Penalty Shoot-Outs

Variously described as a lottery, a casino, and a farce, the penalty shoot-out used to decide football matches has had its detractors since day one.

When replays are not possible, which is the norm these days, a drawn football match needs a winner. Extra-time, usually 30 minutes, is often played, but after 2 hours of football it would be unreasonable to ask exhausted players to keep on going. The risk of injury increases logarithmically, and especially in the case of evening kick-offs the supporters need to get home. So how to pick a winner? Penalty kicks are an obvious choice. But is there a better way?

No-one seems to like penalties, but no-one seems to be able to come up with any viable alternative, so we’re stuck with them.

But there is an alternative. Simply tot up the number of times each team has hit the woodwork. After all it’s very nearly a goal, and represents attacking intent, and is pretty clear. So if the game ends in a draw the number of times the woodwork has been struck would determine the winner. Of course this number may also be equal, in which case there is nothing to do but to revert to the dreaded lottery of penalties.

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