While it is surely a keen dream of every European referee to arrive at the top in UEFA Champions League one day, some of the established Elite Group referees obviously cannot wait until blowing the final whistle - I have no other explanation for a trend we observed during many of last weeks' matches.
I hope the following screenshots show what we target at - without a magnifier, you probably won't be able to see it:
These match situations show the moments when Felix Brych, Björn Kuipers and Milorad Mažić - you will agree that these officials rather count to UEFA's top-class ... - made their final whistles in Barcelona, Manchester and Paris respectively. Brych stopped the first half in FC Barcelona vs Atlético Madrid 10 seconds too early (45+3:50), while he finished the match at 90+2:57 in the second half before Atlético were able to execute a free-kick gained in the middle of the third minute added. Björn Kuipers awarded justified 5 minutes of additional time in the tense return leg of Manchester Utd. vs Olympiakos but made the final whistle at 90+4:48 - 12 seconds too early. And Serbian Milorad Mažić was most stingy with the additional time and finished the match 17 seconds too early at 90+3:43, although a goal was scored in the additional time, so that he should have rather enlarged the originally signalized four minutes by at least a further half a minute due to the goal celebrations. The question is: Why did they make it? And is it justified to proceed as they did?
It is right that the general allowance of time lost during the match because of goals, substitutions, usual breaks in the match or even wasted time is quantified based on the discretion of the referee. He decides how much additional time is signalized when the regular time of 90 minutes has been played. However, there are clear guidelines by FIFA and also UEFA that limit the referee's scope - let's consult the Practical Information for Match Officials 2014 written by UEFA's referee committee:
The allowance for time lost is at the discretion of the referee. Referees are reminded that they must allow at least the full additional time indicated and not stop play before this time expires. If substitution(s), assessment of injury to players, removal of injured players from the field of play for treatment, time wasting or any other delay occurs during the additional time, the referee must make allowance for this time lost but it will not be indicated by the fourth official.
1. When calculating additional time, referees should make allowance for the time lost for substitutions and injuries, (an approximate guide of 30 seconds and 1 minute are respectively recommended for "normal" situations, otherwise the exact lost time shall be considered) as well as for other incidents.
2. Referees should go to next highest minute when calculating additional time (e.g. 1 minute 25 seconds becomes 2 minutes).
3. Referees will blow the whistle when the additional time is over (with a small flexibility of 3-4 seconds), if no time was lost during the additional time. However, if a free-kick or a corner-kick is awarded just before the additional time is over, it should be taken and the referees will end the match when the free-kick or corner-kick is completed.
4. Referees must respect the additional time shown as the minimum time to be played. Therefore, they must never blow the whistle early (e.g. after 1 min 55 seconds when 2 minutes have been displayed.
The guidelines are clear but for some reason, some of the high-profile referees visibly and partly repeatedly ignore it. For example Felix Brych is usually finishing his Bundesliga matches 20 seconds too early by habit.
Considering the circumstance that these matches are parts of the knockout stage of the competition, where every goal decides, and that e.g. Olympiakos only had to score one goal to qualify for the next round in Manchester by being allowed one last goal attempt, this technical mistake becomes quite remarkable.
I don't have any explanation for that. As a referee you sometimes feel that your performance has been quite okay (maybe even very good!), so one attempt at an explanation might go into this direction. Maybe they just don't want to risk an evitable final moment, a last final pass or set piece shot into the penalty area. Maybe their Polar watches don't work properly. Or, which is most likely, they are apparently not aware of this guideline, which is hard to imagine though. UEFA's referee committee headed by Pierluigi Collina should definitely instruct their referees more deeply in terms of this issue.
And, in the end, it is also odd that some referees voluntarily relinquish some seconds of Champions League football in the best position! ;-)