For Association football/soccer, see Timewasting.
For the administrative decision to cease play and resume at a later time and/or day, see Delay (game).

Delay of game is an action in a sports game in which a player or team deliberately stalls the game, usually with the intention of using the delay to its advantage. In some sports, the delay of game is considered an infraction if it is longer than that permitted according to the game's rules, in which case a penalty can be issued. Some sports that have a delay of game penalty are American football, Canadian football, ice hockey and association football.

'Gridiron' footballEdit


In American football, an offensive team is penalized five yards for delay of game if it fails to put the ball in play by either snap or free kick before the play clock expires. This time limit varies by league, and is often 25 seconds from the time the referee signals the ball ready for play. In the National Football League, it can also be 40 seconds from the end of the previous down, depending on the circumstances at the time. Also, the defensive team can be given the same penalty if they fail to quickly yield the ball to officials after a play has ended, prevent a player on the offense from getting up after the play, or kicking the ball.


In Canadian football, the term "delay of game" is used for a different type of foul. On kickoffs, it can be called against the kicking team for failure to put the ball in play within 20 seconds of the referee's signal. At other times in the game, it can be called against the defensive team for interference with the placement of the ball after it is declared in play by the referee. In both cases, the penalty is 10 yards from the previous spot.[1]

The foul known as "delay of game" in American football is called "time count" in Canada. It is generally identical to the American foul, with two important exceptions. First, Canadian football only allows the offensive team 20 seconds from the referee's signal to put the ball in play, as opposed to the longer periods allowed in the American code. Second, the penalty, which is identical to that in the American code during most of the game, including convert attempts at any time, is dramatically different after the Canadian code's three-minute warning near the end of each half. After the three-minute warning, the base penalty becomes loss of down on first or second down, instead of the regular 5 yards. On third down (the final down that the offensive side has to gain a first down), the penalty becomes 10 yards with the down repeated. The referee also has the right to give possession to the defensive team if he deems repeated time count violations on third down to be deliberate.[2]


Any player who the referee adjuges to be delaying the restart of the game to gain an unfair advantage is cautioned and may be shown a yellow card. Common strategies include delaying the taking of a goal kick or free kick, or taking excessive time to leave or enter the field of play during a substitution.

Ice hockeyEdit

A player who intentionally shoots the puck over the glass and out of play is charged with a minor penalty (two minutes).

Also, in leagues utilizing the trapezoid behind the net, if the goaltender plays the puck in the outside corners of the area he is charged with a delay of game.


In the Professional Bowlers Association tour events, a 25 second shot clock is used for televised events. The clock starts when the bowler picks up his ball on the first ball of a frame, or when it exits the automatic ball return on all other balls. If the bowler fails to release the ball before the clock expires, he is warned on the first offense and charged with a minor penalty ($50 fine) on subsequent offenses in the same tournament. [1]


MLB rules require that, when the bases are unoccupied, a pitcher pitch the ball within 12 seconds of receiving it. Failure to do this can result in an automatic ball being added to the ball/strike count. [3]This rule, however, is virtually ignored completely.

In 2010, the Southeastern Conference began enforcing a 20-second pitch clock when the bases are empty, and the rule was adopted by the NCAA in 2011. A warning is given for the first violation, and subsequent violations by a pitcher result in an automatic ball. If the batter causes the 20-second violation, an automatic strike is assessed. The clock will be visible. [4]

Quiz BowlEdit

In Quiz Bowl, a player buzzing in on a tossup question must say their answer within a short time, usually five seconds. Taking longer than five seconds is called stalling and typically is treated as if the player gave the wrong answer. This usually implies that the team will be negged (five points taken from the score in NAQT format) and the other team has the opportunity to answer the question while the stalling team is locked out.

See alsoEdit


fr:Retard de jeu (hockey sur glace)

pl:Delay of game

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