Soccer, as we know, is a game of two halves, we wouldn’t be discussing much on the reason why soccer is divided into just two halves even though this article is related to time.
Soccer is divided into two halves of 45 minutes each that sums up to 90 minutes in total. For non-soccer fans, that is a whole lot of time to spend sitting in one spot but for soccer enthusiasts, that time runs out quickly—especially if your favorite team is losing.
Hitherto, the soccer governing body (FIFA) and the decision-making body of soccer (IFAB) have always wanted a game with minimal interruptions.
This is the reason for the single 15 minutes break—unlike what is obtainable in other contact sports where multiple breaks are allowed. Multiple breaks will definitely kill the flow of soccer.
What makes soccer special is that once the clock starts counting up, it doesn’t stop until halftime and full time which is the end of the match.
The use of a clock that continuously counts up in soccer without stopping makes it easy for the center referee to keep track of time without external help.
Not all sports count up like soccer, American football, basketball, and baseball all have a countdown clock that determines the starting and stoppage of a game.
We know you are trying to figure out why time counts up in soccer instead of down like other sports you are familiar with. Continue reading and we promise to answer your question in the most satisfactory way.
Why does soccer count up and not stop?
In soccer, match officials don’t stop or pause the clock from counting up when there is an interruption of play. The referee simply notes down how much time is wasted which would be added to the stoppage time.
We know not everybody reading this article will be familiar with what stoppage time is in soccer, we would talk extensively about stoppage time later in the article.
NFL is a sport that can extend for several hours due to regular clock stoppages during a game. Major League Baseball games are also similar to NFL games when it comes to time counting down.
In sports like NFL and basketball, the time is usually halted when the ball or a player is out of play. This is done because these sports don’t add extra time like soccer. Once the countdown clock has exhausted, the game is called off.
During timeouts in NFL and basketball, the time is usually stopped for the break to be observed but in soccer even during cooling breaks, the time is allowed to continue counting.
Time is managed differently in soccer as compared to other sports. The laws of the sport haven’t made provisions for time to be stopped during in-game obstructions and breaks apart from halftimes probably because of the nature of the sport.
Since soccer has gone through numerous modifications over the years and time is still allowed to count up without stopping, we believe it is the best option for the game. The rules governing the sport would have been changed to amend that aspect of soccer if it wasn’t beneficial to the game.
Not knowing when the clock will stop counting in soccer makes it more intense and unpredictable. Many winning goals have been scored and many victories denied during stoppage time in soccer.
In sports like American football and basketball, fans and players alike can easily predict the outcomes of games by looking at the countdown clock. This is why oftentimes players become reluctant when they see no hope of recouping from a high goal margin.
In soccer, you don’t celebrate a victory until the final whistle is blown. Too many soccer matches have been won using last-minute goals which are not common in most sports.
One of the mind-blowing last-minute victories on record in soccer was the UEFA Champions League final between Bayern Munich and Manchester United in the year 1999.
Bayern was already sure that the match was over for Manchester United and was waiting for the referee’s final whistle. Manchester United fans were already leaving the stadium in their numbers when Ole Gunner and Teddy Sheringham scored two last-minute goals to secure the cup for Manchester United.
That comeback wouldn’t leave the history books of soccer easily. Many fans cried on their way out of the stadium; United fans cried tears of inconceivable joy while Bayern fans cried tears of heartbreak and disappointment.
A comeback like that in basketball or American football is practically impossible because there is no stoppage or extra time in those games. The match automatically stops when the countdown clock stops and any point scored after the last second is counted is not recorded.
Time keeps counting up in soccer until the referee blows for it to stop. In a match between Ittihad Khanyounis and Shabab Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip Premier League, a soccer referee from Gaza gave a record-breaking 42 minutes extra time after a technical glitch interrupted gameplay.
It is a known fact that allowing soccer matches to exceed 90 minutes can sometimes change match results, but there are genuine reasons why time is allowed to count up in soccer.
