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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


If Not Penalty Kicks Sepp, Then What?

Written by on May 28, 2012 | 19 Comments »
Posted in General

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has never been accused of suffering from shyness. In fact, it seems at times as if Sepp is drawn to the media like a bee to a pot of honey.

When he makes a statement or answers a question there is a very strong possibility that it will be making headlines around the world within minutes. For writers like me, Sepp is the gift that keeps on giving.

So it was last week, when the FIFA President announced (or should it be proclaimed?) that he had asked Franz Beckenbauer to suggest an alternative to…… to read more click on the link to

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19 responses to “If Not Penalty Kicks Sepp, Then What?”

  1. PAQuaker says:

    One of the issues is that we see limited action in extra time because players are exhausted. This is especially true during the WC or the Euros as the games are played during the summer.
    My suggestion would be to allow an additional 3 subs in the first 15 minutes of extra time and an additional 3 subs during the next 15 minutes of extra time. While this would not eliminate ending a game via penalties, I think it would lower that chance. Plus, with fresher players, extra time would have more action.
    The other option would be to simply allow all available players to substitute during extra time – 23 players.
    Perfect? Of course not, but I am tired of watching extra time in the world cup with players limping around totally worn out.
    Thank you.

  2. Dayne says:

    It could be decided by attacking moves.
    It could be decided in 2 steps.
    1(or 2) player from the side who is going to be attacking vs a defender(0r 2) and a goalkeeper from the other side. They will have 30 seconds or a minute to attack and for the other side to defend it.
    This will done vice versa for both side.
    The play would start from the half line.
    The winner would be decided after one side scores and the other didnt. It would continue until you have a side that scored and one that didnt.

    This would add entertainment to the ending of the game. Plus am sure the spectators would love to see this happening. Also this could be that the best attacking side wins the tie.

  3. CDNGooner14 says:

    It’s great the way it is. Why try to make a simple game un-necessarily complicated?

  4. Astronomer says:

    I also agree with the idea of allowing a few more substitutions at the start of extra time. Having fresher legs introduced into the game at that late juncture might or might not result in decisive goals being scored, but at least the tempo of the game would increase.

    Of course, if after all that the game still remains tied, then penalty kicks are the only way out.

    Like it or not, there are really no clear-cut and tolerable alternatives to penalty kicks, given the exceptionally low-scoring nature of this particular sport.


  5. Tom H says:

    Great article, Bobby. One problem I see with the interesting idea of having the PKs before extra time… it is likely the winner of the shootout would time-waste terribly in extra time, knowing they don’t need to score and their opponents must be tired. I am intrigued by the idea of having all eleven players take a PK, but would the greater length rob us of some of the suspense. The only issue I have with the current system is the increased importance of the goalkeeper to the fate of his team in a shootout compared to open play. But of course there is no perfect tiebreaker.

  6. Rob says:

    Allowing more substitutions won’t solve the problem. The less fresh the players are the more space and gaps will appear in the defense which will result in goals.

    The only way to create more attacking play is to take players off the field. That creates more space as well.

    PK’s are a part of the game, why is it a bad way to determine a winner of two evenly matched teams?

  7. John Bladen says:

    As stated in another forum, the only reason we have penalty kick endings to tournaments is that FIFA and other organizations have promoted them as a method to end matches (largely for the benefit of their TV partners, of course).

    The old method was full match replays, as discussed.

    I agree with Rob. There is no basis for the belief that adding extra substitutes would necessarily improve scoring opportunities. A club playing “for” penalties could simply bring on fresh fullbacks and an additional CB or DM to lock things down. It has been done, quite recently in fact.

    Part of the problem with “antifootball” (and I say that as someone who is not opposed to watching good defending) is that there is no clear remedy for it unless one considers the kind of “illegal defense” rules that are used in other sports. I’m not a supporter of that kind of artificial answer to an issue in the game, but then, PK’s are exactly that kind of artificial remedy in themselves.

    If I remember the history of the FA cup correctly, there were only six replays required in the final from 1970 until replays were abandoned (which I believe was in 1999 or 2000). Since then, two PK shootouts have been required.

    Given the huge demand for championship games in football (lets face it, most nations now have three or four “cup” competitions), it seems ridiculous to me that full match replays are not employed.

    Does anyone really think that obtaining TV or satellite time would be an issue for a major championship rematch today? Sat time is not limited the way it was in the 1970s or 80s… and football is as popular as it has ever been. Given the amount of money involved, it would get done. So confident was UEFA of the drawing power of the final, I seem to recall they actually scheduled one for a week day a few years ago.

    If the CL final had drawn on Drogba’s dramatic last minute (ish) header, would anyone watching have been unwilling to watch the replay the following Tuesday or Wednesday?

  8. Astronomer says:

    John Bladen,
    You have made the point about “illegal defense” rules before a few weeks ago. I opposed it then and I will oppose it again.

    “Illegal defense” rules are the defensive equivalent of the “offensive” off-side rule that we already have.

    We already know how many controversies the implementation of the off-side rule generates (week in and week out all over the world). Now imagine what would transpire if we add this “illegal defense” rules to the mix.


  9. John Bladen says:


    If you read through the post, you will acknowledge that I am not advocating such a rule, simply stating that there are few ways to limit (much less eliminate) “antifootball” and that is one.

    As discussed elsewhere, liberalizing the offside rule (and there are simply too many ways that rule could be adjusted to list) would promote more attacking football in that it reduces the number of attacking moves called back/down, and induces attacking players to make more runs.

    Most sports go through periods in which offensive talents eclipse defensive ones. Perhaps we are just in a small lull in the history of the game in which “playing for the nil draw” is sometimes advisable. I recall many English 1st division games from the 1970s/80’s in which 90 mins were used up through tight triangle play, mainly in the centre third of the pitch. Unless one or two defenders became mesmerized & fell down while watching same, a goal was unlikely to be produced.

