UEFA to scrap away goals rule in all European club competitions

UEFA said on Thursday it will scrap the away goals rule for all of its club competitions from next season in favour of extra time and a penalty shootout.

Introduced in 1965, the rule was used to determine the winner of a two-legged knockout tie in cases where the two teams had scored the same number of goals on aggregate over the two matches.

From the 2021-2022 season, if the two teams score the same number of goals over the two legs, the tie will be decided by playing two 15-minute periods of extra time at the end of the second leg.

In the event that the teams score the same number of goals or fail to score at all during extra time, a penalty shootout will then be held to decide the winner.

Champions League, Europa League, Europa Conference League and Women's Champions League matches will no longer use the away goals rule as of the start of next season.

"It is no longer appropriate for an away goal to carry more weight," said UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin.

He said the away goals rule nowadays actually discouraged home teams from attacking, especially in the first leg.

"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," Ceferin said in a statement.

"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.

- "Unfairness" -

"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."

Statistically, the data bears out the UEFA view with since the 1970s a progressive reduction in the ratio of home to away wins from 61-19 percent around three decades ago to 47-30 percent in recent seasons.

UEFA said there were various factors influencing its decision an apparent decline in home advantage over the years, including "better pitch quality and standardised pitch sizes, improved stadium infrastructure, higher security conditions, enhanced care of refereeing (and more recently the introduction of technological support such as GLT and VAR)."

Those and other factors, the European game's governing body said, had combined to have "blurred the lines between playing at home and away."

One notable away goals success in this seaason's Champions League saw Paris Saint-Germain knock out then holders Bayern Munich after winning 3-2 in Germany and then losing 1-0 in the return.

UEFA did not mention the more recent effect dampening down home advantage of no fans in grounds owing to the health pandemic, drastically altering the cauldron-like atmosphere of grounds such as Liverpool's Anfield or Borussia Dortmund's Westfalenstadion.

"It is fair to say that home advantage is nowadays no longer as significant as it once was," Ceferin said.

"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."