise 1:30 left.

I know some referees who refuse to respond to questions about match time. I don't understand their concern, but I suspect they've had a bad experience answering the question and then getting issues because they've added time.

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Answer provided by Referee Keith Contarino

Can't speak for the referee in question but maybe he had had a problem in the past where he missed something because he was looking at his watch. The referee is not required to give the time. Were I you and had a referee like this I'd stop asking after the first rebuke. Me, I always try to answer unless I can't look at my watch right then

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

The referee is under no obligation to respond to any such requests on the field.

However, I can't understand why some refs do ignore such requests. While there is no uniform protocol, the majority will respond to some extent - though often they may beging changing to 'not long' or 'last 5' as the match is winding down.

Naturally if the question is asked at an inopportune moment the referee should ignore the question, or respond with 'not right now', or 'I'll get back to you' - the referee certainly can't allow himself to miss anything to check his watch.

The best thing you can do in that situation as a coach is to instruct your players not to press the point - they may well end up with a card if they do.

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