Time-wasting must be a thing of a past in football and referees are responsible for putting a stop to it, according to former pro Noel Whelan.
Football law-makers IFAB (International Football Association Board) are looking at possible ways to clamp down on time-wasting in the sport as part of their 'Play Fair' campaign and they are willing to consider a number of options to improve the game.
An alarming stat from September’s Premier League meeting between Cardiff and Burnley showed that the ball was in play for just 42 minutes and two seconds – in a 90-minute game taking place in what is considered the world’s best league. Cardiff's Sean Morrison reportedly took, on average, 25 seconds to take long throws - totalling eight minutes and 15 seconds in this game.
An IFAB source recently told The Times: “We all want to crack down on major time-wasting and increase playing time but the fundamental question is how we do it.”
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Be it kicking the ball away, delaying taking set pieces or making slow substitutions, a lack of gamesmanship is increasingly being encouraged in order to secure points.
A suggestion of a 60-minute match where the clock is paused when the ball is not in play was recently dismissed, leaving the committee open to further ideas.
Whelan, who made over 300 appearances as a professional in England, Scotland and European competitions, thinks officials could make a difference by setting the tone in games.
He told Sporting Life’s Sky Bet Championship podcast of his frustration: “There has been a lot said by fans; fans throughout the Championship now.
“I’ll go back to Birmingham City at Leeds United recently, Birmingham's style of play was just deliberate time wasting.
"Nottingham Forest (again against Leeds) was the same. They’ve got the most yellow cards in the Championship and I know why.
“It’s not through aggression, not through late challenges, but through petulance. Kicking the ball away, throwing the ball away and getting in the referee’s face, trying to kill time by holding on to the ball, these sort of things.
“If the referees nip that in the bud straight away, in the first five minutes, it doesn’t happen again throughout the game, simple as that. You lay the law down: yellow card for that [and if] anyone else does it, it’s a yellow card.
"Do you want to risk yourself for the next 60-70 minutes of the game walking the tightrope on a yellow card that you got for holding onto the ball or booting it five yards away?
“They [referees] have got to nip it in the bud, it is annoying to watch, annoying for teams to be part of and you don’t want to see things like that in the game.”
Hear more from Noel Whelan, Gareth Jones and Tom Carnduff on the latest Sky Bet Championship Podcast - click the image below to find out how to listen...