Average playing time reaches record 59 minutes in Qatar Cup

The increase in the additions of the first Cup games caused strangeness among the fans.  Photo: Alex Grimm/Getty Images

The increase in stoppage time for the first Cup games caused surprise among the fans. Photo: Alex Grimm/Getty Images

FIFA said that adding more time to the end of World Cup games to compensate for stoppages brought the average active game time to 59 minutes.

Pierluigi Collina, the governing body’s head of refereeing, said on Wednesday that FIFA was quite happy with the outcome of games that routinely stretch from 90 minutes in regulation to more than 100 in total.

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Active playing time was only 52 minutes for some games in the 2018 World Cup when video analyzes of referee decisions were released and some analyzes took over two minutes.

“People are here to watch the games and have fun. It’s like watching a show you’re happy with and asking for an encore from the singer”, said Collina in an interview distributed by FIFA.

Football’s governing body’s guideline for referees was a surprising trend at the start of the tournament in Qatar, with more time clearly added to account for goal celebrations.

“It takes a long time to celebrate a goal and for the opponents it’s less of an opportunity to play,” said Collina, who worked at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, when referees used to add about four extra minutes in total to games.

FIFA also wanted referees to add at least one minute for an injury delay and 30 seconds for each break to make a substitution.

The average added time was more than 10 minutes after half of the 64 games had been played, in what is the first World Cup to allow teams to make five substitutions.

The average was also skewed, Collina said, in the second game of the tournament, as England beat Iran 6-2. More than 27 minutes were added due to injuries, including a concussion suffered by the Iranian goalkeeper, a video review to score a penalty and eight goals scored.

In 2018 in Russia, stoppage time averaged six and a half minutes, which likely would have increased by an extra minute if five substitutions had been allowed, he suggested.

“It’s not as dramatic a change as it could have been perceived after the Iran-England match, which was right at the start of the competition,” said Collina, explaining that perhaps it created a feeling that things were going in the wrong direction.

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