There is little point in your reading any of my opinions on things, until you understand what I mean by "good" and "evil", so you should start by reading how I define these, and only then go on to read the rest of my bigoted maunderings.

Not everyone will love everything I have to say, and you will find above a link to a page telling the tale of one attempt to have my views banned, and another about how I was eventually banned.

No more penalty shootouts

Football is a game, and a type of mass entertainment. All fans of the game want it to be exciting. Part of the reason football (that’s proper football, or "soccer" to you yanks) is so exciting, is that it is a low-scoring game. Fools who know nothing on the topic, sometimes criticise football as dull, because so few goals are scored. In a typical match, three goals are scored (the most common result is 2:1). If no goals have been scored in the first eighty minutes of play, this adds tremendously to the excitement of the game, because both sides know that a goal is still likely, and they also know that one single goal, one single momentary lapse in the defence of one side, one tiny spark of initiative from a talented attacker, can decide the game. Each goal is cause for tremendous celebration.

One effect of the fact that football is low-scoring, is that one side can play better than the other for the whole match, and still lose. Luck is a factor, and this adds to the excitement still further. Even though one team is being out-played, its supporters can watch with a reasonable hope of victory. Another effect is that draws are fairly common.

When a football match ends in a draw, many competitions are settled with a penalty shoot-out. Almost no one likes these. The players hate having to take penalties. The winning side has a hollow victory. The losing side has an unfair or at best arbitrary defeat. The pundits often say that the better side lost. Anyone who saw England get knocked out by Germany in Euro’96, or Holland get knocked out by Italy in Euro 2000, would be obliged to admit that the better team lost.

Supposedly, no better method has been devised for settling a draw. I propose one here.

After full time, plus injury time, the referee should blow his whistle, and there should be a short break during which tension mounts in the crowd, and the two managers draw up lists, or submit pre-drawn-up lists, to the referee. These lists tell the referee which players to send off the pitch. The referee then sends off two players from each team. If one team has had two or more players sent off during the match, then the referee sends off just one player of that team.

Play now starts again, with a drop-ball in the centre of the pitch. The first team to score wins.

After ten minutes of play with no goal scored, the referee stops play again, and sends off two more players from each side. The teams swap ends, and another ten minutes is played, as before.

This continues until a goal is scored. As fewer and fewer players play on the pitch, a goal becomes more and more likely. Each player will have to run further and further, to keep up with play, and each will be more of a hero if his team wins. By the time the game is down to five a side, a goal would seem almost guaranteed, since a player with the ball, who gets away from an opponent, would have an awful lot of room to run into. Very occasionally, a match might go down to three as side, and such a contest would be remembered far more than any penalty shoot-out, and the heroes of it would be greater heroes than were lucky with a single penalty kick. These would be men who held on against the odds. Even the losers by this stage would be heroes. A match that went down to one against one would be a miracle which would go down in history.

A team which had lost a man due to a sending off would be even more penalised by this system, since ten against eleven is not nearly such a disadvantage as four against five. Being harsh against foul play I see as no bad thing.

Note that this system does not require fifteen minutes each way to be played after the first full time. The overall length of a match which ended in a draw is unlikely to be greater than matches which get extended as they do today. Television schedulers, therefore, need not fear.

What do you think, footie-fans?

Lloyd 2000

I wrote to the F.A. with my suggestion, and the F.A. wrote back suggesting that I contact F.I.F.A. I wrote to F.I.F.A and got a reply.

Read my response to F.I.F.A.'s reply. ▼

The Plot Thickens

Here is my reply to F.I.F.A.'s reply to my letter, which quotes almost the entire letter from F.I.F.A.

PO Box 85
8030 Zurich

24th July 2000

Dear Andrin Cooper,

Thank you very much for your reply dated 21st July, to my letter suggesting an alternative system to penalty shoot-outs for settling draws in football competitions.

You say that my proposed alternative is not a viable system, and go on to give your reasons. Your reasons, however, I believe to be flawed. If anything, they refer more to the current system than to my proposal.

You write "... it does not offer a concrete conclusion to a match - it is always possible that neither team manages to score. In this case, players would be exhausted and less likely to score rather than more likely." Actually, the current penalty shoot-out system does not offer a guaranteed result either. It is possible that both sides score the same number of penalties, in which case penalties continue until one side scores more than the other. It is possible for penalty shoot-outs to go on forever, but in reality they never do. Similarly, in my system, play could go on forever, but this is similarly so unlikely that in practice it never would. Also, in the present system, before penalties even start, half an hour of extra play, involving all eleven players on both teams, has been played. After half an hour of extra play using my system (ten minutes of play between each sending off) the sides would be down to the five fittest on each side (and substitutes would still be allowed, so the likelihood is that a high proportion of both sides would be fresh men). One could tweak things further and make each section of play eight minutes long, in which case the sides would be down to three a side. Tiredness, though less of a factor than in the current system, would favour goal-scoring, not defence. A tired man does not chase back to defend so well, and an attacker who gets away from his marker with the ball is far less likely to be stopped. In games of five-a-side football, which I play quite often, it is very noticeable that the first goal is a long time in coming, when everyone is fresh, but as people tire, the goals start coming more and more often. Five-a-side football is a much higher-scoring game than eleven-a-side, and would be even more high-scoring if the pitch and goals were full size.

You go on to write, "Secondly, football is a game devised for 11 players per team. The whole structure of the game would be distorted under your system, and I am not convinced that it would provide for a satisfactory spectacle." This is a very strange objection to my system, since the penalty shoot-out distorts the game out of all recognition. Whereas I am proposing that a game be concluded from open play, with team members constructing attacks with passes and crosses, you are preferring instead to change the game to one in which a single man kicks a stationary ball. Five-a-side football is still recognisably football, and incorporates team play and many skills. Taking a penalty is an individual activity, and is more than anything a test of nerve. The first part of this objection therefore I consider to be invalid. As for the second, regarding 'spectacle', well, my proposal is for open play, which is what makes the 'beautiful game' so beautiful, whereas you seem to prefer the crowd to watch just a few single kicks. In my system, as the play goes on, goals become more and more likely, and the tension in the crowd would steadily increase. A single golden goal will settle the match, whereas in a penalty shoot-out it is still possible to win after someone on one's team has missed his kick. One penalty shoot-out is much like another. What people remember of these shoot-outs is the last decisive missed kick. Matches settled using my system would be far more individual, and people would remember the vital heroic goal, not the embarrassment of the poor fellow who missed. The very rare match that went down to three-a-side (perhaps this would never happen in a hundred years) would be a tale that every man who witnessed it would tell his grandsons.

Your final comment is "The penalty shoot-out is not perfect, but it does offer a definite conclusion to a match, and does incorporate the ultimate aim of football, i.e. to score more goals than the opposition." My system also involves one side's scoring more goals, and it offers a more definite conclusion to a game, since a team of the best men of each side, working together in open play, will show that it can score a goal, rather than be knocked out by the unfortunate blunder of one team member.

Given that you have not come up with a reason which shows penalty shoot-outs to be better than my proposed system, could you please make sure that this system is discussed the next time the rules committee meets for discussion?

Again, thank you very much for your reply.

Yours sincerely,

Nikolas Lloyd

There has been no reply to my letter. If you agree with my proposal, why not write to F.I.F.A. and tell the people there this?

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