Simple, yes. Fair, no. Professor Ignacio Palacios-Huerta in his book Beautiful Game Theory: How Soccer Can Help Economics, studied 1001 penalty shootouts comprising 10431 penalty kicks during a period from 1970-2013. It includes virtually all the shootouts in the history of the main international elimination tournaments such as the World Cup, European Championships and Copa América. The data set also includes club matches from the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, Spanish Cup, German Cup and English FA Cup.
What Palacios-Huerta discovered was that the team who took the first kick in the shootout won 60.6% of the time.1 The data clearly shows that the penalty shootout is not a 50-50 lottery. It is more like a 60-40 lottery, where the team kicking first has 20% more tickets!
The reason for the disparity is because the team kicking second is usually playing catch-up and therefore experiences greater pressure with each kick. If you're not convinced, just look to the sport of tennis. There's a reason why they structure their tie-breaker the way they do! So, in relation to the question of the penalty shootout and fairness, it's actually the case of win the toss, kick first and win the shootout.
Michel Platini was seemingly aware of the potential for long term psychological damage when he said, "A football match should be decided by an action of play. Not some contrived process whose end result is to mark a fine player such as Bossis, Baresi or Baggio for the rest of his career. Of course coaches like shootouts because they can say that defeat was not their fault. But the people who run the game should take the long-term view." 3 Platini subsequently became UEFA President and I wrote to him many times. And while I received feedback from the then technical director Andy Roxburgh, I was disappointed that someone with such close personal experience to the trauma of the penalty shootout, and someone who had also spoken so strongly against it, couldn't find time to respond.
Roberto Baggio who was instrumental in getting Italy to the final of the 1994 World Cup, but missed the decisive kick in the shootout says, "It affected me for years. It is the worst moment of my career. I still dream about it. If I could erase a moment, it would be that one." 4 Maxime Bossis, the French defender who missed the last penalty in the 1982 World Cup semi final says, "You know players miss penalties all the time but you still feel guilty. I would rather we lost in extra-time. I've never taken another penalty since then." 5
Didier Six who missed his kick in the same match, states explicitly how people's negative attitudes and prejudice can exaggerate the long term psychological damage that players often suffer. "At a certain point it gets too much. You are forty-five but people still see you as missing the penalty. I had difficulty finding a job because they said, 'That one is unstable.' And all that has come from this missed penalty kick." 5 Former England and Barcelona manager Terry Venables agrees. Venables says, "Penalties put too much strain on one player. It could ruin his career if he's not a strong character. If you feel for the rest of your life that everyone could of had a winners' medal but for you, it's a hard thing to get over." 3
Does any other sport on the planet have such a self-destructive element as football's penalty shootout? And who will be the next player to be crucified? Imagine Messi, Ronaldo or Marta propelling their team to a World Cup final and then missing the decisive kick in the penalty shootout. And what of the fourteen year-old boy or girl who misses the kick that loses their team the championship? What are the ramifications for those young players who feel that they've let their teammates down?
But it's not just psychological damage we need to consider. What would be the repercussions for sponsors if their star player missed the decisive penalty? How much brand damage would occur? As the global sporting landscape becomes ever more competitive, this is the last thing football can afford. Of course when the shootout was introduced in 1970, branding and sponsorship were still in their infancy. Indeed, commercial implications would have been the furthest thing from the minds of the men of the IFAB when they were assessing alternatives to the coin toss. And unsurprisingly, the minutes from the meeting of the working party established by IFAB to examine FIFA's penalty kick tie-breaker, reveals that they were "not entirely satisfied with the proposed new method." 6
Perhaps, Christian Karembeu described it best when he equated the penalty shootout not with an old fashioned Wild West gunfight, but with a game of Russian roulette. "It is loading a bullet into the chamber of a gun and asking everyone to pull the trigger. Someone will get the bullet, you know that. And it will reduce them to nothing." 3
Some people will argue that the shootout simply parallels the ups and downs of real life. But the "two imposters" of triumph and disaster are already ever present within the regular ninety minutes. Indeed, it's common to see a player turn from villain to hero, or hero to villain, in the space of a few games or even a single match. If there's one thing football certainly doesn't need, it's a tie-breaker to remind us of the capriciousness of life.
