Data shows actual playing time is on average just 55 minutes in an EPL game; that has forced the authorities to bring in some rule changes which are now being contested.
Over the years, the game of football has gone through a litany of changes when it comes to introduction of new rules. As human beings, we are creatures of habit so every now and then when a new rule is introduced in a rather familiar setting, it is more often than not met with considerable pushback.
This season in the Premier League, a new set of rules were introduced which have allowed referees to be stricter in clamping down on time wasting during the game. This was done after data showed that the average actual playing time in an English Premier League game was around 55 minutes.
So, the EPL went the FIFA World Cup way where the officials stop the watch whenever the ball is out of play like during a prolonged goal celebration or while taking a throw in. The watch will restart again when the ball is sent into play and the chunk of time in between will be added right at the end of the game. This has led to EPL games having large chunks of time added on after 90 minutes which has led to many a pivotal moment in the matches this season.
There have also been a spate of bookings where the referee brandishes yellow cards which are sometimes deemed as a little too harsh by the fan base. For example, Arsenal’s Takehiro Tomiyasu was deemed to be time wasting while taking a throw against Crystal Palace and was booked even though he had the ball in his hands for just a few seconds. He would ultimately get a second yellow card a few minutes after the first booking and would thus be sent off. Reacting to it, manager Mikel Arteta would say that the Japan international was probably holding on to the ball for about 8 seconds, adding “We might have to play with a stopwatch.”
Talking about the new rules and their applications, former EPL referee Keith Hackett told “Clearly the Premier League and the (Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), had to react to the knowledge that the average actual playing time in a Premier League game was around 55 minutes. To ensure more playing time a Charter was agreed by all Clubs that more focus would be adopted by referees with regard to time wasting.”
“Personally, I would like the timing of games to be taken away from the referee which would require a law change and an Independent timekeeper introduced,” he added.
As the season wears on, there have also been contentious calls by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) during matches and according to Hackett, this technology is still a work in progress even though it has been around for a while now.
“There is no doubt in my mind that the VAR operation in the English Premier League is still a work in progress and in my opinion some dynamic changes need to be made. Firstly, I would like to see the introduction of the Semi Automated Offside technology. This system uses its bank of cameras and the latest artificial intelligence to produce much more accurate decisions than we are currently seeing,” the former PGMOL chief said.
After the recent comments made by former referee Mike Dean where he said that he failed to correct a mistake while on video-review duty for a match last season to spare the on-field official “any more grief,” the fans’ confidence in the system is at an all-time low. And some decisions this season haven’t exactly helped its case.