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Why is a Football Match 90 Minutes?

A standard football match is typically 90 minutes long because that is the traditional duration agreed upon by international football governing bodies like FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) and by most football associations around the world. The 90-minute duration is made up of two halves, each lasting 45 minutes. However, there is a 15-minute halftime break in between.

While a football match time limit is set at 90 minutes, matches rarely stick to this time limit. A football match usually lasts a few minutes longer than the allotted 90 minutes. On the question of ‘’why is a football match 90 minutes?’’, it’s important to know that in football matches, the time limit is not always the same.

Some factors cause the time difference in football matches. Some of these factors are, but are not limited to, penalty kicks, referee decisions, the age of the players in each team, and whether there are injuries or not. Let’s look at why is a football match 90 minutes.

Why Does a Football Match last 90 Minutes?

The 90-minute duration for a typical football match was set in 1866. The duration was set during a clash between Sheffield and London where the two teams resolved the issue by agreeing to play for 90 minutes.

Since then, the 90-minute duration become a rule that is being followed worldwide to date. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule as stated above. Now let’s look at some of the reasons why a football match lasts 90 minutes.

1. Tradition

The 90-minute football match duration has been a standard in football for many years and is deeply ingrained in the sport's history and culture. However, it’s worth noting that this duration provides a balanced and manageable timeframe for a competitive match.

2. Physical Demands

Football is a physically demanding sport. Football players need adequate rest and recovery time during the halftime break. The two halves of 45 minutes help them to perform at their best.

3. Fairness

The 90-minute duration ensures that both teams have an equal opportunity to compete. This time ensures that there is no significant advantage or disadvantage due to playing time.

4. Broadcast Scheduling

Fans and Television broadcasters always expect football matches to follow a predictable schedule. This makes it easier for them to plan and enjoy the match.

Does a Football Match Always last 90 Minutes?

Typically, a professional football match lasts 90 minutes, but there are some exceptions. For instance, Youngsters’ time limit is decreased to compensate for their lack of fitness. However, both men's and women's football matches last for 45 minutes in the first half and another 45 minutes in the second half with a 15-minute break in between. Note that 90 minutes is the standard match duration with extra time depending on the injuries and stoppages.

The FA’s (The Football Association) official rules state that:

“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 a football match time vary?

The football match duration varies sometimes depending on the following;

1. Extra Time

In some competitions, the match continues to extra time if the scores are equal. Extra time consists of other 15-minute halves and the goals scored are added to the final score. However, if the match ends in a draw after the extra time, the teams move to a penalty shoot-out to determine the winner.

Note that the penalty shootout is not included in the final score of the match. They are used to determine the winner or the team that is progressing to the next stage.

2. Youth Games

The time duration for youth games is usually less than 90 minutes to account for their level of fitness. However, the exact duration of the match will depend on the age group.

For the under-six teams, they play two 10-minute halves, two 20-minute halves for under-eights, two 25-minute halves for under ten’s, two 30-minute halves under twelve’s, two 35-minute halves for under fourteens, and two 40-minute halves under sixteens. For players aged 17 and above, they play the standard 90 minutes with the two halves.

3. Stoppage Time/ Injury Time

This is the time that is added at the end of each half of a football match. This duration is roughly proportional to the time of the delays witnessed during the match.

These delays are a result of injuries, time wasted during substitution, and general time wasting. This time is very crucial as it can cause the losing team to equalize or win the match. The stoppage time for each substitute is 30 seconds with each team allowed three substitutes, a total of 3 minutes.

4. Two-legged Ties

Two-legged ties are a competition where the teams have to play against each other twice. In this type of competition, the winner is determined after adding the scores of the two matches.

In case the two teams end in a draw, then the ‘away goals rule’ is used to determine the winner. In this rule, the goals scored by each team away from their home venue are used to determine the winner. If it turns out again to be a draw, the match goes for extra time, and finally to a penalty shootout if there is a draw again. 

5. Fergie Time

Fergie time refers to the excessive time allowed at the end of a match to allow time to win or equalize in English football. This phrase was named after Sir Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United manager, in the perception that there was excessive time added during a time when Manchester United was not winning. Fergie Time was added for the United team to score an equalizer or win the match.

6. Penalties

After game moves to a penalty shootout after a draw in the extra time. In a penalty shootout, there is a specific spot where each player takes his or her shot in turns. During the penalty shootout, the only defender is the goalkeeper and the winner is determined by the number of goals after a given number of attempts.

If there is still a draw, then the penalties continue on a “goal-for-goal” basis. Here the shots continue alternatively until one team scores a goal unmatched to be declared a winner. In this case, some players may repeat a penalty shootout if all other players have taken their shot. This continues until the tie is broken in a process called ‘’sudden death’’. One team wins if they score while the other misses to score.

Summary of Why is a Football Match 90 Minutes

A standard football match lasts 90 minutes and consists of two 45-minute halves. Between the two halves, there is a 15-minute break in between called ‘half-time’. However, there are exceptions to the 90-minute duration which include penalty shootouts, youth games, and games with extra time.

It's worth noting that in some situations, extra time may be added to some matches, especially in knockout-stage matches of tournaments, to determine a winner if the score is a draw after the regular 90 minutes. Additionally, stoppage time/ injury time is added to each half to compensate for time lost during stoppages in play, such as injuries and substitutions. This ensures that each half lasts approximately 45 minutes of the actual playing time.