The Penalty Area: What’s The Point?

Thinking outside the box. The existing rules on penalty awards put on the spot.

I’ll start with a question. Why do people refer to the penalty area as the penalty box? A box suggests to me a three-dimensional object, whereas the penalty area (or “18 yard box”) is just a set of lines which denote a rectangle measuring 18 yards by 44 yards or 792 square yards. This is about one-sixth of an acre which makes it sound bigger than it really is.

It’s a nonsensical area with an arbitrary size that has one main purpose. It is there so that any foul committed within it by the defending side, including intentional handball, results in the award of a penalty kick. My suggestion is that this is a ridiculous law and should be abolished immediately. I’m not petitioning for the abolition of the penalty kick itself, merely the reason for awarding it. The penalty area also has a supplementary purpose in that it exists, of course, as an arbitrary area in which the goalkeeper can handle the ball.

At the moment a foul could be committed inches inside the penalty area, and a penalty kick is awarded even if there is no way that the goal is threatened, or a goal scoring opportunity denied. The attacking player may be moving away from the goal, or the ball may be played by the defender’s hand without there being any real danger of a goal being scored. Nevertheless a penalty kick is awarded which effectively means an 85% chance of a goal being scored.  

If exactly the same offence occurs inches outside the penalty area then a free kick is awarded. This means that the defending side can build a wall, and effectively means a less than 2% chance of a goal (unless of course you’ve got Dimitri Payet in your team!). At the speed of football today, it is difficult, nigh on impossible, for the officials to be certain whether or not the offence is inside or outside the area, but the end result of their decision makes an enormous difference to the outcome.

Compare that to the situation where a player is clean through on goal, say thirty yards out, and is brought down by a defender, thereby denying a clear goal scoring opportunity. This latter situation should, to make it a more sensible rule, result in the award of a penalty kick in my opinion, even though under the current rules it would just be a free kick. 

So my proposal is that the penalty area is abolished, and a penalty kick is awarded whenever a clear goal scoring opportunity is denied, regardless of where it takes place on the pitch. We don’t need a penalty area for this and it would therefore become redundant.

And I’ll go a step further to discourage dissent from the side that have a penalty awarded against them. If anyone in the team shows dissent towards the officials, then not only does the penalty stand, but the penalty kick is taken without a goalkeeper in the goal, thus increasing the possibility of a goal to very close to 100%.

These changes will mean that penalties are only awarded for good reasons, and dissent will be eliminated at a stroke. It makes sense and must be introduced. But will it? Of course not, because the change is too radical. But should it? Of course it should.

But, I hear you say, what about knowing where keepers should be allowed to handle the ball? I would have a line all the way across the pitch 18 yards from goal, allowing the keeper to handle the ball anywhere within it. Those diehards amongst you can keep the penalty area where it is, if you must, for goalkeeper handling purposes. But it should no longer have anything to do with the award of penalty kicks.

My line, which would stretch right across the pitch, would also have nothing to do with the issuing of penalty kicks, but would be an instrumental line for a change in the ridiculous offside law (as it stands), which I will outline in a future article.

To be continued ……

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