Time-wasting in football: when booking players is not enough

Nacho Z
5 min readMar 11

Premier League players are seeing more yellow cards than ever due to time-wasting, but figures show that that doesn’t solve the problem. So what is there left to do?

The Premier League is seeing less net football time than ever. (Unsplash, @nathanjayrog)

Premier League matches are longer than ever, but we are seeing less football. How is that possible? The 2022/23 Premier League season has the highest average match duration in the last 10 years, but the actual in-play time is also the lowest in the last decade.

“The same discussion fans have about time wasting, they have during the Premier League and PGMOL meetings”, said an anonymus source from the Professional Game Match Officials Limited, the body in charge of referees in the top division of English football.

Nowadays, games are longer because there is more added time due to VAR and the new 5-substitutions rule. But the truth is that there’s also more time being wasted due to players being booked for time-wasting. Ironic, but true.

But what is the referees’ point of view on this? Suresh Pulandaran, who has been a referee for over 30 years, is now Level 6 and has officiated in Premier League academy games, says that “referees see a lot of time-wasting in the Premier League, some keepers leave the ball on the floor for too long before picking it up, some others stay an eternity on the floor accusing injuries. We don’t see time wasting directly, but yes other ways of doing it that aren’t necessarily against the rules, and there’s no easy way to stop that”.

This is not a problem that exists only in English football. Among the top European competitions, the Premier League ranks third in average play time per game, with 55.9%. The Dutch Eredivisie (59.1%) and the French Ligue 1 (57.4%) lead the table for active game-time. At the other end, we’ve got the The Scottish Premiership (52.3%), the Portuguese Primeira Liga (54%) and La Liga (54.5%).

“Time wasting is a concern because it doesn’t let the game be fast enough”, thinks Pulandaran, “English football does benefit from…

Nacho Z

Call me Nacho. Argentinian in London. I love sports, lifestyle, music, writing. I try to mix them all in texts. English and Spanish. Visit me www.nachozblog.com