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Association Football: 60-minute football matches?

By Jonathan Copping, Sports Lawyer, Bolt Burdon Law Firm, London, United Kingdom The IFAB (International Football Association) - the independent guardian of the ‘Laws of the Game’ - is considering introducing 60 minute football matches, with the clock being stopped every time the ball goes out of play. The proposals are included in a document entitled “Play Fair!” produced by the IFAB and are designed to reduce certain negative aspects of the game of football, such as time-wasting, and to make football more generally attractive. Studies have shown that, on occasions, the amount of time that the ball is in play within a 90-minute’ match, is less than 60 minutes. This is due, in part, to time-wasting. Whilst time-wasting can be infuriating, especially to the team who are losing the match, the proposal to stop the clock every time the ball goes out of play is certainly a radical move. If implemented, the benefit of the ball going out of play would be diminished for the team with the advantage in the match. Tactically, putting the ball out of play would still potentially be useful for the team in the winning position, as it would delay the progress of the team chasing the game. It will be interesting to see how commercial partners, such as sponsors, will react to this proposal. Currently, commercial partners benefit from the ball going out of play and time-wasting occurring. Whilst the ball is out of play, either behind the goal-line or touch-line, the commercial partners’ advertising boards are displayed in full for television audiences to see. If the IFAB implements a 60-minute match, it is likely that the amount of exposure of the advertising boards will be reduced, which could result in commercial partners paying less for perimeter advertising. Other proposals by the IFAB include referees being a lot stricter in relation to the current rules; that is, strictly applying the 6-seconds rule for goalkeepers holding onto the ball, calculating additional time by stopping their watch, for, amongst other things, from the award of the penalty kick until the kick has been taken, and from a goal being scored until kick off. The IFAB is also proposing to alter the order of penalty shoot-outs, because studies have shown that the team that goes first has a mental advantage. Thus, the IFAB is proposing a “tennis tie break” system, whereby the first kicker alternates between teams. THE IFAB will consider the proposals over the coming months and a decision is due to be taken at the IFAB annual meeting to be held in March 2018 on whether any of the proposals should be trialled. As mentioned, the IFAB is the body responsible for the laws of football and was founded in 1886. Its members consist of the football associations of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as FIFA. FIFA has 50% of the voting power, with the four national Football Association’s retaining the remaining 50% of the votes; however, in order to pass a motion, three quarters (6/8) of the votes are required. Anyone interested in finding out whether the IFAB will implement any of these proposals, it appears that they will have to wait until next year - at the earliest! I wonder what our readers will think of them.   Jonathan Copping can be contacted by e-mail at ‘This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

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