SBE PhD candidate is making football more fair, with math

Mehmet Ismail, a PhD candidate at the Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE), together with Professor Steven Brams of New York University, have discovered a way to make who wins a penalty shoot-out in football less predictable.

soccer ballResearch shows 60 percent of shoot-outs are won by the team who kicks first, because of the psychological advantage. But Ismail and Brams suggest the odds could be made more fair with the following approach, which they call the catch-up rule.

If the teams both score or miss with their first kick, then they swap the order for the following kicks. But if one team misses and the other scores, then the side that missed goes first.

The rules of many sports are not fair—they do not ensure that equally skilled competitors have the same probability of winning,” Brams told the Telegraph. “The penalty shootout in soccer, wherein a coin toss determines which team kicks first on all five penalty kicks, gives a substantial advantage to the first-kicking team, both in theory and practice.”

The catch-up rule, on the other hand, makes the shoot-out more fair and strategy proof.

Mehmet Ismail is a PhD candidate at Maastricht University School of Business and Economics (SBE). His primary research areas include non-cooperative game theory and decision theory.

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