November 26, 2022
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Does football need a 60-minute ‘stop-clock’?

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Man City boss Pep Guardiola with referee Daniele Orsato
Referee Daniele Orsato added three minutes on at the end of extra-time in Real Madrid’s win over Manchester City – but blew his whistle with 10 seconds remaining

Real Madrid’s comeback win over Manchester City was one of the most dramatic games in Champions League history – but it was not without controversy.

Having forced extra time with Rodrygo’s stunning late double before edging ahead in the tie through KarimBenzema’s penalty, Real did what most teams would do: they ran down the clock with a masterful exhibition of game management.

However, referee Daniele Orsato had added just three minutes to the second period of extra time, and then blew his whistle with 10 seconds remaining, just when City keeper Ederson was about to boot the ball up the pitch.

While some have eulogised Real after another stunning fightback, others have used the latter stages of the game to debate the rules around the ball being in play.

Writing in the Daily Mailexternal-linkformer referee Mark Clattenburg suggested football introducing 60-minute matches with a stop-clock to eradicate gamesmanship.

Other sports like basketball and American football use a stop-clock, and it’s a straightforward concept: essentially, the clock is stopped whenever the ball is not in play, for incidents including injuries, substitutions and the referee dishing out cautions.

Football’s law-making body the International Football Association Board (Ifab) has previously looked into the possibility of introducing a stop-clock.

In this season’s Premier League, the average ‘ball in play’ time is 55 minutes and three seconds – the lowest it has been in over a decade.

BBC Sport – using Opta data – looks at some of the ball in play stats to see how each team performs.

Ball in play season by season

This season’s ball in play average is the lowest the Premier League has seen since 2010-11.

It’s down one minute and 19 seconds from last season, and a minute 40 seconds on the 2013-14 campaign’s average.

But there has been less than an hour’s play for as long as Opta has been collecting the data.

Season Minutes Seconds
2006-07 53 28
2007-08 53 48
2008-09 54 33
2009-10 53 25
2010-11 54 16
2011-12 55 53
2012-13 56 23
2013-14 56 43
2014-15 56 22
2015-16 56 1
2016-17 55 51
2017-18 56 11
2018-19 55 31
2019-20 55 49
2020-21 56 22
2021-22 55 3

But how about each team in the Premier League?

It will hardly be a surprise to learn that the league’s best teams have the ball in play more than those who are fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table.

Norwich are something of an outlier, however, placing 11th for ‘ball in play’ despite having propped up the Premier League table for much of this season.

How much play are you seeing in your club’s matches?

Team Minutes Seconds
Manchester City 60 53
Tottenham Hotspur 57 2
Liverpool 57 0
Chelsea 56 39
Manchester United 56 26
West Ham 56 19
Wolves 56 9
Arsenal 56 1
Brighton 55 47
Leicester 55 21
Norwich 54 48
Crystal Palace 54 24
Watford 53 49
Everton 53 28
Brentford 53 10
Newcastle 52 58
Leeds 52 53
Burnley 52 47
Southampton 52 42
Aston Villa 52 23

As seen below, a lot of the same teams pop up in this season’s Premier League fixtures with the lowest ball in play time, with Aston Villa, Newcastle and Everton all appearing four times in the table above.

Date Home Away Minutes Seconds
03/10/21 West Ham Brentford 41 33
21/08/21 Aston Villa Newcastle 41 51
13/02/22 Newcastle Aston Villa 43 6
28/11/21 Leicester Watford 43 31
4/12/21 Southampton Brighton 43 33
22/01/22 Everton Aston Villa 43 51
06/04/22 Burnley Everton 44 13
18/09/21 Aston Villa Everton 44 43
25/09/21 Watford Newcastle 44 48
08/02/22 Newcastle Everton 45 16

The Pulis pinnacle – games with least ball in play time

The game with the lowest time in play this season – West Ham v Brentford with 41 minutes, 33 seconds – is someway short of Stoke v Blackburn from February 2010, though.

That game – which Stoke won 3-0 in Tony Pulis’ 300th game in charge – saw the ball in play for just 39 minutes and one second, 58 seconds fewer than the next game on the list.

The ball being out of play was a common theme in games featuring Stoke. The table below has four of their home matches.

Date Home Away Minutes Seconds
06/02/10 Stoke Blackburn 39 1
23/02/08 Wigan Derby 39 59
19/11/11 Stoke QPR 40 41
21/12/13 Stoke Aston Villa 40 50
11/07/20 Watford Newcastle 41 32
03/10/21 West Ham Brentford 41 33
21/08/21 Aston Villa Newcastle 41 51
30/09/18 Cardiff Burnley 42 02
31/01/18 Stoke Watford 42 08
18/04/09 Sunderland Hull 42 17

The highest was Manchester United’s 1-0 home win over Fulham in March 2012 with a whopping 71 minutes and 51 seconds.

That’s over half an hour more than Stoke-Blackburn, so you can see how the ball in play times can vary wildly.

Date Home Away Minutes Seconds
26/03/12 Manchester United Fulham 71 51
19/11/11 Swansea Manchester United 69 53
28/04/18 Swansea Chelsea 69 45
03/02/21 Burnley Manchester City 69 29
15/05/21 Brighton West Ham 69 26
02/01/20 Liverpool Sheffield United 69 23
04/03/18 Manchester City Chelsea 68 21
11/05/15 Arsenal Swansea 68 14
11/01/20 Tottenham Liverpool 68 14
01/09/07 Manchester United Sunderland 68 01

Champions League on top again…

But how does the Premier League’s ball in play averages compare to other leagues across Europe and the Champions League?

Interestingly, in Spain’s La Liga – which Real Madrid have just won – has the highest average game time (97 minutes, 43 seconds) and the lowest percentage of time in play (54.6).

Competition Minutes Seconds % time in play
Champions League* 56 54 59.2
Premier League 55 3 56.4
Ligue 1 56 17 58.6
Bundesliga 54 23 57.0
A league 54 43 56.8
The league 53 21 54.6

*Champions League data does not include extra time

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