With the Premier League and several of its major European counterparts resuming action over the past month or so, the look and feel of these competitions has been slightly different than before and one of those differences, has come in the way of drinks breaks. A concession that was put in place, so that player welfare can be protected to the highest possible standards and although the sometimes inclement British weather, renders these hot weather rest periods unnecessary, there could be a greater use for these stoppages in the future.
These windows for rehydration, are currently taken halfway through both the first and second halves and in doing so, they unofficially cut those two halves into four quarters and it is this new arrangement that has the future of the game in mind.
They may be labelled as drinks break now, although really, they have become nothing more than time outs and it could well be, that we are seeing something akin to a trial of stealth, one that sees four quarters become the new norm.
While although this radical shift may not be made permanent in the immediate future, the seed has certainly been planted and usually, once the genie is let out of the bottle, it is very had to get him back into it.
Which means, the ability to play four equal segments instead of two, will be music to the ears of managers all over the world and the opportunity to bark out an additional set of in-play orders, has the potential to change the game itself.
A team could be a goal down and instead of trying to get your message across to the other side of the pitch, a manager can wait another 60 seconds knowing that all his players will be within earshot and the quest for a late leveller can subsequently proceed.
While the fact that the drinks breaks come at such regular intervals, still adds an element of structure to the game itself and in implementing them where they currently are, it avoids a real breakdown of the game’s equilibrium.
Something that has tied into the fact that five substitutes have been allowed in the final part of the Premier League season and with this ruling, being one that is set to be carried over to next season, it again highlights how temporary change can become more long-term.
Although up to five substitutions can now be made, there are still only three windows in which they can be enforced and in doing so, it does not mean football harks back to the early 2000’s and the litany of changes witnessed during international friendlies.
If each manager was granted one time out at a point of his choosing, that would have the ability to destabilise the game and more often than not, we would only see two late stoppages in the dying minutes of any encounter, in a bid to either gain or protect a result.
Instead, these drink breaks or secret time outs, still allow everyone to know when a halt to proceedings will come around and it also means, there is far less disruption, then if it was used at a manager’s sole discretion.
Not only that, but with every additional recognised stoppage, comes the ability to sell even more advertising space and it is here, where agencies are waiting for one of football’s biggest changes to eventually be rolled out.
Much has been made of trying to extract further revenue in a post-pandemic landscape and the sale of additional advertising space. is something that would address that no end – especially with so many eyes on the product itself.
Critics will say that these temporary breaks have disturbed the natural flow of the game and in fairness they may have a strong argument, but when you compare it to American sports and their use in the NBA and NFL, its almost a surprise they have not arrived sooner.
Like anything new, change puts everyone into a state of flux and once things settle down, which they already have in the Premier League, the game just carries on and no one tends to bat an eyelid anymore.
We’ve already seen drinks breaks at the 2018 FIFA World Cup and they will certainly be installed once again at the next edition of the tournament in 2022, which means with every occurrence they become more and more ingrained in people’s collective psyche.
Therefore, with the overall benefits to players, managers and rights holders who can sell the additional breaks and claim a further return on their investments, its very hard to make a counter point against four quarters being the new time split.
Written by Dan Tracey