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. IniquitousIV on

    Liverpool score so many goals either directly from corners, or from second ball following corners, it is unreal.

  2. The Blogger Formerly Known As GM on

    Thanks Emeraldbee.



    Was getting worried there think it was only 1 round. Got to imagine a very good team awaits were they to get through.




    Sorry but that is comparing apples and oranges, the king was as fit as a fiddle he scored 30 plus goals in the previous 2 seasons before barca move, was regarded as one of the best forwards of his generation oh and he could easily have left celtic at any time from season 3 onwards for more money. He knocked back manu at their high ffs. oh and on top of that he was moving from celtic to barca on a free, James is staying with the same club ffs

  4. !!Bada Bing!! on

    Really strange how both halves in the 2 big games in EPL ,had same injury time on both halves……mmmmm

  5. fergusslayedtheblues on



    was thinking along those lines as I thought the city game would have run over the liverpool game as I think there was two long stoppages


    In the first half



  6. HOT SMOKED on 22ND MAY 2022 4:56 PM



    You may be correct but it’s gonna be hard to justify not backing the manger after that first season and that becomes more difficult when the manager places high demand on himself and everyone else he works with i.e. ffs when his stock was low he openly express his displeasure to a wider audience regards the time it took to sign playerd, you honestly think he is now gonna toe the party line?



    Ps quality players don’t always need to cost lots of money they simply need to be what Ange wants




  7. SAINT STIVS on 22ND MAY 2022 1:43 PM



    They’ll be dancing in the streets of Abu Dhabi tonight.



    Well they would be, if it wasn’t against the law.

  8. Not sure why that post was directed at Saint Stivs.



    It’s not like it’s his fault.

  9. IniquitousIV on

    Geez, City really drawing out this ceremony with hunners and hunners of backroom staff and a verbose announcer.

  10. bigrailroadblues on

    BelmontBrian 8.34. Indeed 😜. BMCUWP will be in Glasgow on 31st. Be there or be square. 😁