Tuesday, 23 Jul 2024

Extra-Time in Football: A Look into its Rules, Origins, and History

extra time stamp

When it comes to deciding football matches on the day, one of the options referees have is to take the game to extra-time if the scores are still level after ninety minutes. For supporters, this can evoke a mix of hope and dread. The idea of extra-time is exciting when a match has been thrilling, as it means more time to enjoy the action. However, when a game has been lackluster, extra-time can feel like an unnecessary punishment.

But where did the concept of extra-time in football come from? Who decided that subjecting everyone to an additional half an hour of play was the best way to determine a winner? These questions may not have straightforward answers, given the complex and sometimes mysterious history of football. However, we can explore the origins and evolution of extra-time to shed some light on this intriguing aspect of the beautiful game.

The Early Days of the Rules

First Set of Football Rules
Image source: Adrian Roebuck, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

During the early years of football, there was no standardized way to determine the outcome of matches. It wasn’t until 1897, when the Football Association wrote its first set of rules, that extra-time became an established method of settling games. Before that, different football associations had their own rules, leading to inconsistencies in how matches were played and decided.

The 1897 rules introduced essential changes that shaped the game as we know it today. For the first time, the number of players per team was specified, with 11 players on each side. Furthermore, the duration of a match was set at 90 minutes, unless alternative arrangements were made beforehand.

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30 Minutes Became the Norm

30 minutes

Gradually, playing an additional 30 minutes of extra-time became the accepted norm in football worldwide. If the scores remained level after extra-time, a replay or, in some cases, a coin toss would determine the winner. However, these methods were far from ideal, resulting in confusion and sometimes unsatisfactory outcomes.

To address these issues, the penalty shootout was introduced in 1970 by the International Football Association Board (IFAB). However, even this solution had its own challenges and was not immediately understood by everyone. In the early days of penalty shootouts, there were cases where teams believed they had won based on away goals, only to discover that a shootout would decide the outcome.

Variations On a Theme

silver goal

Football’s governing bodies have always sought to improve and refine the rules of the game, leading to various experiments with the concept of extra-time. In the 1990s, FIFA introduced the “Golden Goal” rule, where the first team to score during extra-time would win the match instantly. This rule aimed to encourage more attacking play.

However, the Golden Goal rule did not have the desired effect and often resulted in more conservative play. As a result, it was replaced by the “Silver Goal” in 2002, which allowed the opposing team a chance to respond if the leading team scored first. Ultimately, neither the Golden Goal nor the Silver Goal rule proved successful, and the traditional 30 minutes of extra-time remained the standard.

The Psychology of Extra-Time

Oleg Bkhambri (Voltmetro), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Extra-time can be a psychologically challenging period for players. The pressure and fatigue can become overwhelming, affecting decision-making and overall performance. It is crucial for teams to manage not only their physical stamina but also their mental resilience during this crucial phase of the game.

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Psychologists and coaches emphasize the importance of maintaining composure and focus during extra-time. Mental strategies such as positive reinforcement, risk management, and team motivation play a vital role in determining the outcome. Coaches like Sir Alf Ramsey, who famously motivated the England players during the 1966 World Cup final, understand the psychological impact of extra-time and how it can influence the result.

Limitations and Future Possibilities

extra time limitations

In recent years, governing bodies have explored alternatives to traditional extra-time. The English Football League, for example, decided to eliminate extra-time in the EFL Cup after the 2017-2018 season. Matches that are level after 90 minutes now proceed directly to a penalty shootout. This change aimed to minimize player fatigue and ensure a fairer outcome for teams competing in the tournament.

Similarly, UEFA has allowed teams to make a fourth substitution during extra-time in the Champions League and Europa League, following the Football Association’s earlier adoption of the same rule. These adaptations demonstrate a growing willingness to find fairer solutions that minimize the physical strain on players and reduce the potential advantage gained by teams who avoid extra-time.

While extra-time remains an integral part of football, discussions around its effectiveness and fairness continue. Shortening the duration of extra-time and exploring alternative methods of settling matches are among the possibilities being considered. The aim is to strike a balance between fairness, excitement, and player welfare.

Ultimately, extra-time in football is a testament to the ever-evolving nature of the sport. As the game progresses, so too do the rules and regulations that shape its outcome. Football’s governing bodies, coaches, and players will continue to explore and refine the rules to provide fans with thrilling matches while ensuring fairness and player well-being.


Q: Will extra-time be eliminated from football?

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A: While some competitions, like the EFL Cup in England, have removed extra-time, it remains an integral part of many other tournaments. The future of extra-time will depend on ongoing discussions and experiments aimed at finding fairer and more effective ways to settle matches.

Q: How does extra-time affect players psychologically?

A: Extra-time can be mentally and physically challenging for players. The pressure, fatigue, and anticipation of a prolonged match can influence decision-making and overall performance. Coaches and sports psychologists work closely with players to develop strategies for managing the psychological demands of extra-time.

Q: Are there any proposed changes to the duration of extra-time?

A: While no specific changes have been universally adopted, proposals to shorten the duration of extra-time have been discussed. Reducing the time may encourage more attacking play and alleviate concerns about player fatigue. However, finding the right balance between fairness and excitement remains a challenge.

Q: How do penalty shootouts impact the outcome of matches?

A: Penalty shootouts were introduced as a means to decide matches when extra-time fails to produce a winner. They have become an accepted method, though opinions on their fairness and effectiveness vary. The introduction of penalty shootouts led to a decrease in the number of matches ending within 120 minutes, as teams became more willing to risk a shootout rather than rely on a coin toss.


As football continues to captivate audiences around the world, the concept of extra-time remains an integral part of the game. Despite its complexities and occasional controversies, it offers an opportunity for teams to showcase their physical and mental resilience in the quest for victory. While discussions about the future of extra-time persist, its history and evolution demonstrate the ongoing efforts to strike a balance between fairness, excitement, and player welfare.