We have compiled some of the initial reasons why soccer is allowed to count up instead of down for your education and reading pleasure.
Permit Stoppage Time
Stoppage time in simple terms can be explained as the period added by the center referee after the end of each of the two 45 minutes periods in soccer to make up for the time usually lost during gameplay due to obstructions.
Stoppage time is also called injury time or additional time; they all mean the same thing. Stoppage time is very common in soccer, in the history of soccer, only a few soccer matches have ended without stoppage time in either their first or second half.
Fervent fans of sports like basketball and American football might get muddled when they start watching soccer and realize that the clock counts up and matches don’t end after 90 minutes.
If soccer is counted down, stoppage time will turn the countdown to negative digits. The length of stoppage time is solely decided by soccer referees based on their discretion but the amount of recorded delay in a match can grossly influence the referee’s decision.
Actions that can obstruct a soccer match
- Serious injuries
- A foul action
- Goal celebrations
- Ball going into the stands
- Deliberate time-wasting tricks
- VAR related obstructions
- Cooling breaks
Little obstructions summed up at the end of each half of the game can amount to a lot of wasted time which significantly eats into the initial 45 minutes of each half.
Since soccer is both a contact sport and a team sport, stoppages during matches can’t be possibly avoided without damaging the reputation of the sport. Mentally picture a soccer game without random stoppages.
That may mean no corner kicks, no throw-ins, no substitutions, and no goals. It is practically difficult and boring to watch such a soccer game.
The story behind the introduction of stoppage time in the year 1891 might sound comical but it has seriously influenced the game in many constructive ways.
Before then, matches were automatically stopped after every 45 minutes of the full 90 minutes, and even one second wasn’t added.
Stoppage time is often confused with extra time but extra time is given when a referee needs to break a tie in scores at the end of a match between two soccer teams so that a winner can be chosen. Extra time normally lasts for 30 minutes divided into equal halves of 15 minutes.
The extra time also has stoppage time especially when there is no winner after the end of the initial 30 minutes. Only crucial matches like competition finals require extra time because a team must lift the trophy after the match.
Highly competitive matches can enter what is called “overtime” after the initial 30 minutes extra time but that would be a topic for another article.
Many things contributed to making soccer one of the most played and watched sports in the world and its counting up timer is a contributing factor.
The timing method used in soccer might have some shortcomings but we can’t deny that it has brought many positive contributions to the sport more than we imagined. The people in charge of making rules in soccer are very intelligent and super concerned about the progress of the sport.
Soccer is smartly designed to intensify passion among soccer fans and players alike which we believe is why the counting up clock in soccer doesn’t stop except during half time and full time.
Using countdown clocks in soccer isn’t even something to start considering because first of all, the counting up clock has been in use for over a hundred years since the invention of soccer, and altering it will cause a lot of trouble.
Fans, players, and match officials will be seriously demoralized and disappointed if certain aspects of soccer are altered. Passion for the sport is what keeps fans motivated and without fans, soccer will be as good as dead.
Since the inception of soccer, there has never been a massive call for the counting up time in soccer to be changed for any known reason. Until such calls are made, the timing method will not be altered so that the enthusiasm of fans will not be adversely affected.
The simple nature of soccer is among the reasons why people have a lot of passion attached to it. Human nature loves it when things are made easy without too many rules and laws.
If you live in the USA, you might not be aware that soccer can paralyze normal activities in many cities across the world.
During the 2006 18th FIFA World Cup held in Germany, Italy reached the finals with France, and the most amazing part of the story was that activities were put on hold in Italy because Italians didn’t want to miss the finals.
Their passion and unflinching dedication didn’t go unrewarded because they ended up victorious at the end of the day after a penalty shootout with France.
Soccer fans can relate well with how time is managed in soccer compared to other sports because, in soccer, time counts up as it occurs in our normal day-to-day life, therefore, making the sport more realistic and relatable.
