But watching Brentford play Aston Villa on Sunday, it was not hard to see why we are not. When Danny Ings scored the opening goal for Villa, such was the prolonged celebration, the slow walk back to the centre circle, the detours to the touchline to grab a drink, that everything went into abeyance. It took 1 min 12 sec for the game to get under way again, enough time not just to boil the kettle but swig down a cup of tea. And this was not a goal requiring intervention by the Var to slow down the process. It was a clear and obvious strike that was immediately awarded.
Nor was it alone. Brentford’s equaliser brought about a 1 min 8 sec delay, while the celebrations generated by their winner were almost as long as those on New Year’s Eve, holding things back for 1 min 13 sec. Referees have discretion about how much time to add on but this seems to amount to 30 seconds at most for each goal.
The Premier League is in the midst of a pandemic of faffing about
Meanwhile, players seem to be under instruction to behave when fouled as if completely poleaxed. A challenge comes in and they lie apparently comatose in an attempt to get play halted. Or in the case of Villa’s Trezeguet, they go down as if under sustained small arms fire. As the fans whistle and howl, the game is held up while the victim of what appears to be a substantial assault is, thanks to the attentions of the medical team, invariably makes a miraculous recovery. The delay, though, has allowed a couple of his team-mates to head to the touchline and get some instruction from the manager. And again, the referee does not add on the lost time in full.
What we are witnessing in the Premier League is a pandemic of faffing about. The players are unlikely to be doing all this additional faffing of their own volition. They are working to instruction, told by coaching staff to take the sting out of the opposition’s momentum by interrupting the flow: take your time to return for kick-off, go down dramatically if the opposition win the ball, delay as long as you can get away with on throw-ins or goal-kicks.
It is easily prevented. If referees made it clear they would add appropriate time at the slightest evidence of any team slowing things down, it would soon stop. What we fans have paid to see is the ball in play as much as possible.
We get enough faff in the rest of our lives.