From the Pages of History

Stories, Pictures, Quotes & Trivia (and more) that tell the story of the world.

The incentive scheme that went wrong

An incentive scheme is pretty self-explanatory. It is just something done to encourage an action. In 1994, a failed incentive scheme led to a bizarre soccer game between Grenada and Barbados.

In this game, Barbados needed to win by 2 goals in order to advance to the finals. The incentive scheme that was put in place was a rule stating that any goal made in overtime would count as 2 goals.

The game was drawing to a close. The score was 2-1, with Barbados on top. But they needed 1 more point to win by 2, and advance; however, Barbados was having a hard time scoring, so something astonishing was done—they kicked the ball into their own goal and scored Grenada a point. Now the game was tied at 2 each, and Barbados figured they would have a better chance at scoring the 1 point that would count for 2 in overtime, to get them the win.

Grenada was startled at first. But they attacked against both goals, trying to either score themselves a point to win, or to score Barbados a point so they would win by 1 and not advance. Barbados was frantically trying to guard both goals.

Ultimately, the game went into overtime. Barbados scored 1 goal, which counted for 2 according to the incentive scheme, and won.

In general, players playing well is desired and rewarded. That was the goal with the incentive scheme. The effort of playing overtime meant that 1 goal would be rewarded by being counted as 2. Both teams were playing to win, but the ridiculous way that this game played out showed that incentive schemes sometimes don’t really help.


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