Football to trial penalty shootouts modelled on tennis tiebreakers

Football's global rule-making body, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) is looking to make penalty shootouts even more unpredictable by adopting the format used for tiebreakers in tennis.


Germany players nervously watch on during a penalty shootout at EURO 2016 Source: Getty Images

Teams currently alternate in shootouts, but the IFAB said on Friday that research shows the first team taking kicks has a 60 percent chance of winning.

As a result, the IFAB is seeking trials in the lower-levels of football with a new pattern that would see the order mixed up between teams A and B to AB-BA-AB-BA-AB.

This mirrors tennis, where after the first point in tiebreaks, the opponent then serves the next two points and so on.

"We believe that the ABBA approach could remove that statistical bias and this is something that we will now look to trial,'' Scottish FA chief Stewart Regan said after Friday's IFAB meeting.

"It would mean the first 10 kicks are taken under the ABBA system and then when it gets to next-goal-wins then it would revert to alternate penalties.''

There is a more immediate change set to come in force for regular penalties, in matches starting in June, with yellow cards no longer being awarded for "stopping a promising attack" if there was a clear attempt to play the ball.

Another change, which is set for quarterfinals of the FA Cup, will allow teams to make a fourth substitute if the match goes into extra time.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, England FA chairman Martin Glenn said: "With the Cup now adopting a straight knockout format, the introduction of a fourth substitute in extra time will bring extra intrigue and interest.

"From a technical point of view, it will be interesting to see how managers use the chance to make an additional substitution in such high-profile games and the impact it has on the final result."

IFAB, once a conservative institution reluctant to change the rules, is now willing to offer flexibility to individual countries to tweak the laws.

The panel features the four British nations and four FIFA voters, and requires the approval of six people for a motion to pass.

Temporary dismissals known as sin bins, regularly used in rugby, will now be allowed for yellow card offenses in youth, grassroots and disability football.

IFAB also gave national federations the freedom to decide how many substitutions are allowed in "lower levels of football," but not games involving the first teams of top-flight competitions and senior international sides.

Meanwhile, the meeting also approved further testing of video assistant referees (VARs) and agreed a strategy to improve player behaviour.

A key part of that strategy will be considering how better to use captains. This may eventually mean only captains can speak to match officials, as is the case in rugby union, but such a rule-change does not appear to be imminent.

Having already been used at last year's FIFA Club World Cup, VARs will also be used at the Under-20 World Cup and Confederations Cup, while the leagues such as the Bundesliga and Major League Soccer are also pushing ahead with their own trials.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino said he was confident VARs could also be seen at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

"They will allow the right decision to be taken in game-changing circumstances or, if you take it the other way, they will prevent referees from a making a mistake -- we all make mistakes, so this is right in terms of justice," Infantino said.

"It won't be every single decision or in every case, but when it is used it will be the right decision."

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Published 4 March 2017 at 10:35am
Source: PA Sport, SBS