Are penalty shoot-outs racist?

Billsberry, Jon; Nelson, Patrick; van Meurs, Nathalie and Edwards, Gareth (2007). Are penalty shoot-outs racist? Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, 6(10) p. 98.



The acceptance of penalty shoot-outs in the knockout stages international football tournaments is based on the belief that they have face validity by involving a football skill, that they have a clear and quick decision criterion that settles the result shortly after the end of the game, and that they do not offer any in-built advantage to either of the competing nations. Following events in the 2006 World Cup, we decided to investigate whether there are grounds to believe that the results of penalty shoot-outs are predetermined. Specifically, we considered whether characteristics of national cultures explain the results of penalty shoot-outs and whether penalty shoot-outs offer an advantage to any nation.
Materials and Methods
We gathered data from every competitive international penalty shoot-out (n=182). We included countries who had (1) competed in at least 5 shoot-outs, (2) taken at least 20 penalties, and (3) been involved in at least 2 penalty shoot-outs in major tournaments. Win/lose data from 16 countries were analyzed using the raw national culture scores of Hofstede (1980, 2006).
One of Hofstede’s four national cultural dimensions – individualism/collectivism – strongly correlated with nations’ win/loss record (r=-.600, sig= .014, N=16; see diagram). A regression analysis produced an Rsq of .395 indicating that this national cultural dimension explains almost 40% of the variance in the results of penalty shoot-outs with collectivism being favoured over individualism.
Discussion and Conclusion
These results demonstrate a strong national culture bias in favour of collectivist nations. One explanation is that players from individualist nations are more anxious and under greater stress due to the blame they will attract if they miss. Other explanations are associated with support and self-image. Some may consider that these results indicate that penalty shoot-outs are racist.

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