What Are The Chances Of Scoring A Penalty In A Football Match?

penaltiesThe story of penalties in modern football is an interesting one. For nearly two years Tottenham Hotspur had been awarded more penalties at the Kop end of Anfield than the home team Liverpool, for example. Crystal Palace under Roy Hodgson, a man not exactly know for playing exciting and attacking football, were awarded 11 penalties during the 2018-2019 season; just one fewer than Manchester United.

Supporters celebrate a penalty being awarded as if it's the same as a goal, but is that actually true? How often are penalties scored after being given by the match referee? You might think that the balance between penalty taker and goalkeeper is even, but the new rules brought in ahead of the 2019-2020 season mean that the power is very much in attacker's hands. The goalkeeper must now have a foot on or above the goal line when the ball is kicked.

With all of that in mind, let's have a look at what the chances are of scoring a penalty.

Penalty Success In Previous Seasons

Penalty TakerMatchOutcome
Roberto Firmino Watford v Liverpool* Scored
Dusan Tadic Southampton* v West Ham United Scored
Charlie Austin Southampton* v West Ham United Scored
Romelu Lukaku Manchester United* v Leicester City Missed
Jamie Vardy Leicester City* v Chelsea Scored
Jamie Vardy Huddersfield Town v Leicester City* Scored
Raheem Sterling Watford v Manchester City* Scored
Anthony Martial Manchester United* v Everton Scored
Jamie Vardy Leicester City* v Liverpool Missed
Alexandre Lacazette Arsenal* v West Bromwich Albion Scored
Sadio Berahino Stoke City* v Southampton Missed
Troy Deeney Watford* v Arsenal Scored
Manolo Gabbiadini Southampton* v Newcastle United Scored
Wayne Rooney Brighton & Hove Albion v Everton* Scored
Junior Stanislas Stoke City v Bournemouth* Scored
Sergio Agüero Manchester City* v Burnley Scored
Glenn Murray Burnley v Brighton & Hove Albion* Scored
Mohamed Salah Liverpool* v Burnley Missed
Luka Milivojevic Crystal Palace* v West Ham United Scored
Sergio Agüero Manchester City* v Arsenal Scored
Tom Cleverley Everton* v Watford Missed
Leighton Baines Everton* v Watford Scored
Leighton Baines Crystal Palace v Everton* Scored
Sergio Agüero Huddersfield Town v Manchester City* Scored
Alexis Sanchez Burnley v Arsenal* Scored
Wayne Rooney Everton* v West Ham United Missed
Manuel Lanzini Everton v West Ham United* Missed
Troy Deeney Watford* v Manchester United Scored
Glenn Murray Brighton & Hove Albion* v Liverpool Scored
Eden Hazard Chelsea* v Newcastle United Scored
Luka Milivojevic Crystal Palace* v Bournemouth Scored
Christian Benteke Crystal Palace* v Bournemouth Missed
Wayne Rooney Liverpool v Everton* Scored
Mark Noble Stoke City v West Ham United* Scored
Glenn Murray Brighton & Hove Albion* v Burnley Missed
Wayne Rooney Everton* v Swansea City Scored
Wayne Rooney Everton* v Swansea City Missed
Aaron Mooey Watford v Huddersfield Town* Scored
Gabriel Jesus Manchester City* v Tottenham Hotspur Missed
Harry Kane Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur* Missed
André Ayew West Ham United* v Newcastle United Missed
Luka Milivojevic Swansea City v Crystal Palace* Scored
Willian Chelsea* v Stoke City Scored
Jay Rodriguez West Bromwich Albion* v Arsenal Scored
Luka Milivojevic Crystal Palace* v Manchester City Missed
Eden Hazard Arsenal v Chelsea* Scored
Jamie Vardy Leicester City* v Watford Scored
Sergio Agüero Manchester City* v Newcastle United Scored
Glenn Murray Brighton & Hove Albion* v Southampton Scored
Mark Noble West Ham United* v Crystal Palace Scored
Joselu Newcastle United* v Burnley Missed
Jamie Vardy Everton v Leicester City* Scored
Mohamed Salah Huddersfield Town v Liverpool* Scored
Troy Deeney Watford* v Cheslea Scored
Alexis Sanchez Manchester United* v Huddersfield Town Missed
Harry Kane Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur* Missed
Harry Kane Liverpool v Tottenham Hotspur* Scored
Luka Milivojevic Crystal Palace* v Newcastle United Scored
Charlie Adam Stoke City* v Brighton & Hove Albion Missed
Luka Milivojevic Everton v Crystal Palace* Scored
Rajiv van La Parra Huddersfield Town* v Bournemouth Scored
Glenn Murray Brighton & Hove Albion* v Swansea City Scored
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Arsenal* v Manchester City Missed
Joshua King Leicester City v Bournemouth* Scored
Jordan Ayew Swansea City* v West Ham United Scored
Troy Deeney Arsenal v Watford* Missed
Wayne Rooney Everton* v Brighton & Hove Albion Missed
Luka Milivojevic Huddersfield Town v Crystal Palace* Scored
Jamie Vardy Leicester City* v Arsenal Scored
Luka Milivojevic Crystal Palace* v Liverpool Scored
Glenn Murray Brighton & Hove Albion* v Everton Missed
Joshua King Watford v Bournemouth* Scored
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Arsenal* v Watford Scored
Alexandre Lacazette Arsenal* v Watford Scored
Ilkay Gündoğan Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City* Scored
Gabriel Jesus Manchester City* v Swansea City Missed
Pascal Groß Brighton & Hove Albion* v Tottenham Hotspur Scored
Christian Benteke Crystal Palace* v Leicester City Scored
Troy Deeney Watford* v Newcastle United Missed
Xherdan Shaqiri Swansea City v Stoke City* Missed

