How Long is a Football Match?

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A footballer running during a match

A typical football match lasts 90 minutes made up of two 45-minute halves. This duration was set in 1866, during a clash between London and Sheffield. To resolve the issue, both teams agreed to play for 90 minutes.

Since then, this duration has become a rule that is followed worldwide. However, there are certain exceptions to the rule. In this article, we explore the topic in more detail.

Does a Game Always Last 90 Minutes?

While a professional football match typically lasts 90 minutes, there are some exceptions. For instance, the time limit is decreased in youth games to compensate for the youngsters’ lack of fitness.

Both men’s and women’s games last 90 minutes with a 15-minute half-time period in the middle. Both games can acquire extra time depending on stoppages and injuries. According to the FA’s official rules:

“The duration of each match shall be 90 minutes, except in special cases, provided for in these Competition Rules, where an extra 30 minutes shall be played. The Referee shall allow for time lost in accordance with the Laws of the Game or through accident or other cause and his decision on this matter is not subject to appeal. The half-time interval shall be 15 minutes for all ties in all competitions. Both teams shall enter the field of play together, five minutes prior to the kick-off time, along with the Match Officials.”

When Does it Differ?

There are various circumstances that cause the game length to differ. Below, we explore these further.

Youth Games

To account for lack of fitness, youth games often last less than 90 minutes. The exact duration will depend on the age group.

Typically, under-six teams play two 10-minute halves, under-eights play two 20-minute halves, under ten’s play two 25-minute halves, under twelve’s play two 30-minute halves, under fourteen’s play two 35-minute halves, and under sixteen’s play two 40-minute halves. If all players are aged 17 or above, the team will play the standard two 45-minute halves.

Kids playing a game of football

Stoppage Time

Stoppage time, or injury time, is the time added onto the end of each half of a football game. The duration of this is at the discretion of the referee but is roughly proportional to the length of delays in the match.

The delays may be caused by injuries, general time wasting, and time lost through substitutions. While these may seem insignificant, stoppage time can allow the losing team to equalise or even win the game.

Typically, the stoppage for substitutions is 30 seconds per substitute. As each team is allowed three subs, this could be as much as 3 minutes.

Extra Time

If the score is equal after 90 minutes, in some competitions the game may go into extra time. Typically, this consists of two further 15-minute halves.

Goals scored during the added time are considered part of the final score. If the score is still equal after added time, the game moves onto a penalty shoot out. This is known officially in the Laws of the Game as “kicks from the penalty mark”.

The outcome of this shootout will determine the winner. Kicks from the penalty mark are not added to the final score of the game; instead, they are used to decide which team progresses to the next stage of the competition.

Two-Legged Ties

In some competitions, each team will have to play each other twice. Known as two-legged ties, the winner is determined by the aggregate score over the two games.

If the result is a draw, the ‘away goals rule’ is applied to determine which team wins. This means that the goals scored by each team away from their home venue is compared.

If the results are still equal after this calculation, the game will go into extra time. If it’s still a tie after extra time, the game will move onto a penalty shootout. Occasionally, a tied game may need to be replayed; however, this is exceptionally rare.

Penalties

If the score is equal after added time, the game will move onto a penalty shootout. Typically, players will take it in turns to take a shot on goal from a specific spot.

Each team takes it in turns to shoot with the only defender being the goalkeeper. The winner is determined by the largest number of successful goals after a specific number of attempts. If the score is still equal, the shootout will continue on a “goal-for-goal” basis.

In this circumstance, the teams will take shots alternatively and the one that scores a goal unmatched by their opponent is the winner. If every player has taken a shot, certain players may need to take extra shots until the tie is broken.

This process is known as “sudden death”. As soon as one team misses a shot while the other team scores, they’re out of the competition.

Fergie Time

Fergie time is a phrase used in English football. It refers to an excessive amount of time at the end of a match to allow a team more time to equalise or win the game.

The phrase is named after Sir Alex Ferguson, the previous manager of Manchester United, and the perception that during matches in which Man United were not winning, there would be excessive time added for United to score an equaliser or win the game.

Whether or not this really exists is another question, but opposing fans certainly believe it does!

In Summary

A standard football match is 90 minutes made up of two 45-minute halves. In the middle of the game, there is a 15-minute break known as ‘half-time’. There are some exceptions to this duration including youth games and games with additional time and/or penalty shootouts.

For the most part, however, a standard football game will always be 90 minutes to adhere to the FA’s official rules.

For more information on the length of a football match, visit the Laws of the Game and FA Rules page on the FA’s official website.

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