The 6 second goalkeeper rule
Football has in game rules to help speed up the flow of the game. There is a rule although it is widely not enforced that goalkeepers are only allowed to have the ball in their hands for 6 seconds after catching or gathering the ball. This rule was brought in to stop goalkeepers at the end of the match simply holding onto the ball and winding down the clock when it was advantageous to do so for their teams. The punishment for goalkeepers who do hold onto the ball for an extended period is an indirect free kick from where they last held onto the ball. The most recent case of this I can remember is Simon Mignolet who was playing for Liverpool in a Europa League game against Bordeaux. He held the ball for 22 seconds before the referee ended up giving the indirect free kick, that was converted might I add.
Now I am not sure if the referee prompted Mignolet to hurry up or if he had simply blown the whistle after deciding himself that it was excessive. But the point remains in only very extreme circumstances is this enforced. I have played matches at community level where the referee’s first involvement of the game was to enforce this rule against my team, which the opposition also converted. Despite feeling completely dirty about the decision at the end of the day it is in the rule book and for the remainder of the match both goalkeepers speedily released the ball after gathering it.
So, what if what was enforced? Would it actually add to in game time? I believe it would. I recently watched a SPFL championship match between Ayr United and Dundee United. The goalkeepers particularly Dundee’s who’s side was in the lead for most of the game regularly and consistently took longer than 6 seconds to release the ball. With the total time after the 6 seconds adding up to 56 seconds. Now just for argument sake let’s say that’s 1 minute of time spent with the goalkeeper holding the ball for too long. Over the course of the round say 10 games that is 10 minutes of time taken up. Over the course of a 40-game season (rough average in Europe) that’s is 400 mins or 6 and a half hours of football lost to goalkeepers holding onto the ball for too long and that’s just in one league.
I know this is an extremely small sample size and its open to anomalies, but the point still remains.
I would honestly go one step further and reduce the time to release down to 5 seconds, it doesn’t take 5 seconds to catch the ball or gather the ball, get up and kick it or throw it to a teammate. There is more than likely going to be a player near the halfway line as a last resort if they cannot role it out short. In fact the longer goalkeepers hold onto the ball the more likely they are to go long anyway. Furthermore when goalkeepers have an option short they often release it quickly under the 5 seconds anyway so that the option is not closed down.
As a result i would like to see the 6 second rule changed to 5 seconds and actively enforced. IT would create a faster pace game with more action and potentially more goals as the ball would be in play for longer.