The alternative penalty shootout for football: Attacker Defender Goalkeeper

The alternative penalty shootout for football: Attacker Defender Goalkeeper. In the opinion of Tim Farrell the current penalty shootout in football is unfair and problematic. He got a new a idea to decide who wins the game. The attacker receives the ball at the centre mark, with a defender and goalkeeper in play as wel.  He kicks off and has 30 seconds to try and score a goal.

A blog post where he explains his new idea and shows you why football should adopt it.

Alternative penalty shootout

Introduction of Tim Farrell and how he got the idea

In 2008 after watching the UEFA Champions League final, I conceived and developed Attacker Defender Goalkeeper (ADG), an alternative to the penalty shootout.

Now some people are going to assume I’m an Englishman who has suffered years of shootout torment and that’s why I created ADG. I’m actually an Australian and if you remember back to 2005, Australia beat Uruguay on penalties to qualify for their first World Cup in 32 years.

So, as a devoted Socceroos fan, that was an unforgettable moment. The point I’m trying to make is that ADG isn’t about national allegiances, or who’s been successful in shootouts and who hasn’t.  Indeed, I have no affiliation with any football federation or association, club or governing body. ADG was simply born out of a love of football and the strong belief that the penalty kick shootout is a cancer on an otherwise beautiful game.

Watching the World Cup down here in Australia needs some passion and dedication because the matches are mostly in the middle of the night and it’s also the dead of winter! The 1994 World Cup final was of course another critical moment. Roberto Baggio had scored 5 goals in the 3 knockout games, including a late brace to rescue Italy from defeat against Nigeria. In the shootout it was left to Baggio to keep Italian hopes alive and I think all football fans remember what happened.

You often hear people say, don’t fix what’s not broken. But FIFA acknowledge how problematic the shootout is and that’s why we saw golden goal and why other alternatives are always discussed. Even Sepp Blatter, for all his faults, declared the shootout a tragedy and in 2012 asked Franz Beckenbauer to come up with an alternative. Beckenbauer said something about them being better than the coin toss, and that was it!

So, there’s a lot of arrogance at work. Most football administrators will argue that since it’s already the world’s most popular sport, why bother? The answer, as both rugby and cricket have found, is that updating any sport keeps it fresh and, equally important, fair. Instead, with football we have a tie-breaker that gives one team a 20% advantage, crucifies its players and fails to showcase what makes the game great.

The idea: alternative penalty shootout for football

What rule change do you propose?

Attacker Defender Goalkeeper (ADG) is an alternative to the penalty shootout. ADG features a series of ten contests where an attacker kicks off from the centre mark and has 30 seconds to score a goal against a defender and a goalkeeper.

How does Attacker Goalkeeper Defender work?

The referee tosses a coin and the team that wins the toss, decides whether to attack or defend in the first contest. The teams receive an additional substitution. The referee meets separately with the teams and records their five attackers.

The attacker receives the ball at the centre mark. Having seen the attacker, the opposition field their defender, who is positioned outside the centre circle. The goalkeeper is positioned inside the penalty area.

Half the field is in play. The attacker kicks off and has 30 seconds to try and score a goal. The contest will end if any of the following occur:

  • A goal is scored
  • The ball goes out of play
  • The goalkeeper controls the ball with their hands inside the penalty area
  • The 30 seconds elapses
  • The attacker commits a foul

If the defender or goalkeeper commits a foul, the attacker is awarded a penalty kick and the 30 second time period is disregarded for the remainder of that contest.

Teams take turns attacking and defending. Teams play a total of ten ADG contests. At the completion of the contests, the team with the most goals is the winner. If scores remain level, the same players from the first contest will compete in the first sudden death contest.

Still a penalty kick if a defender fouls the attacker

The Advantages

1. Removes Advantage of Kicking First

A professor from The London School of Economics discovered that the team who takes the first kick in the penalty shootout wins 60% of the time. As the team who wins the coin toss can always elect to kick first, it’s an inherently unfair situation for the opposition.

The scoring rate for penalties by professional players in the shootout since 1970 has been 73%. So, the team kicking second is usually playing catch-up and experiences greater pressure with each kick. ADG’s scoring rate is estimated at 20%. The dramatically lower scoring rate removes the expectation that the player will always score. Of course, when the associated psychological pressure is removed, there won’t be any advantage in attacking first in ADG. Teams can simply take turns attacking and defending. 

Now some people assume that regardless of the actual scoring rate or the type of competition, going first in an ABAB sequence will always present some sort of advantage. For instance, serving first in the deciding set of a tennis match is generally acknowledged as an advantage. However, the actual statistics reveal that just as many players ultimately win the match when serving second in the final set.

