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Making the Rules of Sports Fairer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Steven Brams, Mehmet Ismail

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-202
Issue number1
Early online date7 Feb 2018
Accepted/In press25 Jan 2017
E-pub ahead of print7 Feb 2018


  • Making the Rules of Sports Fairer

    Making_the_Rules_of_BRAMS_Accepted25January2017_GREEN_AAM.pdf, 452 KB, application/pdf

    Uploaded date:15 Sep 2017

    Version:Accepted author manuscript

King's Authors


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 strategy proof. 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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