Football lawmakers discuss change to penalty shootout pattern

Rob Harris
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Football lawmakers are looking to make penalty shootouts even more unpredictable by adopting the format used for tiebreakers in tennis.

Teams currently alternate in shootouts, but the International Football Association Board (IFAB) says research shows the first team taking kicks has a 60 percent chance of winning.

IFAB is seeking trials in the lower-levels of the game with a new pattern that would see the order mixed up between teams A and B to ABBAABBAAB.

This mirrors tennis, where after the first point in tiebreaks — with the score 6-6 at the end of sets — 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 Football Association chief executive 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 coming to football on regular penalties in matches from June, with yellow cards no longer awarded for "stopping a promising attack" if there was a clear attempt to play the ball.

IFAB, once a conservative institution reluctant to change the sport, is now willing to offer flexibility to individual countries to tweak the laws with the introduction of sin-bins used in rugby.

They will now be allowed for yellow card offences in youth, grassroots and disability soccer.

IFAB has also given 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.

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