IFAB have also rejected the ABBA kicking sequence which mirrors the tennis tie-break. However, ABBA was just putting a band-aid on a broken leg. It didn’t address the penalty shootout’s two other major problems – it doesn’t showcase the game and it creates psychological trauma for players who miss critical kicks.

Here’s the the historical first ABBA WU17 shootout to test this new idea.

First ABBA penalty shootout

2. Reduces Psychological Trauma

While missed penalty kicks are usually the contributing factor in deciding a shootout, it will be the goals that decide ADG. This distinction is crucial, as it changes a negative natured competition into a positive natured one. Where the penalty shootout creates victims and villains, ADG creates heroes. Indeed, there’s first-hand evidence from players including Maxime Bossis, Didier Six, Roberto Baggio, Bruno Conti and others, that missed penalties in critical matches foster serious long-term psychological trauma.

Today’s players also have to cope with all the scrutiny and vitriol from social media, which makes it infinitely worse. Death threats were made against the Danish striker, Nicolai Jorgensen and Colombians, Mateus Uribe and Carlos Bacca on their twitter pages after missing penalties at the 2018 World Cup.

Players measure themselves against their team-mates. If four of your team-mates convert penalties and your solitary miss loses the match, you’re going to feel singularly responsible for the defeat. You’re going to feel guilty about letting your team-mates and supporters down.

ADG’s scoring rate is estimated at 20%, or about 3.5 times lower than the shootout. So, the expectation from team-mates and fans is that you won’t score. They hope you do, but they don’t expect it. Now there may be more expectation on the gifted genius or the speedy superstar who’s great on the ball. If they score a scintillating goal, of course they’re going to be a hero.

However, if they don’t score, they won’t be saddled with feelings of guilt and responsibility because it’s likely none of their team-mates scored either. As we said, that’s how players ultimately measure themselves. They measure their personal performance, against that of their team-mates.

A talented player who doesn’t score in ADG may feel disappointment, but they won’t experience the burden and trauma of knowing they lost the game. It’s like the difference between watching a player miss a penalty kick during normal play and during the shootout. The player who misses during normal play is usually angry or disappointed with themselves, but they’re not that desolate or inconsolable figure who knows that they’ve just cost their team the match or the championship.

3. Showcases the Game

ADG showcases the skill, speed, athleticism and dynamic beauty of modern football. Conversely, if the match was a cagey scoreless draw, supporters still have the opportunity to see brilliant and exciting goals during ADG.

4. Coach and Strategy are Vital

The coach is responsible for selecting his five attacking players and the order in which they will compete. He then instructs his remaining players which attacker they should defend against, and he can also strategise with them on the best way to defend against their specific opponent.

Modern football has brought the coach centre stage and this is a great opportunity for them to utilise their knowledge and tactical skills to influence the outcome of the match. Contrast this with the shootout lottery, where the extent of their involvement is usually limited to asking players if they are willing to take a penalty kick.

Coach and 4th official

4. All Players Compete

As every player competes in ADG, it’s a fairer test of a team’s overall football ability.

5. Promotes Fair Play during the Match

Teams who have received yellow and red cards are at a disadvantage during ADG. This is fairer for teams who have played within the laws and the spirit of the game. 

Let’s use the 2010 World Cup quarter-final between Uruguay and Ghana as an example. In the last minute of extra time a Uruguayan player deliberately handled the ball and denied Ghana a match winning goal. As we all now know, Ghana missed the penalty kick and went on to lose the shootout.

Once Ghana had missed the penalty kick, Uruguay were not subject to any further disadvantage for the remainder of the match. In fact, it doesn’t matter how many players a team has had sent off, if they can make it through to the penalty shootout, then they are at no further disadvantage to their opponents.

However, if ADG rather than the shootout had ensued, Uruguay would have been without a defender for one of the contests. This gives the Ghanaians a distinct advantage, which is something I know most rational football fans around the world believe they were entitled to. This episode illustrates how ADG is much more effective than the penalty shootout at punishing teams who are guilty of unsporting and illegal play.

6. Promotes Attacking Play during the Match

ADG counteracts a scenario of a team playing totally defensively, in the belief that their best chance of winning is via the penalty shootout. This is especially common when a team has had a player sent off and is referred to as “playing for penalties.” A coach will instruct all his eleven players to stay behind the ball, in hope they can jag a win in the penalty shootout. In ADG a team with a red card is a defender down, which means an opposition attacker will go one-on-one against their goalkeeper.

Now some people might suggest that teams could play for ADG, just like they do for penalties. However, if you were so confident in your team’s superior football ability during ADG, why not just apply those skills to normal play and try and win the match in 90 minutes?

While the likelihood of receiving yellow or red cards during the shootout is almost non-existent, these sanctions are more conceivable during ADG. As any additional sanctions will likely hinder teams as they progress through the elimination stages of tournaments, there’s more incentive for teams to attack and try and win the game in normal play.

