Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

Previous You-Call-It's

VAR (Video Assistant Referee)

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Determining the Outcome of a Match
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef

Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

Panel Login

Question Number: 35449

Law 7 - The Duration of the Match 4/14/2024

RE: any Other

Andy Xu of Windsor, CO United States asks...

Do you have to end a game immediately after the time is up?

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Andy,
It depends what you mean by time being up. If you mean do you have to end the game as soon as your watch reaches 90 minutes then no, you do not. The laws of the game say that in each half of the game allowance must be made for any time lost due to stoppages of various kinds, which are enumerated in the laws.

However even then, the referee is the sole judge of exactly how much time must be allowed so there is always a bit of flexibility involved in choosing when exactly to blow for time.

For instance, there is a unwritten convention that you don't blow the whistle while the ball is heading towards the net. In addition, most referees will also not end the game when a team is in a highly promising attacking situation relatively close to the opponent's goal.

Again, this is not written down anywhere but it is common for a referee to wait until the ball is in a relatively neutral situation before blowing the whistle. However it is worth noting that not everyone necessarily agrees on that.

In the end though as I mentioned, the main point is that only the individual referee in each specific game can decide when time is fully up and given the variable nature of stoppages and a person's judgment of them it's always possible to find a few extra seconds if needed to make sure that the game is not stopped in a way that would be found too controversial.

Read other questions answered by Referee Peter Grove

View Referee Peter Grove profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Andy
This is always an interesting debate and there has been questions raised about timing issues in the past.
One thing that frustrates many in the game is the fact that time keeping in matches is not a perfect science. The amount of time added onto a game can vary wildly from referee to referee, with the referee being the sole arbiter of what constitutes time that should be added on. Not all non playing time gets added on which is seen as part of the game such as getting the ball to take a restart. Yes tardy restarting can be dealt with by a caution and time added on yet if a goal kick takes on average 20 seconds to take then if there are 10 goal kicks we do not add on three minutes for that. It is just part of playing.

So the main considerations is the match timing method.

Some referees use a countdown timer and they stop the watch for every single incident of lost time that is set out in Law 7 which now includes goal celebrations.
Those referees when the alarm sounds for the end of the game stop play no matter what. The only time additional play is allowed is to take a penalty kick awarded before the final whistle. Those referees tend to be very much the exception in timing methods. I personally do not like this method as it can stop the game in attacking positions where most see it as unfair to do so. From experience I have tried it and I have forgotten to restart the timer when distracted in a few games. Thankfully I always keep a second timer going so I could revert to my regular method. There are timers with a built in a 10 second reminder to restart when the watch is stopped.

The main group use an estimation method where they make a mental note of all the time lost incidents in a half or time them with a stopwatch and add on a guesstimate of added time or the amount on the stopwatch. So a referee could say opine that with four substitutions and two short injuries that three minutes would cover the time lost.
Now when three minutes expires the referee could allow a few seconds to see out an attack and then signal for full time after the outcome. As the timing is an estimate 10/15 seconds can be easily allowed for.

My advices is to stop the stopwatch for injuries and other clear timing situations such as outside interference and then add on 30 seconds for each substitutions or an estimate of how long each substitutions is taking n that game. Experience tells us that the team that is using substitutions to use up playing time will be tardy while the team behind will make quick substitutions. It sort of evens out with quick and slow times. The convention is that 20/30 seconds covers the time lost on a substitution.

Now in the recent World Cup FIFA tasked the 4th and 5th officials to record the time lost in situations as set out in Law 3 and to advise the referee accordingly near the end of the game. That timing method resulted in some lengthy added time numbers of up to 10 minutes in games. That length of time would be exceptional and many did not agree with it. UEFA which is my confederation does not agree with that method yet the English Premier League has tasked its referees with allowing for time lost accurately so it is not unusual to see 7 minutes plus in those games. Even with that method I still see referees waiting for an attacking play to finish out before ending the game.

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Andy
great question as time is relative and we rarely go to the micro second.
The additional time added to the 1st or 2nd half is comprised of the delays not related to playing the match. As mentioned substitutions and injuries, but occasionally spectator interference, extended goal celebrations, dogs, geese, an extra ball on the pitch. Evan an attack of bees where I once had a keeper run off in fear as he was allergic. Possibly a weather delay if the match is not required to be abandoned for safety but the referee usually stops the clock and does not restart until the match resumes.

Substitutions are tricky at the grassroots youth and seniors as there could be unlimited options so in these cases following protocol, { at center, player waiting checked in and ready BEFORE a stoppage } this is vitally important to not use up the time exponentially or unfairly. Often the ROC (rules of the competition) will mandate restrictions as to number of allowable, as well as when. A referee can impose the normal "At their discretion" options!

A normal 90 minute match has multiple balls out of play for throw in, corners, goal kicks and fouls . Generally these are considered normal stoppages and are not considered for added time UNLESS the team or individual decides to get cute and delays them well above the norm. Theses type of things can get a player cautioned, same applies to substitution both to the player leaving or the one coming in

USA Highschool for example has a running countdown timer & when the alarm sounds for the end of the match play the game is over no matter if the ball is on its way towards the goal and scored once the horn sounded , it does not count.

I use the same method my colleague Ref McHugh uses that is to use a 2nd stop watch to record the unusual delays even as I let my watch count down the half and estimate the prolonged regular ones within that cycle of normalcy. I would also expect my ARs and 4th official to advise me and maintain control over the touchline antics. If you note when the display added time publicly it is ROUNDED to the minutes like 3 or 7 or even 10 or more. I often just announce this time to the coaches when the normal match time is going to end so they are aware and can plan their tactics accordingly.

There are three things to note (1)the time displayed is the LEAST amount, it could be 3 minutes exactly, to 3 minutes 15 seconds to 3 minutes 55 seconds. (2) Plus even during time added, you can add for lost time! (3) the referee is under NO obligation to allow attacks to continue and can halt play at their discretion even if the ball is out of play for a stoppage, corner, throw in etc.. ONLY for an extended PK can a match go longer than the time stated!

Mind you if a referee ends ahead of schedule and REALIZES it, so he can restart to finish, if, it is caught quickly. In a multi play youth tournament they altered times for match duration so when a referee said time was ended for the half the coaches complained and said it was only 30 minutes the halves were 3o minutes for u-12 but u-14 were 35. The referee acknowledged the mistake and did a DB for the red team that had ball possession at about the spot they were on the field when the whistle incorrectly sounded.

That said, as my colleagues suggested, a wise referee will be prudent in ending the matches on controversial terms. It is just as unfair to extend a match beyond the time a team has successfully defended as it is to not allow an attacking team the opportunity to score as a ball is on its way into the opposition goal. ALWAYS play to the whistle.

Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 35449
Read other Q & A regarding Law 7 - The Duration of the Match

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The free opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members. While there is no charge for asking the questions, donation to maintain the site are welcomed! <>