Visible clock among options MLS mulling to cut time-wasting: Webb

By Andrew Both
FILE PHOTO: MLS: Atlanta United FC at Montreal Impact

By Andrew Both

(Reuters) - A visible clock is one of the measures being considered by Major League Soccer to solve the problem of time-wasting by players, according to former World Cup final referee Howard Webb, who is now the MLS's head official.

Webb told Reuters he was "open-minded" about the concept and that MLS could perhaps serve as a test model to trial the idea, just as it was the world's first league to use the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system at every match.

"MLS is really progressive in terms of maintaining an open mind," the Englishman, the MLS Professional Referee Organization general manager, said in a telephone interview.

"We've said to the International FA Board (IFAB) we're prepared to have conversations about what we can do to assist in the development of these type of things.

"Until we test them we don't know what works and what doesn't work. Would there be any unforeseen consequences?"

Players sometimes deliberately waste time in dead ball situations while their team is ahead, or sometimes level, because they hope the referee will not stop his watch.

The lack of transparency about exactly when time is added on seemingly encourages players to indulge in the annoying antics.

The practice would be curtailed if players could see the clock had stopped.

"Effective match time and amount of actual playing time does occupy a lot of our thoughts about how we can get as much game time out of the 90 minutes as possible," Webb said.

"One of the options that has been explored is the use of independent timekeepers, or a clock that stops every time the ball is out of play."

Such a change would add considerably to the actual overall playing time which, he said, might necessitate playing two halves of 30 minutes instead of the current 45 plus stoppage time, which is usually no more than a few minutes.

It would be a cultural shift putting soccer more in line with sports such as basketball and American football.

Other options being examined, Webb said, were whether to add time automatically only in the final 10 minutes or even just in stoppage time itself.

Although Webb thinks the sport is fundamentally healthy, he belives it can nevertheless be improved.

"It's not broken but we're always looking at ways to enhance it," said the 48-year-old Yorkshireman.

"It might be that we're better off with what we have now but unless you look at things you'll never know.

"We're open minded to anything that makes the game more attractive."


(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ken Ferris)