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Question Number: 31954

Law 7 - The Duration of the Match 10/29/2017

RE: youth Under 18

kevin of newcastle, tyne&wear united kingdom asks...

in a recent game we played the referee blew for half time and players from both teams left the pitch. the coaches from the other team then protested that he blew on 40 minutes and not 45 minutes. The referee then got the players back on the pitch to play the last 5 minutes of the first half.

I have heard from various people that he shouldn't have done that and can't bring the players back on to play the remainder but i can't find anywhere that states exactly what can and can't be done in that situation.

could anyone explain what can and cant be done in those circumstances please.


Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Kevin
The Laws of the Game tell us that a referee may not change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or on the advice of another match official if play has restarted or the referee has signalled the end of the first or second half (including extra time) and left the field of play or terminated the match.
One could interpret that as both teams have left the field of play that a timing decision has been made and the advice is that the error must be accepted and the second half begins as normal. The Law also tells us that a timekeeping error must not be compensated for in the second half and the error must be reported.
Now in lower levels of the game is it such a big deal to ask the teams to play out the five minute error particularly when they might be stood at the side of the field of play or not gone very far that it makes it a significant inconvenience to both teams. The alternative is to play 85 minutes in total with all that might entail.
Personally I would rather see the 90 minutes being played with both teams asked to sort out the timing error rather than allowing the 40 minute half to stand, having to report it and then having a league to make a decision.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Kevin ,
I often find it is in the tournaments these things crop up more so than regulation 90 minute play. It can be confusing as some groups play 30 others 35 other 40 or 45. I hold the opinion it served everyone's best interest when the referee upon realizing his error IMMEDIATELY recalled all to finish the five minutes restarting with either a drop ball where play was active or if play ended with the ball out of play whatever restart was required! He could NOT have done so if he started the 2nd half but there is wiggle room here to finish the match with two equal halves.

A first half timing error has a greater chance of being fixed if the discrepancy is immediately recognized by everyone. . The longer it goes, compounds the problems of people leaving or not having available field time or daylight or if one coach says hey referee & the other thinks, hey what? There could be issues! Technically a neutral party like an AR or 4th or the referee themselves must take responsibility. To rely on a losing coach who snags a tie or victory expect the other coach to question the timing issue! Spending 15 minutes in the change room then try to get those last few minutes creates headaches as the LOTG require a halftime break in-between the halves so to run five minutes one way the switch to 45 the other is not permitted

Once the option to finish play is NOT available all you can do is report the error in the match report and finish the match per normal. YOU can NOT change the 2nd half to even up with the first nor can you play longer!


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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Kevin,
I would agree with my referee colleagues that there are some good 'common sense' reasons to try to rectify this situation so long as it is done straight away. You could argue that a literal reading of the law as quoted by referee McHugh would seem to preclude this but sometimes a more practical solution is better that the highly technical, literal one. I'm not even sure that this particular provision of the law is intended to cover this exact situation. I think it is more intended to cover 'on-field' decisions such as awarding a goal, a free kick, penalty etc, rather than an obvious timing error such as this. There are parts of the law where the IFAB talk about 'what football would expect.' I reckon that most participants would prefer to get the half successfully completed instead of allowing a situation to stand that could very possibly end up with the game result being appealed due to a refereeing technical error and having to be replayed.

I feel it would also be possible here to invoke the spirit of the wording in Law 5 and which states that:

''Referees are expected to use common sense and to apply the 'spirit of the game' when applying the Laws of the Game, especially when making decisions relating to whether a match takes place and/or continues. This is especially true for the lower levels of football ...''

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