This brings to mind one of my favorite TV shows, One Outs. It's about the strategies that a clever and "unsportsmanlike" player brings to a baseball team, exploiting the rules while violating the spirit of the game.

As one example: in order for a baseball game to be considered valid, both teams must play 5 innings. If the weather is bad and teams are unable to continue due to rain, a <5 inning game is considered invalid and scheduled for a later date. If one team is behind and knows there's a high chance of rain later in the day, the pitcher can begin drawing out the length of innings by intentionally giving up hits. (After all, it doesn't matter how many runs he gives up if the game is canceled.) This, in turn, gives the opposite incentive to the opposing team's offense, who wants their runners to be declared "out" so that the inning can end faster. There's a real-time rules-gaming arms race as both teams test the bounds of what's legally permissible, driven by incentives that lead to a very unusual game of baseball.

Sports is one of the most fascinating and underexplored examples of Goodhart's law (collapsing correlation between the metric and a goal).

One of the most widely known examples of this is a London 2012 badminton scandal, when tournament design led to misaligned incentives for teams (it was beneficial for them to lose a game, to meet with less formidable opponent known beforehand). But there are dozens of such cases across many sports. One of the attempts to collect them can be found in a paper "When sports rules go awry" (DOI: 10.1016/j.ejor.2016.06.050).

UPD. Thanks to sibling comment, good find - youtube playlist from Secret Base "Weird Rules": https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLUXSZMIiUfFSVTX8z2Xl5...

One other weird thing: When a soccer player who is not a goalkeeper prevents a goal by catching the ball with their hands, they "just" get a red card and the attacking team a penalty, even if they would have certainly scored otherwise.

Luis Suarez successfully used this in the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals in the Uruguay vs Ghana game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dM-29hy-Qyw - Ghana missed the penalty, which led to a penalty shootout, which Uruguay won.

Skimming through the laws of the game (https://downloads.theifab.com/downloads/laws-of-the-game-202...) I do wonder whether a trainer and up to 4 other players (because a team which can field less than 7 players forfeits the game) climbing on the crossbar until it breaks could be advantageous in some situation as well since

> If it cannot be repaired the match must be abandoned.

Very unsportsmanlike indeed.

Stuff like this is why I fell in love with soccer.

It didn't come quickly. I was not very engaged with youth soccer as a kid although looking back it was one of very few "safe spaces" for me as a kid where being bullied wasn't a problem. I came to see youth soccer as part of declining social mobility in the U.S. If you were playing little league maybe you could dream of being Babe Ruth but there just wasn't any ladder out of youth soccer at that time.

Last December I started working on a smart RSS reader that works a bit like TikTok or Stumbleupon and found that my first classification model struggled to tell that I liked the NFL and hated the Premier League and that got me to reading a lot of sports articles and developing a taxonomy to support feature engineering.

After reading articles about games lost by own goals, thinking about how I'd feel if it was my team in danger of relegation, etc. I found I really found soccer interesting after all.

> Football has a lot of strange rules – like Ted Lasso, I still don’t understand exactly how the offside rule works

Aw, come on, you cannot start a soccer article with that :(

Considering how 'tanking' for talent acquiring has become a strategy in american sports, I hope at least we get to see this scenario with both teams trying to score own-tds/baskets/etc and fiercily defending the opponents goal in a match
In the NHL, you get 2 points for winning, 0 points for losing in regulation, and 1 point for losing in overtime.

The obvious result (to everyone but the creators of the rule I guess) is that, if a game is tied near the end of regulation, it is best for both sides if the game goes to overtime. There are 2 points available for a game decided in regulation, but 3 if decided in overtime. I assume both teams would sit quietly and wait for overtime if it were tolerated.

Adding to the discussion on the rules set in soccer, I've always found it bad design that the referee has only yellow and red cards for penalizing individual players. Especially the red card is a hard penalty, which leads to the referee having too much influence on the outcome, and to counter that, the referees don't like to give out cards too easily.

Now, the consequence of that is for example that players fake injuries constantly, as they can't be reasonably penalized, but the faking might yield a penalty kick or a red card to the other team. However, it makes the game incredibly cringeworthy to watch.

Contrast this to ice hockey, where the minimal penalty is a timeout of 2 minutes. It's enough to put your team in trouble, but you can recover by playing careful defence for 2 minutes. So if a player fakes injuries or otherwise behaves in a minor bad way, the referee can give them a 2 minute penalty - enough to punish, but not enough to skew the rest of the game.

> Any goal scored in extra time would count as two goals

That seems like a really strange rule to have

Sometimes you can find examples of metagaming even in the design of metagames itself.

For the largest part of the soccer world cup, the metagame is straightforward - win matches, don't lose - and casual viewers can easily follow by just concentrating on the match at hand and having some superficial knowledge of the rules.

Except for the final matchday of the group stage: That's when everyone suddenly becomes a master strategist and soccer expert and there are complex discussions everywhere about groups, tables, ranking criteria, tie breakers, victory pathways and hypotheticals as people are trying to keep track of the different ways how their team can make it out of the group stage.

Then the knockout stage begins and the game is suddenly very simple again.

Here's a list I made of how reversing incentives might look for a range of games, including Soccer/Football: https://www.jefftk.com/p/playing-to-lose

This was prompted by a conversation with Ben Orlin, who wrote up his version as https://mathwithbaddrawings.com/2014/06/11/playing-to-lose-o...

How do you defend against an opponent trying to score an own goal? Wouldn’t it be off-sides if you got between the player and their goal?
This makes me think of unforeseen consequences of legislation. The outcome doesn't always match the intent.
> Football has a lot of strange rules – like Ted Lasso, I still don’t understand exactly how the offside rule works.

Spoiler alert, he did figure it out in the end