The away goals rule has been scrapped for all UEFA club competitions from next season, it has been confirmed.
The away goals rule, initially used back in 1965, was brought in to determine a winner in two-legged knockout ties where the two teams had scored the same number of goals on aggregate over the two matches. The winner, in such a scenario, was the team who scored more goals in the away leg.
But the rule has come in for criticism in recent years with home advantage no longer as strong across the game and many believing the rule to be inherently unfair on those teams playing second in a two-legged tie.
“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.
“It is fair to say that home advantage is nowadays no longer as significant as it once was. 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.”
Uefa cited statistics since the mid-1970s which showed how the gap between home and away wins had reduced. It talked about better pitch quality, standardized pitch sizes, and even VAR as factors in the decline of home advantage.
Paris Saint-Germain’s away-goals victory over Bayern Munich in last season’s quarter-finals will go down in history as the last in the Champions League before the rule change.
The rule has led to some dramatic moments in recent years, including Tottenham’s stoppage-time success over Ajax in the 2019 Champions League semi-finals.
The abolition may be linked to UEFA’s big restructure plan for European football. The plan became well known in April, when select football clubs announced the formation of European Super League (ESL) in an attempt to break away from UEFA and start a more lucrative league.
It was revealed that UEFA has been working on a new plan that will see the Champions League restructured from 32 to 36-team, and had planned to sign off on it before the ESL. The plan will include a proposal to collapse the group stage into a single table instead of the current groups of four teams.
Under the proposal, teams would play 10 matches each in the group stage rather than the six currently being played, and there would be a playoff round before the last 16. The scrapping of the away goal rule comes barely two months after the Super League attempt was quashed, and it suggests that there could be more changes in the pipeline.