While long-term physical injuries such as concussion have been at the forefront of athletic welfare campaigns, mental injuries remain largely unexplored. I believe the long term psychological trauma created by the penalty shootout is a serious issue that FIFA, FIFPro and Professional Footballers' Associations should investigate.
How frequently are penalty shootouts occurring in major competitions?
Six of the last sixteen finals have gone to penalties and seven of the last seventeen finals have also gone to penalties. Two World Cup finals in each of the and competitions have also been decided by penalties. At the 2014 tournament we saw four shootouts, which equals the most in any World Cup. The semi final between the was a lacklustre contest with both teams reluctant to attack and seemingly happy for the match to be decided by the penalty shootout lottery.
Everyone talks about the 1994 World Cup final and I also remember watching it and seeing what happened to Baggio. A.S. Byatt writes, "One does not remember the winners. One remains haunted by the losers." 7 So, I think I've had alternatives gestating for a long time. But it wasn't until I watched the 2008 UEFA Champions League final that I put pen to paper and began to flesh out an alternative.
What was your main idea when developing ADG?
The underlying problem with the shootout is the expectation that the kicker should always score. So, I said how do we change that expectation? It was then that I had the idea of including a defender. The challenge was then to develop that initial idea into a tie-breaker format that would combine the skill and athleticism of modern football, with the inherent dramatic tension of the shootout.
The attacker receives the ball at the centre mark. The opposition team fields their defender. Half of the field is in play. The attacker has 30 seconds to score a goal.
If the attacker scores, the contest is over. If the ball goes out of play, the contest is over. If the goalkeeper controls the ball with their hands, the contest is over. If the 30 seconds elapses, the contest is over. If the attacker commits a foul, the contest is over. If the defending team commits a foul, a penalty kick is awarded.
Both teams receive two additional substitutions. The teams take turns at playing the attacker and defender for a total of ten contests. If scores are still level, ADG enters sudden death.
What are some of the advantages of ADG over the penalty shootout?
ADG has seven fundamental advantages over the shootout. It removes the unfair advantage for the team kicking first. All players compete. It showcases skill and athleticism. It's a positive natured competition where the goals scored determine the outcome. Strategy is vital. It promotes attacking play. It promotes fair play.
Let's use the 2010 World Cup quarter-final between Uruguay and Ghana as an example. In the last minute of extra time a Uruguayan player deliberately handled the ball and denied Ghana a match winning goal. As we all now know, Ghana missed the penalty kick and went on to lose the shootout. The point has to be made that once Ghana had missed the penalty kick, Uruguay were not subject to any further disadvantage for the remainder of the match. In fact it doesn't matter how many players a team has had sent off during the match, if they can make it to the shootout, then they are at no further disadvantage to their opposition.
However, if ADG rather than the shootout had ensued, Uruguay would have been without a defender for one of the contests. This gives the Ghanaians a distinct advantage, which is something I know most rational football fans around the world believe they were entitled to. This episode illustrates how ADG is much more effective than the penalty shootout at punishing teams who are guilty of unsporting and illegal play.
Let’s use the 2006 FIFA World Cup final as an example. After 100 minutes the French replaced Ribéry with Trezeguet and after 107 minutes Henry with Wiltord. Would Domenech have made these substitutions with the knowledge that ADG rather than penalties was imminent? Ribéry and Henry are both sublimely talented attacking players who would be invaluable for ADG. But their presence on the pitch for the duration of extra time also increases the likelihood of a French goal and the match being decided prior to ADG.
So there isn't any standoff between the attacker and defender. This could be the attacker trying to fake the defender into moving a certain direction. The 30 seconds provides a sense of urgency but also allows ample time for attackers of all abilities and ages to progress towards goal and attempt a shot. It also allows time for thrilling and unpredictable contests to develop. In fact, it will likely be a rare occurrence for the 30 seconds to elapse with the ball still in play. Indeed, the majority of contests will probably end within 20 seconds.
What about a goal that is scored right on the 30 second mark?
