Extra time in Football

If football matches need to be decided on the day, referees will first take the game to extra time if the scores are still level after ninety minutes.

Watching supporters either hope that their team will be able to pinch a victory or dread that more time will simply tire their team’s players out and perhaps even result in their humiliation. When a match has been thrilling, the prospect of extra time is great because it means they’ll get to watch it for longer. However, when the game has been awful, extra time just seems like a punishment that nobody deserves.

Yet where did the idea of extra time come from? Not all games during football’s more formative years will have been thrillers, so who decided that the best thing to do would be to subject everyone to another half an hour of a match? Why was half an hour chosen as the allotted time that extra time would last?

They’re not all easy questions to answer, given that the history of football always seems to be impenetrable. We’ll do our best to answer what we can here, though. Extra time was introduced to football before penalties were created, but the fact that spot kicks came along suggests not everyone was a fan.

The Early Days Of The Rules

When the Football Association sat down to write its rules of the game in 1897, one of the things that was enshrined into how matches would be settled was extra time. Given that the first rules were written in 1863, mind, that suggests that there was no easily determinable outcome for football games before that, even if an outcome was a necessity.

Of course, there wasn’t much of a need to worry about that in 1863 when you consider that there was also no provision regarding how long a match should last and half-time hadn’t been introduced yet. Indeed, the various Associations around the country used their own rules prior to the introduction and implementation of the International Football Association Board.

With the Sheffield Football Association deciding to come on board with the National Football Association in 1877, the need to have more concrete rules for virtually every aspect of the game became evident. For that reason changes were made in 1897 that would alter the way that football was played forever.

The 1897 Rules

The rule changes introduced in 1897 might seem basic in some ways, but in reality, they were revolutionary in the manner in which they clarified certain aspects of the game of football. For the first time since the sport had come into existence, it was specified exactly how many players could play on each team – 11.

Far more importantly as far as this piece is concerned was the fact that the duration of each match was enshrined in law as being 90 minutes. The only time that would be different was if it had been decided upon beforehand. Even then it wasn’t locked in in terms of being a globally accepted thing.

As an example, the 1922 German Championship final saw Hamburg and Nuremberg tied after ninety minutes, so they essentially played out the match like the childhood game of ‘next goal wins’, with nobody scoring after another 99 minutes of play and the encroachment of dusk meaning that the game needed to be abandoned.

30 Minutes Became The Norm

Slowly but surely, playing extra time as an additional 30 minutes simply became the accepted norm in world football.

If things still couldn’t be decided after that then a replay would be in order and if another 120 minutes was unable to separate the two teams then a match would be decided by the fortune of a coin toss.

In 1968 the semi-final of the European Championship between Italy and the Soviet Union was decided thanks to Giacinto Facchetti correctly calling the toss of a coin, which was the only time in history that a Euro or World Cup game had to be decided in such a manner.

Given the importance of the game, it was decided that a better system needed to be found.

Is Extra-Time’s Future Likely To Be Limited?

In the summer of 2018, the English Football League confirmed that it would be scrapping extra-time in the EFL Cup. If matches weren’t decided after 90 minutes then there would be no period of extra time and instead, games would just go straight to a penalty shootout. The rule was put in place for the 2018-2019 season after clubs voted to get rid of the extra thirty minutes of play. It was seen as unhelpful for teams taking part in English football’s third trophy, with the hope being that removing extra time would reduce the chance of fatigue for the players.

During the same summer, UEFA confirmed that teams would be able to make a fourth substitution during the period of extra-time in the Champions League and the Europa League. This was also designed to reduce the chance of fatigue, with managers able to make all three standard subs during the 90 minutes of the match safe in the knowledge that they could make one more change during extra time rather than having to hold one of the three subs back during the match just in case things were undecided after the 90. It followed a move from the FA doing the same thing two years earlier.

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