The pen’ is not mightier! – Thu 15th Mar 07

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz! The football league is reviewing proposals to force matches to be decided by penalties. That is, if a game is drawn, both teams get a point, but there is a penalty shoot-out afterwards, the winner of which gets an additional point.

Perhaps the idea is to make games more exciting, in forcing winners. This is the most pointless idea I’ve seen since Hide-and-Seek with Helen Keller.

The very nature of a LEAGUE as oppose to a CUP competition is that draws are possible. The very point is “what if two teams score the same number of goals in a game? Who wins?” No one! Both teams should try and win the game, but they have the consolation of a draw if they don’t. Forcing league games to be decided undermines the league structure itself. One may as well replace football leagues with something like the Champions League: a league phase then two-legged knock outs.

If anything, this setup would take the quality out of games. Poorer teams would be even more inclined to defend deep and be totally unambitious, knowing they could still come away with more points when it comes to penalties! The money and pressure at the highest levels of football already make defeat unthinkable for so many teams, so instead of seeing more open games where teams are more adventurous, more and more football matches (especially in the Premiership) consist of one team desperate not to lose and “shutting up shop” and playing to stifle the opposition, and the other team wanting and needing to win…it’s like watching an attack V defence training match.

This proposal only serves to further encourage this mentality by rewarding teams for not winning, and worse, for not TRYING to win. Although winning when you don’t deserve to is all part of football (it works both ways), everyone knows the unspeakable bitter taste of losing or drawing a game that you SHOULD have won. There is nothing worse than being bright and adventurous and playing to win, and coming up against a team that makes no effort to win, has no endeavour, and with a bit of luck, still gets a draw or even wins! Now – I am not saying take that out of football, but this league-game-penalties idea would produce more undeserved draws and wins; it would encourage unambitious play, and basically it would demotivate teams to go for the win. If more football matches turned in yet another case of “Team B beats Team A with no shots on target in the whole match!”, people would get fed up of watching football – I know I would.

Penalties are an exciting and excruciating part of football. If only there was a better way to settle matches that HAVE to be settled…but there isn’t. If two teams have reached the final of a competition and are still that even over 120 minutes, practicality demands that we can’t just KEEP on playing until there’s a winner. But to deliberately introduce this feature into standard league games as a matter of choice? Madness. It’s bad for the better team; the adventurous team, it’s bad for fans and spectators in the long run, it’s bad for the Football League setup, and so all in all, it’s not good for football.

Most importantly, I see sooooo little benefit to this system, the cons swallow the pros (no prison jokes please) overwhelmingly. There are many things that could be done to improve football, but this isn’t one of them!

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