One possible strategy that could be employed to adjudicate on contentious goals is for the referee and his assistants to receive an audible signal when the 30 seconds have elapsed. The assistant referee or the additional assistant referee with his view looking directly along the goal line will be in the best position to adjudicate on whether a ball crosses the line before the thirty seconds elapse.
Another more sophisticated and precise approach that could be utilised by major competitions is goal line technology (GLT). A signal is transmitted to the referee's watch, which indicates if the ball crossed the goal line before the 30 seconds elapsed.
These decisions will obviously lie with the team's manager. At the end of normal play the manager will consult with his team and determine his five attackers and the order in which they will compete. As for the defenders, it's a case of anticipating who the opposition's attackers will be and selecting players to defend against them. For instance, in the , the French manager would assume that Del Piero would be one of the Italian's attacking players and he instructs Sagnol to defend against him.
What are the duties of the assistant referees and where are they positioned?
One of the assistants is responsible for supervising the players who are currently not competing, while the other is positioned on the goal line. The assistant on the goal line will assist the referee with decisions in a similar way to UEFA’s Additional Assistant Referees (AARs). Both the referee and the assistant on the goal line will adjudicate on whether a ball is in or out of play. For major competitions, another possibility is to modify GLT, so it will also indicate if a ball is in or out of play.
Any alternative to the penalty shootout that places the emphasis back on football skill, will inevitably put some pressure back on the referee. So, I doubt there would be anyone involved with refereeing who is eager to see the shootout replaced. In fact, it was actually a member of the FIFA Referees' Committee who submitted the penalty kick shootout as a replacement for the coin toss in 1970. And it's a tie-breaker format that makes it virtually impossible for the referee to make a mistake that influences the outcome of the match.
However, without the clutter of bodies hindering visibility and with the referee always in close proximity to the play, refereeing mistakes during ADG should be a rarity. And as the players currently not competing must remain within the penalty area in the disused half of the field, it's impossible for a group of players to surround and intimidate the referee.
Furthermore, two incidents that often result in contentious decisions, the offside rule and whether a foul is committed inside or outside the penalty area, are not factors during ADG.
Another controversial issue that is becoming increasingly common during the penalty shootout, is when a goalkeeper moves off their goal line before the penalty is taken. The Laws of the Game state that the kick must be retaken and the goalkeeper cautioned. But all football fans know that this infringement is seldom, if ever punished. Indeed, the late great Johan Cruyff who played in the North American Soccer League (NASL) and experienced the 35 yard shootout said, "With penalties you've always got problems about whether the goalkeeper moved. You don't get this with the (NASL) shootout." 31 Likewise, in ADG a penalty only occurs when the attacker is fouled, so this problem will be much less frequent.
Finally, the IFAB is on course to officially introduce the use of Video Assistant Referees (VARs) at the beginning of 2018. This is another positive development for ADG's implementation.
And aren't the costs of a slight increase in pressure on the referee outweighed by the benefits? Quite simply, what ADG will deliver is spectacular and exhilarating goals. It's due to the skill and grace of movement of the world's great players that we call football the "beautiful game" and the reason why it's the most popular sport on earth. It's also of course why Messi, Ronaldo and Marta are continuously rated as the world's best players. If you've got a great product, then as the marketing people say, "let the product speak for itself."
|Implication for Referees||ADG||Normal Laws|
|Referee always in close proximity to the play||Yes||No|
|Mass confrontation avoided||Yes||No|
|Offside not applicable||Yes||No|
|Foul inside/outside Penalty Area not applicable||Yes||No|
|Minimise issue of GK off goal line before PK||Yes||No|
|VARs minimise match-changing mistakes||Yes||Yes|
Any successful alternative has to be about scoring goals. I was never a fan of ideas such as counting woodwork strikes, corners, cautions or any of the other things that have been suggested. Football is about scoring goals. We have to see the ball going into the net. I think the Americans were on the right track with their NASL Shootout• The visiting team takes the first kick.
• Each team is entitiled to at least five kicks, which are taken alternately.
