What if… there were two points for a win?
That would really be a revolution. Suddenly two points instead of three for a win? “That’s never happened before! That’s really nonsense! What is this proposal? You get three points for a win. It’s been like that forever. If you want to keep nagging forever, pick another area to do it.”
Whatever the dissenting voices here would be, the free points rule is simply not thought about or debated. Except: has it ever been? It was sometime in England this idea was born (1981; Jimmy Hill). Obviously a certain behavior was observed by the “inventor”, which should be put a stop to. The behavior was this: when the game was tied and there wasn’t that much time left on the clock, suddenly there was a kind of “peace agreement” on the court. If you don’t hurt us, we won’t hurt you. Similar to the game of chess, however, where peaceful intentions can be documented by a draw offer, and here the peaceful outcome can be signed directly after acceptance. For the (few) spectators perhaps still a small disappointment, because they would have expected still some tension and action, but at least also no senseless “ball pushing” (which would be “piece pushing” in the case of chess), which would then be to be called a sham battle. Draw, agreement, one way or the other, signed, end of game.
In the case of soccer, it would still be a mock skirmish, but the game time would have to be “served”. This was not at all pleasant and would not be to this day. The spectator is led to believe that something could still happen. He hopes however in vain, one would not like to attack at all more, even if a chance would arise.
Why there was this behavior is already an interesting question, which one may quite pursue. Also in the sense of gradually getting on the right track: what does one actually want and how could one achieve it?
To understand this, two main factors must be taken into account:
a) the low number of goals in the game of soccer and
b) the distribution of chances to score a goal versus those to score one, if you want to score it badly enough.
The low number of goals in the game is, of course, responsible for quite a lot. For example, this one, that the waiting time for a goal is too long to just watch a game like that. As a fan you can, as a neutral you don’t. Boring. However, it’s pretty much the same for the players on the pitch. It’s not boring, but you know: it falls so rarely that you don’t really believe in it. Make an effort for that now? No, rather hold on to what we have. Cross passes in our own half don’t carry any risk character. Oh, the opponent is playing along? Good. Few goals little hope, on all sides, to be able to change something.
The distribution of chances (point b) is directly related to point a), but must be explained separately. The problem is that the “risk character” already mentioned is not just an empty phrase. You take a risk when you send players forward. The risk is that the ball could be lost and that the players who are currently up front could now be missing at the back. Because remember, the ball is always faster. When you attack, you increase the risk of conceding a goal.
The only question to ask here is: how much do you increase the risk? There are three curious, surprising answers. The first part of the answer refers to the mentality “better a bird in the hand than a pigeon on the roof.” Now, if the chances were equally distributed, one would still not aspire to increase the risk, even if with the risk the positive chance (equally) would also be increased. That is the mentality and this could not be driven out even by force. “But now attack. You could win the game!” “Nope, I don’t. I could lose.” From a purely psychological point of view, it would not even be easy to instill it in the players (and other people, too) to increase the risk if the chance of winning the game were even slightly higher than the risk of losing it. But this side consideration is not even necessary to explain the behavior.
The second part of the answer refers to the character of the game soccer. The few goals are, of course, also part of the character, but the one given here goes a bit beyond that. In fact, it’s simply that the chances of conceding a goal become greater than those of scoring one if you “increase the risk” (hence even the expression; otherwise it would have to be: we increase our winning potential or something). Defending is easier than attacking in this game. For numerous reasons, which shall not be repeated here. But it is a fact. Consequence/cause/companion of the few goals would not matter. It is insanely difficult to score a goal and a little carelessness – and you have already conceded one.
Here even an example could be helpful, from today’s practice: if a team has a corner kick, then this seems like a favorable goal situation. But only if you send your own tall players forward to the collection of players in the penalty area. Once because of at all mass in the penalty area, but also because of their header strength. So central defenders to the front. Good. Only: you still and for a long time do not get to the ball. Still the defenders are in the superior number and with the higher rights. So: the ball is defended. Now all the teams these days are increasingly training the “switching game”. Everyone is swarming. The central defenders, who wanted to score a goal themselves, are missing at the back and are usually even the somewhat slower players. And in general any order is missing at the back, because everything goes so fast. Now the question would be asked: do you send the center backs forward at all? Isn’t the chance for the opponent to score a goal from a counterattack much greater than that of achieving a small miracle yourself?
