FIFA referees’ chief Pierluigi Collina has responded to criticism from UEFA over the increase in added time, saying that all confederations had been part of the consultation.
Collina praised referees worldwide for applying Laws of the Game, including accurately applying time lost for goal celebrations, and insisted no match needs to be extended unnecessarily.
Zvonimir Boban, UEFA’s chief of football, had branded the longer stoppage time being seen in leagues across Europe as “absolutely absurd” at a briefing on refereeing issues on Wednesday.
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It comes just as UEFA is about to expand the Champions League, with two additional matches for all teams and the total number of games being raised from 125 to 225 from next season.
“FIFA and the International Football Association Board [IFAB] were requested to deal with this and some possible solutions were proposed, including the ‘stop-the-watch’ system,” Collina said in a statement on FIFA’s website. “After a consultation process in which representatives of all Confederations, including UEFA, took part, IFAB recommended that referees should calculate the additional time more accurately, enforcing the criteria set in the Laws of the Game.”
Boban’s comments were backed up by Roberto Rosetti, UEFA’s head of referees. England’s Professional Footballers’ Association and FIFPRO, the organisation which looks after the interests of players worldwide, issued statements in support of UEFA.
Both Boban and Rosetti are on the Advisory Panels of the IFAB, football’s lawmaking body which formulated the plans to increase effectively playing time under the leadership of Collina.
Historically, added time in the Champions League has not been such an issue compared to the domestic leagues. The effectively playing time in UEFA’s top competition last season was 60 minutes and 7 seconds, compared to 54.46 in the Premier League.
Howard Webb, the chief refereeing officer for the Premier League, insisted at the start of the season that “things will settle down” once players adapt. That came in response to criticism from Manchester United defender Raphaël Varane over the large spike in stoppage time.
Boban cited player welfare concerns and said UEFA would not use it in any of its competitions this season, including the Champions League. But Collina rejected the suggestion that the change would put added pressure onto players.
“This recommendation is not about adding minutes to the game, but compensating time when players are not playing, and only in specific circumstances,” Collina added. “If a game has no significant stops, and therefore has been played as normal, there is no need to add more added time. Goal kicks, corner kicks and throw-ins are part of the match and the time spent for them has not to be compensated.
“Therefore, this recommendation does not affect the players’ welfare but simply compensates for time that has been wasted.
“I’m sure that the vast majority of stakeholders agree with this. The reaction we had at the FIFA World Cup 2022 and at the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, both from teams and spectators, was very positive. A survey conducted by the World Leagues Forum showed that 90 percent of their members agreed with the criteria that began to be applied at the FIFA World Cup 2022.
“The recommendation given to the referees in Qatar resulted on an average additional time of 10’30” in total, i.e. not much more than the 8′ already given in many Leagues.
“I would like to commend the referees, as they have correctly enforced what was recommended by IFAB, including in UEFA competitions.
“In fact, it is interesting to notice that in the playoff matches recently played, the average additional time given was 10′ in Champions League, 9’12” in Europa League and 10’08” in Conference League. This is completely in line with what we have seen around the world.
“I understand that any reforms to the Laws of the Game, or simply their interpretation as is the case, may be viewed with skepticism by some but, as was the case with the introduction of VAR, when the measures are in defence of football, they end up being accepted.