A study by La Trobe University suggests teams would have more
incentive to play attacking football if a penalty shoot-out was decided before extra time.
Sydney FC goalkeeper Clint Bolton went a long way to helping his side to victory over Melbourne [GETTY]
Football can be a frustrating sport at the best of times.
For a fan, one of the most disheartening parts of the global game is penalty shoot-outs.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter once described the penalty shoot-out as a tragedy, and if you can remember the FIFA 2006 World Cup Final, one would agree.
Closer to home was the recent Sydney FC-Melbourne Victory A-League Grand Final which also ended up coming down to a shoot-out.
But would the game be better off without penalty shoot-outs?
A recent study by La Trobe University economists uses econometric modeling and regression techniques to estimate what would happen if the shoot-out were to be staged before (rather than after) extra-time, with the shoot-out result determining the winner only if the subsequent extra-time does not separate the teams anyway.
The research, conducted by La Trobe's School of Economics and Finance department used a comprehensive database of over 500,000 matches from scores of various domestic and global competitions, the authors compare scoring outcomes of two groups of matches whereby one group closely simulates what the proposed rule change would do, and the other group represents the current rule.
"The key to the rule lies in the economic incentives that it creates for players," Dr Jan Libich said.
"The team that loses the shoot-out under this proposal would become more attacking in extra-time than currently because they have to score to win, and while the shoot-out winner becomes more defensive, what really matters is the net of these two effects."
The authors' results indicate that for competitions such as the World Cup and the UEFA Cup, the probability of scoring in extra-time would increase on average by 45-60 per cent under the new rule, depending on various factors such as the result in regulation time, evenness of the teams, stage of the tournament and home ground advantage.
The proportion of goalless extra-times would therefore approximately fall by half: from almost 50 per cent to below 25 per cent.
Dr Libich laments this proposal would be a vast improvement on the previous experiments such as the 'golden/silver goal' rule.
"It backfired because it incentivised both teams to be even more defensive due to the higher 'cost' of conceding a goal, therefore it undermined its own intention, and was eventually abandoned after Euro 2004."
The findings are currently being presented by La Trobe's Dr Liam Lenten at several institutions across Europe in the lead up to the World Cup, including a 'Psychology of Football' conference in London and seminars at the Universities of Birmingham, Iceland and the home of the FIFA, Zurich.
The university is suggesting that FIFA should consider trialling the proposed rule change in lower-tier competitions and if the rule proves to be a success, then it should be implemented in the top-tier leagues.
:: More from The Interchange