Munich Personal RePEc Archive

Making the Rules of Sports Fairer

Brams, Steven J. and Ismail, Mehmet S. (2016): Making the Rules of Sports Fairer.

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Abstract

The rules of many sports are not fair—they do not ensure that equally skilled competitors have the same probability of winning. As an example, the penalty shootout in soccer, wherein a coin toss determines which team kicks first on all five penalty kicks, gives a substantial advantage to the first-kicking team, both in theory and practice. We show that a so-called Catch-Up Rule for determining the order of kicking would not only make the shootout fairer but also is essentially strategyproof. By contrast, the so-called Standard Rule now used for the tiebreaker in tennis is fair. We briefly consider several other sports, all of which involve scoring a sufficient number of points to win, and show how they could benefit from certain rule changes, which would be straightforward to implement.

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