UEFA eliminates away goals tiebreaker in Champions League and Europa League fixtures

·3 min read

The away goals rule is disappearing from the Champions League.

UEFA said Thursday that it was axing the controversial way to break ties in favor of a different tiebreaker format. Away goals has long been used as the tiebreaker in two-game home-and-home series that are tied after both games. If the match was tied 2-2 after both games and one team scored two goals on the road while the other scored one goal away from home, the team with the two road goals would advance in the tournament. 

Extra time and penalty kicks, if needed, will be the new way to break ties after a two-game series. The changes go into effect with the 2021-22 Champions League and Europa League.

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“The away goals rule has been an intrinsic part of UEFA competitions since it was introduced in 1965," UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin said in a statement. "However, the question of its abolition has been debated at various UEFA meetings over the last few years. 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.”

Paris Saint-Germain is now the last team to advance in the men's Champions League on the away goals rule. PSG tied Bayern Munich 3-3 in their home-and-home series in 2021 but advanced to the semifinals by virtue of more away goals. 

Why the rule is going away

UEFA cited myriad factors in the elimination of the rule. It said that statistics from the mid-1970s showed that more away teams won games in recent years in the men’s Champions League and that home team scoring has decreased in the last 40 years while away scoring has increased to devalue the benefit of an away goal.

Home teams now score 1.58 goals per game in the men’s UCL while away teams score 1.15 goals per game. Scoring in the women’s Champions League is at 1.92 goals per game for home teams and 1.6 goals per game for away teams.

UEFA also said that “Better pitch quality and standardized pitch sizes, improved stadium infrastructure, higher security conditions, enhanced care of refereeing (and more recently the introduction of technological support such as [goal line technology] and [video assisted review]), wider and more sophisticated TV coverage of matches, more comfortable travel conditions, a compressed calendar dictating squad turnover, and changes in competition formats are all elements which have affected the way football is played and blurred the lines between playing at home and away.”

“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," Ceferin said. "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.”

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