Petty Hates : Time Wasting In Sport

I’ve just got back in from watching a football match and I think I’ve had enough time to attempt to right this post calmly!

I played football for many years.  For a lot of my playing “career” I was a goalkeeper and at school, college and Sunday League level that means that I spent a lot of time running to retrieve the ball when it went out of play.  Therefore, every now and again, I’d need a rest and to take a few seconds before restarting play.

And yes, I’ve also done the cynical side of the game where I could have moved faster than I probably did to get the clock to tick down.  Incidentally, that’s what most of my teammates thought of me most of the time, but that was just that I wasn’t built for speed.

However, as consumer of entertainment and spending a lot to go to the match, professionals wasting time in a game is frustrating.  I’m not talking about not playing at full throttle here, or taking the ball in to the corner and defending it.  I’m not even talking about defending a lead.

There were two instances during the game today.  Well, three, technically.  Twice a goalkeeper put the ball down to restart play and walked back to his goal to have a drink.  Dehydration wasn’t an issue, it was ****ing freezing and he wasn’t doing much running.  It was just to waste time.  That was on top of the fact that he took far longer than normal over everything else that he did.

In the second (third) instance, a substitute caught the ball when it went out of play but kept hold of it and when another player went to take it off him, he put it behind his back and through it away.  A few minutes later another player stood up from the substitutes’ bench and applauded him for it and they both had a jolly good laugh.

It’s something that will always annoy me as a fan, but I was wondering whether it should annoy me as a consumer.

The footballers are professionals playing their part in a game and also in a business designed to make money.  Therefore getting results by most means necessary is appropriate.

One could argue that only a small proportion of a club’s income comes from prize money and so the “professional” aspect should not play a part.

My irritation though with time wasting as a consumer is that I’ve paid to watch a match and for large proportions of the match, I’m not actually watching people play football.  I’m watching a man have a drink, and another stand still.

There are some interesting stats about a football game.  The ball is actually not in play for 34% of it and there are an average of 108 interruptions per match.  The mean duration of a period when the ball is in play is 32.1 seconds, while the mean duration of a period when the ball is out of play is 18.7 seconds.

So I shouldn’t be bothered about losing a minute so, but I am, both as someone who hates that tactical aspect of a game as well as someone who has paid a lot of money to see it.

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