At the FIFA referees media day prior to the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup – Qatar, the Chairman of the FIFA Referees Committee, Pierluigi Collina, gave notice that time lost due to different specific events that transpire during matches would be compensated for.
The aim of this move was to increase the actual playing time, and from analysis carried out on matches that have already taken place, it is clear that the right steps have been taken to achieve this.
“The issue of matches with fewer than 50 minutes of actual playing time is something that has been going on for a while now,” said Collina. “People want to watch football, more football. And we, FIFA and IFAB have been asked to do something about it for years.”
This is not a new issue for the Chairman, who has been working towards this goal as a major priority since the 2018 World Cup. “We already did something along these lines in Russia,” he continued. “We asked referees to try to more accurately calculate the amount of stoppage time they were adding at the end of each half.”
And this is why FIFA TEAM ONE, the collective name given to the 129 match officials present in Qatar, have been provided with clear guidelines. “We have given our referees some specific events and incidents that should be considered in exact terms, particularly the timeframe for player injuries,” Collina explained, taking the opportunity to go into more detail. “This was already calculated, of course, but we’ve seen that many injuries require more than one minute of treatment.”
Substitutions, which can now total ten during a match rather than the previous six, VAR checks and goal celebrations are other factors that result in a loss of actual playing time, and this time is now being compensated for.
A good general example of a combination of these issues emerged during the opening Group B encounter between England and IR Iran, where an extra 23 minutes of stoppage time was applied across both halves.
“We had the [IR Iran] goalkeeper who got injured and was treated for about 11 minutes in total, and an England player with an injury that lasted three minutes,” said Collina. “So 14 of the 23 minutes were for those two specific injuries. And it must be remembered that eight goals were scored, with their celebrations, plus one delay to restart of play due to a VAR CHECK and one on-field review. There were a lot of incidents that caused such a large amount of added time.”
The implementation of these new recommendations has resulted in an actual playing time of close to one hour in the matches held so far – a considerable increase. France-Australia saw the highest amount (67 minutes and 30 seconds), but this can be explained by the fact that the average stoppage time has increased to ten minutes.
“If we look back at Russia, the average amount of stoppage time was six and a half minutes,” said the former referee. “There was a maximum of six substitutions there compared to the ten we have now, and if we adapt that accordingly with the four extra substitutions, we can assume one extra minute. So we’ve gone from the equivalent of seven and a half minutes in Russia to ten minutes in Qatar, which is not a dramatic change, but it offers us the possibility to have an average of almost 59 minutes of actual playing time. We’re quite happy with this result.”
Collina concluded: “The feedback has been positive, especially from the crowd in the stadium. There haven’t been any negative reactions from the people I’ve met. I think it’s important to offer the spectators in attendance and those watching on television a good show and some good entertainment.”