I love watching soccer. As you know from reading this blog it's one of my passions and I love everything about it: watching, playing, and coaching. In saying that, I won't go so far as to say it's perfect.
There is one major change to the game I would love to make and I think in the long run it would get rid of the biggest gripes people have with it.
Currently professional soccer is played over 90 minutes (two 45 minute halves) with the clock running non-stop for each half. If a player goes down injured or the ball goes out of play, the clock continues to run. When teams make their substitutions, which can take 30-60 seconds, the clock ticks away.
In addition, the referee adds additional time to the game as he deems necessary, called injury time or added time. At the 90th minute the fourth official stationed on the sideline will hold up a board dictating how many additional minutes will be played. This number is a minimum and could be added to in the injury time. As a fan watching at home or in the stands, you don't actually know how much time is left in the game. Coming from the United States, I had a real hard time coming to grips with that.
My suggestion to fix and improve that would be to model soccer after other American sports like hockey and basketball.
If the ball goes out of play or a player is down injured then the clock stops. Once it's put back into play the clock should start back up. Take the time keeping responsibility away from the referee and have the main stadium clock act as the official time piece.
My suggestion would be to cut the time of a soccer match down to 60 minutes, stopping it each time the ball goes out of play.
Although the match would be cut in third, I don't think there would be much of a change in the amount of time the ball is in play. I don't know the exact numbers but I would guess there's only 55-65 minutes of actual playing time during a 90 minute match.
There are two huge benefits to this:
- The fans would know exactly how much time is left to play in the match.
- It would eliminate a lot of the gamesmanship currently in the game. It is not uncommon to watch a team try to milk the clock. Players feign injury to slow the game down because they know the clock will run while they are being attended to. You also see players take an eternity to put the ball back in play once it goes out of bounds. Both of those practices would no longer benefit a team hoping to run the clock out.
I doubt I'll ever be appointed President of FIFA (the governing agency of soccer worldwide), but if I was this would be one of my first actions. It makes so much sense that it most likely will never happen.