Uefa branded 100-minute matches “crazy”, “absurd” and a “tragedy” as the prospect of the Champions League following the Premier League and World Cup on added time was dismissed.
In a fierce attack which will reignite the debate around burnout fears, Zvonimir Boban, the governing body’s chief of football, backed protests led by players.
“It’s crazy — it’s too much so we will not do this,” he said in response to other competitions following instructions from the game’s lawmakers to more accurately measure time lost to stoppages.
The so-called 100-minute approach was first adopted at the World Cup in Qatar last year where it was largely positively received. Supporters of the new regulations point out Premier League average times were already at 98 minutes last season.
However, the players such as Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester United defender Raphael Varane and players unions have vehemently protested over the added toll.
So far this season, the ball has been in play for an average of 59 minutes 20 seconds in the Premier League — nearly five minutes longer than last season’s 54:52. Confirming Uefa’s opposition to the policy, head of referees Roberto Rosetti said the Champions League already has ball in play times of 60 minutes due to referees being encouraged to speed up stoppages.
“We are already playing more than 60 minutes in the Champions League – we started to work on this more than five years ago,” he told a press conference in Monaco. “There is something more important than the accuracy of additional time. Why do people like the Champions League so much? Because it’s intensive, it’s fantastic, the players never stop. We tell our referees to speed up the restart of play instead of this [focus] on stoppage time.”
While most domestic competitions have followed Fifa in adding on the exact time lost to goal celebrations, injuries and substitutions, former Croatia international Boban says such measures are unnecessary. He said the policy was “absolutely absurd” after research underlining how major talents are already being pushed to the brink by packed schedules. Jude Bellingham, according to FifPro, has played more competitive minutes [15,000] than Michael Owen, Frank Lampard and David Beckham combined by the same age.
“Regarding player welfare, it’s some kind of small tragedy or big tragedy because we are adding almost 12, 13, 14 minutes,” Boban said. “We are adding almost one half of the game, which are very tough minutes to play. When you play 60, 65 minutes — and I can speak from my experience, especially as a midfielder – when you get tired, it’s the last 30 minutes of the game. And then somebody comes and adds another 15, 12, 14 minutes of the game, for what reason? “
He said English teams know “even more than us because you have more games”. “And now we add to them, probably six, seven minutes more per game — it’s almost 500 minutes more per season,” he said. “That is six games. It’s crazy. It’s too much so we will not do this. We will follow our guidelines.”
Speaking in Monaco ahead of the Champions League draw, Rosetti also outlined a new drive to attract more referees to the profession. Telegraph Sport disclosed this year how the Football Association was trialling points deductions for grass-roots teams that show descent to officials. Rosetti applauded the project and said it could be potentially rolled out elsewhere.