90 minutes of scoreless action

Don’t you just love the term “scoreless action”. That describes the average soccer match. One of my colleagues suggested to me that the game would be a lot quicker if they went straight to the penalty shoot-out.

It turns out that there is some merit in that idea. Liam Lenton – a senior lecturer at La Trobe University and a fine sports economist – has an article in the Fin Review exploring a variation of that idea. Rather than having a draw, then extra time and then a shoot out – making for a very boring defensive game – rather have the 90 minute game, then the shoot-out, and then the extra time. If the score is still equal after the 90 minutes and extra time, then the retrospective shot-out result establishes the winner.

The rule does not alter incentives in the sacrosanct regulation time. However, the extra time incentive effect, shown by University of Southern California theoretical economist Juan Carrillo, is two-fold: the shootout loser becomes more attacking than currently as they cannot win without scoring.

The shootout winner becomes more defensive as denying the opposition guarantees victory. Ultimately, which of these two effects is stronger in the data governs whether this rule change is an improvement.

In our study, appearing in last December’s issue of the Journal of Sports Economics, applying data describing over 500,000 matches in many international competitions, we estimated this net effect via econometric regression analysis. Scoring probabilities in two groups of matches were compared – the treatment group closely simulates both teams’ incentives of the proposed rule to a control group representing the current rule.

Our results suggest that in the World Cup, and other elite competitions, the probability of extra time producing at least one goal would increase by 45 per cent to 60 per cent under this rule, variant to influences such as home-ground advantage, tournament stage and relative team ability.

Put differently, the proportion of scoring extra times would rise from approximately 50 per cent to above 75 per cent.

I suspect the “sacrosanct regulation time” (whatever that really means) precludes a penalty shoot-out before the game actually starts.

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53 Responses to 90 minutes of scoreless action

  1. feelthebern

    Why mess with perfection?

  2. lotocoti

    Extra time, then remove the goalies and first to score wins.

  3. Watching It Unfold

    Let them have point posts – like the AFL, or a point scored off the woodwork !

  4. Infidel Tiger

    Don’t you just love the term “scoreless action”.

    Sounds like a Baptist dance.

  5. wreckage

    I assumed this was about porno with no music.

  6. wreckage

    Bugger it, just when I think I’ve got a killer line, IT wins the internet. Again.

  7. feelthebern

    If you need the constant titillation of points, go watch basketball.

  8. Peter

    I don’t need to see constant scoring, any more than I need to see constant boundaries in cricket.

    However a game that is so often drawn or decided by only a single point, leaves a great deal to chance or umpiring error. I consider it a weakness in that respect.

  9. rebel with cause

    Personally, I find the penalty shoot out to be very dull. There’s nothing particularly exciting about spot-kicks.

    You want more goals? Just get rid of the offside rule.

  10. Biota

    Just remove the offside rule and let the goals flow, like basketball, and cross into the opposition half and you can’t go back. There would be lots of goals (probably would need to sub goalies for a break), and the fans would not have that huge build up in tension that can lead to riots after the match.

  11. Bruce of Newcastle

    I prefer cricket where you can have a thrilling draw after 5 days of play.

    Still remember a Sheffield Shield final NSW-Qld where our whole department wound up surrounding a radio as Clifford and Gilbert batted 2 hours for the last wicket on a turning 5th day SCG pitch to shut out the banana benders.

    Soccer is gone like a flash, its barely started before its over even with extra time.

  12. feelthebern

    The offside rule ensures that goals don’t come cheaply.
    A hard earned goal that takes 120 minutes is a sweet nut indeed.

  13. Infidel Tiger

    Soccer should be banned.

    That’s the only rule that needs tinkering with.

  14. MartinG

    Just make the goal mouth twenty feet wider.

  15. feelthebern

    Ban soccer?
    After the world cup, how can you not have caught the bug?
    I caught it good & proper back in 1990 & haven’t looked back.

  16. Token

    There would have been more goals scored if the officials actually used the rules which are in place to card and send off defenders which foul attackers.