Information taken from Transfer Markt.

The first thing to do is to have a look back at a previous season and the penalties that were awarded. How many of them were scored and how many were not?

In the tabe above we look at the 2017-2018 Premier League season as a random example, taking a look at who took the penalty in which match and what the outcome was.

The team that the penalty taker played for has * next to it.

Teams With The Most Penalties

TeamPenalties AwardedMissed
Crystal Palace 10 2
Everton 8 3
Manchester City 8 2
Brighton & Hove Albion 7 2
Watford 6 3
Leicester City 6 1
Arsenal 5 1
West Ham United 4 2
Stoke City 3 3
Manchester United 3 2
Liverpool 3 1
Tottenham Hotspur 3 1
Chelsea 3 0
Bournemouth 3 0
Southampton 3 0
Huddersfield Town 2 0
Newcastle United 1 1
West Bromwich Albion 1 0
Swansea City 1 0

Even before we get into the stats from that season, there are a few really interesting things worth noting. For starters, it's odd to see how many penalties that teams that weren't particularly known for their attacking were awarded.

The table above shows the list of penalties by club during that campaign.

British Bias

premier league footballerThat season the two Manchester clubs finished with a combined goal difference of 119, racking up 181 points between them. In contrast, Crystal Palace ended up with a goal difference of -10 and 44 points. Yet when you look at the table above, the Manchester clubs were awarded just one penalty more than the Eagles.

Are we really to expect that a club that ended the campaign with a goal difference of -10 spend more time in the penalty box than two clubs that had a combined goal difference of 119? Given they won so many penalties, you'd be forgiven for imagining that they must have, but it's a hard one to believe.

If that's not the case, then, how come they were awarded so many penalties during the season? Writer Paul Tomkins has done a fair amount of research that suggests that more penalties go to British players than players from further afield. Roughly 60% of all penalties go to players from the UK, even though they make up just 40% of the playing staff in the league. That's including all players, with the number dropping lower if you only look at attackers.

If you're thinking of having a bet on a team being awarded a penalty, therefore, it's worth having a look to see how many British players they have in their team. The suggestion from Tomkins is that referees trust that British players won't dive whereas foreign ones will, which is something that plays out with the stats.