• If, before the kicks are completed, one team has accumulated an insummountable number of goals - e.g., one team scores its first three while the other misses its first three - then the shootout is ended by the referee.
• If the number of goals scored by both teams is equal after five attempts, the procedure continues until one team has scored more than the other after both have taken part in an even number of kicks.
• Each kicker starts with the ball on the 35-yard-line, and must take his shot within five seconds after the referee's signal is given.
• The kicker and the goalkeeper are not restricted in their movement during the five-second period.
• Only players who are on the field of play at the end of the match may qualify to take kicks.
• No player may take a second kick until all eligible team-mates have had their turn. The order of a team's rotation may vary in each round of kicks.
which was later used in the MLS. The shootout started thirty-five yards from the goal and the player had 5 seconds to attempt a shot. Johan Cruyff said, "This is spectacular and not as brutal as penalties." 3 In a documentary in 2006 he said, "I still think in Europe they should try it." 8 Another recently departed legend of the game, Carlos Alberto, said in the same film that the NASL shootout "makes the game more emotional." 8
The dynamic nature of the American shootout rendered the penalty shootout as a static and clinical contest. MLS discarded their shootout in 1999, not because it was unpopular, but because they wanted "to bring the MLS game into accordance with how the game is played throughout the world." 9 Former USA goalkeeper, Winston DuBose says, "They (FIFA) wanted to whip America into line with the rest of the world. (The NASL shootout is) unbelievably exciting. Can you imagine Lionel Messi against Tim Howard, or something like that? It would be unbelievable to see that, fantastic. FIFA's extremely reluctant to change and it's crazy." 10
So, how does ADG compare? Well, the NASL shootout still only involves five attackers from each team. ADG of course involves every player, so it's a fairer test of a team's overall ability. ADG also showcases defensive skills. For example, you might see a defender make a perfectly timed sliding tackle to deny a shot on goal. Another difference is that ADG provides a vital role for the coach, with strategy being a major factor. Furthermore, and similar to penalties, the NASL shootout doesn't disadvantage teams who have received yellow or red cards. So, another major distinction is that ADG promotes fair play.
Finally, some people argued that the NASL shootout became too predictable with the keeper always dashing to the edge of the penalty area. By including a defender and extending the time to 30 seconds, we ensure unpredictable contests will unfold. If the IFAB was to reconsider the NASL shootout, it would be a very hard sell. You're bringing back a product that hasn't been on the shelf in almost 20 years. So, the critics will say, "If it was so good in the first place, why was it discontinued?" It should also be stated that ADG was not inspired by the NASL shootout and it was only after developing ADG that I became aware of it.
|All players compete||Yes||No|
|Showcases defensive skills||Yes||No|
|Coach and strategy play vital role||Yes||No|
|Promotes fair play||Yes||No|
There's also the idea of having the shootout take place before extra time. If the match is still drawn after extra time, then the winners of the shootout win the match. The thinking behind this is that it forces the team that lost the shootout to attack in extra time. But surely it’s just as likely to encourage the other team to play defensive football. Furthermore, the one and only redeeming feature of the penalty shootout is the ability to create tension, which of course is sacrificed if it precedes extra time.
Other alternatives such as endless extra time and the intermittent removal of players have their merits, but there’s always going to be the issue of excessively long matches and the likelihood of player injury. Not to mention the scheduling nightmare, because no one can guess how long these matches are going to last. Compare this to ADG, which would be completed in ten to fifteen minutes. It’s also been suggested that if those alternatives were introduced, supporters might miss the dramatic tension of the penalty shootout and I believe that’s possible. The beauty of ADG is that it combines the skill and athleticism of open play with the inherent drama and tension of the penalty shootout.
What will ADG's scoring rate be?
The scoring rate for penalties in the shootout for professional players since 1970 has been about 73%.30 ADG's rate will likely be around 20-25%, which is similar to the American shootout of about 30-35%.10 Competing against an extra player makes ADG more difficult, but this is offset by increasing the time limit and punishing any foul with a penalty. And when scoring rates drop to these levels, there won't be any advantage in attacking first during ADG, in contrast to the 20% advantage of kicking first during the shootout.
