UEFA abolishes away goals rule as major Champions League & Europa League change announced

The rule has been in place since 1965 although will now no longer be used to help decide knockout ties, starting from the 2021-22 season

UEFA has confirmed that the away goals rule will be abolished from European competitions, with the rule change being put into place in time for the start of the 2021-22 season.

The away goals rule has been used for over half a century but will no longer decide knockout matches in UEFA club competitions, including the Champions League and Europa League.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin explained that the rule now “runs counter to its original purpose” and stated his belief that it dissuades teams from playing attacking football.

Why has the rule been scrapped?

The away goals rule has been in place since the 1965-66 season, when it was used in the Cup Winners Cup.

There have been many advocating for its removal from UEFA club competitions for a while now, with the likes of former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and Atletico Madrid head coach Diego Simeone having been against its use.

The general feeling has been that the rule was restrictive to those playing at home, especially in the first leg of knockout ties, with the view that scoring goals away from home almost counted for double.

Indeed, an official UEFA statement confirming the news that the away goals rule would no longer be used actively highlights the fact there has been a reduction in home wins, and goals, in UEFA competitions.

The statement read: “Statistics from the mid-1970s until now show a clear trend of continuous reduction in the gap between the number of home/away wins (from 61%/19% to 47%/30%) and the average number of goals per match scored at home/away (from 2.02/0.95 to 1.58/1.15) in men’s competitions.

“Whereas since 2009-10, the average goals per game have remained very steady in the UEFA Women’s Champions League with the overall average of 1.92 for home teams and 1.6 for away teams.”

UEFA president Ceferin, meanwhile, expressed his opinion that attacking football has been discouraged due to the away goals rule, hence why it is being removed. 

He said: “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.

“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.”

What will happen now if the scores are level?

UEFA has announced that, as is common in many elite level football competitions across the world, if the scores are still level over a two-legged knockout tie there will be two 15-minute periods of extra time.

Should the teams score the same number of goals, or if no further goals are scored, during extra time, a penalty shootout will take place to determine which team will go through to the next round.

When will the rule change come into effect?

The scrapping of the away goals rule will come into play immediately and be in place for the start of the 2021-22 campaign.

Indeed, qualification for the 2021-22 Champions League has already begun, with two preliminary round first-leg matches having already taken place.

Kosovan club Prishtina face Andorran side Inter Escaldes in the second leg of their prelimnary tie, and seemingly the away goals rule will now not decide that return leg, due to take place on June 25, with Prishtina currently 2-0 ahead on aggregate.

Confirming that the rule change would come into play for 2021-22 competitions, a UEFA statement read: “Following the recommendation of the UEFA Club Competitions Committee and the UEFA Women’s Football Committee, the UEFA Executive Committee has today approved a proposal to remove the so-called away goals rule from all UEFA club competitions (men, women and youth) as of the qualifying phases of the 2021-22 competitions.”

What competitions will be affected?

UEFA has stated that all UEFA club competitions, including men, women and youth tournaments, will adopt the rule change.

That means the Champions League, Europa League, Women’s Champions League and UEFA Youth League, UEFA Super Cup and the newly-formed Europa Conference League will all be affected.

It is unclear if country-specific competitions will follow suit, while it’s also not yet known if the rule change will be applied to international competitions.

For example, World Cup qualification ties have used the away goals rule, as has the AFC Champions League, the Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.