By Keith Hackett
The Laws of the Game are currently cast in stone in that the sole timekeeper for the game is the referee.
I can recall in 1960, having just passed my test to become a referee, being advised that I needed a good stop watch. I purchased an Ingersoll Picket stop watch that had a clear picture in green of the 45 minutes for each half. The slider on the edge of the watch was easy to operate and I carried it in my right hand pocket in my shorts.
The ease of operation meant that I could stop the watch for any major stoppage, like an injury. I did not have to worry about substitutions, goal celebrations etc. Simple to use and an effective time keeper that along with my whistle I used for years.
With a timing clock visible, whether I was sat in the stadium or at home watching on thee television, I can glance to see how much time is played. My mobile phone/laptop and iPad also offer me that facility to monitor the time.
The reason I highlight this topic is to say that even IFAB, under the chair of former Premier League Referee David Elleray MBE, recently stated that they were aware that there was generally only 60 minutes of actual playing time in a game. I have seen lots of statistics to prove this fact so the IFAB’s suggestion to introduce two thirty minute halves is worthy of consideration although it is difficult to comprehend its introduction.
I smile when we see the game moving towards half-time in a professional game. The crowd anticipate that there will be one minute added time despite what has taken place in the first half. Then at the end of the half we see the three minute board held up on many occasions. It indicates to me that the modern referee, with plenty to manage in the professional game, is guessing the minimum amount of added time to be allowed.
I can recall some years ago receiving a letter from a fan and attached to it was the entrance ticket. He wanted the full cost of his ticket compensated because the referee, in his opinion, had played insufficient added time. He detailed in his letter the number of goals that were scored in the closing seconds of a game. It was his view that the team he supported were in the ascendancy and would have won.
I responded with a polite letter that quoted Law 5; the referee is the sole timekeeper. So it is my view that we should now consider introducing an independent timekeeper producing a clear defined criteria for how he/she should time the game.
Stoppages should include all times that the ball leaves the field of play and delays at free kicks, penalty kicks and injuries.
Referees must ensure that the correct time is played. It is part of their duty and responsibility.