Over the weekend in Manchester City’s clash with Chelsea, Manchester City and England defender Alex Greenwood received her second yellow card of the game for ‘time-wasting’ and was therefore sent off after just 38 minutes.
The referee on the day was Emily Heaslip and she has sparked huge controversy since the game for the dismissal of Greenwood. But what actually happened…
Greenwood was booked after just 17 minutes for a late challenge on a Chelsea player, however in the 38th minute, the City captain (on the day) took too long to restart play from a free-kick (at least according to the referee) and received her second yellow of the game for ‘timewasting’.
The game in the end finished 1-1 and was a thrilling watch but Greenwood’s dismissal massively overshadowed the final result.
“A very poor decision from the referee” - Rachel Brown Finnis
But did the England defender actually waste time? Well from when Greenwood put the ball down to take the free-kick, to the moment she actually kicked the ball, it was a period of 26 seconds. According to data that the BBC gathered, in the opening 12 games of the WSL season (including all teams) the average time delay for a free-kick is 36 seconds, Greenwood’s delay was 10 seconds below this time which reinforces the question was she actually timewasting?
I’d personally argue that she wasn’t at least intentionally. When a player takes a free-kick in football (male or female) no one takes it right away as they have to evaluate their options to make sure they won’t give the ball away, and therefore give the other team a chance to score.
The video footage/highlights from the game show that Greenwood clearly goes to take the free-kick but then quickly stops herself because her intended pass is cut off, so she has to re-evaluate.
Many current and former WSL players disagreed with the decision, including ex-England goalkeeper Rachel Brown Finnis. On the day she was commentating on the game for the BBC, she said: “She (Greenwood) wasn’t even trying to waste time, she stalls so her team-mates can get up the pitch. It was a matter of seconds! A very poor decision from the referee in my opinion.”
Rules regarding ‘time-wasting’
Before the new WSL season even began, players and staff in the league were reportedly made aware of plans by referees to crack down on certain aspects of the game including ‘timewasting’. As well as Greenwood, Liverpool’s Taylor Hinds and West Ham’s Risa Shimizu were also booked for ‘timewasting’ over a free-kick at the weekend.
So even though Greenwood’s dismissal for timewasting was ridiculous, the incident will definitely send out warning signs to all the other WSL players going forward this season, but as Manchester City manager Gareth Taylor said, it will be intriguing to see whether these decisions by referees will be implemented across the board for the rest of the season.