Ending a Period of Play
By Jim Allen, National Instructor Staff
Law 5 empowers the referee to act as timekeeper and to keep a record of the match. Law 7 instructs the referee to add time (at his or her discretion) for time lost in either half of a game or in any overtime period for the reasons listed in Law 7. Those reasons are: substitution(s), assessment of injury to players, removal of injured players from the field of play for treatment and wasting time, as well as “other causes” that consume time, such as kick-offs, throw-ins, dropped balls, free kicks, and replacement of lost or defective balls. Many of the reasons for stoppages in play and thus “lost time” are entirely normal parts of the game. The referee takes this into account in applying discretion regarding the time to be added. The main objective should be to restore to the match any playing time that was lost due to excessively prolonged or unusual stoppages. Law 5 tells us that the referee's decisions regarding facts connected with play are final.
The Laws do not say precisely when the referee should end a period of play, but common sense suggests that the referee should weigh the factors listed above regarding time lost and then make the decision on how much time to add—and thus when to end the period. Although not written in the Law, common practice throughout the world is to wait until the ball is either out of play or is in an area from which a goal is unlikely to be scored in the next several seconds.
There is no requirement in the Laws for a half (first, second, or any overtime period) to be ended only while play is continuing. The only restart which must be completed even though time has elapsed is a penalty kick (Law 14). The referee is the sole judge of the amount of time remaining in a game. If the referee has added extra minutes to compensate for time lost during the period of play, then the referee is also the sole judge of when that extra time is completed.
As to ending the game exactly when the “required” minutes have expired: At least one famous FIFA referee suffered for ending play while the ball was still in play and a scoring opportunity existed. At the World Cup of 1978 in Argentina, this referee let Brazil take a corner kick versus Sweden and then blew the whistle just before the ball entered the Swedish goal. He retained his FIFA badge, but this was his last international assignment.
We all need to remember that there has never been a game played in which time was not lost somehow and needed to be made up.