How Often Are Penalties Given?

harry kane penalty for england

Now that we've looked at why penalties might be awarded to certain players more than others, and it's worth remembering in our list of players above that they're the ones who took the penalty, not necessarily the ones who won the spot-kick in the first place, let's have a look at the chances of one being given in the first place.

In the 2017-2018 season there were 80 penalties awarded in 380 games. Obviously some of them were given in the same match, such as when Harry Kane took two against Liverpool to give us that stat about Tottenham Hotspur and Kop end penalties from the intro. Take it as an average, though, and it means that there is approximately a 21.05% chance of a penalty being awarded in the match you're betting on.

That's a 1 in 5 chance, so it's perhaps no wonder that many people think there's a chance that there'll be a penalty given in a game and bet on it accordingly. What, though, is the chance that the penalty will be scored?

How Often Are Those Penalties Scored?

number crunchingOf the 80 penalties taken in the 2017-2018 season, 25 of them were missed. That's 31.25% chance that the penalty will not result in a goal, or a little less than 1 in 3.

On the flip side of that, of course, 55 of them did hit the back of the net, meaning that there's a 68.75% chance that a goal will be scored if a penalty is given, should you be the sort of person who likes to look on the bright side of things.

What that means is that if you're betting on a match and a penalty has been awarded then you're statistically more likely to win your bet if you place your wager on the goal being scored. Indeed, there's more chance of a penalty being scored than there is of one being awarded in the first place.

If the main attacker in the team you're thinking of betting on is English then it might well be worth placing a double on them being awarded and then scoring a penalty if they're the usual penalty taker. Jamie Vardy is a good example of that, being Leicester City's main striker and the person given the responsibility of taking the Foxes' spot-kicks more often than not.

The level of conversion of penalties in the 2017-2018 season was actually down on the penalty rate in earlier seasons. 8 out of the 11 campaigns between 2000 and 2012 saw a conversation rate of between 76 and 80% of penalties. Is that suggestive of goalkeepers getting better, attackers getting worse or there being more pressure on penalty takers nowadays because of the financial stakes involved in winning or staying in the Premier League?

Referees

RefereeMatches Taken Charge OfPenalties Awarded
Michael Oliver 30 5
Jon Moss 29 6
Martin Atkinson 28 2
Andre Marriner 27 2
Anthony Taylor 27 4
Craig Pawson 25 6
Mike Dean 24 5
Kevin Friend 21 6
Neil Swarbrick 20 3
Graham Scott 20 4
Bobby Madley 19 2
Lee Mason 18 4
Roger East 18 1
Paul Tierney 16 1
Chris Kavanagh 15 1
Lee Probert 14 3
Stuart Atwell 14 0
Mike Jones 12 0
Simon Hooper 1 0
Andrew Madley 1 1
David Coots 1 0

referee showing red cardAnother factor that you'll need to take into account is the match referee. Some are more inclined to give penalties than others. In the 2017-2018 campaign there were 21 different match referees used.

Obviously some of them are no longer professional referees, but the table above is at least informative about the variations on offer when it comes to how generous with penalties officials can be.

What that shows us is that the match referee can make a real difference to a penalty being awarded. Of all refs who took charge of 10 or more games, there was the most chance of a penalty being given in a match officiated by Kevin Friend, who gave a penalty on an average of 28.57% of the occasions that he was in charge of a game.

You can easily find out who will be officiating a match by looking at the Premier League's official website.

Research is always your friend when it comes to placing a wager, so if you've discovered that a match referee is generous in terms of how often they give a penalty, the team you're thinking of betting on has a lot of English players and the penalty taker for that team tends to score a decent number of the spot-kicks that he takes then it's worth placing a bet on a penalty being awarded and scored.

Obviously this is only looking at the English top-flight, so if you prefer to bet on other leagues or other countries or even European competitions then it's worth doing some research on them before you log in to your bookmaker account.