As per Law 32Each team is allowed two additional substitutions and if a team has any unused substitutions, these can also be used., each team is allowed two additional substitutions and the law is deliberately designed to aid teams who sustain injuries during ADG. While the Laws of the Game allow for a maximum of twelve substitutes to be nominated prior to the start of a match, competitions utilising ADG would require a minimum of six. Three substitutions are allocated as usual to normal play, two substitutions to ADG, while the remaining substitution could be allocated to a substitute goalkeeper.
What about injury concerns with players cooling down as they wait to compete?
One criticism that ADG sometimes attracts, is that as players cool down they will inevitably suffer more injuries. But data collected by the English FA Medical Research Programme and published by the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2003-2004 on the timing of hamstring 11 and ankle12 strains contradicts this premise. A total of 91 football clubs from the English football leagues committed to the study which occurred over two seasons.
The research found that the two periods when players' core body temperatures are at their lowest levels,13 namely the first 15 minutes of the match and the 15 minutes immediately following half time, actually contained the lowest number of injuries in both the studies.11,12 In fact, almost half of the reported injuries occurred during the last 15 minutes of each half when body temperatures are actually at their highest.11,12 This data supports the notion that fatigue, rather than core body temperature is the predisposing factor for these injuries.
Before the start of ADG there will be at least a five minute period where the referee tosses the coin, coaches select players and discuss tactics, and the referee records the attacking players. This break will allow the players to rest, rehydrate and lessen fatigue.
There are currently three procedures to determine the result of a match or a home-and-away. These are: away goals, extra time and kicks from the penalty mark. ADG could be included as a fourth procedure and competitions could then choose between the penalty kick shootout and ADG.
For those competitions favouring ADG, it's then a matter of deciding how it will integrate with the other procedures. For instance, competitions that take place over two legs may opt to play away goals and extra time and then ADG.
However, there is conjecture about the relevance of the away goals rule. "I believe the tactical weight of the away goal has become too important," Arsène Wenger said in 2008. "Teams get a 0-0 draw at home and they're happy. Instead of having a positive effect it has been pushed too far tactically in the modern game. It has the opposite effect than it was supposed to have at the start. It favours defending well when you play at home." 14
"It was an artificial regulation brought in to avoid a third match", says former UEFA and current AFC technical director Andy Roxburgh. "It was to encourage elite teams to attack. What actually happens is that it works the other way around. It's encouraged home teams to defend. It gives certain goals an added value and you can argue that's artificial. It encourages caution that wouldn't be there if you removed it. It was introduced for the right reasons but it's time to look at it." 15
Even the former FIFA President agrees. "It is time to rethink the system," says Sepp Blatter. "Football has progressed since the 1960s, so the away goals rule may now be questioned. Does the away goals rule still make sense?" 16
Jonathan Wilson writes, "The away goals rule first made an appearance in European football in the Cup Winners' Cup in 1965, primarily to eliminate the need for replays, which were costly and difficult to arrange. Given the alternative was flipping a coin, it probably seemed the lesser of two evils and, besides, back then it made a certain sense. Only 16% of all European away games then resulted in an away win. Away trips were difficult as travel was gruelling and away teams would often face unfamiliar and hostile conditions. As a consequence, the tendency was for the away side to absorb pressure and try to keep the score down." 14
"But circumstances have changed. In each of the last five years, between 30 and 35% of matches in European competition have been won by the away side: even if you wanted to make the argument that the away goals rule has worked, the original rationale for its introduction has gone. Transport is better now, there is a great homogeneity of conditions while the differences between a German side and a Spanish side, or a Russian side and a French side, are far less than they were. Teams are cosmopolitan, national styles less distinct than they once were. Away trips simply aren't as frightening as they once were and so the away goal becomes a weird distorter." 14
So, a further option would be to discard away goals, play extra time and then ADG. However, there's also been debate about the value of extra time in an era of exhausting high-tempo and pressing football. Thirteen of the last 20 World Cup or European Championship matches that went to extra time were ultimately decided by a shootout. And of the last 12 European Cup or Champions League finals to go to penalties, 10 ended without so much as a goal in extra time. It should be noted that tournaments such as the Copa America and Copa Libertadores include extra time only for the final, with all other knockout matches going straight to a shootout after 90 minutes.
