Penalties, systematic advantages, practice, always celebrate


Penalty competitions are not decided by random luck.  Teams from higher divisions win against lower division opponents more often than the reverse, by 8 percentage points.  That advantage pales into insignificance compared to the benefits of going first in a penalty competition.

A 2010 study published in the American Economic Review found a systemic first-mover advantage.  Teams going first in a penalty competition won on 60% of occasions.  The study found players had more success taking a kick that would put them into the lead, than when they were merely drawing level.

The difference was most pronounced comparing a kick to win a competition, which had a 92% conversion rate, with a kick to avoid defeat, which was successful on 62% of occasions.  This is a manifestation of Loss Aversion.  The fear of losing something hugely impacts our behaviour, far more than the prospect of winning does.  I could get distracted here and say the fear of losing 10-in-a-row took hold at Celtic Park, at the cost of where heads should have been.

Another 2010 study examined Emotional Contagion and penalty competitions.  Players who celebrated after their kick were more likely to be on the winning side than those who quietly returned to the centre circle.  Specifically, a player who immediately follows an opponent that celebrates extravagantly is more likely to miss than when this factor is controlled for.

This study’s conclusion is quite fascinating, “that emotional contagion is an important process in the context of elite sport performance.”  From all these years writing and reading CQN, I could suggest that emotional contagion works in all aspects of life.  It is a real thing that has an impact on those around us.

A 2012 article in Economic Inquiry promoted a tweak to penalty competitions.  Instead of Team A always kicking ahead of Team B, it suggested Team A – Team B, then Team B – Team A, or ABBA, not ABAB.  The ABBA system has been trialed and proven to eliminate the first-mover advantage, however, various authorities have thought it too confusing for fans!

Practice is a whole other area, one that was rejected on these shores for many years.  The challenge here is that the problem for an elite professional is not to kick a ball 12 yards, but to do so in acute circumstances that are impossible to replicated on the training field.

A 2010 study out of University of Plymouth found that practice through Functional Imagery Training was found to improve penalty kick outcomes (other types of practice, which were used as a control, did not).  So practice, but only if you know how to practice.

I also read a study that found if you are facing your own fans you are more likely to win a penalty competition, but I can’t find it……

We put a lot of work into finding advantages at Celtic.  Improving penalty outcomes is one of the clearest benefits we can achieve.  It is a bit too late for others.

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  1. So far I’ve ruined 3 perfectly good pairs o’ kecks………………..




    We Never Stop.









  2. quadrophenian on

    Intriguing Paul.



    This study’s conclusion is quite fascinating, “that emotional contagion is an important process in the context of elite sport performance.”



    Instantly made me think of how outraged and in the refs’ faces the sevcurrants get should anything averse happen on the park. And how emotionally contagious Steevie Gee used to get about refs who officiated the game [fairly] but in ways that hampered his side.



    It’s a performance art we noble Celtis have been slow to master.

  3. WBC @ 11.35



    Link to the Rubb site.



    They seem to be the UK market leaders regarding indoor training pitches.


    Looking like they can go out to 80m clearspan using their mainstream tech.



    Fabric roof is a must because it is light.


    They can do fabric walls or something more substantial.


    All down to the budget on the table.





    Apologies in advance — the link does not look dynamic.


    Might need to copy and paste.

  4. Vale 6 Swindon 5


    Vale went first ✔️XX✔️✔️✔️✔️✔️


    Swindon ✔️✔️X✔️X✔️✔️x

  5. WBC @ structural engineering central



    Posh indoor training facilities based on aircraft hangars.



    Reidsteel seem to have efficient tech for a 90m clearpan layout..


    Plenty big enough for a full sized indoor pitch along with some seating.


    Just a case of adding sections till you get the length you need.





    We wouldn’t need all three elements — just the one would do.



    For now …

  6. Pingback: Penalties, systematic advantages, practice, always celebrate | Celtic FC News Now

  7. Fascinating insight, P67. Certainly more insightful than the ‘it’s a lottery’ we got from the pundits.

  8. When Tav (pen) won both coin tossses on Wednesday, I thought first penalty and at their fans end, I hope their luck has finally ran out from this point forward.



    The rest is history.

  9. Another article that you’ll not see anywhere else on the internet, never mind a Celtic-based football site. That’s emotional contagion added to the CQN lexicon.



    We’re spoilt.



    I can’t stop thinking about what fine margins decided such a momentous game (with a grin) One kick of a football out of ten, from the best kicker of a football in Scotland! It was the only poor penalty out of them all, the rest were exceptional.



    It’s all part of what makes football the great game it is. There’s nothing like it for the intense highs and lows and I wouldn’t change it

  10. TT @ 12.30



    Are there always two coin tosses?


