Premier League fans have been left short-tempered as new figures show they are watching less action on the pitch than ever before.
Top-flight bosses are desperate to stop time-wasting as football’s lawmakers prepare to discuss 60-minute matches with a countdown clock to ensure supporters get their money’s worth.
Data analysts at Opta have shown that Premier League matches are taking longer than ever but the ball is in play for the shortest amount of time since records began.
The data revealed that Premier League fans are being turned on by the on-field action
The average Premier League match this season lasted 98min 6sec — the longest since Opta started recording the data 11 seasons ago — but the ball was played for just 54min 53sec, the shortest in that period. The ball was in play for just 55.9 percent of the match.
This is in stark contrast to the World Cup, where a new era of stricter timekeeping at substitutions and celebrations saw large amounts of stoppage time added at the end of each half, leading to match that averaged longer than 100 minutes but saw the ball. in the game for 58min 4sec — more than 57 per cent of the time.
The Premier League is resisting calls to implement the same strict scheme — despite its popularity with fans — until at least the summer, when discussions will be held about the best ways to speed up breaks in game.
New referees boss Howard Webb will soon meet with all Premier League clubs to discuss his plans, including scrapping time-wasting.
Premier League referees were encouraged to do this before the start of the season and are issuing yellow cards in an attempt to stop players slowing down play.
Officials have shown 37 cautions for time wasting this season, an increase of 14 per cent on the season average for the previous campaign.
Newcastle were one of the worst offenders, with their matches seeing the ball in play for just 51min 36sec. Arsenal fans accused Eddie Howe’s side of wasting time in their goalless draw which saw unused sub Jamaal Lascelles shown a yellow card for interfering with a throw-in while warming up on the touchline, as he did against Chelsea in November.
Leeds were the biggest culprits in their games seeing the ball in play for an average of 50min 56sec. All three Premier League games where the ball was in play for less than 45 percent of the game involved Leeds.
Newcastle’s Jamal Lascelles was recently shown a yellow card while on the substitute bench
The shortest time in a game was a pitiful 43min 26sec for Aston Villa’s win over Brentford in October. It was a whopping 25 minutes shorter than Man City’s 4-0 win over Southampton in the same month — the longest amount of time the ball has been played this season. The city also boasts the match with the highest percentage at 71.6 percent.
Unsurprisingly, City were on top after 61 minutes, which is the most of any club in Europe’s five leagues and the only side to average under an hour. And it’s not just a Premier League problem.
Fans of European clubs are even worse. Only the Dutch Eredivisie and Ligue 1 boast a higher percentage of the ball in play. In the Scottish Premiership, the ball is in play for less than 51 minutes.
Football lawmakers IFAB the (International FA Board) will discuss measures to fix the growing problem, including the strict timekeeping tested at the World Cup.
‘The feedback has been positive, especially from the stadium crowd,’ said FIFA head of referees Pierluigi Collina. ‘There hasn’t been a negative reaction from people I’ve met. It’s important to offer the audience in attendance and those watching on TV a good show and some good entertainment.’
FIFA referees chief Pierluigi Collina has backed calls to combat the growing issue
Another option is to reduce matches to 60 minutes with a countdown clock shown to supporters stopping every time there is a break in play — not every goal-kick or throw-in but for things like VAR reviews , damage and goal celebration. Ifab will discuss this at their AGM in March.
Former Arsenal vice-chairman and FA and Premier League ambassador David Dein pushed the idea, which he discussed with Collina in Qatar.
‘The time has come for transparency with a countdown clock so the public can see how much time is left,’ he told The Times. ‘It shouldn’t be a national secret. I’m not saying the clock should be stopped every time the ball goes out of play but certainly for the incidents that cause the biggest delays: goal celebrations, substitutions, penalties, injuries and now VAR reviews.’
In the Premier League, new boss Webb will also hope to reduce stoppages with fewer VAR interventions. It is his belief that the bar for Stockley Park to intervene in clear and obvious wrongs should be high.
Former referee Howard Webb hopes the VAR process will become more transparent
Webb also wants the VAR process to be more transparent. During his time in MLS, Webb introduced weekly YouTube reviews of all disputed VAR decisions to help fans understand the process.
He will soon begin regular debriefs with broadcasters to discuss key incidents involving listening to audio between the ref and those at Stockley Park.
Last week the EFL released their first ‘Behind the Whistle’ article in which former Premier League referee and MoS expert Chris Foy looked at the big decisions from the Championship to League Two. The hope is for something similar to be introduced for future Premier League incidents.