Encourage Global Acceptance of Soccer
It is not news that soccer is played in all corners of the globe, both professionally and casually. The use of a clock that ticks up without stopping makes the game adaptable in any part of the world without needing special clocks and other timing devices.
Time is not a barrier to enjoying soccer although it has a few barriers like every other sport in the world. Time can easily be properly regulated using any working timepiece because time counts up and doesn’t stop.
Countdown timers are more sophisticated than counting up clocks and introducing them to soccer will make soccer look complex. The center referee will bear most of the stress involved in proper regulation of time.
While using a simple analog clock that counts up and doesn’t stop in soccer, you can easily know when a match would commence and end without many calculations. You would only be concerned with keeping an eye on the time while it ticks.
The use of clocks that count upward increases the unpredictability of soccer and increases the suspense of the game. That emotional buildup in anticipation of when the referee will blow the whistle is often the reason why fans don’t mind spending a huge sum of money to watch the game live in the stadium.
Obey Laws of the Sport
In the rule book of soccer, law 7 contains all the possible rules covering everything concerning time in soccer. In the rule book, it is stated that the two halves of a full time must contain a 15 minutes break when the clock can be lawfully allowed to stop ticking.
Stoppage time was mentioned in section three of the seventh law of soccer to compensate for lost time because the clock doesn’t stop ticking during soccer games even when situations cause matches to be halted.
Stoppage time is usually longer in the second half than in the first half not because more time is wasted during play in the second half but because referees want to make sure that games remain competitive, thrilling, and emotional.
Most times, when a soccer team is losing a match and the match is drawing closer to the end of 90 minutes, both the players and fans go into silent prayers hoping for a longer stoppage time from the referee.
Another funny thing about soccer counting up and not stopping is that even if players decide to stand mobile and not play any longer, the clock will keep counting up until it reaches a full time.
We believe that if soccer was invented in the USA, it would have a timer that counts down because all the sports passionately loved by Americans use countdown clocks.
Why do they not stop the clock in soccer?
The game of soccer utilizes a clock that starts counting from zero upwards until it reaches the end of the first-half stoppage time—if it is given by the referee—but when it is not given, the referee blows a whistle at 45 minutes for a halftime break (same applies to the second half of the game).
During the 15 minutes halftime break, the time is allowed to stop ticking only to continue after the break, immediately the ball is kicked off for the second half.
Regularly stopping the clock in soccer can disrupt a game’s tempo and intensity, making it rather uninteresting. Fans buy tickets to soccer matches because they want to be entertained for the whole 90 minutes, not fulfilling their desire is highly unacceptable.
Soccer matches can easily be handled by a single referee because the time counts up and doesn’t stop. The center referee doesn’t stress much about accurate timekeeping in soccer because it seems like they control the time instead of it dictating their decisions.
Extra time and stoppage time would read negative numbers if the clock is set to countdown and stop in soccer. It might sound odd but the clock rules in college soccer games sanctioned under National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) are quite different from the norm.
The clock counts down from 45 minutes and stops at intervals during obstructions as it heads towards the zero mark. When players get injured, the center referee stops the time from ticking until they are properly attended to.
Having counting up clocks that don’t stop in soccer is one of the best decisions ever made for the advancement of the sport. Refereeing jobs in soccer would have been very difficult, exhausting, and uninspiring if stop clocks are introduced to the sport.
The referee already has a lot to look out for in the sport and adding the stopping of time each time there is an obstruction may be too much. The referee will definitely forget to pause the time at some point.
Only video game soccer enthusiasts would make demands to have stop clocks introduced to soccer instead of counting up clocks that don’t stop because they are shielded from everything that may go wrong with countdown clocks in professional soccer.
Hi there, I’m Jay.
Soccer is everything in my life! My friends and I have created this blog with all our enthusiasm, passion, and understanding after years of playing pro soccer. Hope you will enjoy it!