Football stoppage time: rules & FAQs

We all know that after most halfs of a football match, a few minutes are added on. But you might not be aware of some of the intricities of this rule.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what the official rule states and some other interesting questions about stoppage time in football.

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What is stoppage time?

At the end of each half of a football match, stoppage time (or injury time) is added on to make up for any delays during that half. The amount of time added is decided by the referee and is rounded to the minute.

The fourth official indicates the amount of stoppage time at the end of the last minute of each half by holding up a board dispaying the number of minutes to be added.

What does the official rule state?

The official rule included a fairly lengthy list of what the referee should account for when deciding how much time to add on.

It includes:

  • Inuries
  • Substitutions
  • Time wasting
  • Disciplinary sanctions
  • VAR delays
  • Other significant delays such as extended goal celebrations

You can read more on the official rules at The FA’s website.

How is stoppage time determined?

The referee keeps track of any stoppages on his wristwatch. Near the end of each half he’ll tell the fourth official how much time should be added on. The fourth official hold up an illuminated board at the end of regulation time displaying the number of minuted added.

Is stoppage time accurate?

In tight matches, stoppage time can be controversial. If your team’s ahead, it feels like the ref’s adding on way too much time. If your team’s behind it feels like the ref isn’t adding up all those minutes for the obvious time wasting tactics of the opposition. (Your team would never do that, right?)

So, actually how accurate is stoppage time?

FiveThirtyEight decided to take the time to work it out at the 2018 World Cup. They found that there was never enough stoppage time added on. In the 32 games they tracked, they calculated that there should be on average 13 minuted and 10 seconds added on. In reality the average was only 6 minutes and 59 seconds.

So when your team is pushing for that last minute equaliser, you probably do have some justification for yelling at the ref not adding enough time on!

Is there a limit to the maximum amount of stoppage time?

No. The rules don’t specify a limit to the amount of stoppage time that can be added. It’s purely up to the referee.

Longest stoppage time

There was an incredible 28 minutes added on to the match between Bournemouth and Burton Albion during their Carabao Cup tie on the 25th September 2019.

Power outages caused the floodlights to fail three times at the Pirelli Stadium. Had the delay continued for a further two minutes, the match would have been postponed.

When was stoppage time introduced?

Stoppage time was introduced after and incident in 1981 during a match between Stoke and Aston Villa. Stoke were trailing 1-0 when they were awarded a penalty in the 89th minute. The Aston Villa keeper had the bright idea to kick the ball out of the ground. The 90 minutes were up by the time the ball was retrieved so the penalty didn’t get a chance to be taken.

Thanks for reading!

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