    Indeed, if they put 1/10th the effort in enforcing those rules that they wasted on the stupid off-side rule (which should be changed to ice hockey rules), there would have been scoring aplenty.

  17. cohenite

    Soccer is like having sex with your pants on.

  18. stackja

    #1382556, posted on July 15, 2014 at 5:30 pm
    Soccer is like having sex with your pants on.

    Reminds of The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart.

  19. Tel

    rather have the 90 minute game, then the shoot-out, and then the extra time.

    Hmmm, have the shootout first, then the 90 minute game and throw away the extra time. That way at every stage of the game someone is facing a loss, thus cannot feel “safe”. This forces it to be offensive.

  20. ProEng

    It seems that goals scored in a soccer match follows the Poisson distribution (but not exactly) with an average of 1.7 goals per match and a variance of about 1.8. About 20% of matches there are no goals scored. Close to 50% of games will end in a draw. Yes, one of the most boring games there is. I have always thought that Rugby Union is a players game, AFL is a spectators game, Rugby League a game for thugs, and Soccer a game for P****s (ie those weak in body and mind)

  21. H B Bear

    Nothing better than a Test match going down to the wire after 4 or 5 days. Usually a batsman and a bunny trying to hang on for dear life.

  22. Grigory M

    The World Cup Final between Germany and Argentina was a classic example of how good the game can be. Two well-matched teams – fast, flowing football with some excellent play-making, especially in the first half, and a nil-all scoreline after the regulation 90 minutes game time. Still nil-all after 15 minutes extra time, with an excellent deciding goal scored in the second 15 minutes of extra time. If this had not occurred, the current method of a penalty shootout to get a result would have been wholly unfair.

    I think lotocoti’s suggestion is a far better way to resolve a deadlock – Extra time, then remove the goalies and first to score wins.

  23. Peter

    A good Test match going down to the wire almost always means two very closely matched teams. At least, at that time. Yes, that meas that luck or a single error can throw the match either way, but you can be certain that the winner did not deserve to lose. If one team is significantly better, then the score will reflect this to such a degree that such minor influenced have less ability to determine the outcome.

  24. Leigh Lowe

    Go metric.
    The goal opening is 8 yards wide by 8 feet high.
    Make it 8 metres wide with a proportionate increase in height.
    Dual advantages …. Brussels and the EU would approve of dispensing with Imperial measurements and it would piss off the Poms.
    When the original dimensions were struck a big goalkeeper would have been just over 6 foot tall. They are now 6’6″ or bigger.

  25. David

    Soccer is not a sport. It is a faculty of the College of Performing Arts.

    One of the pricks even confessed to acting – poorly apparently.

  26. Steve of Glasshouse

    Get rid of the acting on the field, and have a video ref..AND, no more back stories in any sport. I could care less if you are the offspring of 2 wheel chair bound transgendered refugees..

  27. Roger

    AND, no more back stories in any sport. I could care less if you are the offspring of 2 wheel chair bound transgendered refugees..

    Steve, I think you’re confusing the beautiful game with X-Factor ;0)

  28. Rich

    That describes the average soccer match

    Games in 2014 World Cup: 64

    0-0 draws: 10 (after 90 mins)

  29. Steve of Glasshouse

    Roger..it was once a beautiful game before the spivs and shysters moved in..

  30. Aussiepundit

    abolish goalies and you’d have an interesting game.

  31. Aussiepundit

    A game with very low scores increases the likelihood that the final outcome will be dictated by chance, or a momentary lapse, or some other fleeting situation, rather than by skill.

    The low scoring nature of the game encourages referee corruption because a single wrongly earned point can change the outcome.

  32. Roger

    Roger..it was once a beautiful game before the spivs and shysters moved in..

    Yes, I know, Steve, but you get the occasional shyster who can also play beautifully, like Maradona.
    And, alas, shysters exist in every professional sport these days, even cricket.

  33. J.H.

    Better still. Forget Soccer and play a real game like AFL….. Kicking a ball around for 90 minutes without a score. That’s not a game, that’s a joke.

