UEFA has made the decision to abolish the away goal rule, which has been in use for over half a century, from its club competitions from the 2021/22 season onwards.
The away rule, which makes goals scored away from home worth more in a two-legged tie that ends in a draw, will instead be replaced by two 15-minute periods of extra-time and penalties.
In addition, away goals will also be removed from the criteria used to determine the rankings when two or more teams are equal on points in the group stage.
The European football governing body cited statistics from the mid-1970s, which it said until now show a ‘clear trend of continuous reduction in the gap’ between the number of home/away wins, and the average number of goals per match scored at home/away in men’s competitions.
However, since 2009/10, the average goals per game have remained very steady in the UEFA Women’s Champions League with an overall average of 1.92 for home teams and 1.6 for away teams.
“The away goals rule has been an intrinsic part of UEFA competitions since it was introduced in 1965,” said UEFA President, Aleksander Ceferin.
“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.”
UEFA noted that various factors may have had an impact on the decline in the home advantage, including better pitch quality and standardised pitch sizes, improved stadium infrastructure, higher security conditions, and enhanced care of refereeing (and more recently the introduction of technological support such as GLT and VAR).
It also added wider and more sophisticated TV coverage of matches, more comfortable travel conditions, a compressed calendar dictating squad turnover, and changes in competition formats have all ‘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 added.
“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.”