This Is the End


Markets, Risk and Human Interaction

July 10, 2010

More on Soccer -- Changes for Improving the Game

There has been some comment on my recent post related to ways to make soccer less boring, and it appears some readers do not fully understand the direction I am trying to go.

For example, with regard to the idea of a Goal Tunnel: The point is that most of the time, as it is currently structured, soccer is stadium pinball. The proposal I made for a Goal Tunnel is intended to play off of that feature of the game. But the Goal Tunnel, the use of two balls, and these other approaches are only suggestions. It might be enough simply to allow free substitution, or increase the goal size.

Among the changes I proposed, free substitution should be non-controversial. When there is no substitution, the players cannot be as aggressive, because they know that they will still have to be out there even if they become fatigued. So you have a game that is slowed down and conservative. Most every team sport other than soccer allows substitution. Hockey, football, basketball, and lacrosse all have free substitution. Baseball is an exception, but fatigue is hardly an issue for anyone but the pitcher. And there, substitution is allowed.

But in this post, let me focus on another of these changes, an increase in the size of the goal, and show how this can not only increase the amount of scoring, but also make soccer a more interesting game. This illustration will also help with another important point: one change might require other, supporting changes.

Suppose we increase the size of the goal to span the entire goal line. Then it will be impossible for the goalie to cover the goal area, so he may as well move into the field, which means there will be eleven people in the field rather than ten. With so large a goal, it will be trivial to kick the ball past the goal line. So to overcome this problem, require players to carry the ball across the goal rather than simply kick it across. Which, of course, means the players finally get to use their hands, a long overdue improvement. Because the ball can be carried, it should be made smaller and shaped so that it can be tucked under the arm.

The Goal Tunnel can go, but the basic concept behind it, that of tackling, should still be allowed, at least tackling the person carrying the ball. And allow a pause in play whenever the ball carrier is down so that both teams can do any substitution, regroup and reassess their strategy.

A last problem that comes up with the enlarged goal is how to allow the other team to gain possession. If the ball is small and easily held, it will be hard for the other team to jar it loose. So perhaps if the team with the ball cannot advance it sufficiently after a number of “downs”, the other team should be awarded possession.

This is only one example of an improvement in soccer, derived from the simple first step of increasing the size of the goal. But I believe these changes could turn soccer into a much more engaging sport.