Would football attract new fans with shorter matches?

On Wednesday, April 21, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez made a bold claim. He stated that the length of football matches should be reduced from 90 minutes. Perez argued that younger football fans were not following the sport due to games being too long and shorter matches are needed.

He claimed younger fans’ attention spans are unable to sit through a full 90-minute match and thus only watch highlights. Perez’s argument was met with a laugh by many fans and media, but it wasn’t the first time shorter matches have been proposed.

In 2017, the idea of shorter matches was discussed by the International Football Association Board (Ifab). However, their discussions had nothing to do with getting younger generations into football or money — which Perez’s desire for shorter games has everything to do with.

Ifab’s plan to reduce games was to make them more competitive. The rule change would have stopped time-wasting, at least that was the idea. Games would have gone from 90 minutes to 60 minutes with each half containing 30 minutes. Instead of having a rolling clock as we do now, Ifab wanted the clock to stop every time the ball went out of play like basketball or American football. The discussed idea was to make football more attractive.

Ifab went further in their discussions as they outlined plans for shorter games. The group had three aims that would be met by reducing games to 60 minutes in total:

  • improve player behaviour and increase respect
  • increase playing time and reduce time-wasting
  • increase fairness and attractiveness

The organisation complained football matches only actually have 60 minutes of action. But it wasn’t just shorter matches that were discussed by Ifab in 2017. The group also planned to adjust the sport by allowing players to pass to themselves at a free-kick, corner and goal kick. Would football matches be more attractive with just 60 minutes of game time? It is difficult to believe it would be any more competitive and teams would find a way to waste time.

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