  34. Dan

    which should be changed to ice hockey rules

    Exactly. I’ve been saying this for years

  35. Alfonso

    Soccer has all the attraction of Irish dancing. ie. Non contact and the use of male upper body strength is illegal….on second thought appeals to socialists and feminists.
    Pouting, whining, ref pushing Latin values are not good for growing kids up,

  36. Dave Wane

    Better still: in the event of 0:0 after 90 minutes, then the game changes to allow the ball to be touched, picked up, and run with, but still must be kicked through the goal. Kind of like the greatest game of all, without a try.

  37. .

    This is amazing. People like close boxing matches. Why not close football matches?

    Don’t people respect defence?

    I’ve usually played a midfielder or back in hockey or soccer and a second row or lock in league and union.

    You bums want nothing but arse like Jarrod Hayne. I want to see the big men chasing down these freaks like a lion running down a gazelle and taking it out with one swipe of the paw.

    Some of the goal keeping in the world cup was amazing. You guys only get revved up by the ball in the back of the net? For shame…

    This is exceptional


  38. .

    Well Dave early English football teams played a mix of soccer and rugby, pre league/union division. They wore hats during the soccer phase.

    This is the greatest scoring play in any form of football, ever.

  39. Blair

    If you want more goals then insist that goalkeepers be midgets or dwarfs. Win/win all round . More goals for the soccer fans and more employment opportunities for midgets and dwarfs. Dwarf throwing is banned, so is setting fire to dwarfs at Aussie Rule break-ups and the stage show Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs comes around infrequently.

  40. .

    They could try nine or seven a side like hockey. They even trialed five a side which is mental.

  41. Roger

    This is the greatest scoring play in any form of football, ever.
    Big call, dot, especially as that last pass looks forward.
    Great counter attack, though.

  42. outsider

    Widen the goalposts a foot; raise the cross bar a foot.
    If nil-all after 90 mins, reduce each side by one guy each 5 minutes.
    Or ban the dumb game altogether.

  43. .

    Roger – there is a better quality version of that. If you find that, watch it again.

    The old union rule on forward passes was a bit more lenient than the rule in league.

  44. The Final on Sunday was magnificent. The goal in extra time stunning. These four weeks have been terrific for every soccer fan the world over. You don’t need lots of goals, you want flowing, tactically brilliant play.

  45. This is the greatest scoring play in any form of football, ever.

    It’s a classic.

  46. Peter

    You don’t need lots of goals, you want flowing, tactically brilliant play.

    I’m sure that comforts all those fans whose team was knocked out by a minor error that went against the general run of play.

  47. I’m sure that comforts all those fans whose team was knocked out by a minor error that went against the general run of play.

    Game isn’t played to comfort the fans. And, anyway, happens in every code.

  48. rtp

    Set the field up in thirds and make it so you can only be offside if it is kicked from outside the opposition’s third.

    That keeps the intent of the off-side rule (ie to stop long bombs to tall strikers from the defence line) and ensures the game actually make sense (because defenders can’t use off-side as a tactical weapon). When the whole team is on the attack then it is bloody stupid that they should be penalised because one of their players broke through the defense and got into a dangerous position.

    It would also be vastly easier to referee too – and mistakes by refs in offside calls are far less likely to cost goals.

    I suspect this would bring about a doubling of scores – to about the same as the number of tries in a rugby league game. Perfection in other words.

  49. Peter

    Game isn’t played to comfort the fans.

    Point….. but try telling it to the advertisers who make major clubs and events financially possible.

    And, anyway, happens in every code

    Proportionately less so in codes that offer a greater number of scoring opportunities. Please acknowledge that.

  50. .

    Hockey got rid of the offside rule.

    It made the game better. It now is very hard to show on TV.

  51. murph

    Remove the keepers after extra time. Put the ball on the centre. Everyone has to line up behind there own goal line. When the whistle blows it’s a race to the ball for initial possession and the first goal wins.

    Aside from that, soccer is a game which encourages poor character traits.

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