Away Goals Rule: UEFA gives reason why it abolished 56 years old rule in European Club football

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The European football governing body, UEFA has abolished the away goals rule in European club football at all levels of the game. The rule which has been in operation since 1965 would not be applicable from the 2021-2022 season.

UEFA’s away goals rules stipulated that the two-legged knock-out rounds in European club football could be decided by the number of goals a team scores away from home. For instance, if Club A loses 2-0 at home and goes to Club B home ground and wins 3-0, Club A would scale through to the next round of the European club competition.

The away goals rule applied to UEFA Champions League for both men and women, UEFA Europa League, and every other UEFA club competition.

It has always been criticized for not being a fair way to compete in the sense that a team that hosted the first leg could be so defensive to avoid conceding goals and such a team goes into the second leg with the assurance that one or two away goals could make the difference.

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While announcing that football fans would no longer be bored with such a rule, UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin said the away goals rule was introduced at a period where the home advantage was effective in football.

According to him, there have been evidence that the home advantage is no longer relevant in modern days football as away teams could beat a home team decisively.

Hence, the 56-year-old away goals rule is no longer relevant in modern days football as all the necessary stakeholders have agreed to abolish it starting from the 2021-2022 season.

He said: “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.

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“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.”

Some teams that benefited from the away goals rule in recent history

Away Goals Rule: UEFA gives reason why it abolished 56 years old rule in European Club football
Andrés Iniesta celebrates after scoring a late-minute goal at Stamford Bridge in 2009 that ended Chelsea’s dream of playing in the final of the tournament.

In the most recent history, the club that was the biggest beneficiary of the away goals rule was the Portuguese side, Porto. The club won Juventus 2-1 in Porto during the 2020-2021 UEFA Champions League campaign. In the return leg in Turin, Italy, Juventus won 3-2 but Porto had to scale through for scoring two goals at Juventus home ground.

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Another scenario in which the away goals rule changed things in the UEFA Champions League happened in March 2019. In the Champions League round of 16, Paris Saint Germain defeated Manchester United 2-0 at Old Trafford in the first leg. In the return leg, Manchester United defeated PSG 3-1 in France. Hence, United scale through to the next round, thanks to away goals rule.

The most famous of them all happened in May 2009 when Chelsea went to Nou Camp to play the first leg of the UEFA Champions League semi-final game against Barcelona. The game ended 0-0. Barcelona went to Stamford Bridge for the return leg and scored a late-minute goal to earn a 1-1 draw. The equalizer stopped Chelsea from making it into the Champions League final, thanks to the away goals rule.

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