So, another option would be to discard both away goals and extra time and simply play ADG.
The phrase "a simple game" dates back to 1862 when a teacher at Uppingham School in England drew up a set of ten laws entitled "The Simplest Game". These ten laws which are also known as the Uppingham Rules totalled a mere 253 words.17 By contrast, the word count for the 17 laws in the current edition of IFAB's Laws of the Game is over 13,000. This is a testament to the fact that the laws have evolved to a point where football is now a highly complex sport. What was indeed once "a simple game" has morphed into a complex sport where players, managers and referees dedicate decades to perfecting their skills.
Over the past 150 years the Laws of the Game have expanded exponentially and the sport has undergone radical transformations. Consequently, the idea of football being "a simple game" is an anachronism. So, if ADG initially appears somewhat complicated, we must also acknowledge that the sport's rulebook spans 206 pages. However, many things which are actually highly detailed and complicated on paper, become comprehensible and deceptively simple when they are physically played out. And this will be the case with ADG.
The penalty kick was invented 100 years ago, isn't that justification for the shootout?
Les Murray, a journalist and commentator says, "To begin with penalty kicks were invented as tools of punishment for offences. It is inherently abhorrent that tools of punishment should be used to decide games. Proponents of shootouts make the case that penalties are part of football. Yes, but only when someone has committed a foul inside the penalty area. As genuine, intended arbiters of a game's outcome, they are not part of the game and never have been. The men who drew up the Laws of the Game all those years ago would be spinning in their graves at the thought that penalties are now deciding World Cup finals." 18
We're all scared of change but we also know that the shootout is an unsatisfactory solution and that's why we've seen things like golden goal and silver goal. And while these experiments were ultimately deemed unsuccessful, this should in no way hinder or disqualify the development of other new alternatives. I know people will say that ADG isn't real football and contrary to the Laws of the Game, but I will always argue that ADG is more about the purity of football and the dynamic beauty of the game than the penalty shootout will ever be.
Of course ADG is a bold and radical alternative, but the very nature of such a diabolical problem necessitates creative thinking, innovation and evolution. It's also important to remember that prior to the shootout, drawn matches were decided by the toss of a coin. I doubt that even the shootout's most vociferous critics would argue that its introduction wasn't an improvement over the coin toss, and I believe that ADG should be viewed as another step forward in this evolutionary process.
While ADG was discussed by the IFAB in 2009, the proposal then was just weeks old and a mere sketch of an idea. In the subsequent years, I've thoroughly researched all aspects of the penalty shootout and the ADG laws have been significantly modified. Couple this with Palacios-Huerta's research about the inherent unfairness of the shootout, which was first published in 2010, and then a new evaluation is undoubtedly warranted.
When the shootout was introduced in 1970, football was a very different sport. Four years earlier Pelé was literally kicked out of the World Cup and even considered quitting the game. Move forward four decades and the skill level of players continues its never-ending upward spiral with the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup being the most recent example.
I've tried to develop a thorough proposal and anticipate likely problems, but as with any proposed alternative, only practical testing will reveal its strengths and flaws. It's then of course a matter of getting feedback from the game's stakeholders such as players, fans, coaches and managers, referees, sponsors and administrators.
People involved with the game in the USA have recently made contact and are interested in conducting trials. If you are involved with a club and are likewise interested in testing ADG, then I encourage you to do it. And make sure to download the pdf document and colour-coded scorecards.
Now more than ever, the sport deserves a tie-breaker that rewards and showcases the modern footballer for their immense skill and athleticism. Things have to change and change soon, otherwise in 2020 we'll be "celebrating" fifty years of the penalty shootout. In the intervening years, two more World Cups and countless tournaments will continue to be decided by a lottery where one team has a 20% advantage! And as Karembeu says, "Someone will get the bullet, you know that. And it will reduce them to nothing."
"Every manager would like to see a match decided in 90 minutes.
Because I don't think there's any way you can prepare for penalty kicks."