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What is stoppage time in soccer? How it's calculated at 2022 World Cup & more rules to know

Sporting News 3 days ago David Suggs
© Provided by Sporting News

For a sport that prides itself on its use of a running clock, there sure are a lot of stoppages in soccer. Free kick given? The game is stopped. Teams need to make a substitution? The game is halted. A protestor chains themselves to a goalpost? Get ready for a brief reprieve.

So where does all that lost time go? Does it drift into the abyss like aimless leaves ambling through the autumn breeze?

In a word: No, it does not. Rather that time is meticulously tracked, tallied and tacked on at the end of a half, leading to one of sport's most exciting — if not hotly-contested — periods, stoppage time.

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Without further ado, here's everything you need to know about stoppage time, one of the most beloved aspects of the beautiful game.

What is stoppage time in soccer?

Stoppage time refers to the time the referee tacks on at the end of each half to make up for time lost earlier in a half due to things like injury treatment or video reviews.

So, if play is stopped for, say, five minutes due to a player receiving injury treatment, the referee would then add five minutes of stoppage time after the clock hits 45 minutes.

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How is stoppage time calculated?

Referees keep a watchful eye on the amount of time the ball is out of play. So when things like injuries occur, referees make sure to track just how long the game is stopped to handle the ailment.

That time is noted by the official. By the end of a half, the on-field referee communicates with the fourth official (on the sideline) indicating how much time should be added to account for time lost earlier in the frame. The lengthier the in-game stoppages, the longer the period of stoppage time will be.

How does stoppage time work?

Fourth officials raise an electronic board — the same one they use to indicate a substitution. That board is brandished with a number that represents how many minutes are being added on to the end of the half.

One minute indicates the referee will blow the whistle at or around the 46-minute mark, as opposed to the 45-minute mark. Two minutes indicates the ref will whistle for the end of the half at 47 minutes, instead of 45, and so on and so forth.

There is a catch: While television broadcasts show a stoppage time clock ticking upward, those in the stadium are left in the dark. In-stadium scoreboard clocks stop at 45 or 90 minutes, depending on the half, leading to an often uncomfortable wait as the referee alone knows how much time remains. 

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Why is there stoppage time in soccer?

Soccer is a game increasingly defined by its stoppages. Despite its running clock, the ball actually finds its way outside the field of play quite often. Injuries can take time to be treated, video reviews can be arduous and even things like yellow cards and free kicks take some time to be doled out.

Stoppage time allows for all these stoppages to occur naturally within the flow of the game, while also ensuring that teams get an accurate amount of time to try to score goals.

Additionally, it makes for one of sports' most captivating periods, one where teams have to choose whether to throw the kitchen sink at their opponents or defend for their lives.

Max stoppage time in soccer

There is no actual maximum stoppage time in a soccer match, at least based on the rule book. This can lead to outrageously long periods of stoppage time, such as 10-, 11-, or 12-minutes.

One of the more recent indications of just how long stoppage time can be was back in 2018 when Burton Albion played Bournemouth in the Carabao Cup. Power outages halted the game after the clock had started. And although the game eventually went off without a hitch, that delay had to be calculated when the match reached 90 minutes.

So what happened? The referee added a wonky 28 minutes of stoppage time. Talk about getting your money's worth.

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Average stoppage time for soccer matches

More often than not, referees tend to tack on between one and five minutes of stoppage time at the end of each half. This tends to be enough time to make up for the routine stoppages that occur over the course of the game (substitutions, free kicks, etc.), while also indicating that a severe halting of the action did not occur.

However, the early stages of World Cup 2022 have been marked by much longer periods of stoppage time. 

Why is there so much stoppage time at World Cup 2022? 

Fans and teams alike have noted the extended stoppage time so far in Qatar, with more than 10 minutes added at the end of a half on multiple occasions. 

4 - The four single halves with the most stoppage time on record (since 1966) in a single #WorldCup match have all been today:#ENGIRN 1st half (14:08)#ENGIRN 2nd half (13:08)#USAWAL 2nd half (10:34)#SENNED 2nd half (10:03)

Prolonged.

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 21, 2022

That is by design, according to longtime referee Pierluigi Collina, now chairman of FIFA's referees committee. He noted that officials attempted to enact more accurate stoppage time at the last World Cup in Russia four years ago, and Qatar is a continuation of that as FIFA attempts to cut down on time-wasting and maximize game action.

"If you want more active time, we need to be ready to see this kind of additional time given," Collina told ESPN in mid-November. "Think of a match with three goals scored. A celebration normally takes one, one and a half minutes, so with three goals scored, you lose five or six minutes.

"What we want to do is accurately calculate the added time at the end of each half. It can be the fourth official to do that, we were successful in Russia and we expect the same in Qatar. ... 

"Even at the time I was a referee, the info [on added time] came from the fourth official, you are too much focused on what’s going on that it’s possible not to consider something. It’s the fourth official who usually proposes the amount of added time and the referee tends to decide…and decides."

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