Now that the dust has settled over Euro 2020, this is an opportune moment to consider whether there isn’t a better way to determine the winner of a knockout football match than the current penalty shoot-out, or at least its need to do it less frequently. As is all too evident at the moment, the penalty method places an inappropriately heavy burden on the individual players and does not necessarily reflect the previous game or the footballing skills of the two teams as a whole.
A decision based on the total number of fouls committed by each side or the number of corners shot would result in a result that better reflects the course of play during the game, but would likely result in unpredictable changes in the football being played. However, increasing the goal width would result in more goals in a game, making a draw and a penalty shootout less likely. And think of how the greater incentive to attack would enhance the spectacle of the beautiful game.
As a misguided child (1970), I briefly supported Chelsea before returning to Manchester United. My best memory of that flirtation with the Blues, however, was their FA Cup final victory – the result of one replay. Instead of being decided by penalty shoot-out – a desperate last resort, not representative and inadequate for the beautiful game – there are precedents for repetition of cup finals. (The reason such repetitions might now be deemed impossible has probably more to do with television, advertising, and globalization than with the core values of sport itself.)
Given that penalties are such a gross, cruel, arduous, and isolating way of deciding the outcome of complex competitions, I would also suggest that after they find their way to a final (or one final replay), the scheduled time has expired, plus interruptions and after extra time, both teams and their supporters could – instead of contesting a penalty shootout – accept that the end result is that both teams can be hailed as the best of the competition. They could then shake hands and share the title of joint winners of the year (again, there could be precedents in other sports).
In this way we can regain and preserve the “sportiest” values of sport – which are traditionally considered high standards and represent examples of fair, intelligent and generous behavior.
It is also noteworthy that the looming possibility of penalty shoot-outs clearly determines the strategies of managers and players who can “close the shop” and “play for penalties” in extra time (and even in regular time) and cannot organize substitutions in favor of the Quality of the game, not even with the aim of winning, but with an eye to penalties (and insufficient consideration of their destructive effects).
Couldn’t we get rid of penalty shoot-outs and instead monitor violations of the rules now that we have the technology to film every move made by top soccer players? Football is a team game, but the penalty shoot-out penalties are not as they focus on the individual who is then vilified and supposed to apologize to the nation (footballers can say that, but for England’s politicians, “apologize” really is the toughest thing) Word, July 13th) This is absurd. Using foul collection technology can also improve behavior on the field. No more grabbing clothes or deliberately stumbling.
Barney Ronay’s article on the Euro 2020 final (England suffered a cruel defeat but Southgate and its players set fire to the summer, July 12) should spark a wider debate on football reform. The current penalty shootout format is unfair and does not reflect the spirit of a team game. If we have to have penalties to decide a game then it would certainly be a fairer system to settle the outcome if all 10 outfielders have to take a penalty (and if the outcome is square, repeat this until it gets one Winners there)? Hopefully there are some Uefa / Fifa delegates reading the Guardian?
South Shields, Tyne and Wear
It was a great performance by the English team and the penalty shooters didn’t lose us in the European Football Championship. Italy was the better side. The BBC stats for the game clearly showed that Italy had more possession, more shots on goal and more corners. Football associations should forego the gladiatorial spectacle in which individual players win or lose games on penalties. There is little justification for exposing players to the mental effects of either cruel human abuse or heroic glorification by kicking the ball when, after 120 minutes, if the game is a tie, the result could first be decided by shooting on goal, and then, if a tie, to the amount of possession. It could also make an even more interesting attack game.