Thursday 31 August 2023, 17:45

Pierluigi Collina praises referees for applying Laws of the Game

For a long time, fans, players, coaches, clubs, competition organisers and the media have pointed to the lack of effective played time in football matches as a problem that needed to be addressed. They considered it unacceptable that a football match has less than 50 minutes of playing time, as we have often seen. FIFA and the International Football Association Board (IFAB) were requested to deal with this and some possible solutions were proposed, including the “stop-the-watch” system. After a consultation process in which representatives of all Confederations, including UEFA, took part, IFAB recommended that referees should calculate the additional time more accurately, enforcing the criteria set in the Laws of the Game (Article 3, Law 7). This recommendation is not about adding minutes to the game, but compensating time when players are not playing, and only in specific circumstances. Since a long time, referees compensated the time wasted for each player’s injury and substitution by adding 1 minute and 30 seconds respectively, and once VAR was introduced, also the time wasted for its intervention was compensated but very often this amount of time didn’t correspond to the one really lost. If a game has no significant stops, and therefore has been played as normal, there is no need to add more added time. Goal kicks, corner kicks and throw-ins are part of the match and the time spent for them has not to be compensated. Therefore, this recommendation does not affect the players' welfare but simply compensates for time that has been wasted. I'm sure that the vast majority of stakeholders agree with this. The reaction we had at the FIFA World Cup 2022 and at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, both from teams and spectators, was very positive. A survey conducted by the World Leagues Forum showed that 90 per cent of their members agreed with the criteria that began to be applied at the FIFA World Cup 2022. The recommendation given to the referees in Qatar resulted on an average additional time of 10'30" in total, i.e. not much more than the 8’ already given in many Leagues. I would like to commend the referees, as they have correctly enforced what was recommended by IFAB, including in UEFA competitions. In fact, it is interesting to notice that in the playoff matches recently played, the average additional time given was 10’ in Champions League, 9’12” in Europa League and 10’08” in Conference League. This is completely in line with what we have seen around the world. I understand that any reforms to the Laws of the Game, or simply their interpretation as is the case, may be viewed with scepticism by some but, as was the case with the introduction of VAR, when the measures are in defence of football, they end up being accepted. Pierluigi Collina, Chairman of FIFA Referees Committee