The answer is: no, it’s not worth it. But there is an urgent distinction to be made here: are you behind or is it a draw? It is not even necessary to lead. Risk, even though you are in the lead? There is no such thing. So: if you are behind, you have to increase the risk. When there is a draw, you don’t. Intuitively, perhaps, but justifiably.
The third part of the explanation for the behavior is a more deeply hidden one. Whereas the phenomenon only emerged seriously (but unrecognized until here) after the introduction of the three-point rule: every footballer and every coach knows (at least intuitively) that there is this disproportion: if you attack, you are more likely to concede a goal than to score one. If there are three points per win and it’s a draw – otherwise: leave it alone anyway – there would be this certain temptation to make three out of one, but here the smart man would rather say: “Let them come, it’s worth it for them too. And if they’re stupid enough to actually do it, we’ll hit them stone cold.” Since they are all “smart men,” the whole event is already neutralized. “We don’t attack because you would have to.” “But neither do we.” Business as usual. Two points per win or three points? Doesn’t make the slightest difference.
Another problem that the three-point rule has caused completely unnoticed so far is this: there are not only drawn scores, it occasionally happens that a team scores “the odd goal”, as the Englishman so wonderfully puts it: as soon as a goal is “odd”, the current goal total is odd – and this guarantees that a team is leading. Now, when a team is leading, it has a lot to lose. Even more than before, the rule is: don’t concede a goal now. This means that the effort to hold on to a lead has been greatly increased. The standard would be this: score 1:0 and play for the final whistle. Just don’t concede a goal, all hands on your own goal line and somehow “take time off the clock”. This would be the smooth counter-effect of the hoped-for more spectacle. No one attacks more, as well as he is in the lead. That would be stupid.
End thinks – which however brings a further weakening of the activities with itself. Perspective of the trailing team: “What a shame, now we’re behind. Although only a goal, but if we now all forces bundle and really have a lot of luck, then we create perhaps the equalizer. And if we do, we’ll only have gained a single point. No, it’s not worth it.” In other words: the leader holds on, tooth and nail, the laggard capitulates to it. The result: 1:0 becomes the most frequent of all results. Was that the goal of the rule’s introduction?
It’s not entirely without reason that this core statement from coaches is going around today: “We also have to be lucky enough to score the first goal again.” It’s really all about this “luck of the first goal.” If you have it, you’ve practically already won. And what you need for that is luck, as is already acknowledged. Both teams equally good (or: almost all), one has the luck of the first goal, he will also win. Great game, it must be said. Could you also throw the dice?!
Since there is still an unproven statement that the introduction of the three-point rule was ineffective, at least a statistical attempt should be made to provide proof.
All the statistics available on the subject point uniformly in the identical direction: no effect has been achieved, or, if any, however slight, it would be insignificant. In a kind of “rearguard action,” proponents of the rule could merely interject: “Wait a minute, before the rule was introduced there was a drop in the goal average, since then it has only stagnated. So you see: it has brought a lot of benefits. Otherwise, we would have long since averaged less than two goals per game.” Yes, if he were right about that, there you go.
Since there are no doubtless statistics (but you should supposedly trust only those that you have falsified yourself…), here once a small review of a few facts. Since these are verifiable, falsifications are neither possible, but also not at all necessary. Here the values – thereby as relevantly considered the draw portion as well as the goal average — from the first soccer federal league before and after the introduction, on three years extended (this would be then the possible falsifying portion, with which one selects an ideal period around the own purposes to these; here however also not happened):
1993: Draw: 29.29% Goals ø: 2.936
1994: Draw: 27.21% Goals ø: 2.918
1995: Draw: 28.10% Goals: ø 3.016
1996: Draw: 35.29% Goals ø: 2.715
1997: Draw: 22.87% Goals ø: 2.977
1998: Draw: 27.78% Goals ø: 2.879
Average with two-point rule: Draw: 28.20%
Goals ø: 2.957
Average with three-point rule: Draw: 28.64%
Goals ø: 2.857
It’s pretty clear and obvious: the rule has not had the effect it was hoped for. The number of draws has risen, the average number of goals has fallen, and you can gladly call it stagnation, which continues to persist. Here are three more recent examples (as of June 2017):
2015: Draw: 26.79% goals ø: 2.754
2016: Draw: 23.20% Goals ø: 2,830
2017: Draw: 24.18% Goals ø: 2,866
In fact, the draw frequency would have slightly decreased, but on the other hand, the goal average would not have increased. Sure, the Bundesliga is booming and it’s just not an issue, boredom. “Draw shenanigans” don’t exist – however they ever did. Nevertheless, the overall verdict remains: the introduction of the three-point rule has had no discernible effect on match behavior (as can be read from statistics). There were no more goals, which is probably partly due to the effect of trying to hold on to a lead even more.
