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Will We See More Stoppage Time in EPL Games?

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

The 2022 Qatar World Cup saw history rewritten in a number of different ways. Even the organisation of the tournament was ground-breaking, as it became the first Middle Eastern World Cup and the only iteration of the finals to be held during the winter.

We also saw Cristiano Ronaldo become the first male footballer to score in five WC finals, while Lionel Messi scored his first-ever knockout-stage goal on his way to lifting the coveted Jules Rimet trophy.

The tournament was also unique in terms of the amount of playing time, with a total of 563 minutes of injury time across the entire group stage alone. But is this trend beginning to impact the Premier League, and how is this likely to change the game going forward?

How Much Stoppage Time Was There in Qatar?

The 563 minutes that were added during the group stages were spread across a large number of games, with the early contest between England and Iran (which the Three Lions won 6-2) lasting an astonishing 117 minutes in total.

This set a FIFA record for the longest-ever group stage game, which saw an additional 27 minutes across both halves due to a number of stoppages that were incorporated as part of FIFA’s increasingly stringent time-management policies.

In total, only one of the tournament’s eight opening games finished in under 100 minutes, with the refs in Qatar asked to take a more precise approach to time management and apply the exact of time lost through substitutions, goal celebrations, injuries and the sportsmanship

that may be deployed by teams when they’re ahead.

Historically, referees have been trained to apply a broadly appropriate amount of stoppage time during games, but the 2022 FIFA World Cup saw a significant sea change and a clear attempt to optimise how much football is played in individual matches.

How Will This Affect the Premier League?

This approach was largely welcomed by fans in Qatar, while it has also sparked a timely debate in the Premier League.

More specifically, this season has seen the amount of football played in the Premier League plummet to an all-time low, with the ball spending noticeably less time in play and officials struggling to cope with increased time wasting and the impact of VAR reviews.

The ball has been in play for less than 56% of the 90 minutes during an average EPL game in 2022/23, with this figure now the lowest on record having fallen consistently for the previous 10 years.

This has seen some call for the Premier League referees' body (PGMOL) to implement similar rules to those in place in Qatar, with a view to fully recognising the time lost during games and ensuring that fans get full value for their hard-earned money.

While this has been largely resisted by Howard Webb (who’s the current Chief Refereeing Officer at the PGMOL), the former EPL official has highlighted the amount of time lost this season and suggested that some measures could be put in place to adequately reflect the time lost during games.

Webb did observe that if the PGMOL did impose the same rules as those that were put in place prior to the World Cup, Liverpool’s recent 7-0 thrashing of Manchester United would have seen an additional 16 minutes applied throughout the game.

So, while this may be perceived by some as being a little excessive, asking referees to pay greater attention to time-wasting antics and prioritise keeping the ball in play for as long as possible will create positive changes in the Premier League and similar competitions.

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