• September 20, 2021

Away goals rule abolished: UEFA announces major shake-up of club competitions

UEFA revealed on Thursday that the away goals rule will be abolished in European tournament knockout ties from the 2021-22 season.

The rule, which had been in place since 1965, was used to determine a winner when teams were level on aggregate after a two-legged match. The team that had scored more goals as the away side were awarded the triumph. But from now, this will be replaced by extra time and penalties.

A UEFA statement read: “Following the recommendation of the UEFA Club Competitions Committee and the UEFA Women’s Football Committee, the UEFA Executive Committee has today approved a proposal to remove the so-called away goals rule from all UEFA club competitions (men, women and youth) as of the qualifying phases of the 2021/22 competitions.”

Commenting on the abolishment of the away goals rule, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin stated:

“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. Although there was no unanimity of views, many coaches, fans and other football stakeholders have questioned its fairness and have expressed a preference for the rule to be abolished.

“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.”

Lyon, who had won the previous five editions of the women’s Champions League, were eliminated by Paris Saint-Germain in the quarterfinals on away goals last season.

In the men’s Champions League, FC Porto and PSG benefited — eliminating Juventus and Bayern Munich — to reach the last eight and semifinals respectively.

Tottenham Hotspur progressed to the 2019 final after defeating Manchester City and Ajax on away goals before they lost the final to Liverpool. The rule change was not unanimous, Ceferin said, but was made after the rule’s “fairness” was questioned. The decision to scrap the away goals rule was taken by UEFA’s Executive Committee following the recommendation of its Club Competitions Committee and the Women’s Football Committee.

Steve Carr

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