The away goals rule has been scrapped from all UEFA competitions from the start of next season, European football’s governing body announced Thursday.
The men’s and women’s Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League will all do away with the rule, which has been a mainstay of European competition since the mid-1960s, in time for the qualifying rounds of this season’s competitions.
First introduced in the 1965-66 European Cup Winners’ Cup as a means of separating teams over two legs in the event of an aggregate draw, the away-goal rule meant that the team that had scored more goals on the road would advance to the next round of the competition. Initially it was viewed as a way to insure against costly replays at neutral venues as well as to reflect the greater challenges faced by teams travelling across the continent in an era where pitch quality, tactics and travel conditions made it all the harder to win on the road.
Those circumstances have changed significantly with UEFA noting that since the mid-1970s the proportion of games won by the away side had risen from 19 percent to 30 percent. Indeed there are those who have argued that the away-goal rule now hampers home teams who are reluctant to attack in their own stadium for fear of leaving space in behind them, an assessment that UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin echoed.
“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,” he said in a statement that acknowledged that the proposal to abolish away goals was not universally supported. “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.”