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After every half during a football (soccer) game, the refs add stoppage time to the clock to compensate for lost time due to injuries and penalties.

But how closely does stoppage time equal real game time lost? (Are there different stoppage time calculations for different leagues?)

And if it's nearly exact, then what's the logic in delaying or faking injuries, as players on a winning team are often accused of doing. Wouldn't that delay just be tacked on at the end of a game or half?

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3 Answers 3

SahuKahn has correctly pointed out that additional time is added on for substitutions, assessment of injury to players, removal of injured players from the field of play for treatment, wasting time and any other cause (which seems like an overly liberal "catch-all" clause!?). The relevant reference is on page 29 of the 2014/15 FIFA Laws of The Game.

Generally, as seen in Les Arbitres, this is a rough estimate rather than an exact calculation (I can't remember which match it is in the documentary, but at the end of one of the matches, there is a conversation between the referee and fourth official in which the referee says "one minute will do" or similar).

Unlike many other sports, such as ice hockey and futsal, the clock is not stopped whenever the ball is out of play. The ball ends up being in play for 60 - 70 minutes (on average) in top-flight professional leagues. [1][2]

Since the referee will should add on all time lost by time wasting, the advantage is not necessarily in soaking up playing time, but in breaking the attacking rhythm of the opponents. Also, delaying the restart can also give enough time for defenders to get back and cover, especially if a foul is committed when there is a tactical advantage and the attacking team wants to take a quick free kick.

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From FIFA:Allowance for time lost

The fourth official indicates the minimum additional time decided by the referee at the end of the final minute of each period of play.

The announcement of the additional time does not indicate the exact amount of time left in the match. The time may be increased if the referee considers it appropriate but never reduced. The referee must not compensate for a timekeeping error during the first half by increasing or reducing the length of the second half.

Also, Allowance is made in either period for all time lost through:

  • substitutions
  • assessment of injury to players
  • removal of injured players from the field of play for treatment
  • wasting time
  • any other cause
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The last sentence of your answer contradicts the first sentence of your answer - it is at the discretion of the referee, not the fourth official (which you mention in the opening sentence). –  studro Jun 20 at 7:01
    
Thanks for pointing that out. –  SahuKahn Jun 20 at 7:03
    
No, it was more correct before. It's indicated by the fourth official, but decided by the referee. –  studro Jun 20 at 7:53
1  
corrected it finally. :) –  SahuKahn Jun 23 at 9:00
    
@SahuKahn Not completely, the final sentence still reads “at the discretion of the fourth official”. –  Relaxed Jul 10 at 9:26

Fivethirtyeight has had a couple good articles recently on stoppage time (thanks to the World Cup). I won't go into the official rules, as they've already been posted by SahuKahn, but stoppage time does vary - different leagues have different issues with it. Here's an article specifically about the World Cup:

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/was-the-u-s-robbed-against-portugal-it-depends-on-what-time-means/

Here's an article about stoppage time vagaries in different leagues:

http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/stoppage-time-is-home-cooked-especially-in-major-league-soccer/

The first article discusses, in part, differences between the ball being "out of play" and stoppage time, but "out of play" includes out of bounds, set-up for spot kicks, and a few other things that don't officially add on stoppage time.

The second article shows that in many leagues home teams get an advantage in stoppage time, with a few links to other resources. Good reads, both of them.

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