Written by Howard Hockin at FootballFancast.com: It’s been in use since 1965, it’s widely accepted without much argument, it’s part of the footballing fabric of cup competitions around the world and I hate it. It’s the away goals rule.
Its intention is simple – designed and brought into being to promote attacking football, to encourage away teams to try and score and reduce the number of dour stalemates.
For me that’s rubbish. I doubt there’s any stats available to prove or disprove the point, but I can’t really see how it has brought about a new wave of exciting, attacking football. I’d say it has done the opposite – causing 1st leg ties to often be dour, miserable affairs as the home side often make it their primary objective not to concede, seeing a 0-0 draw as a good result. But the away team will not be too displeased with a draw away from home either, knowing any victory in the 2nd leg will see them through.
You could argue too that it gives an unfair advantage to the team playing away first, as the home team in the first leg squander their natural advantage by being defensive to avoid conceding.
There are also some strange anomalies around the world. In the Carling Cup, it only applies after extra time in a 2nd leg. This rule prevented Burnley reaching their 1st cup final in 47 years when they went out to Spurs in the semi final of the Carling Cup in 2009, losing the away leg 4-1, but winning the home leg 3-0. Two goals by Spurs in extra time saw them go through instead. In the CONCACAF Champions League the rule applies at the end of the 2nd leg, but not after extra time. Not everyone uses it – the playoffs in the Football League for example.
But even if it had led to a new era of attacking football, I still would not support it, for one simple reason – I simply don’t think it is fair. If 2 teams have scored and thus conceded the same number of goals over 2 legs, I see no reason why one team is knocked out, and one progresses, due to a seemingly random arbitration process. Yes, the team that progresses scored more goals away from home. So what? They conceded more too. Why are we rewarding attacking away from home over defending? It makes no sense to me. If extra time is involved after the 2nd leg it also means the home team in the 2nd leg has an extra half hour playing at home, though the away team has an extra half hour to score an away goal.
It seems to confuse people sometimes too. Away goals are often said to count double, but they clearly don’t. And when Bayern Munich won 1-0 away to Internazionale the other week, I heard at least 2 commentators mention the crucial away goal of Bayern’s. Only it isn’t crucial as an away goal at all – there is no score in the 2nd leg that would see them go through on away goals.
The odd manager has come out to voice their disapproval at the ruling. Arsene Wenger did in 2008, having discussed it with other managers at a meeting in Vienna. He argued that the rule was created in different era when away teams always looked to defend. Has anything really changed?
So what do you do if you don’t have away goals? Well of course it will mean a greater dependency on penalties. This is hardly the perfect way to decide matches either, but at least there is some skill involved, and anything is better than the current system that exists in many competitions around the world.
ThisisFutbol.com are seeking new writers to join the team! If you’re passionate about football, drop us a line at “firstname.lastname@example.org” to learn more.
Follow @ThePerfectPass on Twitter for details on all the latest updates and various football-related musings.