Uefa abolishes away goals rule

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By Paul MacInnes, theguardian

The away goals rule is to be dropped from European competition after 56 years, Uefa has announced.

From next season, it will no longer be possible for a two-legged tie to be decided by tallying the number of goals each side has scored at the stadium of the other. Instead, if the second leg finishes with an aggregate draw, 30 minutes’ extra time will be played, with penalties then following after that, should a winner not be found.

The change will apply across the men’s and women’s Champions League, the Europa League and the Europa Conference League.

A rule which was intended to encourage attacking play by visiting sides has created a number of memorable moments in European football. In recent years Roma came back from a 4-1 away defeat in a Champions League quarter-final to knock out Barcelona with a 3-0 home win in 2018. The following year Tottenham went one better, reaching the final after they followed a 1-0 home defeat against Ajax with a 3-2 victory in Amsterdam.

Uefa now argues that there is no longer a case for weighting away goals more heavily than those scored at home. In announcing the rule change the governing body said statistics show a steady decline in home advantage since the 1970s, with the ratio of goals scored at home and away changing from 2.02/0.95 to 1.58/1.15.

Among the factors Uefa suggests for a decline in home advantage include higher security within grounds, increasingly standardised pitches and more comfortable travelling conditions for the away team journeying across the continent. Such a shift has occurred only in the men’s game but the women’s game is to lose the away goals rule, too.

The Uefa president, Alexander Ceferin, said the change had been called for by clubs who felt the away goals rule now puts home sides at a competitive disadvantage.

“The away goals rule has been an intrinsic part of Uefa competitions since it was introduced in 1965,” Ceferin said.

“However, the question of its abolition has been debated at various Uefa meetings over the last few years. Although there was no unanimity of views, many coaches, fans and other football stakeholders have questioned its fairness.

“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.”

The away goals rule remains in effect in qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

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