    Today’s game is nowhere near as bad as that. In fact, in many ways we are living in the “golden age” of offensive football. Perhaps that is why the occasional defensive contest affects us so much?

  10. Ed Gomes says:

    I hate it when people say that it’s a shame that tourneys are decided on something that isn’t part of the game. Last time I checked, penalties are very much part of the game. Go ask Robben.
    I for one love the drama involved with penalties.
    I’m all for added subs for extra time, but to go on indefinitely would be silly.

    The reason tourneys don’t have replay matches for finals is because fans travel to the sites and reserve travel, hotels and tickets. It would be logistically and cost prohibitive from a fans perspective.

  11. Daz fish says:

    Most of the alternatives sound quite silly really, to include replays, especially with all the talk of fixture congestion and players being ‘exhausted’ at their end of their respective season. I feel the point was made in the piece that penalties should not come as a surprize to player nor manager and so should be part of the preparation for the game/tournament/what have you. They can add a thrilling end to the game; and I don’t buy the crap shoot argument. These are professionals, for the most part, we’re talking about and there is preparation involved whether you’re taking them or trying to stop them (the discussion about Cech’s preparation for the Champs League final was really interesting; every pen taken since 2007; wow). Of course, I cant help thinking would Mr. Blatter have taken the same stance if Bayern had won…?

  12. John Bladen says:

    Ed, if fans new that a final replay would be played 3 days after the final proper, fans would do what they do now… book extra time (or not, if they prefer to take the risk) at their destination.

    I disagree that it has anything to do with concern for the fans. Most associations have admitted replay matches disappeared because of television contract requirements.

    I don’t like matches determined on PKs, but I don’t have any sympathy for the players. They’ve had perhaps as much as 120 minutes to solve it through open play (in the case of this year’s CL final, 5 mins after a defender had been added the club making the change conceded…). I don’t have an issue with Golden Goal ET. Very little is more suspenseful than GG… assuming clubs don’t take a total defense approach… which of course they do, sometimes even before ET.

    Don’t understand Blatter (shocker). He initiates the PK process and then asks his TWG to find an alternative when he knows what the only other reasonable alternative is.

  13. Ed Gomes says:

    JB, you mean to tell me that as a Portugal fan I have to bonk extra time for the Euros? Have to take extra time off, book extra hotel stays (that I might not need), book longer flight dates (could cost more)? I’m in the US, but even if I was in Europe, those costs add up quick.
    I understand that tv has something to do with it. But I just can’t picture having two finals. You mean we’re all here to declare a winner, yet that might not happen. That’s not a final.

    Voldemort, I completely agree.
    How many people were on the edge of their seats during the England vs Portugal penalties? How many people were on he edge of their seats in this years CL semis and final.
    Let me add, I always thought that Chelsea were trying to hold on to take it into penalties. At least their play seemed as if they did. Did that take away from the way it finished. Even if Chelsea lost on penalties, the excitement level would have been just as much.

  14. John Bladen says:


    If you are booking your reservations in advance (which practically everyone does these days), would it really be a huge imposition to book for, let us say, 33 days instead of 30?

    For those who are only planning to go for the final week or ten days, an extra three might seem damaging financially. However, think about what a two week (or four wk) trip to a major tournament is going to cost… the extra 3 days is a drop in the bucket.

    But let us not quibble over the interest of rank and file fans. After all, the UEFA CL final had just under 35,000 paying fans of football… and about the same number (slightly more, if I remember correctly) of dignitaries in the stands. This does not include all those who were in any way part of the official ceremonies or in the “footballing nobility” suites.

  15. John Bladen says:


    There is nothing “inherently” wrong with PKs. The issue is that Mr. Blatter has asked Beckenbauer to recommend something other than FIFA’s previous “best choice” with which to decide games. PKs are, as both you and Bobby have commented, part of the game and require concentration and skill.

    Of course, sliding tackles, professional fouls (and simulation of same), shirt pulling, free kicks, corners, throw ins and the ability to bring down a spinning twisting aerial pass with a single deft touch also require concentration and skill. These are (in some cases, unfortunately) also part of the game. Given the relative usage and importance of plays during a game, a ball passing or defensive competition might be much closer to “actual” football than a single skill competition like PKs.

    But I would imagine no-one thinks those to be sound methods of determining a winner.

    There is no argument that PKs are part of the game. Whether the concept of a ‘single attacker v a single defender’ is representative of the majority of the skill sets involved in the game is very much up for debate.

  16. tim says:

    maybe i misread what Blatter was saying…did Blatter say Chelsea did not deserve to win because the PK shoot out didn’t reward the better(more attacking) team….is that why we are having this debate…i think Sepp totally threw Chelsea under their parked bus.

  17. John Bladen says:


    I didn’t read it that way… I thought Sepp just tried to walk the tightrope again… ‘final wonderful, magical,but… football loses something… etc’

    Or maybe he put a few euros down on Munich???

  18. Astronomer says:

    Of course, it is NOT a coincidence that Sepp Blatter made this request to his buddy Franz Beckenbauer just after Chelsea (an English team — horror of horrors !) had won the CL via penalty kicks.

    There is good reason (from his past comments) to believe that Blatter has anti-English / anti-British sentiments and so I, for one, strongly suspect that Chelsea’s winning the final via PKs was the main instigating factor in his making that public request.

  19. Fraser says:

    I say do it like Boxing, a points system for shots & offensive play, with
    3 Refs/Stat men calling the verdict.
    My reasoning is based on teams being ultimately rewarded for attempting to score goals (The object of the game surely?)

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