What is the new Champions League away goal rule for the 2021/22 season?
The away goals rule has always been an exciting prospect for away sides in Europe’s prestigious competition to squeeze in as many goals as they can at their opponents’ stadia. We at Alley Sport look at the new Champions League away goal rule and what the rule change means for the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League 2021/22 season.
History of the Champions League away goal rule
The away goals rule was introduced to football to determine the winner of two-legged knockout ties when each team plays at home once. By the away goals rule, the team that has scored more goals “away from home” wins, if the total goals scored by each team are otherwise equal. Colloquially expressed by saying that away goals “count double” in the event of a tie, in practice the team with more away goals is simply recorded as the victor, rather than having additional or ‘double’ goals added to their total.
In many competitions, the away goals rule is the first tie-breaker, with a penalty shootout as the second tie-breaker if each team has scored the same number of away goals. Rules vary as to whether the away goals rule applies only to the end of normal time of the second leg, or applies in extra time as well. It was first introduced by UEFA in the 1965–66 European Cup Winners’ Cup and the Champions League away goal rule has been an integral part of the tournament since.
Changes to the Champions League away goal rule
Following the recommendation of the UEFA Club Competitions Committee and the UEFA Women’s Football Committee, the UEFA Executive Committee on 24 June 2021 approved a proposal to remove the away goals rule from all UEFA club competitions (men, women and youth) starting with the 2021/22 competitions.
Many different factors were considered by UEFA before arriving at this decision, the main reason being the decline in home advantage. Better pitch quality and standardized pitch sizes, improved stadium infrastructure, higher security conditions, enhanced care of refereeing, wider and more sophisticated TV coverage of matches 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. Hence, according to UEFA, home and away goals now count for exactly the same.
The alternative to the Champions League away goal rule
Starting from the 2021/22 season, UEFA stated that with the decision to remove this rule, ties in which the two teams score the same number of goals over the two legs would be not decided on the number of goals scored away, but two 15-minute periods of extra time played at the end of the second leg. In case the teams score the same number of goals or no goals during this extra time, kicks from the penalty mark would determine the team which qualifies to the next stage of the competition.
With big guns benefiting a lot from the away goals rule in recent times, the most notable being Manchester United progressing against PSG in 2019 and Spurs advancing to the final in 2020, we predict it will welcome more intensity from teams. Even though it might be too early to say, both teams showing the same energy in both legs of the tie is sure to make the competition more exciting over time.
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