Maninder, a HS/College fan, asks:
Today in a match ( Real Madrid vs Malaga), it was first half injury time going on, i.e in the 47th minute. Malaga got a free kick. The Malaga player kicks the ball into Real Madrid’s penalty area and another Malaga player scored from a header. But the goal wasn’t given because the Referee blew the halftime whistle just after the Malaga player kicks the ball. Is this the right thing from the Referee?
There is no kind way to answer this because the correct answer is absolutely clear – yes. Maybe. Probably. Hopefully. We, of course, have no way of knowing what was in the Referee’s mind when he whistled. Ironically, the questioner above is a HS/College fan where none of what follows is a serious problem because HS and College matches in the US use a visible stadium clock, officially stop/start time for various things during a period of play, and sound a loud horn to stop play when the count-down reaches 0! In the match cited in the question and all other matches played under the Laws of the Game, time is controlled solely by the Referee.
The point is that the Law is very inarguable about match timing. Assuming the half is 45 minutes, then the whistle blows to end play when the moment the watch count-up timer hits 45 (remembering that a 45 showing on the timer means that the 45th minute has ended, not begun). The only exception is that a penalty kick signaled before the end of the 45th minute must be taken regardless of the time, and the period ends when the PK ends.
But what about what is variably called “Referee time,” “injury time,” or “wasted time”? The Referee must announce any additional time to the lowest full minute (i.e., 1 minute and 45 seconds is 1 minute, 45 seconds is 0 minutes, etc.) before the period of play is due to end. When 45 minutes + that time is up, time is over and play must stop, no matter what is going on (unless, during this “extra” time there is further time wasted). No flexibility in this element of the Law is allowed. Stopping the half can happen just before a goal is scored or while play is stopped for a throw-in, goal kick, corner kick, etc. Play can stop just before a player on your team is getting ready to make the game-winning shot on goal that will make them the champions (Boooo! Idiot Ref!) or the opposing team is getting ready to make the game-tying shot on goal that keeps your team from winning (Hurrah! What a great Ref!).
There are some Referees who won’t stop play even if time is over if one team is attacking the opposing team’s goal from nearby. They are wrong. There are some Referees who would refuse to stop play even though time was up until a corner kick is completed (because they might score). They are wrong. There are Referees who, in a 9-0 game, might allow the team with no goals that just happens to look like they might score and he wants to give them a chance to go home with at least something. They are wrong. There are Referees who believe that the Law requires there to be a restart after every stoppage even if time ran out during the stoppage. Except for a penalty kick, they are wrong. There are some Referees who really hadn’t been keeping track of wasted time and thus hit the 44:50th minute with no notion of how much wasted time there had been but with the vague feeling that there had to have been some so they let play continue for a bit longer. They are wrong. Finally, there are Referees who know all time is up (both regulation and extra time) but they let play continue because they fear becoming the object of anger by one team or the other based on whatever was going on at the time. They would be not only simply wrong but sadly wrong.
By the way, we have dealt before with questions regarding match timing and this is as good a place as any to draw every reader’s attention to the readily available “Search” feature ( try the “Law 7 – Duration” category). We decided to answer this question even though it (or something like it) has already been asked and answered because we felt this building up inside and needed to get it out. We feel much better now, thanks. And, getting back to the Referee, he was entirely within the Law if (a) the match was set at 45 minutes for each half (as usual), (b) he announced before the 45th minute that there were 2 minutes of additional time, and (c) there was no excessive loss of time during the extra 2 minutes.