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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34900

High School 3/3/2023

Steve of Brighton , UK asks...

I’ve noticed that often, after the regulation 90 minutes and required injury time have all been played, if a goal kick has been awarded, the ref will wait for the keeper to take the goal kick before blowing for full time.

Is there any sort of rule to say the ball has to be in play for full time to be blown? I’ve certainly seen full time be called when the ball has been out of play. And if not, why do refs wait for the keeper to take the goal kick before blowing?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Steve
Thanks for the question
No there is no law that requires play to be ended only when the ball is in play. Play ends when time has fully elapsed in the opinion of the referee.
You might have noticed the recent Man Utd v West Ham cup game when Utd scored a goal in the last few seconds of the game. The referee went with the kick off and then blew immediately for full time.
There are a few reasons for this and for say the goal kick restart
One is that the restart means that play cannot go back after the restart to anything that happened before that restart or that the game has been ended prematurely with a final whistle. A restart allow time for say an assistant to intervene before the restart to bring to the referees attention say a penalty award, violent conduct or whatever before play ends.
The second reason which is more subtle is that it gets players focused on the restart and moves players apart.
Third reason can be to allay concerns about timing by allowing play to restart which may happen by a referee not stopping play in the middle of an attack close to the penalty area. We know that timing for most referees is not so precise that a few seconds can be allowed in added time to see a play is finished out. A goal kick can take many seconds to get taken with ball retrieval and then set up. It draws attention subtlety away from the previous play.
A fourth reason and one mentioned by Referee Dawson is that some referees like to take responsibility for the match ball and it can be more easily recovered from a goal kick. With multiple balls being used nowadays that is not a factor although older referees like when they are given a ball before kick off to give it back, Old habits die hard as they say.

I was at a game last season and the referee blew play up after a corner kick that went wide for a goal kick. It had been a feisty enough affair for the last 20 minutes. Because most of the players were congregated. probably 18/20 players inside the penalty area the final whistle resulted in two players getting involved in an incident with many other player getting involved in an immediate melee. I believe that had the referee got on with play with a goal kick that it would have separated players away from any flash point and got players focused on preparing for the restart. It would have moved attention away from the flash point and made it a bigger ask for other players to get involved. It would have allowed the referee a better view of what actually transpired.

So while there is no specific reason or requirement to go with a restart there can be benefits for doing so as mentioned above.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Steve,
as my esteemed colleague Ref McHugh points out a referee looks for ways to prevent issues and be proactive as opposed to reactive. Communication at the elite level is really very good as opposed to those that work the grassroots we want to be sure not to mess up and ensure as few controversial moments as possible . To some extent match time is not to the micro second but it is as unfair to prolong a match as it is to shorten it. We try not to lead a defending team into thinking we extended to allow a goal as much as deny an opportunity an attacking team the chance to get that last second equalizer. In truth it is a neutral restart so little chance of misconduct occurring. PLUS I often wait for the goal kick that returns the ball to midfield where I can easily grab it as I blow to end the match lol !

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Steve,
There is no provision in the law that says the ball must be in play for the game to be ended. As you have mentioned, while some referees wait for a goal kick (or other restart) to blow the final whistle, some will end the game with the ball out of play. There is no hard and fast rule on this and the referee is the only judge of when all the regulation time plus time allowed for stoppages, has been played.

Also, don't forget that whatever number is shown on the 4th official's board at the end of 90 minutes is the minimum of stoppage time to be allowed and there are often additional stoppages after the board goes up. Once again, the referee is the only judge of this.

I have to say that as a referee, I was never convinced of the need to restart play before blowing for time and would often end the game with the ball out of play but then again, I refereed mostly youth games so I usually didn't have to worry too much about the kinds of shenanigans ref McHugh mentions can be a factor in adult games.

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