Ian Plenderleith raises the question at Soccer America:

In the majority of cases … the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Minor fouls or unintentional handballs are punished with an almost certain goal opportunity (and even more so now under the dissembling new handball rule ‘clarification’). Replacing the penalty kick with an indirect free-kick would benefit everyone on the field.

The benefits, as Ian sees them:

  • Minor accidental fouls will no longer determine the outcome of a game.
  • Attackers (looking your way, USWNT) will have less of a temptation to take a dive in the penalty area.
  • Referees would have an easier time calling minor fouls, knowing that the call would not lead to an 80% chance of a goal.

As expected, his piece has sparked a nice discussion, and fellow Soccer America columnist Randy Vogt has chimed in with an idea:

If we experiment with this, let’s go with a direct kick instead and I would like to take something from the beach soccer and futsal rules as the attacker shoots on goal from where the foul took place inside the penalty area and all other players besides the GK and shooter must be behind the ball. Hence, no time-wasting with the defense setting up a wall.

That’s not bad, but I disagree about time-wasting. The defense will just argue the call for a minute, argue the ball placement for another minute, and take another minute getting behind the ball.

Here’s my pet idea:

Within the penalty area (or “box,” as you can say when you’re not a referee): Penalty kicks are awarded only for fouls punishable by a yellow or red card.

Within the goal area: Every foul results in a penalty kick.

I had thought about enlarging the goal area for this purpose, but the benefits wouldn’t outweigh the negatives of redrawing lines on every youth field with artificial turf.

So fouls that really do put a wrench in a good scoring chance — deliberate handballs (yes, that Law needs a re-tweaking as well to distinguish between “ball hitting an arm that’s barely outside the natural silhouette because arms move when someone is running” vs. “swatting the ball like a volleyball player”), obvious trips or shoves, fouls at very close range — would still put a player on the spot. But minor incidental contact would not.


One thought on “Abolish the penalty kick?

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