UEFA has announced that the away goals rule will be abolished in all European competitions from the 2021-22 season. The move had been in the works for some time and it has been finally confirmed by president Aleksander Ceferin.
⚽ The away goals rule will be removed from all UEFA club competitions from the 2021/22 season.
— UEFA (@UEFA) June 24, 2021
WHAT WAS THE AWAY GOALS RULE?
In the knockout rounds of European competitions, the Champions League, Europa League, if the teams were on equal goals after the home and away leg, then the team that had more away goals went through. For example, if team A won the first leg at home against team B by a scoreline of 2-1 and lost the away leg 0-1, then despite the aggregate scoreline being 2-2, team B would progress to the next round on account of scoring the only away goal in the tie.
WHAT WAS ITS IMPACT?
The critics of the away goals rule often pointed out the fact that it caused a much more cagey affair as the home team’s first priority became not conceding a goal to the away team because it basically counted for double.
UEFA originally came up with the rule due to the away team’s reticence to attacking, as the away team felt that they could play a scoreless draw away and win at home. However, as Ceferin stated, the pendulum shifted too much to the other side and home sides started knockout rounds at a distinct disadvantage.
Statistics since the mid-1970s show a clear trend of continuous reduction in the gap between the number of home-away wins (from 61%-19% to 47%-30%) and the average number of goals per match scored at home-away (from 2.02-0.95 to 1.58-1.15) in men’s competitions.
— UEFA (@UEFA) June 24, 2021
“The away goals rule has been an intrinsic part of UEFA competitions since it was introduced in 1965. However, the question of its abolition has been debated at various UEFA meetings over the last few years. The impact of the rule now runs counter to its original purpose as, in fact, it now dissuades home teams – especially in first legs – from attacking, because they fear conceding a goal that would give their opponents a crucial advantage. There is also criticism of the unfairness, especially in extra time, of obliging the home team to score twice when the away team has scored,” Ceferin said.
“Taking into consideration the consistency across Europe in terms of styles of play, and many different factors which have led to a decline in home advantage, the UEFA Executive Committee has taken the correct decision in adopting the view that it is no longer appropriate for an away goal to carry more weight than one scored at home,” he added.
UEFA has announced that the away goals rule will not be replaced by any other rule. In case of a tie after the two legs, the teams will go straight to two periods of 15-minutes extra time, followed by penalties. It is hoped that the scrapping of this rule will pave way for a more balanced and attacking form of football in knockout competitions.
Although the away goals rule added some drama and anticipation to the knockout ties, UEFA would hope that it betters the complexion of knockout ties in a holistic manner, where teams play with freedom on an even playing field.