UEFA Has Scrapped the Away Goals Rule. What Does This Mean for Football?

Published July 30th, 2021 - 05:20 GMT
Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Given the lengthy historical pedigree of European football, the actual rules of the game have remained remarkably stable over the decades. The governing bodies of the sport, chiefly UEFA, have rarely intervened to change how the sport is played or how wins are determined.

However, as we have learned in 2021, anything can happen in the world of professional sports. In a truly unprecedented decision, UEFA has decided to scrap the away goals rule for the first time ever, completely transforming one of the cornerstone tiebreaker rules in European football.

Although this might seem trivial to some, it has the potential to completely and irreversibly impact football forever. Here's what you need to know.

The Context

First, it's worth explaining what the away goals rule is and why UEFA's decision to scrap it is such a big deal. First implemented in 1965, the rule is a form of tiebreaking which dictates that, in a tie situation where both teams have played each other twice, the team that has scored the most aggregate goals away from home is the winner.

This might sound highly specific, but the rule has been invoked a significant number of times. In last season's Champions League, the rule was used to the benefit of both FC Porto and PSG, who prevailed over Juventus and Bayern Munich, respectively. The rule also proved essential for Tottenham Hotspur who advanced to the 2019 final as reported by bbc.co.uk on away goals, which illustrates just how important it is. 

How This Might Affect Team

To understand how the rule abolition will affect teams, it is important to look at the rationale. According to skysports.com, UEFA has said that the rule has been on the chopping block for years, as managers have realized that it discourages home teams from trying to score.

This is because going on the offensive risks yielding an away goal to the opponent, which could put the home team at a critical disadvantage in the event of a tie. While this rule change is likely to encourage a more offensive approach from home teams, the reverse might be true for away teams.

After all, without this back pocket advantage and with little incentive to go the extra mile when playing an away game, there is no reason why away teams won't become overly defensive. 

How This Might Affect Odds and Betting Markets

When such a massive rule change stands to change how every single team approaches football, it is inevitable that the odds and betting markets for those teams will change as well. The top bookmakers, such as those featured on winners.net, a platform for the best European sports betting sites, use a wide range of metrics and factors to calculate detailed real-time odds.

The away goal rule always formed a part of that calculation, as it could be used to determine which team held the upper hand. Since the top-rated sports betting sites try to stay consistent and accurate with their pricing and odds, it is likely that we will see the odds change across all platforms and markets as a result of this rule change. After all, away teams no longer have that all-important statistical advantage.

The fallout from the scrapping of the away goal rule shows just how dramatically even minor tweaks can alter a sport in a fundamental way. Whether this will actually translate to major tactical shifts in the 2021/22 season remains to be seen, but we are keen to find out. 

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