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July 10, 2006

Penalty kicks and ad revenue

Randy Paul on penalty kicks in the World Cup:

Before anyone starts to blame the fact that penalty kicks decided this championship, let's look at where the problem really lies and to do so, we have to look to the past, specifically 68 years ago to 1938 when the World Cup was played in France for the first time. If you look at the results, pay special attention to the quarter-finals. On June 12 Brazil played Czechoslovakia to a 1-1 tie after extra time. Two days later, the match was replayed in its entirety and Brazil won, 2-1.

So what's the difference between then and now? The influence of money from television. It would rile television networks to promote the event, only to have to run it again (on a Tuesday, no less) two days later. Money is at the root of this evil and I really don't know of a better way to resolve it. Play until players drop dead of exhaustion? Allow completely open substitutions and let them play for another two hours without a goal scored?

I can see why you wouldn't want to replay the match to resolve a tie. That would be anti-climactic.

Personally, I think that it's more honest to allow of the the possibility of ties. Two teams face off for a set amount of time, if neither gets the upper hand, that's life. Let the record show how the two teams actually played rather than the results of a feel-good gimmick.

If you're not prepared to live with the prospect of ties, then you've got to consider tie-breaker methods that produce an emotionally satisfying, decisive, but non-arbitrary outcomes. Penalty kicks in World Cup soccer are totally unsatisfying to watch. The idea that victory should hinge on a measure with so little variability is absurd.

At that level, most of the kicks are going to go into the net. I'd rather see the teams play until they drop in overtime. At least then the final outcome would be a function of stamina and will, rather than a glorified coin toss.

I don't see a nefarious financial agenda behind FIFA's use of penalty kicks to break ties in the World Cup. If it's all about advertising revenue, why not play into overtime? There are no ads during the periods, but there would be ads in between overtime periods. I bet FIFA could have made even more money off this game if sponsors had the option of buying ads between overtime periods.

I can see a financial argument for not having unlimited overtime during the regular season when the game might preempt a higher-value show. However, for the World Cup itself, I find it hard to believe it's a money-losing proposition to run ads in between overtime periods. The NHL acknowledged this fact in 2005 by allowing regular season games to end in shootouts, but keeping indefinite overtime in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Perhaps FIFA should consider a similar approach for the World Cup.

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Lindsay Beyerstein on World Cup penalties: At that level, most of the kicks are going to go into the net. Someone ought to tell the England team that. With respect to replays, I don't think it's necessarily the case that [Read More]

Comments

I don't like penalty kicks either, but I don't think the 'alternating corners' suggestion is any less contrived.

A replay isn't just about revenue. You can't just decide two days ahead of time your going to have another match. There are arrangements to be made. (In the olden days, the tournament was much smaller). And it couldn't be two days later...that's not nearly enough of a layoff. Still, this might be the least bad suggestion.

The old MLS shootout involved a player dribbling in on goal. There were all sorts of concerns about injuries, as the keeper would charge out and lunge for the ball, often taking the player down (or ironically, fouling him in the box for a penalty).

Contrived, sure, but at least it involves more than two players at a time and bears a closer resemblance to a real-game situation. It's not my preferred solution either, but anything's better than penalty kicks.

Penalty kicks aren't arbitrary, since the kicking player has to kick the ball into the goal and the goalie has a chance, even if it's a small one, to stop the kick.

The best team always wins. Some people felt that France outplayed Italy through most of the World Cup Final, but if they were the better team, they would have scored more goals than Italy in regular time and won that way. Losing on penalty kicks is their punishment for not winning in regular time.

alias: anyone know or care to guess why they went away from the sudden death/golden goal to the new two overtime format?

It didn't work. The Golden Goal rule (introduced in the early nineties, first used in Euro 96) meant that conceding a goal in ET suddenly meant total defeat, so the teams hunkered down and only played defensively. It put the ref's under even more pressure than usual, and lead to a lot of really foul play, as teams under pressure were desperate to avoid concession.
The Silver Goal rule (which meant that a team would win if leading after the first period of ET) was introduced a couple of years ago, in the hope that that would lead to more offensive play. The effect, however, was much like that of the Golden Goal rule; teams only focusing on defense, so eventually these experiments were abandoned and IFAB reverted back to the old practice still in use today. And good riddance.

i do, however, seem to recall the NASL having a different style of post sudden death penalty kick which as a kid i thought more exciting than the current penalty kicks. more like the ones i think they have in hockey now. the player starts at the 35 yardline, and as soon as he moves, the goalie can come off the line.

I've never seen that. Don't think it's been used in European football. But I'd imagine it made life a lot harder for the goalie. Any half-decent footballer can score when one-on-one with the goalkeeper if he's allowed to move the ball. Penalty kicks may stack the odds against the goalie, but at least he still has a chance.

Unlimited overtime BUT remove 1 player from each side every 10 minutes. Anyone one can score in 3-a-side.

It's funny how this reminds me of how I was recently learning about the game cricket and seeing how they have transformed the game from a multi-day affair, to having what they call 'test' matches that are over in a day. At the root of this is money since someone thought they might gain more of an audience if they could reign it in for an attention-span deprived audience. I don't know if this is good for the game or not as I just started watching but I'm always suspicious when the motives are money.

Lindsay,

I'm largely agnostic about PK's to decide a game. I tend to look upon it as a necessary evil. Having played the game in my youth, I can tell you that after the end of 90 minutes, I was usually exhausted. After 120 minutes, I could hardly move. Most of the other suggestions (removing a player, removing goalkeepers, etc.) also fundamentally change the game.

My mentioning the 1938 game (thanks for the link, btw) was to illustrate the point that the advent of television does indeed influence play. The fact that games were replayed in the past clearly proves that. No games would be replayed today, especially given that only the most extreme weather conditions result in a cancellation.

In 1995, a group of Italian soccer fans including myself attempted to get shoot-outs out of the game. We were riduculed and chastised because it was interpreted as us being sore losers. It really wasn't. We believed it then and we believe it now.

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