In June 2021, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) announced that it would be removing the away goals rule from all of its club competitions.
This decision surprised many fans and experts, as the rule had been a fixture of European football for over 50 years.
So, why did UEFA decide to get rid of it?
In a two-legged tie, if the scores were tied on aggregate (i.e. the total number of goals scored by each team), the team that had scored more goals away from home would be declared the winner.
For example, if Team A and Team B played a home-and-away tie and the first leg ended 1-1, but the second leg finished 2-2, Team A would win on away goals (having scored two goals away from home compared to Team B's one).
The rationale behind the away goals rule was to encourage attacking football and make matches more exciting.
The idea was that teams would be more likely to attack away from home, knowing that an away goal would be worth more than a home goal in the event of a tie. This would lead to more open, entertaining games.
There has been growing criticism of the away goals rule in recent years.
One major criticism is that it places too much emphasis on a single goal, potentially leading to defensive, cautious play.
For example, a team that scored an away goal in the first leg might be content to sit back and defend in the second leg, knowing they could progress even if the game finished 0-0. This led to some dull and uneventful matches over the years.
Another criticism of the away goals rule is that it can be unfair to the team that concedes an away goal. For example, if Team A beats Team B 3-2 at home in the first leg, but loses 1-0 away in the second leg, they would be eliminated despite scoring more goals . This can be particularly frustrating for fans and players alike.
UEFA seems to have taken these criticisms on board in its decision to remove the away goals rule.
In a statement announcing the change, UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin said that the rule had "dissuaded home teams from attacking, especially in the first leg, because they fear conceding a goal that would give their opponents a crucial advantage".
He also noted that "the impact of the rule now runs counter to its original purpose as, in fact, it now dissuades home teams - especially in first legs - from attacking, because they fear conceding a goal that would give their opponents a crucial advantage".
UEFA's decision to remove the away goals rule has been met with a mixed response.
Some fans and pundits have welcomed the move, arguing that it will lead to more attacking football and more open, entertaining matches.
Others have criticised the decision, suggesting that it will make matches less exciting and could lead to more cautious, defensive play.
One thing is for sure. Now the bookmakers will have more new betting offers to attract fans.
It remains to be seen how removing the away goals rule will impact European football in the future.
Some have suggested that it could lead to more extra-time and penalty shootouts, as ties are likelier to remain level on aggregate, especially in the Champions League. Others have suggested that it could lead to a renewed emphasis on winning matches outright, rather than relying on away goals to progress.
UEFA's decision to remove the away goals rule seemed driven by a desire to make European football more exciting and fair. Whether or not it achieves those aims remains to be seen. But there can be no doubt that the change will significantly impact the game.