Why UEFA Did Away With the Champions League Away Goal Rule

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The Champions League away goal rule is one of the most controversial rules in football. Some people believed that the rule was unfair as it favored the visiting team over the home team. This rule has been an intrinsic part of UEFA competitions, but there were growing calls to drop it. 

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As of June 2021, the football European governing body, UEFA dropped it from the Champions League and Europa League tournaments. So let’s take a deep dive into the away goal rule.

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The Away Goal Rule Explained

Spotcovery-Why UEFA Did Away With Champions League Away Goal Rule
UEFA Champions League Final 2011. Barça vs. Man Utd at Wembley Stadium. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-2.0

The away goal rule is used in knockout matches where teams play over two legs, home and away. The team that scores the most goals on aggregate, that is most goals over the two legs, wins. 

However, if both teams have the same number of goals, the away goal rule is applied to determine a winner. The team that scored the most goals away from home wins, eliminating the need for replays. 

If both teams have the same amount of away goals, then extra time and a penalty shootout will be used to determine the winner. 

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Examples of the Champions League Away Goal Rule

  • First Leg: Team X (Home) 1-2 Team Y (Away)
  • Second Leg: Team Y (Home) 0-1 Team X (Away)

In this case, even though the aggregate score is 2-2, team Y qualifies for the next round as they’ve scored more away goals. 

  • First Leg: Team X (Home) 0-2 Team Y (Away)
  • Second Leg: Team Y (Home) 0-2 Team X (Away)

Team X and Team Y scored the same amount of goals away, which means they are tied on goals. To decide the winner, extra time and penalties will apply in that order.

  • First Leg: Team X (Home) 1-2 Team Y (Away)
  • Second Leg: Team Y (Home) 0-1 Team X (Away)

Both teams have an equal aggregate score of 2-2 but Team Y qualifies to the next round because they’ve scored more away goals.

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Why UEFA Eliminated the Champions League Away Goal Rule

UEFA Champions League explained. Video Credit: Football Daily

As of the 2021-22 season, the UEFA Executive Committee abolished the use of the away goals tiebreaker to promote fairness in the sport. 

Although there wasn’t a unanimous agreement among football stakeholders, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin explained that it shouldn’t carry more weight than a goal scored at home. This gives the away team a crucial advantage over the home team. 

If an away team has scored, the home team has to score double the amount of goals to have a chance of progressing to the next round of the tournament. 

Ceferin recognizes that the rules’ impact runs counter to its original purpose, which was to get the teams playing attacking football, but in turn, teams now tend to sit back to prevent goals.

Multiple managers like Arsene Wenger and Diego Simeone called for the rule to be dropped after their teams were on the receiving end of the rule. Other competitions that no longer use the away goal rule include:

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Background to Champions League Away Goal Rule

The away goal rule has been in use since 1965. The first game in which the away goal rule was used was between Dukla Prague and Budapest Hovend. Hovend won the tie over two legs and the regulation was implemented two years later in the European Cup.

The removal of the UEFA Champions League away goal rule was a welcomed development by fans, coaches and clubs. Now, teams don’t have the fear or pressure of defending an away goal or the fear of the opposing team having an advantage over them. Do you think this was a good move by UEFA?

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