Teams will also be discouraged from substituting creative attacking players during the match, as their skills will be invaluable if ADG eventuates. By keeping these players on the field it increases the likelihood of a winning goal during normal play. 

In the 2006 World Cup final the French replaced Ribéry and Henry after 100 and 107 minutes, respectively. Would these substitutions have occurred if ADG rather than penalties was imminent? Both are sublimely talented attacking players who despite their genuine fatigue, would be invaluable for ADG. But their presence on the field for the duration of normal play, increases the chances of a French goal and the match being decided prior to ADG.

Share your ideas on this subject

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Thoughs on this idea? Or do you have alternatives for this? Love to hear from you in the comments below.

Corona: Training at home for referees

Training at home for referees is a must now you have to stay in your house due to the corona virus. But what are the alternatives? In this blog post I’ll give you some ideas.

UPDATE: added below are now also an online session by FA Referee and an online session I did with Belgian referees.

1. Go out in nature.

In The Netherlands sports clubs and my referee association in The Hague are closed, but I’m allowed to go outside. I loved my run in the park and there’s a lot of nature to run in. 

4 types of referee training

2. Core stability training at home

At home there’s lots of stuff to do, because there’s more to train for than running. Core stability exercises are a great way to help for your stability and balance. If you start now, you might get used to it for the season, as you’ll benefit from that as well.

Core stability excercises referees

3. Check out home-workout videos on YouTube and Instagram

There’s plenty of exercises online if you don’t have any inspiration. For example this video where you do a cardio training without any equipment. And on this website a lot more video’s with home workouts.

4. Use the threadmill

If you have any: great tool to do your workouts on. You can stay at home and make sure you remain fit. One issue: there’s not much sport you can watch on tv while working out.

Women's Euro referee hotel fitness room

5. Have a walk with family

Every weekend you’re out for your games. You’ll probably train during the week. Now there’s a great opportunity, try to have time with your family at home (make sure not to gather with too many people these days!) and combine that with being active.

6. Use the jumping rope

Yes, the old-fashioned jumping ropes. A great tool to train a lot of muscles in your body. Works perfect for an intense work-out. If you live in an aparment building as I do, please try outside 😉

7. The 7 minute work-out app

The 7 minute work-out app is a great way to train every day. There might be less opportunities at home to train for a full hour, but this workout app will help you do some crucial exercises – maybe even twice a day.

One for Android and Apple Store.

8. Use resistance bands

I bought a resistance band a long time a go. I am not a frequent user, but it’s a perfect tool to use when training at home.

9. Install your pull-up bar in the garage

One of the suggestions by a reader, who can’t go to the gym anymore, because they are all closed. He is curious what all other refs do and tells me he installed a ull-up bar in the garage.

And what about getting the fitness equipment to your house. Like my Instagram page for more inspiration.

10. Yoga for runners or stretching

In the beginning I wasn’t doing any yoga at all, but mrs. DutchReferee showed me the benefits. Adriene on YouTube gives you great instructions and she also has some specific exercises for runners or for stretching. I have to admit: something you should give a try as well.

11. Walk the stairs in your apartment building

I live on the 13th floor and going to pick up my mail by using the stairs is a good one if you can’t go out. Not much mail these days, but curiousity keeps me going down. Every week I get some new referee badges from readers, so I’ll have a look for sure 🙂

12. Online referee development session

FA Refereeing organised an online referee development session. Enjoy!

13. Playing tennis with saucepans

Just an idea from top tennis player Novak Djokovic: play tennis with saucepans. If you need to stay at home, you can still move and play with your partner.

Share your ideas

I love to hear your ideas and thoughts on this. Share tips on or reply below on this post. Please let us help each other.

Improving the Laws of the Game

Improving the Laws of the Game by Gijs de JongImproving the Laws of the Game is can be great for football, but is always part of a public debate. Even referees don’t want the rules to change every season, which makes it sometimes more difficult to explain during football games. But I favour new experiments that make football quicker, more attractive and more fair.

KNVB, the Dutch FA, has agreed with FIFA in March 2020 to test 5 new rules in official (youth) games. “We don’t want to just change the game”, says Gijs de Jong, director of operations for professional football explains to NOS news. “We want to make football more attractive, more sportive and more fair.”

The 5 ideas for improving the Laws of the Game that will be tested:

  • The self-pass
  • The kick-in (instead of throw-in)
  • Set amount of time
  • Sin bins
  • Unlimited substitutions

A lot of them have been tested before in The Netherlands and I’ve written some experiences below.

Results of previous experiments

KNVB organised the game of the future between Fortuna Sittard and Suriprofs. New stuff like self-pass, kick-ins, play with a set amount of time and a shoot-out to decide the winner. The game was live on tv and everyone could follow it also with the referee camera.

