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This article refers to timewasting in a sporting context. For wasting time in a more general context, see Procrastination.

Timewasting (or time-wasting) in the context of sports refers to the actions of one team which expend time, but do not otherwise have a tactical purpose. This is usually done by a team that is winning by a slim margin (or, occasionally, tied) near the end of a game, in order to reduce the time available for the opposing team to score. The term "timewasting" is generally reserved for varieties of football, though the practice exists in many other timed sports, including basketball, gridiron football, and hockey; timewasting in these sports is often referred to as running out the clock.


Association football

In association football, the main methods of timewasting include bringing substitutes during injury time, while the substituted players can waste time by being slow when leaving the field. Players may also feign injury, kick the ball away (now a mandatory yellow card offence), obstruct the taking of a quick free kick by an opposing player, or delay the taking of their own free kicks or throw ins.

Teams have also been accused of timewasting by instructing (or allowing) their ball boys to delay returning the ball for the away team to take a throw in or a corner kick. UEFA warned the Scottish Football Association about this following a complaint by French coach Raymond Domenech following a 1-0 victory for Scotland.[1]



The back-pass rule was introduced in 1992 in order to prevent timewasting by a defender repeatedly passing the ball back to the goalkeeper, who then would pick it up.

Football referees, the governing body FIFA and the International Football Association Board are trying to prevent "simulation" (such as diving and timewasting) with more powerful punishments as part of their ongoing target to stop all kinds of simulation in football.[2]

Legal methods

A common legal tactic often employed during football games involves carrying the ball into the corner of the field and shielding it from the defender. This will commonly lead to a free-kick if the frustrated defender budges the player out of the way, or it can also lead to a throw-in by the defender placing a tackle and managing to legally make contact with the ball so close to the line it often rolls out of play. This can be repeated to continue timewasting.

In the media

Managers have criticised tactics they view as timewasting, particularly when they prevent their own team from attaining a victory. In November 2006, Rafael Benítez, manager of Liverpool F.C. hit out at the tactics employed by Portsmouth F.C. during a 0-0 draw.[3]

The booking of Swiss player Paulo Diogo for timewasting following a goal celebration was considered controversial. Diogo had caught his wedding ring on the metal perimeter fence of the ground while celebrating his goal for Servette, which led to him tearing off his finger - the delay was caused by Diogo and the match stewards searching for his finger.

Although punishment for timewasting tends to happen towards the end of a game, as does the offence itself, it can happen at an early stage of the match. During a game in 1972 between Norway and the Netherlands in Rotterdam, the Norwegian goalkeeper, Per Haftorsen, received a yellow card for time-wasting after only five minutes.[4]

In December 1979, during a Division One game between Liverpool and Derby County, Roy McFarland was booked for timewasting after kicking the ball into the stands after just two minutes of the ninety (Derby having taken a lead - unexpectedly - from a penalty kick after just 20 seconds of the match). [4]

Other types of football

Timewasting also occurs in other forms of football: In rugby union, it often takes place by one team deliberately collapsing a scrum. The penalty is a free kick, as it is considered a technical offense.

In Australian Rules Football, late in a close game players who have marked the ball will often attend to their uniforms such as tucking in jersey's or pulling their socks up along with over zealous stretching in an effort to milk the clock. It is up to the umpire to call 'play on' or stop the clock while this happens. Players kicking for goal are now given no more than 30 seconds to take their kicks in response to some players' extended preparation rituals though even this is rarely enforced.



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