Since the late 1960’s, European competitions have been defined by the away goal rule. If you want to advance in the knock-out rounds of the Champions League or Europa League, you better keep a tight ship at home, and attempt to be more expansive on the road.
It’s a great rule, and one that has given us football fans some of the most exciting moments every year. Not only does it force the away side to come out of its shell and attack, but it can also spur the home side into action when it has fallen behind—as we saw in dramatic fashion in the thrilling 4-3 victory over Dortmund in the 2015/16 Europa League quarterfinal.
Now, apparently, UEFA is considering scrapping that rule. According to reports from Kicker UEFA’s Executive Committee met yesterday in Rome to discuss getting rid of the long-standing rule. This is not the first time this topic was brought up, with Giorgio Marchetti, UEFA’s competition director, floating the idea in September. According to Marchetti, several managers have privately suggested ending the rule.
Above the board, as usual, UEFA.
The alleged reasoning for discussing this rule change is the fact that everything from pitches, to footballs, to away support is much more uniform now than it was in the 1960’s. That might be true. However, the away goal rule adds a great deal of excitement, and is (in my opinion) a better and fairer way of settling matters than extra time and/or penalty kicks.
As alluded to earlier, when accounting for away goals, teams cannot simply run out the clock and hope for the best with pens. Indeed, I would argue that away goals have given European competitions a great deal of their excitement and appeal over the years, and it would be a shame to lose that because the Jose Mourinhos of the world complained.