AWAY GOALS COULD BE SCRAPPED IN EUROPE
One of the most repeated cliches within the confines of European football, is that “away goals count double” and although that is not strictly true, they certainly do hold a considerable amount of value at the same time.
While if a European tie needs to go to extra-time, that value will only increase if an additional 30 minutes are required to break the deadlock and it this imbalance, which has come under increased scrutiny as of late.
If we say that two European sides have played out two legs of a Champions League or Europa League tie and each has finished 1-1, then obviously extra-time will be required to see who progresses to the next round.
Of course, this then offers the away team an extra half-hour to score an away goal and if the second leg ends in a 2-2 draw after extra-time, it means the visiting side will qualify by virtue of that same away goals rule.
Which begs the question, is such an outcome fair? The answer within UEFA is perhaps it is not, as this very point will be up for discussion at their next meeting and if enough of a consensus can be found, it could be scrapped.
For some quarters, such a measure would be not enough and there is a growing clamour to scrap away goals once for all – something that UEFA are not willing to consider at this juncture, although the rule could undergo a death by a thousand cuts.
Because once one amendment to the game is made, another usually soon follows and if this rather archaic tiebreaker is scrapped in extra-time, there will be a louder conversation to just remove it completely.
Its implementation was first bought about when cross-continent travel was far more arduous than it is today (at least in Pre-Covid times) and therefore, the prospect of a lengthy journey was balanced out by an additional reward for playing of foreign soil.
However, such travel plans are far more luxurious these days and travel from Spain to Germany is far less rigid than it was 50 or 60 years ago, meaning that such a benefit to the visitors is perhaps no longer necessary.
Especially as we see football through its current lens and although things will hopefully change in terms of stadia capacity, the concept of home advantage through fandom has been nullified in the past year or so.
Therefore, perhaps a fairer measure would be just to let two teams go at it for 180 minutes with no away goals rule in place at all and that way, there would be no arguments into whether a team has lost by an unjust circumstance.
We may be getting ahead of ourselves a little bit, but at least UEFA will look to redress the balance when it comes to extra-time and by removing such a rule, it will at least increase the prospect of the most entertaining tiebreaker of all - that of course being, a penalty shootout.