Europe’s governing body of football UEFA has decided to remove the away goal rule in top-flight European competitions from the 2021-22 season. The result of knockout fixtures will be decided on penalty shootouts if the aggregate score is equal.
The away goal rule has been implemented since 1965 in the knockout stages of the European competitions. In the knockout stages, if two teams had scored the same number of goals on aggregate over the two games then the side scoring more goals away from home will progress in the next round. Other than the Champions League and Europa League, Europa Conference League and Women’s Champions League will also abolish this rule from next season. In an official statement, UEFA president Alexander Ceferin explained the reason behind this decision.
“It is no longer appropriate for an away goal to carry more weight 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 has also revealed that the away goals rule was restrictive to the teams that were playing home in the second leg since away goals felt like double the number of goals. Along with Ceferin, managers like Diego Simeone and Arsene Wenger have been vocal about removing this rule in the past.
Teams will now have to adapt to this new rule from the next season. The games in the knockout rounds could get longer due to an increase in chances of having extra time and penalty shootouts. It is also fair to say that this rule was more beneficial for the away team in the second leg than the home team.
While the game will be much fairer now, the element of entertainment is likely to reduce in knockout European games. It remains to be seen if removing this rule will have an impact on the overall commercial and broadcast product these games used to provide.