In which matches have whistle-happy referees blown for time too early?

In which matches have whistle-happy referees blown for time too early?

“Excluding abandonments, what examples are there of matches when the referee blew for time too early?” asks Jason Jandu.

Timekeeping has never been one of the human race’s greatest strengths, and football is no exception. Hundreds – OK, tens of you wrote in with stories of referees who were guilty of premature peep-peeping.

Let’s start with the inaugural World Cup in 1930. “Argentina and France were the two favourites to win Pool A, so their clash was a potential group decider to see who would progress to the semi-finals,” writes Chris Page. “In the 84th minute, with Argentina 1-0 up, Marcel Langiller went through on goal only for referee Gilberto de Almeida Rêgo from Brazil (hmm …) to blow for time. After some vigorous protests, the referee agreed to restart play. The chance was gone though, Argentina won 1-0 and went on to top the group.”

David Hopkins has a more recent example, from everyone’s favourite bittersweet night in Turin. “I believe that the referee in the England v West Germany 1990 semi-final blew marginally too early in three of the four halves (including extra time),” says David. “In fact, he appears to blow just as Chris Waddle hits the post at the end of the first period of extra-time, despite the clock showing 14.57, which has often made me wonder whether that goal would have been allowed.”

If dodgy timekeeping is good enough for the greatest show on turf, it’s certainly good enough for the Intertoto Cup. “Back in 2000, Villa were playing their Intertoto Cup games at the Hawthorns,” writes Robert Davies. “I remember this game being on TV (I have no idea why) and an erratic display from the ref concluded when he brought the game to a halt two minutes early. He then carried on for another five minutes. The best bit is, he was Swiss. I laughed as I hate Villa.”

In fact Dieter Schoch’s timekeeping was only part of a bravura display of limelight-grabbing. He also issued 12 yellow cards and three reds, gave two penalties and even made Villa change their socks.

There are plenty more examples. “Watford were leading the home side, Oxford United, 4-0 in the Second Division game at the Manor Ground on 13 May 1989 when the referee blew for time after 41 minutes of the second half,” writes Justin Horton. “At this distance I can’t remember the identity of the referee nor whether they ever gave an explanation of their error. But given the scoreline, few home supporters were particularly concerned that they were cheated of the last few minutes of a disappointing season.”

Michael Haughey has a couple of examples from the 70s. “According to Emlyn Hughes, in August 1974, Wolves and Liverpool were 85 minutes into a floodlit goalless draw at Molineux during a late summer thunderstorm when he jokingly asked Gordon Hill, the drowned rat in black, if he could blow for full time and let everyone get out of the rain. To his surprise, Hill gave three blasts on the whistle, allowing the players and officials to run towards the warm, dry dressing rooms.

Vikingur Red


The referee in a Cork City v Shelbourne game in late 1998 admitted to blowing gor full time early by mistake. Think it was the 86th or 87th minute

“On 28 October 1978, Crystal Palace lost 1-0 to Fulham in a game of three halves. The ref, Eddie Hughes, blew for full time five minutes early and a few minutes later realised his mistake and brought the teams back out to play the five minutes. Adding to the ref’s embarrassment, the match was screened on the Big Match the next day, and unusually for a London derby was shown in all ITV regions.”

Matthew Durrant has a story of a referee blowing up early, probably out of sympathy. “As ever, the question of refs blowing up early lead me to think of my beloved West Didsbury & Chorlton, and their record breaking 15-1 win over Dinnington back in 2015,” he writes. “It was the biggest win in the FA Vase’s history – a record that still stands. It could’ve been more, but the referee took mercy on the visitors with six minutes left to play – and robbed West of the opportunity to run up the cricket score even further.”

The fact Dinnington had a 16-year-old in goal may have influenced the referee’s decision to give everyone an early bath.

A few of you cited the infamous match between Fulham and Derby in 1983, though we’re not sure whether that counts as an abandonment, while Milton Mendoza recalls the Mexican referee Manuel Glower blowing for half-time after 43 minutes “because he was distracted”. And in Galicia in 2016, José Ramón Jiménez ended a Primera Autonomica match after 75 minutes because it was too cold. “One of the assistants recognised that I was about to cry with the cold,” he said via Google Translate.

We’ve saved the best for last, our old friend Wolf-Dieter Ahlenfelder. Yes, we’ve mentioned him before but it’s well worth a cut and paste. “It was 8 November 1975 when, in the Bundesliga, Werder Bremen played against Hannover 96,” scene-sets Eberhard Spohd. “The referee Ahlenfelder surprised everyone with some seriously strange decisions – including blowing for half-time after 29 minutes. A linesman indicated his mistake and Ahlenfelder played 16 minutes’ added time. Then, during the half-time interval, he stuck his tongue out at a photographer, and Bremen’s president Böhmert said: ‘For this show we could have charged a higher entrance fee.’ Ahlenfelder of course denied drinking alcohol, but later he admitted that he had ‘several Maltesers’ (a schnaps) before the match. And to make things really clear to the layman, he said: ‘We are men – we don’t drink Fanta’.”

This statue

In the last couple of weeks we’ve been looking at clubs with statues of people who did not play for them. Somehow, we missed this gem: Kerry Mucklowe, star of the mockumentary This Country, has been immortalised outside Swindon’s County Ground.

Jack Tanner


Kerry Mucklowe statue at Swindon’s County Ground must before March.

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