UEFA is home to two of the biggest competitions of the world, namely the Champions League and the Europa League, the former being considered as the most prestigious trophy in club football over the past decades.
The Champions League has been special in its way, the atmosphere, the anthem is all one thing but what made its knockout phase special was the Away Goals rule and how it affected the outcomes of the biggest of games while people all over the world tuned in to watch the best players come up against each other. The Away Goals rule was first implemented in 1965 in the cup ‘winner cup. This rule gave more weightage to goals that were being scored by the team in front of the away fans, which meant that if the aggregate score between the two teams were level, the winner would be decided based on who scored the most away goals. This rule has not only brought us memorable moments over the past 50 years but also gave the underdogs an edge over the favorites, leading to upsets in the biggest of games and thus adding value to the unpredictable nature of the sport.
Italian giants Juventus have been knocked out twice on away goals rule by minnows like Lyon and Porto.
If it is not broken, then why fix it?
UEFA has now decided to scrap off the away goals rule from both the European competitions as of this week, it is being believed that the away goals rule contributed towards the decrease in attacking football from the home side in knockout games due to the fear of not conceding too many away goals, which could further lead to their elimination from the competition. Many experts have weighed in on the matter and conclude that having this rule in place makes it seem like for every goal the away team scores it feels like the home team concedes two. However, it has been pointed out that scoring goals away from home and under the pressure from the home fans should be given more weightage, but it seems like UEFA has finally decided that the pressure of the fans have little or no role to play in how the players perform, or even if it does, it should not be evaluated anymore.
It will be interesting to see how small clubs cope with this change, as the away goals rule always gave these teams a ray of hope to pull off a miracle in the form of an upset because for clubs like these it becomes harder to outscore teams which have the attacking output of some of the best players in the world. Smaller clubs will now need a lot more than just a moment of brilliance to go past these European heavyweights, they will need to consistently be the better team if they are to advance to the next round of the competition.
What does the future hold?
UEFA has announced that if the scores are level between the two teams after 90 minutes, the game will observe two periods of extra time as usual and if no side can produce a tiebreaker, then the game will advance to a penalty shootout to determine the winner of the tie.
The scrapping of away goals rule will take place immediately from the next edition of the Champions League and the Europa League. The following rule will also be adapted by the UEFA youth league, and the UEFA Women’s Champions League as well.
The upcoming season will be exciting to watch, it will be interesting to see how these changes affect the game and whether this can be termed as a fresh start as new moments are created in a new form or will there be repercussions.