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Question Number: 31621

Law 7 - The Duration of the Match 6/25/2017

RE: competitive Adult

eileen henrriquez of wadsworth, OHIO united states asks...

my husband plays tournament soccer, and after seeing his last game and doing research i have to ask this question. time was almost up for his game. his team had the ball and was headed toward the goal box. as soon as a pass was made and literaly almost exactly as the ball hit a players head the referee blew his game ending whistle. the ball went into the goal and it was called no goal.Is he alowed to call the game right when they make the goal?

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Eileen,
A referee is entitled to call time whenever they judge that the entire amount of regulation time plus any allowances for time lost, has been completed. Having said that many people, including referees, feel it is not best practice to end the game just as the ball is entering the net.

Questions of this nature usually centre on the issue of how precise the referee can or should be in determining the exact moment at which to blow the whistle.

One argument is that since time-keeping is inherently subjective and imprecise, the referee can always find an additional second or two to allow the result of a goal-bound shot to be seen, before ending the game and that it is unfair to the attacking team to deny them a goal in this way. The counter-argument is that it is unfair to the defending team to allow additional time to be played that means they end up conceding a goal after the game should already have ended.

Interestingly enough, in a recent discussion arranged by the IFAB on ways to make the game fairer, one idea that was thrown out was to adopt the practice used for example in rugby, that once time has elapsed, the game should continue until the ball goes out of play. I should point out that this was just a suggestion and there is no indication that the IFAB is currently planning to adopt this change.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Eileen,
short answer is YES he can . Question is should he?

Under FIFA LOTG the referee is in charge of the final whistle to end the match. So if he indeed blows it PRIOR To the ball entering the goal under the crossbar between he posts and over the goal line there will be no goal awarded as he has determined to stop play. In this case to end the match or half .

In USA high school and university soccer I believe they use a clock with a horn to signal match end.

I personally like the idea put forward by my colleague to end play once the ball has exited rather than arbitrarily stop play in mid- play on what is just a best guess of exact time!

The LOTG state two equal halves but permit TIME ADDED ON if the match is delayed by circumstances or personal using up playing time. Some of these events are substitutions injuries, fan interference, weather delay etc.. The key point as noted by my esteemed colleague Ref Grove time is relative and rarely to the microsecond so we generally try to find less obtrusive endings than a ball entering the goal just after a whistle.

In cases where we DO add time and you see it posted on the touchlines at the pro games if we add X amount of minutes to make up for lost time through out the half, that time is collection of brief glances at a watch which we coordinate with the ARs and 4th as we try to sort out exactly how much time to add.

There are two points to be aware of

(1stly) the time stated means there will be no LESS than that time so if it shows 3 minutes the time extended could be 3 minutes or 3 minutes 5 seconds or 3 minutes 25 seconds or 3 minutes 45 seconds. So 3 does not mean EXACTLY 3 .

(2ndly) We can add time during added time if at 1 minute 30 seconds the blue keeper is handing on to the ball trying to USE up time winds up being cautioned say to get goal kick underway the referee will for all intents and purposes stop his clock and add that time to extend it past the 3 minutes

I point this out to show you how easily it is for a referee to use his powers of discretion. That said it is as unfair to defend longer as it is to shorten the attack. I have seen matches where an attack is ongoing and the ball is pinging around the goal and each favorable rebound seems to get onto the foot of an attacker for another try, then another but think if time was up on the first shot how fair to allow all these follow up opportunities?

I should also point out ONLY a PK at the last tick of a match can extend a match beyond its normal scheduled time!

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Eileen
A reasonably regular question on the site usually from US questioners I might add. The first point is that the game ends when the referee signals for the end and no further play is allowed. So in this case no goal could be allowed and the referee was perfectly entitled to end the game as he did.

The second point relates to the method of timing used by the referee. Most referees use a count down watch and some use a method where they stop it each time there is a reason to such as an injury, substitution, delay etc. Most of those referees end the game when the watch reaches ZERO. This is similar to a method used in NF High School games where a timer and stadium clock is used to time the game. In the absence of a stadium clock with an official timer who counts the time down the referee carries out this role. When the watches reaches zero the game ends no matter what. That is somewhat of a cultural thing in that timing in US sport such as football and basketball use very exact timing method which is the reason I suspect that the question is raised mainly by US readers. Less so in the rest of the world where we are not as familiar with such timing of games. It does happen though and it does cause rancour as it is never a good way to end a game particularly when many now that the timing is not in exact seconds during added time.
Now the second method which is the more usual method and the one generally used is that the referee approximates for time lost by say counting the number of substitutes, stopping the watch for injuries only and then adding on estimated seconds for time lost through delaying the restart, ball unavailable etc.It is an approximate time that is added on for time lost so when in high level games the 4th official shows say 3 minutes on his board it could end up as 3.15, 3.30 yet never 4. So in that method it is not unusual to see an attacking play on 2.55 being seen through to a conclusion. In those instance a few seconds can and does be found so that an attacking play such as you describe would be seen through to a conclusion and not be ended at the moment the timer reaches zero.
So if I was the referee here the attacking play would be seen out to a conclusion which in this case would be a goal. Another referee using the first method and one that perhaps uses that method regularly is entitled to end the game when in his opinion time has fully expired.
A final point. In such situation added time is at the DISCRETION of the referee be it whatever method he uses. The added time is outside the control of the team who have 90 minutes of time to control and use. That is never a good place to be depending on factors outside a team control.
My colleague Referee Grove has highlighted a suggestion under consideration by IFAB of only ending the game when the ball is out of play which is used in rugby football. It allows the team that wants the game to continue to keep the game alive by keeping the ball in play until it goes out of play which includes a score. The opponents can end the game by kicking the ball out of play. Until that change is brought into law we must use the current system whatever about its shortcomings.

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