Match Officials in the EFL will adopt a new approach to time keeping in the 2023/24 campaign.
In line with the most recent IFAB guidance, the EFL and PGMOL are committed to ensure a more accurate calculation of additional time alongside an improvement in the amount of time the ball is in-play from the start of the new season.
Below is a summary of the key changes relating to additional time, treatment of players, law changes and participant behaviour, that will take effect from the first game of the EFL season on Friday 4 August.
Enhancing ball in-play times
As the game collectively looks to enhance the amount of time the ball is in play in the forthcoming campaign, the exact time lost when certain game events occur will now be added. In previous seasons the policy was to add on a nominal period of time for certain game events. The events include:
- Goals and subsequent celebrations
- Injuries and treatment time (if required)
- Penalties (from moment of offence to the whistle for the penalty kick)
- Red cards (from moment of offence to when the player leaves the field)
Alongside a more accurate allowance for time lost during the game, the EFL will also adopt the multi-ball system, which has been proven to increase ball in-play time.
Match officials will also be taking a more robust approach to dealing with clear/deliberate actions that are impactful in delaying the restart of play, with players cautioned if they are guilty of:
- Delaying the restart of play
- Failing to respect the required distance at free-kicks.
Supporters across the game will be familiar with the changes in relation to the calculation of additional time, with both the Men’s World Cup in 2022 and Women’s World Cup this summer adopting a variation of this approach.
Treatment of players
Players who require assessment on the pitch for a potential injury will now receive treatment off the field of play, apart from certain circumstances as laid out in Law 5 of the Laws of the Game:
- A goalkeeper is injured.
- A goalkeeper and an outfield player have collided and need attention.
- Players from the same team have collided and need attention.
- A severe injury has occurred.
- A player is injured as the result of a physical offence for which the opponent is cautioned or sent off (e.g., reckless or serious foul challenge), if the assessment/treatment is completed quickly.
- A penalty has been awarded and the injured player will be the taker.
After the restart of play, a period of time - not less than 30 seconds - will be afforded for the player to be treated and they will not return to the pitch before this period has elapsed. As always, the player’s return to the pitch requires the referee's permission and may be delayed beyond 30 seconds if the phase of play is in the vicinity of the player looking to re-enter the pitch.
In circumstances where a player declines the physio, if a team-mate clearly delays or refuses to re-start the game that team-mate will be issued a yellow card. This will promote player safety, which is of paramount importance to the match officials, and act as a deterrent to players who request attention as a tactic to waste time or break the momentum of the game.
Key Law changes
Amongst the Law changes for 2023/24, as outlined by The IFAB, is an update on the wording of a denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and a change of an element of previous guidance to offside law (Law 11).
Denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity
Where a player commits an offence against an opponent within their own penalty area which denies an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick:
- A yellow card will be issued if the offence was an attempt to play the ball or a challenge for the ball.
- A red card will be shown in all other circumstances (e.g., holding, pulling, pushing, no possibility to play the ball)
The additional wording means that whilst cynical non-footballing actions such as clear holding, pushing and handball offences will continue to be sanctioned with a penalty and red card, where there is an attempt to play the ball or challenge for the ball a penalty and yellow card is the expected outcome.
Regarding offside, The IFAB and FIFA have also clarified the guidelines for determining a ‘deliberate play’ by a defender.
A ‘deliberate play’ is when a player has control of the ball and with the possibility of:
- Passing the ball to a team-mate; or
- Gaining possession of the ball; or
- Clearing the ball (e.g., by kicking or heading it)
If a player is considered to be in control of the pass, attempt to gain possession or clearance, this would be a ‘deliberate play’ and the attacker in an offside position should not be penalised for offside. An inaccurate or unsuccessful action does not change the fact that the defender ‘deliberately played’ the ball.
As attempts continue to be made to keep the game flowing, a high threshold for penalising contact will remain, with officials not awarding a foul for all contact yet penalising when contact has a detrimental impact on an opponent.
Similarly to delaying the restart, match officials will be empowered by the game to take a more robust approach to dealing with participant behaviour when it falls below expected standards on-field and in the technical area.
Full details will be announced ahead of the new season as part of the Love Football, Protect the Game campaign.