British & Irish Lions' Time Concerns Are A Problem Across The Whole Of Sport

The Second Test lasted two hours, and many sports are getting longer and longer
11:20, 06 Aug 2021

Sport as a whole is struggling to come to terms with the concept of time right now. As The Hundred reshapes cricket with its 100 balls and five-ball overs, and football matches seem to be getting longer by the week with the regular interruptions for VAR, it seems shorter sports are considered easier to digest in the modern era.

But finding a perfect balance between excitement and traditionalism means that even the most historic sports now find themselves questioning whether their method of time-keeping is the correct one. 

When the British and Irish Lions take on South Africa in the final Test match this weekend, Warren Gatland’s side will be desperate to speed up the game. In their 27-9 defeat last time out, the first 40-minute half took 63 minutes to complete and the second was over in just under an hour, making for a two-hour game of rugby union.

"It's important we keep that flow of the game, as much from a spectator's point of view," Gatland said after the game, frustrated by South Africa’s delaying tactics.

"We want to see some good rugby, and we didn't see it played at the weekend. South Africa at the moment don't want to do that. I know Alun Wyn Jones was talking to the referee on a number of occasions about keeping it going.”

GATLAND HAD A REAL PROBLEM WITH THE SOUTH AFRICAN TACTICS
GATLAND HAD A REAL PROBLEM WITH THE SOUTH AFRICAN TACTICS

Yet rugby union has always been seen as the sport that gets things right in terms of timekeeping, especially by football. Football’s frustration with time-wasting and diving is, on the face of it, an impossibility in rugby union as the clock is halted every time there is a stoppage, rather than added time being used as compensation at the end. 

But VAR and changes in concussion protocols have meant that now in football we are often seeing double digits put up on the fourth officials’ board, which means a traditional 3pm kick-off can often go way, way past a 5pm finish.

However, Gatland’s frustration with his British and Irish Lions comes with the fact that South Africa were still able to disrupt the flow of the game with penalties and stoppages, and the fact the clock stopped didn’t help them out after several failed line-outs and scrummages.

Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to this issue. In North America, people are much more relaxed when it comes to consuming sport and can spend a whole day watching American football or baseball, but their gameday experience is built around spending a whole day there, without having to watch every single minute of the match. 

It is very difficult to imagine that sort of scenario being successful in the UK, nor would we want it too, but given Gatland’s criticisms of South Africa’s playing style it now seems impossible to imagine football adopting the same system. We’ll continue whinging about diving and time-wasting, but it is unlikely that any serious changes will be made to what we see today.

And while decision-makers look for increasingly desperate ways to make our sports more consumable, bitesize affairs, our core events will just keep on getting longer.

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