Penalties before extra time??

Liam Lenten of La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, presented a fascinating paper in Birmingham yesterday on whether the traditional penalty shoot out should be moved to before extra time begins.

If you haven’t heard the idea before, you heard right: Instead of the current penalties after a level extra time period, instead penalties are taken before extra time begins, after 90 minutes. The winner of the shoot out then has something akin to an away goal, and should extra time remain goalless, they will win. On the other hand, should the team that lost the shoot-out score just once without reply in extra time, they will win.

It’s being pushed by some chap who resides in Bristol in the UK, and has been patented as The Advantage, with a nice bit of manipulated footage of the 2006 FA Cup Final between Liverpool and West Ham (which Liverpool won on penalties).

Lenten and co-authors empirically assess whether this new idea might lead to more goals by considering matches where there is a goal in the first 5 minutes of extra time, and consider whether that causes there to be more goals in the remainder of extra time. They find a powerful effect, and hence argue that this idea is at least worth trying, and I’m inclined to agree.

It’s not a method that will distort things too much, offering perverse incentives to players (such as the classic Golden Goal, which just led to players becoming more defensive in extra time). The only concern apparently is that players will get cold waiting for penalties to be taken (initially the suggestion was just 3 pens a team but now apparently the patent owner believes it should be straight to sudden death in the shoot out – i.e. if a team misses and the other team scores, the shoot-out is over).

I have my own slight tweak of the idea that I think would get around that getting cold problem. But in the true spirit of things, I’m going to get on the phone to FIFA and see how much I can extract for them in return for the idea…

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