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. bigrailroadblues on

    Philbhoy, if you are about, 31st May at Tolbooth. Provisional date, BMCUWP in town before going to belfast.

  2. Jobo used to start the day with an EK weather report and inform us how many days and hours until KO. Anyone know the latter?



  3. Good morning from a dry and sunny North Staffs.


    A lot of days and hours till Celtic play again.



    Hope that helps 🙂

  4. Which team in the Premiership has a lot of Celtic Supporters have a leaning to .

  5. I was listening to 3 programmes on the radio yesterday and they had, imo, a very interesting link. The first was Sunday, a religious programme on Radio 4. Inter alia, (how’s that for a Monday morning), it was discussing the replacement theory, which was the motivation for the murders last week in Buffalo in the USA. It is strongly espoused by Evangelical Christians there and holds that the USA is WASP territory. I believe I am right in saying that the Evangelicals have evolved from the Calvinism of the Hillbillies, who are descendants of Scots immigrants.



    The other 2 programmes were on Radio Scotland. One was the Odd Couple, one of whom is Catholic and the other married to a Catholic. Seemingly, sectarianism had been raised on their Saturday programme and as soon as it was mentioned yesterday, their guest, a lady who supports the deid team, immediately, with what seemed a mixture of anger and anxiety, said “I haven’t come on here to discuss that”. So, after an embarassing moment, the discussion went on to a “safer” topic.



    This was followed by Sportsound, on which McIntyre interviewed Aiden McGeady. Aiden asked him if he was going to hound him like he had Neil Lennon. No reply. He also asked McIntyre why he (and James McCarthy) had been abused at every ground in Scotland for choosing to play for the Republic, when the likes of Arfield and MacLean who had chosen other countries hadn’t. The best McIntyre and the panel could come up with was that Aiden and McCarthy were good players. We all know the real reason and that is the WASP mentality that is still pervasive in Scotland, ultimately because of Calvinism.



    Thanks be to God, the Church of Scotland are publicly putting such evil behind them today. Would that Scotland would too, but it goes very deep and many do not want to face up to it.

  6. Weebobbycollins on

    Parkheadcumsalford…Catriona Shearer and Kenny McIntyre are both ‘thems’ supporters but not huns. They are both good people. I understand why she didn’t want to get involved in a sectarian debate, and when Aiden asked Kenny why he and James McCarthy were booed by rival fans, Kenny was correct not to answer. It is a reporter’s job to ask the questions not to answer them. That is standard procedure in journalism. I actually enjoyed yesterday’s programme even if it did at times come across as a wee bit of a hun ‘love-in’. I am not a BBC Scotland fan but I will sometimes defend the occasional employee.

  7. WBC,



    You may well be right in what you contend but, if supporters of the deid team do not want to get involved in the sectarian debate, then I feel there is no chance of Scotland ever facing into it’s shame. As for McIntyre, you may well be right again but he has history -on air- of showing real prejudice.

  8. WEEBOBBY, I take your point about reporters being there to ask questions, but the questions asked should always be posed in a balanced and fair manner.



    I don’t think I am alone in saying that far, far too often the ‘reporters’ on BBC seem too imbalanced (some might argue ‘unbalanced’😊) and allow their undoubted allegiances to drive their line of questioning.



    On the few occasions that I now listen to any of the radio football programmes I am keenly aware that there tends to be Hun-leaning personnel in the majority and that, in my opinion, leads to quite unprofessional broadcasts.



    There are disproportionately too many Hun-leaning types all over these programmes, but it is a particular case with BBC Scotland football coverage. If an interviewee stands up for himself and calls out the interviewer over a particular view or topic then I would expect that interviewer to stand up for him/herself and do so professionally and not hind behind the “I’m here to ask the questions” defence.



    I don’t know if you saw/heard McIntyre interviewing Ange after one of our evening games in which he claimed, right at the start of the interview, that it had been a hard watch. Now, we had to work very hard for our win that night as the opposition, quite rightly, battled away in defence, but we did do the hard work and we won the points and sent the fans home singing. Ange immediately retorted along the lines of “Maybe you didn’t like it because we won?” and McIntyre had to backtrack – that to me was him (McIntyre) allowing his personal sympathies to show and influence his line of questioning, which is surely quite unprofessional, but also very typical.



    Ave Ave

  9. parkheadcumsalford



    The main contributor to Ed Stourton’s Sunday programme was one Robert P Jones. Not sure if he mentioned Scotland at all, would need to relisten. What he did mention was his his own work “White Too Long”, a study of racist attitudes in the USA. On a scale of, 0-10, ten being the most racist, White Catholics scored very highly, 7/10, just below White Evangelical Protestants. Nearly 40% agree with replacement theory. The Christian Churches are converging and not necessarily in a good way.

  10. Sláinte Ange on

    Looking forward to th CL final on Saturday and hoping it’s a spectacle of fine football that it should be.


    But who to support?


    I would have gone for Liverpool but if they win then England will have one more club in CL next season (Arsenal) and West Ham will be in Europa with Leicester going into the conference.


    I don’t want any of this to happen so gotta go for RM.


    Howevva, I may have got this completely wrong.


    Anyone able to confirm?

  11. Slainte Ange – As both Liverpool and Real Madrid have qualified via the league the extra CL place for the winners goes back into the overall seeding structure, meaning a few clubs get to move up one spot. It has no material affect on England (or Scotland).

  12. Sláinte Ange on

    SONSOFERIN on 23RD MAY 2022 11:14 AM



    Thank you very much for the info.


    I can now support Liverpool again!



  13. Celtic Mac,



    Scotland wasn’t mentioned. I was simply inferring that the Evangelicals, who are the main Christian group who have espoused this particular belief, have their origins in America from Scottish Calvinist immigrants. That white Catholics have increasingly been drawn to it is sad, especially as was mentioned their predecessors had suffered discrimination themselves.