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Actual Playing Time In 90 Minute Soccer Match

If you’re a regular TV or live viewer of soccer you may at times be annoyed with the interruptions of the game. Frequent stops due to fouls, injuries, throw-ins, free kicks, goals, substitutions, etc. are one thing, the length of them are another. Time wasting by the winning team can add to the frustration, especially if you support the other team.

So are we justified in feeling cheated out of 90 minutes (plus added time) of soccer?

I just came across an analysis of the four major leagues in Europe. The conclusion is that the net playing time averages between 54 and 57 minutes:

Italy: 57

Germany: 56

England: 56

Spain: 54

That means that there is no active play for ~ 34 minutes or 38% of the alloted time.

The added time after the 90 minutes have expired is between 4 (Germany) and 6.5 (England) minutes. But of course there are stoppages within these as well.

Finally, the average number of game stoppages in these four leagues is 105. Shocking, if you think about it. It means that there is more than one game stoppage every minute. And the average length of each interruption is 20 seconds. Doesn’t sound like much, but try this. Go for a walk and after every 40 seconds stop for 20 seconds.

I have some thoughts on these statistics:

  • What is the point of a few minutes of added time when the game is halted for 34 minutes?
  • What would happen if soccer adopted net playing time from ice hockey or basketball? They play 60 minutes and the clock stops at every interruption. Soccer could say we’ll play net 80 minutes, two halves of 40 minutes. It may reduce time-wasting significantly.
  • Players run 11 km on average per game. It is a mix of sprints, runs, and jogs. So roughly a soccer player runs    11 km/hr. That is significant and is about twice the speed of a brisk walk.

I would advocate for some rule changes:

Play two 40 minute net playing time halves with a 15 minute break. No added time required. I suspect the total elapsed time would not increase by much, there would be fewer interruptions, shorter interruptions, and a better flowing game. Along with that I would allow one 60 second time out per game for each team. As for injuries, I would require any player who lies on the ground for more than 15 seconds to get a mandatory 10 minute medical examination off the pitch. They could be substituted of course.

Time to make the game more attractive and shake up some old habits.

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Soccer Rules – Off Side


Can you explain the off-side rule? There seem to be controversies about referee’s calls in just about every game.


The off-side rule in soccer has changed many times during the life of soccer. The intent has been to simplify the rule while at the same time keep the game moving and increase scoring chances. For example, when in doubt, the referee should favour the attacker. We have the full official FIFA rule further down in this article for you to read. But here are some comments:

  1. The key nowadays is to determine if the player in an off-side position was “actively” involved in the play. Active means receiving the ball, or, interfering with play. For example, a pass into the penalty box to a player who is not in an off-side position when receiving the ball can still be called off side if another player, who is in an offside position, interfered with the play (blocked goalkeeper’s access to ball for example). This is a very subjective area and referees may have different views of what is “active involvement” at the moment.
  2. Teams use the “active” condition tactically. A player may be in an offside position and the ball is played to a player making a run from a non off side position. The runner receiving the ball is not off side. Teams therefore purposely place a player in a non-active off side position to distract defenders and goalkeepers. Another player from a non off side position makes a run into space and is often missed by defenders.
  3. At the speed of the professional game and with finely practiced timing of runs, millimeters can make the difference. If the assistant referee is also moving and not at the perfect angle to the play, calls can be missed. Even video replays require many views to see if the right call was made.
  4. Sometimes an obvious off side is missed by the referee. That has nothing to do with the rule, it’s just human error.


Offside Position

It is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position.

A player is in an offside position if he is nearer to his opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent

A player is not in an offside position if:

  • he is in his own half of the field of play or
  • he is level with the second-last opponent or
  • he is level with the last two opponents


A player in an offside position is only penalized if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:

  • interfering with play or
  • interfering with an opponent or
  • gaining an advantage by being in that position

No Offence

There is no offside offence if a player receives the ball directly from:

  • a goal kick
  • a throw-in
  • a corner kick

Infringements and Sanctions

In the event of an offside offence, the referee awards an indirect free kick to the opposing team to be taken from the place where the infringement occurred