    I thought that you would have been given a choice



    Go first vs which end?

  11. prestonpans bhoys on

    I was always told if you have the choice take the penalty first therefore not chasing the game. Mind you by the time you get to me , ten others have had a shot😱😂

  12. MADMITCH on 20TH MAY 2022 12:44 PM


    TT @ 12.30




    Are there always two coin tosses?



    I thought that you would have been given a choice




    Go first vs which end?



    There were two tosses for the FA Cup final also, so I guess so.

  13. I agree that it’s better to go first at penalties. There’s still pressure on the team that goes next to win it. This should have favoured Sevco, along with taking them at their end, which might even be a greater advantage. I’m sure our fans have distracted the kicker on a couple of occasions, by going ape-shit making a noise and waving scarfs. The mostly mute hun fans were woeful during the game and incredibly motionless as Eintracht took their kicks. I think they were too busy shitting themselves. Maybe they’re too used to things being done for them, like seeking sugar daddies.


    My mind drifted back to the 1990 cup final where we lost to Aberdeen on penalties. I’d thought they went first but no, we did and Darius Wfowczyk missed. We all remember Anton missing but as I recall (maybe wrongly) I think he struck it well, only to be saved. On Wednesday I didn’t think Mr Tavpen hit his brilliantly but if they go in, it’s a good penalty.

  14. Stand by your beds…



    Jota incoming.




    Jota incoming.



    Source : A Bola (Portugal).




  15. Excellent Article Paul, it makes a lot of sense.


    When I saw Ramsey prepare for Penalty, I felt certain he would miss it.


    However I also expected McHun to save at least one, delighted to be wrong there,

  16. Turkeybhoy If I according to you moaning at all things negative,I’m sorry if it comes over that way ,I just like to put a point across all things Celtic Football Club ie L/town ,B/field,Celtic Park i don’t like to offend people on here ,I get at times more information about Celtic on here ,than from Celtic Media ,which to me is very poor ,update’s would be great now and again.

  17. After reading the article I expected an influx of ABBA puns but MAMA MIA not one.


    So even though they had all the advantages during the penalty shootout they still lost. Oh well !

  18. With the help of some strange VAR, and non-VAR, decisions, The Rangers make it through to penalties. With the additional assistance of a two-headed coin, they even get to take the pens in front of their own support and TavPen will take the first kick. Blessedly, it still ended in tears.



    Thought the bluenoses in the stadium were quite quiet throughout the entire match, with most of the atmosphere generated by the massed ranks in white. A peek into the bears den and FF, and it would appear that lots of tickets went to the billy big timers, and the families of billy big timers. The onion pears not represented at all. That would explain their general silence and the strangely respectful behaviour when an EF player went up to take a pen. Almost rugby union like.



    If you want to witness how a football stadium should behave when an opposition player steps up to take a pen, watch (Youtube) Artur Boruc v Spartak Moscow, at CP in July 2008. That’s how it’s done.




    Was surprised myself that McTadger hardly got near any of Frankfurts pens.the closest he got was the low one to his left.



    Stopped taking pens myself after missing 2 in one of them in a big final where our keeper saved 3 on the bounce to win it for us after we missed our first 2.



    Hail Hail

  20. Hrvatski Jim on

    Great article by Paul. I’ve allocated my summer holidays to read all the reports referenced.

  21. After the toss for which end the penalties would be taken, the ref then started the tossing process for who would go first. I notice the Eintracht Frankfurt captain was a bit perplexed about this as his complaint was that the team that lost which end should have the 1st penalty. To no avail, whether he was trying his luck or generally thought that was the way it worked I don’t know. Be interesting if anyone knows if that is the case, after the shenanigans with the VAR penalty, I do wonder. I think that those winning the toss should then decide if they want to go first or pick which end, which probably is the best way forward, por cierto.

  22. Jocks Immortal Lions on

    I have a dream the name of the game was all about the money, money, money! 😂😂

  23. It didn’t happen on Wednesday but you often see that if a team misses one of their first 3 penalties, they still often go on to win despite this.



    Example – Italy against England in Euro 21.



    It’s like the person who misses takes some pressure off his team mates i.e. they won’t be the only person to blame if they miss and the team loses.



    It also ramps up the pressure on the other side’s takers.

  24. Paul67



    Good shout,






    That would tie in with big team wee team, Europa League 2021/22



    Eintracht of Frankfurt unbeaten



    Sevco of Seville beaten five times

  25. Timbhoy,163



    I know how much of a Celtic fan you are,but please believe me,you do come across a lot of the time as a glass half empty guy.I don’t really see the need.Ange will get in the players he wants,and we will be ready.


    Hail Hail.

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