Ever since the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, FIFA has been urging national soccer federations around the world to follow the example that they set at the tournament by adding unprecedented amounts of stoppage time. FIFA sees this as the best way to combat cynical time-wasting tactics which on average nowadays, means that the ball remains in play for as little as 55 minutes out of a possible 90.
Anyone who watched the 2022 World Cup will know that FIFA was eager to make an example of time-wasting with the average match length running to 102 minutes at the tournament. It was a strategy that divided opinion but tellingly, the Engish Premier League rule-makers soon adopted the same tactic for the 2023/2024 season.
The Premier League’s big names lobby for immediate change
With less than a month of the season played, there has been growing dissent for the changes with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola leading calls for the new rules to be immediately reversed despite having one of the biggest squads in the division that is well-equipped to win the league.
Indeed, the Premier League betting odds price City at just -225 to make it four titles in a row which shows how much strength in depth the club has to call on. In other words, Guardiola has the playing personnel at hand to deal with marginally longer games by making substitutions that won’t weaken his team as they try to win the Premier League.
In the Spaniard’s eyes, however, these rule changes will harm player welfare regardless and lead to a 41-game league season instead of 38. Notably, Guardiola has been supported in his outspoken views with Manchester United defender Raphael Varane releasing a statement saying that the new stoppage time laws were “damaging our game” and that players “are not being heard”.
UEFA’s ironic posturing provides clarity
Recently, European soccer’s governing body UEFA has come out in support of disgruntled players and managers by saying that they will not adopt these “absurd” new rules to guard against player burnout.
Of course, the irony of UEFA criticizing the idea of more soccer being played hasn’t been lost on those who questioned the wisdom of the new Champions League format they implemented which means an extra three games a season for clubs.
In addition to this, for UEFA to now draw the line at added stoppage time that is designed to account for time-wasting trickery, while simultaneously asking players to compete in the increasingly irrelevant Nations League during their summer holidays, has drastically weakened the argument in favor of player welfare. Instead, it’s easier to see that certain federations, players, and managers are seeking to promote their own interests when the truth is that these new laws have been brought in to enhance the experience of fans who are currently being short-changed.
The reality is that supporters are not getting their money’s worth when the ball is in play for only half of the game.
The numbers don’t lie
During these match stoppages, which are often down to simulation, substitutions, goal celebrations, and lengthy breaks for goal kicks as well as throw-ins, the players are not active and therefore are not exerting any excess physical strain.
Put another way, players are currently not running for a full 90-minute game, so even if ten minutes of stoppage time are added at the end, the ball still won’t have been in play for more than 70 minutes. If anything, the powers that be can go further in their quest to ensure that the ball stays on the pitch for 90 minutes.
The facts are there in black and white, longer amounts of stoppage time won’t adversely affect player welfare but will instead begin to improve the spectacle on display by ensuring greater sportsmanship.