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How to eliminate football's penalty shootout “tragedy”

Tim Farrell new author
Roar Rookie
1st February, 2014
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The penalty shootout is a tragic way to lose a match. (AP Photo / Franz Mann)
Tim Farrell new author
Roar Rookie
1st February, 2014
57
2264 Reads

While we’ve all had ideas on ways to improve football, mine was considered by the International Football Association Board and I’ve presented it to FIFA’s head of refereeing. Allow me to introduce you to Attacker Defender Goalkeeper.

The FIFA World Cup is now just months away and with so much at stake in modern football, the chance of a showpiece match like a semi-final or the final being decided by the penalty shootout looms increasingly large.

Two World Cup finals in each of the men’s and women’s competitions have now been decided on penalties and in the 2010 final we were only four minutes away from two consecutive finals going to penalties.

“When you go into extra time, we’re talking about drama. But when we reach the penalty shootout, it’s a tragedy.”

That’s a quote from FIFA boss Sepp Blatter after Italy beat France on penalties in the 2006 final.

At the FIFA congress in 2012, Blatter asked Franz Beckenbauer to come up with an alternative.

A lot of people interpreted this as sour grapes because Bayern Munich had just lost the UEFA Champions League final to Chelsea on penalties.

But Blatter (who is Swiss, not German) has always been opposed to the shootout and in 1993, while he was FIFA’s Secretary General, oversaw the introduction of golden goal.

In response to Blatter’s request, ‘Der Kaiser’ said shootouts “bring emotions into play and are a lot more attractive than the toss of a coin, for example.”

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But Franz, surely there must be other options beside the coin toss?

Attacker Defender Goalkeeper (ADG) is an alternative I developed back in 2008.

ADG features a series of ten contests in which an attacker has 30 seconds to score a goal against a defender and a goalkeeper.

The 2008 UEFA Champions League final was the inspiration.

I wasn’t really cheering for either Manchester United or Chelsea but I just thought penalties were a terrible way for a fine match to finish.

It was then I had the idea of including a defender.

The challenge was then to develop that initial idea into a tiebreaker format that would combine the skill and athleticism of modern football with the inherent dramatic tension of the shootout.

The result was ADG.

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How does it work?
The attacker kicks off, has 30 seconds to try and score a goal. Only half of the field is in play and if the attacker scores, the contest is over.

Likewise if the ball goes out of play, the contest is over. If the goalkeeper gains possession of the ball, the contest is over.

If the defender or goalkeeper commits a foul anywhere within the field of play, it’s a penalty kick.

If the attacker commits a foul, the contest is over.

Both teams receive two additional substitutions. The teams take turns at playing the attacker and defender for ten contests and if scores are level we go to sudden death.

ADG has six fundamental advantages over the shootout.

All players compete. It showcases skill and athleticism. It’s a positive natured competition where the goals scored, rather than the missed goals determine the winner. Strategy is vital. It promotes attacking play and it promotes fair play.

Most of these are self-explanatory but for promoting fair play we can look to an incident from the 2010 World Cup quarter-final between Uruguay and Ghana as an example.

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In the last minute of extra time, Luis Suárez deliberately handled the ball and denied Ghana a 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.

In fact it doesn’t matter how many players a team has had sent off, if they can make it to the shootout, then they are at no disadvantage to their opponents.

However with ADG, Uruguay would have been without a defender for one of their 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.

Some would argue while it’s not perfect, the penalty shootout is a simple and fair solution to a difficult problem.

And it may be a simple solution, but it’s definitely not fair.

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Two Spanish economics professors studied 1343 penalty kicks from 129 shootouts and they discovered the team who took the first kick won 60.5% of the time.

The reason is due to the increased pressure the team kicking second experiences.

Even before this research was published, you’d never see a team opt to kick second. They knew instinctively there was an advantage in going first.

I sometimes hear people say they like shootouts because they’re a great ‘leveller’ or ‘equaliser’.

No one cheers harder for the underdog than me, but I want a team to win it on the pitch with their superior skill, athleticism and strategy, not because their opponents hit the crossbar with a penalty kick or their keeper guessed the right way.

In 2009 ADG was considered by the IFAB who are the international rule-making body. They decided not to pursue it, but at that stage I’d only been working on it for a few months and in retrospect it was very rough and underdeveloped.

The following year in Zurich I presented a revised proposal to FIFA’s head of refereeing.

Jérôme Valcke, who’s Secretary General at FIFA and conducted the World Cup draw, thought ADG was “very well thought-out”.

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And since then it’s become more comprehensive and greatly improved.

I’ve approached numerous clubs both in Australia and elsewhere about testing ADG, but I understand that people are busy and have their own priorities.

However, I am hopeful an established club will find the time to conduct some practical trials and I am sure a lot of professional players would be curious to test it.

We’re all scared of change but we also know the shootout is an unsatisfactory solution and that’s why we’ve seen things like golden goal and the American shootout.

It was interesting seeing Cruyff in that documentary about the New York Cosmos saying he thought they should still try it in Europe.

For the record, ADG is not based on the American shootout, despite what it says on Wikipedia!

Growing up in Australia I had no exposure to American soccer and it was only after developing ADG that I became aware of it.

I know people will say that ADG isn’t real football and contrary to the laws of the game, but the very nature of a diabolical problem necessitates innovation and evolution.

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It’s also important to remember prior to the shootout, drawn matches were decided by the coin toss as mentioned by Beckenbauer.

I doubt even the shootout’s most ardent critics would argue its introduction wasn’t an improvement over the coin toss and ADG should be viewed as another step forward in this evolutionary process.

You can read more about ADG at: www.theadgalternative.com