Penalty shoot-outs, an alternative

Has anyone ever said that penalty shoot-outs are by far the best and fairest way to settle drawn football matches?

No. The most common reaction I see is that it is a ‘lottery’, and it is clear there are a great number of players who do not want to go anywhere near that dreaded penalty spot.

It cannot be denied that pk shoot-outs have provided a host of dramatic moments over the years, and have made heroes of many a goalkeeper. It is also unarguable that deciding games through this method is so much better than tossing a coin, or drawing lots.

However when pk shoot-outs were first introduced they were viewed as ‘better then nothing’ and the general attitude was that they would be adopted until something better came along.

Other variations have been tried, often based on the theme of player v keeper. For example a player would start with the ball 25 yards for the goal and would have 5 seconds in which to try and score against the keeper. I don’t know why this never caught on, perhaps it lacked the instant thrill or despair of a penalty, but for some reason the pk shoot-out became established as the only way to resolve draws.

There were also golden goals and silver goals, whereby the first goal of extra-time would decide the game. This didn’t last long, it appears that it put too much pressure on the players, but doesn’t a penalty do much the same thing? And these golden goal still didn’t eliminate the pk shoot-out, just reduced their frequency.

As well as thousands of everyday games a great many tournament finals have come to pk shoot-outs, the ultimate being the World Cup Final which has been won and lost by the penalty lottery on two occasions.

Surely there is an alternative.

Personally I feel the outcome of the game should be resolved by the performance during the game, not by an instant, made for TV, apres-solution.

So let’s look at the measurements that are made through a game. Perhaps the winner could be decided through territorial superiority, or possession, or by corners, or by shots on goal. Or even by fouls committed, or red/yellow cards. But any football fan will tell you that none of these can consistently and fairly reflect which team deserves to win.

This leaves me with one alternative, and the more I think about it, the more I feel it would be better than pk shoot-outs.

The game should be decided on how many times the woodwork was hit.

If the ball hits the post and subsequently goes in the net to score a goal then obviously this situation should not count, but otherwise the number of woodwork hits could be totted up and the team with the highest number wins. Attacking football would be rewarded, and it might even encourage teams to shoot more often. And it is clear and fair.

Again, like the golden goal, it would not eliminate the pk shoot-out completely, since the teams may hit the woodwork an equal number of times, but it would greatly reduce them, and would almost certainly prevent teams from ‘playing for penalties’.

Surely it is better then the pk lottery.

Bring Back the Cup-Winners’ Cup

It was always the purest of the European football competitions, the European Cup-Winners’ Cup was a straight knock-out contest of all the cup winners from each country, who in turn had been victorious in straight knock-out cup competitions. In short it provided the best cup team in Europe.

And then it was deemed one European competition too many, and in 1999 the last final was won by Lazio. The Cup-Winners’ Cup was absorbed into the growing UEFA Champions League competition.

Admittedly the Cup-Winners’ Cup had become the little brother to the other two European competitions: the Champions League and the UEFA/Europa Cup. And it was widely thought that the standard of football was noticeably lower. On top of that the public interest appeared to be on the wane.

But did everyone forget the ‘glory of the cup’? Did everyone forget about minnows and the excitement of giantkilling exploits? Did everyone forget the intensity, the beauty, the thrill of knock-out games? It seems they did.

Now decades on, the popularity of football has never been higher. The almost insatiable appetite for more European games would surely have room for the return of the purest of European competitions.

So here’s a suggestion: bring back the Cup-Winners’ Cup. The winners of each country’s cup competitions would compete in a knock-out competition, with each match being home and away, over two legs.

No seeding, no favoritism, just draw the names from a hat (or balls from a bag) and let the games begin.

Should the cup winner already be qualified for the Champions League or the Europa Cup then of course they couldn’t enter two European competitions, so they would have the choice of which to enter. If they chose not to enter the Cup-Winners’ Cup then the losing cup finalist would be invited to enter, then the best semi-finalist etc. This may well give the chance for an unfashionable team to have the rare experience of competitive European football, even perhaps a club from the second tier. What a fillip it could be for some long-suffering fans.

Since we could be delving quite deep into the league hierarchy for some countries, it would seem fair not to award coefficient points for this competition, and for the coefficient system to retain its status quo.

We could see the return of real cup glory, the magic of the cup, cupsets, and a trophy well worth winning.