Open main menu
This article refers to timewasting in a sporting context. For wasting time in a more general context, see Procrastination.

In sports, timewasting (or time-wasting) refers to the actions of one team which expend time, but do not otherwise have a tactical purpose. This is usually done by a team that is winning by a slim margin (or, occasionally, tied) near the end of a game, in order to reduce the time available for the opposing team to score. The term "timewasting" is generally reserved for varieties of football, though the practice exists in many other timed sports, including basketball, gridiron football, and hockey; timewasting in these sports is often referred to as running out the clock.[1][2]


Association footballEdit

In association football, the main methods of timewasting include bringing on substitutes during injury time, while the substituted players can waste time by being slow when leaving the field. Players may also feign injury, kick the ball away (now a mandatory yellow card offence), obstruct the taking of a quick free kick by an opposing player, or delay the taking of their own free kicks or throw ins. It should be noted however that if these actions take place in regular time, the delayed time will be added on to stoppage time at the end of the match.

Teams have also been accused of timewasting by instructing (or allowing) their ball boys to delay returning the ball for the away team to take a throw in or a corner kick. UEFA warned the Scottish Football Association about this following a complaint by French coach Raymond Domenech following a 1–0 victory for Scotland.[3] In a game against Swansea City, Chelsea player Eden Hazard was sent off for kicking a ballboy who he felt was timewasting by refusing to return the ball, instead lying on top of it.[4][5]


The back-pass rule was introduced in 1992 in order to prevent timewasting by a defender repeatedly passing the ball back to the goalkeeper, who then would pick it up.

Football referees, the governing body FIFA, and the International Football Association Board are trying to prevent "simulation" (such as diving and timewasting) with more powerful punishments as part of their ongoing target to stop all kinds of simulation in football.[6]

Legal methodsEdit

A common tactic often involves carrying the ball into the corner of the field and shielding it from the defender. This will commonly lead to a free kick if the frustrated defender budges the player out of the way, or it can also lead to a throw-in by the defender placing a tackle and managing to legally make contact with the ball so close to the line it often rolls out of play. This can be repeated to continue timewasting. Similarly, substituting players during stoppage time is legal, although the referee can reprimand the substituted player for taking too long to leave the pitch.

In the mediaEdit

Managers have criticised tactics they view as timewasting, particularly when they prevent their own team from attaining a victory. In November 2006, Rafael Benítez, manager of Liverpool F.C. hit out at the tactics employed by Portsmouth F.C. during a 0–0 draw.[7]

The booking of Swiss player Paulo Diogo for timewasting following a goal celebration was considered controversial. Diogo had caught his wedding ring on the metal perimeter fence of the ground while celebrating his goal for Servette, which led to him tearing off his finger - the delay was caused by Diogo and the match stewards searching for his finger.[8]

Although punishment for timewasting tends to happen towards the end of a game, as does the offence itself, it can happen at an early stage of the match. During a game in 1972 between Norway and the Netherlands in Rotterdam, the Norwegian goalkeeper, Per Haftorsen, received a yellow card for timewasting after only five minutes.[9]

In December 1979, during a Division One game between Liverpool and Derby County, Roy McFarland was booked for timewasting after kicking the ball into the stands after just two minutes of the ninety (Derby having taken an unexpected lead from a penalty kick after just 20 seconds of the match).[9]

Other types of footballEdit

Timewasting also occurs in other forms of football: In rugby union, it often takes place by one team deliberately collapsing a scrum. The penalty is a free kick, as it is considered a technical offence.

In the National Rugby League (rugby league), anti-time wasting measures include countdown clocks to achieve timely formations of the scrum and execution of line drop-outs,[10] calling of time-off during the last five minutes of the match when a try has been scored, or when a conversion attempt runs longer than 80 seconds.[11]

In Australian rules football, late in a close game players who have marked the ball will often attend to their uniforms such as tucking in jerseys or pulling their socks up along with over zealous stretching in an effort to milk the clock. Players kicking for goal are now given no more than 30 seconds to take their kicks, while in general play they are only given 7 seconds, after which "play-on" is called. According to the laws, wasting time is either (a) a free kick to the opposing team (15.10.1.a), (b) a 50-metre penalty (18.1.b), or (c) a reportable offence if it is judged to be intentional, reckless or negligent (19.2.2.g.iv).

In American Football, teams leading late in the game will often make low-risk rushing plays to keep the game clock counting down, as the clock stops on an incomplete pass or a run out of bounds. This can also force the trailing team to use up their timeouts. If the opposing team has no timeouts, a leading team needs to make one first down after the two-minute warning. The quarterback will then "take a knee" on three consecutive plays, wasting 40 seconds each time, to allow the clock to run out.

Ice hockeyEdit

In ice hockey, a leading team may pass the puck to the defense who will then retreat in his zone. During a power play, the shorthanded team will try to ice the puck in order to gain time until the penalty time ends.


  1. ^ "Premier League: Is time-wasting leaving fans short-changed?". BBC. 2017-08-21. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  2. ^ "Hearts coach Frank Nuttall slays Aduana players for time wasting tactics in pulsating 3-3 encounter". Ghana Soccer Net. 2017-08-31. Retrieved 2017-11-23.
  3. ^ "Ball boy warning stuns SFA chief". 2006-11-19. Retrieved 2006-11-19.
  4. ^ "Swansea City ballboy Charlie Morgan boasted about time wasting before Capital One semi-final with Chelsea". The Daily Telegraph. 2013-01-24.
  5. ^ Fifield, Dominic (2013-01-23). "Swansea ballboy incident leads to red card for Eden Hazard". The Guardian.
  6. ^ "IFAB clamps down on time-wasting, reckless play and simulation" (press release). FIFA. 2005-02-26. Archived from the original on 2006-02-12.
  7. ^ "Rafa hits out at "time wasting"". Retrieved 2006-12-14.[dead link]
  8. ^ Baker, Mike (2004-12-06). "No pity for Diogo's fickle finger of fate". The Guardian.
  9. ^ a b Dart, James (2006-02-02). "The earliest a player has been booked for time-wasting". The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-12-14.
  10. ^ Richards, Eden (2016-02-14). "Shot clock needs tweaking: Bennett". NRL.
  11. ^ Webeck, Tony (2014-01-26). "Clock to stop under rule changes". NRL.