EXTRA TIME IS A HUGE WASTE OF TIME

“The referee blows his whistle and we are going into extra time!”

In principle, that is a very exciting sentence to hear a commentator say. After watching a 90-minute heavyweight clash between two behemoth sides who could not outscore each other, you get another half hour to watch them go at it.

Bonus football! Hurrah! Go get the snacks!

On several occasions, extra time has provided us with intense drama. At the most recent World Cup Final, Mario Gotze sealed Germany’s fourth title in the 113th minute. At Euro 2008, Croatia and Turkey played out one of the most thrilling international encounters in recent memory, with the first two goals of the game coming in the 119th and 122nd minutes. And on the domestic front, things can often go crazy—remember Arsenal’s insane 7-5 victory over Reading in 2012, in which four of the goals were scored in extra time?

Yeah that was crazy.

The concept of extending a knockout game reaches back nearly 100 years. According to Four Four Two Magazine, the 1922 German Championship Final between Hamburg and Nuremberg went on for an astounding 99 extra minutes when things were level at 2-2 after 90. Somehow, nobody scored in all that time. It’s amazing that nobody died, either.

Before long, extra time was formalized to 30 minutes, with three games at the 1934 World Cup spilling over 90 minutes (Italy actually won the trophy thanks to a 95th-minute strike against Czechoslovakia).

England famously enjoyed an extra-time romp against West Germany at the 1966 Final, but it was another four years before the concept of a penalty shoot-out was added on to settle a tie. In fact, the 1968 European Championships semi-final between Italy and the Soviet Union was goalless after extra time and then settled by a coin toss. (So, if you thought penalties were an unfair manner of separating teams, it could be much worse.)

Extra time has certainly had its moments in football history, but here’s the thing: it almost always sucks. Those moments of drama are huge anomalies.

Teams are too scared to lose, so they would rather risk the lottery of penalties than risk going for it in the dying minutes of extra time.

The main gripe with adding 30 minutes to a deadlocked tie is that so few teams will actually try and attack to win during that period. Take a look at the current European Championships—four knockout games have gone to extra time and there has only been one solitary goal. That was Ricardo Quaresma’s winner for Portugal against Croatia, which gave us a decider in the most dull soccer contest in recent memory. The exhausted Croatians probably conceded the goal on purpose because they couldn’t stand another minute of Portugal’s dour negative play.

In the vast majority of cases, extra time has become a banal formality before penalties. Teams are too scared to lose after investing so into a game, so they would rather risk the lottery of penalties than risk going for it in the dying minutes of extra time.

There’s more honor in losing on penalties than losing as a result of courageous attacking play, it seems.

Think about it, when was the last time you watched a truly thrilling period of extra time? If you have come up with a satisfying answer, compare that to the amount of completely underwhelming periods of extra time you’ve sat through since.

Yeah, exactly.

This summer, Portugal made it to the final winning only one game in regulation. They had to play two periods of extra time, meaning their players have had an hour more on the field. Aside from the fact that this bored us all to tears, it’s also not good for the men of the field.

Star man Cristiano Ronaldo clearly isn’t 100% fit after a grueling domestic season—he was already lagging at the Champions League Final, which also had a needless period of extra time. Asking top-flight players to be on the field more than necessary means greater levels of fatigue and therefore more risk of injury.

In an age where there is hardly any rest before the domestic pre-season starts, it almost seems cruel to play extra time, during which meaningful football is tactically discouraged.

Experiments with altering extra time to make it shorter and more exciting have also failed. In 1993, the “golden goal” rule was introduced, which effectively meant “next goal wins”. The most famous occasion on which it came into action was the final of Euro 96, when Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Kouba let a deflected Oliver Bierhoff shot slip through his gloves.

It was the most underwhelming style of goal to win a tournament, which made the idea of a golden goal seem very anticlimactic.

The rule was supposed to encourage attacking play, but in the end it had the opposite effect, as teams did everything they could to avoid that deadly strike.

Golden goal was then replaced with the “silver goal” rule, whereby a team would win if they had the lead after the first 15-minute period of extra time. This attempt to half extra time was just as unpopular and it was wisely scrapped before Euro 2004.

Let’s face it: extra time is bad for the players and it is almost always bad for spectators. The penalty shootout may not be a perfect method of deciding a game, but it provides the drama that is often so sorely lacking during that bonus 30-minute period. In most cases, we need it sooner.

In an age where there is hardly any rest before the domestic pre-season starts, it almost seems cruel to play extra time, during which meaningful football is tactically discouraged.

The Euros, the World Cup and the Champions League would all benefit if they scrapped extra time and went straight to penalties after 90 minutes. This is exactly what happens in the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the Copa America and smaller competitions like the Johnston’s Paint Trophy in England. And those competitions are better for it.

The straight-to-penalties approach encourages more attacking play towards the crescendo of regular time, it limits issues with fatigue and injury, plus it means we all get to carry on with our lives a bit quicker in the instance of a dull 0-0 stalemate.

And, of course, if you are a German fan, it means you can see your team win on penalties 30 minutes earlier.

We all love the idea of having more soccer in our lives, but you don’t have to be a German fan to see that abolishing extra time would be better for everyone involved.

Do you agree that extra time should be scrapped? Let us know in the comments or sling your opinion at me on Twitter!

On The Ball is Ryan Bailey’s weekly column on KICK. See the archive here.