It seems to be helpful to compare at least one other league. The second German soccer league is a good example. Here are the figures before and after the introduction of the three-point rule in the 1995/1996 season, for three seasons each, analogous to the First League:
1993: Draw: 30.04% Goals ø: 2.618
1994: Draw: 30.26% Goals ø: 2.500
1995: Draw: 33.33% Goals: ø 2.816
1996: Draw: 26.14% Goals ø: 2.584
1997: Draw: 30.39% Goals ø: 2.686
1998: Draw: 32.45% Goals ø: 2.534
Average with two-point rule: Draw: 31.00%
Goals ø: 2.632
Average with three-point rule: Draw: 29.66%
Goals ø: 2.601
In the second league, therefore, the number of draws would actually have decreased slightly. Whereby: in total, there are 12 games out of 918 that were saved in draws; this would be negligible or simply subject to other statistical fluctuations; in other words: the statistician would have to classify this deviation as random and not be able to attribute it to a rule change.
The goal average has not increased in the time anyway, so that at least this (assumed hoped for) partial effect has not occurred.
Again, alternatively, somewhat more recent examples:
2015: Draw: 31.69% Goals ø: 2,493
2016: Draw: 28.10% Goals ø: 2,640
2017: Draw: 28.75% goals ø: 2.486
These examples also prove: nothing has moved. The average of goals slightly lower lately. Draws rather slightly increased, so the opposite of the hoped-for effect.
In terms of “circumstantial evidence”, this should be enough for now. Nothing has happened, in any case nothing in the desired direction.
Finally, one should take these points into consideration: the rule of awarding three points for a win is unfair. One used to speak of “division of points”, which promised an appropriate reward for a fought out quite respectable game with a 2:2, 3:3. They fought each other fairly and offensively, there was plenty of action, there were goals, changing leads, drama and suspense. In the end, both ended up with the same goal total, by sheer coincidence. You could look straight into each other’s eyes at the final whistle, congratulate each other on a great game, the fans might even stand and applaud both teams fairly.
In this scenario, if it turned out that way with three points for the winner today, somehow both would be losers by at least a quarter. Both would be half a point short of all those teams in the final standings that would have won once and lost once in two similar duels. The spectators would also be a bit more restrained with their applause, as they also felt that although it was a great game, just like before, both were now missing something. The commentators also recognize this, saying after the game, “A point that doesn’t really help anyone.” Nail on the head – but not recognizing the injustice of it. Only the nonsense of the rule is responsible for this.
Also the table pictures are always crooked in some way since the introduction of the rule. How nice it was in the past, with plus and minus points? You could always orientate yourself. Now, only pluses take some getting used to – and the habituation effect has still not set in after such a long time. One accepts it somehow – but it is not nice anymore.
One last aspect: if two teams meet in a league match, with one home game and one away game each, both of which have set the only goal of the season as “staying in the league”, then it might be advisable for them to come to an agreement: “You win the first leg, we win the second leg. Then we have both three points from the direct duels and a small advantage over the competitors, who perhaps in Hin-und Rückspiel under Aufbietung of all forces in each case only a draw herausweren, however for it only two points on their account get.” A fool, who thinks badly thereby.
Conclusion : there are injustices, ugly table pictures, a gossamer “manipulation suspicion”, at least the opened possibility to do that.
There is still this grievance of lack of action in a soccer match. There are too few goals and too few events that promise goals. The mentality of holding on to a point, to a draw, to what you have, is mainly related to that. In handball, wouldn’t you think of “playing for a draw” even a minute before the end? The observed grievance cries out urgently to be eliminated. That was recognized (sometime and somewhere then nevertheless…) once. To introduce the three-point rule allows approximately this comparison: one gives an AIDS patient a fever-reducing means. The fever doesn’t even go down, but if it did, he wouldn’t have been helped.
The three-point rule is a demonstrably ineffective means of making soccer more attractive. Back to the Zeipunkteregel, at least first to restore justice. The goal and event poverty problem must be solved in another way – suggestions for this are plentiful elsewhere.