By: John Van de Vaarst
The NCAA Rules Book provides specific guidance about the timing of an intercollegiate soccer game and when the clock is to be stopped and how the game is to be timed. The referee does not have the discretion to change these procedures to meet his/her personal preference. The situations for when the clock must be stopped are described in detail in the rules book as well as the requirements for the referee to stop the clock.
At intercollegiate games, the home team is responsible for providing an official timekeeper. Rule 6.3.5 describes in detail the situations when the clock is to be stopped. The referee should review these requirements with the timekeeper prior to the game. There are nine items listed in this section that require the clock to be stopped. Many of these occur during every game and some are more unique. The unique situations include: for a television timeout, a player instructed to leave the field for a jewelry or equipment violation, and the various situations that deal with the last five minute of the game. The referee has the power to stop the clock and suspend the game to direct administrators or game management personnel to “remove whistles, air horns, electronic amplifiers and any other items that are not permitted from the spectators’ areas.” The more obvious stopping of the clock include: assess a player’s injury, when a goal is scored, when a penalty kick is awarded, and a player is carded. In addition to stopping the clock, the referee should review with the timekeeper when to restart the clock so that time restarts when the ball is properly put into play.
Rule 12.4 which deals with cautions and indicates “a caution is a formal disciplinary action requiring specific procedures to be followed by the referee including stopping the clock, suspending play and displaying a yellow card.” Rule 12.5 indicates “an ejection is a formal disciplinary action requiring specific procedures to be followed by the referee including stopping the clock, suspending play and displaying a red card.” It is very clear that in both instances the referee must signal to stop the clock. This is the first step in the caution/ejection procedure.
Another situation that requires the clock to be stopped is during the last five minutes of the second half of regulation play. Rule 3.7.2 indicates that “during the final five minutes of the second period only, anytime the leading team makes a substitution, the referee shall signal the clock to be stopped and beckon the substitute onto the field.” The critical point is “the last five minutes.” If the referee beckons the player onto the field before the last five minutes and the time winds down beyond the last five minutes, the clock does not stop when the 85th minute begins.
One exception to stopping the clock is a discretionary power by the referee to allow the clock to continue when cautioning/ejecting a player during the last five minutes of regulation play when the player involved is on the team that is losing at the time. It is important to let the timekeeper know during pregame that this situation may happen during the game and what signal the referee will utilize to let the timekeeper know to keep the clock running.
The referee must use the proper mechanics when stopping the clock for any reason. The signal for stopping the clock is crossing the hands over his/her head. This must be a very clear signal so that the timekeeper can easily observe it and stop the clock. This signal is a requirement for the above described situations and cannot be ignored.
For intercollegiate soccer games, a protest can be filed for matters that relate to misapplication of a rule that has a direct impact on the game. Failing to stop the clock could have a direct impact on the game and a protest being filed. This creates problems for the institution, conference, assignor, and the officials involved in the game.
In summary, the referee must ensure that all requirements of the NCAA Rules Book regarding proper timing of the game are administered properly. This includes signaling to the timekeeper. The referee does not have the authority to change these rules.