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Question Number: 28223

Law 7 - Match Duration 3/1/2014

RE: Rec Under 13

Peter of Stockton, Ca USA asks...


This did not happen to me but did happen to a colleague. A game had gone all the way to the end with no score. Right at the end of play, team A scores a goal. After signaling that the goal was good, the center referee notices that time was up 30 seconds ago.

He then disallows the goal and calls the end of the game. Afterwards he does explain the call to the two coaches.

Is this the correct / recommended way to do things? I do agree with the referee, once time is up it is up, but at the same time I feel that there was probably at least a minute of time wasted during the half.



Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Peter,

The referee can change his decision provided play has not restarted (or that the match has not been terminated). In this case, he changed his decision to determine that time expired before the goal had been awarded.

So strictly speaking what he did was permissible. The other side of the coin is that stoppage time is always an approximation and is never precise. So the argument could also be made that only being 30 seconds out is only a small amount of time and it's easy to envision where his time was out by 30 seconds anyway. So what the referee 'can' do and what he 'should' do are different debates - the 'should' really becomes a debate around fairness in this situation, and this isn't easy.

I'd be curious to know how the AR knew exactly how much time the referee was adding on - unless it's a match played under strict instructions not to add time on (say, at tournaments).

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Peter
The referee is the sole judge of time and he can allow added time for time lost through injuries, substitutions etc. He also decides when the game is ended.
Now this situation would be extremely rare. The referee has stated that he made an error in his timekeeping and that play should have ended 30 seconds previous. Now unless it is a fixed time game under strict competition rules I believe that most referees would allow the 30 seconds as added time and then end the game. Timing is generally never an exact measurement in soccer like some other games so 'allowing' a number of seconds would not be an issue. Some referees do measure time very precisely with stop watches, alarm buzzers etc to alert them to the exact moment to stop the game. Those referees though stop the game at the exact second the watch goes to zero.
Now in this situation the referee was entitled in Law to rule out the goal as he had decided that the game had ended even though he did not signal it. That though was extremely poor mechanics. Had he been assessed at the game he would have been marked down significantly for this and criticized by the assessor. He would also be expected to report this to the competition organisers.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

The referee erred. While the match ends when the referee decides it is over (the whistle is the indication to others that the decision has been made), in this case the referee had not decided to end play. The goal was validly scored. The error was both in not stopping play when the referee should have (assuming that no added time was appropriate) or in disallowing the goal. What the referee should have done is to explain the error to both teams, allow the goal, but include the circumstances in the match report.

Time for soccer is not a rigid chronometer like in basketball or US football. Thee referee is not a chronometer but an arbiter of time. The referee must add time lost during the match, but the amount of time to be added is entirely up to the discretion of the referee.

Of course, referees can make errors regarding time, particularly in youth matches with different periods of play. If, for example, the referee erroneously thought the half was 35 minutes (when it should have been 30) and a goal is scored in the 34th minute, the referee should report both the goal and the error regarding time in the match report. It is then for the league to decide what to do.

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