Is it time for football to introduce impartial timekeepers?

Should football introduce an independent timekeeper to assist referees, reduce their workload and take some of the pressure off them, to allow them to concentrate on getting the key decisions correct? It would also be a way of combatting the increasing amount of time-wasting we see from players and managers, that is becoming an ever-increasing problem.

When Chelsea met Burnley at Stamford Bridge recently, the visitors were accused of time-wasting and using ‘anti-football’ tactics to earn their 2-2 draw; a result that almost certainly secured their place in the Premier League for another season, but one that dealt a blow to Chelsea’s hopes of a top-four finish.

Perhaps the current system is not working – but referee’s have plenty to do without having to count how long a player is taking over a throw-in or goal kick. Referees will very rarely stop their watches – they might show it to the goalkeeper or other player’s to indicate they will add additional time on, but they rarely actually stop it.

This time-wasting now contributes to the ball not being in play for about a third of the game, which is simply not good enough for fans who have spent a lot of money on tickets and travel to watch it. It is just not value for money and is unsporting.

Time-wasting will usually start from the first minute, but are the referees wise to that? They usually only start to react late in to the game when most of the time has already been lost. We see many prolonging tactics, such as players delaying taking throw-ins by running forward, knowing they’ll be told to move back. Why when ref’s know this is cheating, do they not award the throw-in the other way? Managers are also becoming wise to ways to delay games, like moving a player to the other side of the pitch, before substituting them seconds later.

Football has many areas to improve on how it deals with time-wasting, but one of the biggest issues is that there is a lack of responsibility of the referee, who can no longer be questioned. Whatever we might think about the cynical methods used to waste time, the referee is protected because under the laws of the game, he is the timekeeper.

So would it not make sense to take this pressure and responsibility out of the refs hands by employing an independent timekeeper who sits in the stand and advices the man in the middle on how much added time should be played. It would reduce time-wasting instantly.

Or, why can it not work like it does in rugby union where the clock, which is visible to everyone, is stopped when the ball goes dead. This allows everyone in the ground or at home, to know how much time is left and not have to wait to see how much time the fourth official holds up, which many people think is not accurate anyway.

Games may take longer, but surely the spectacle would be far more entertaining.

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