Refcam: improving the Laws of the game

That’s what De Correspondent, Voetbal in de Bollenstreek and Voetblah try to do with the Avant Garde Cup. I visited that experiment personally earlier this season where they also tried to introduce new rules. The game was officiated by former Eredivisie referee Pieter Vink.

Logo of the Avant Garde Cup 2.0

Logo of the Avant Garde Cup 2.0

1. The self-pass

The idea is that players are allowed to take every free kick immediately after the referee has whistled. The goal is to speed things up in the game, because waiting for a signal to start takes time. This new rule will give an advantage to the attacking team, which seems fair. My question is if this will help teams regain the option of a promising attack (that is stopped after a tactical foul for example)? But what does happen if you want to show a player a yellow or red card?

An example of the self-pass in the “Game of the future” by KNVB.

Less time for moaning at the ref

I also see a huge advantage for referees here, because players will have less time to moan about your decisions. They simply have to run back and defend and don’t have time to talk to you. That’s also how it works during the test match. In the first half players comment on a decision by Pieter Vink, but an opponent quickly dribbles the ball forward. Three defenders lost with some smart thinking.

Maurits Hendriks, who invented the self-pass in hockey, will be present as well during the game. It’s also a point of discussion for the next IFAB meetings.

Marco van Basten, FIFA Chief Officer for Technical Development, is also available and he is happy with this initiative. “Football is a conservative sport, but things are going the right way now”, he says to Dutch Referee Blog. “These innovations are good, it’s important for the game to test new things. To implement it in the football rules it can take up to two years, because IFAB thoroughly tests new things.” He notices that the game goes quicker. “We are used to players who will stand in front of the ball. Before that behavier is gone, it takes a while.”

Marco van Basten and me.

Marco van Basten and me.

YOUR INPUT NEEDED: What are your pros and cons for a self-pass? Share them below. I am working on more stories on Law changes and want to map out these three proposed changes more thorouhly. You can also e-mail on

2. The kick-in (instead of throw-in) 

Throw-ins happen a lot, but are not always very useful for the attacking team. The idea is that a kick-in will give more advantages towards the attacking teams. Because it gives them more options to pass it forward to a teammate. Throw-ins are easier to defend, which leads to losing the ball.

Although kicks give players more options, especially now they can actually dribble-in, players need to get used to this. At the first few kicks kicks are long. These are more difficult to defend than throws, but balls are not optimally used. In the beginning team-mates coach a lot. “You can dribble the bal in.” That helps. Even the goalkeeper starts dribbling the goal-kick in.

The best advantage of this new technique is shown during a corner kick. Dribbling the ball in gives the advantage that you can restart before the team has ten defenders in their box. That leads to a good goal.

Two other rules that have been tested

The alternative penalty kick rule

A lot of things happen in the box, but not every foul is punished. Take a look at corner kicks or free kicks that swing in. Lots of holding, pushing, but as referee you can’t whistle for every foul.

Or can you?

The organisation of this game has an interesting proposal. A penalty kick will only be awarded if an obvious goal-scoring opportunity is denied. This can be in the penalty area, but also outside it. DOGSO lead to a penalty kick. Unfortunately nothing like this happened during the game, but below you’ll get an idea what it looks like.

But what to do with other fouls in the box? If you can give a normal free kick for such fouls, the organisation expects the number of penalty kicks will decrease. The expecatation: less small fouls on attackers, because the idea is that a referee will whistle quicker if he doesn’t have to give a penalty kick. And another expectation: the end of diving. Because the award will not be a penalty kick, but a normal free kick. If the reward is not that high, the organisation hopes this helps to ban it out.

Full explanation in Dutch about the proposed law changes.


  • If the game ends in a draw a shoot-out will make the difference.
  • The taker starts at 25 metres from the goal and gets 10 seconds to score
  • The goalkeeper starts on the goal-line
  • If the player shoots after 5 seconds and the goalkeeper saves, there is still 5 more seconds left to score. If a shot is at the moment of the buzzer, the goal will count. If there is any doubt, the Video Assistant Referee can give advice. But teams can’t request a video call.
  • If a goalkeeper fouls the taker, a normal penalty kick will follow
  • During the game normal penalty kicks are taken
  • During the shoot-out one referee is positioned on the goal-line, one on the halfway line to do the admin (goals and ABBA order of takers) and the other referee runs up with the taker.
  • In the stadium all fans can see a clock counting down from 10 seconds

Share your ideas

What are your pros and cons of these LOTG changess? Share them below or e-mail on I am working on more stories on law changes and want to map out these three proposed changes more thoroughly.

If you have other ideas, please let me know as well.