At halftime, one player from each team went to the toilet with the referee’s permission. Under the rules of the competition, the halftime break is 15 minutes. The referee started the second half after ten minutes without both the missing players, as both captains agreed it was too cold to hang around. I believe the referee was correct in invoking the part of Law 8 which states that the duration of the interval may be altered with the consent of the referee. Also Law 8 states that the interval must not exceed 15 minutes, not that players are entitled to 15 minutes. In addition competition rules can stipulate the interval duration, which could, of course, be 10 minutes. Was this a correct action by the referee?
USSF answer (February 5, 2010):
No, the referee’s action was not correct. Consider the history of the halftime interval:
* The interval was in the game before 1896 because an FA Cup Rule of that year says, “THE interval at half-time shall not exceed five minutes, except by special permission of the Referee”
* 1906: The FA decided “Players have a right to an interval of 5 minutes at half-time.” Reason not given, but believed to allow players a breather.
* 1919: Another FA decision – “Referees must observe the Regulation that the halftime interval must not exceed 5 minutes, except with their consent, which is only to be given in exceptional circumstances.”
* 1961: An IFAB Decision stated “Players have a right to an interval at half-time.”
* 1995: “Halftime interval not to exceed 15 minutes” One reason recognized that dressing rooms were sometimes ‘a long way from the field,’ but a more practical view is that coaches wanted more time to have injuries treated and to confuse their players with more tactical mumbo-jumbo. Also, top players need more time to fix their makeup for TV!
* 1997 to now. “Players are entitled to an interval at half-time. The halftime interval must not exceed 15 minutes. Competition rules must state the duration of the half-time interval. The duration of the half-time interval may be altered only with the consent of the referee.”
Now to the question: You will not find it in any official statement, but traditionally the clause clearly applies to ALL players and if ONE requests the full allotted period he must not be denied. Because he is occupied with a call of nature is no reason to prevent him from taking part in the game – even for a minute or two. We cannot imagine any committee issuing a formal statement allowing a referee to reduce the period for the reason given by the captains in your question. They would be better employed organizing their teams in warming-up exercises for 5 minutes.