End the away goals rule!

April 27, 2010

If you achieve enough success in life to be in the position to make rule changes in a sport, there’s a pretty good chance you have a sizable economic chunk in the outcome.

As a fan, I dislike the away goals rule.  This Champions League semi-final is a case in point: at the 30 minute mark, I quit watching.  I imagine alot of people did.  Bayern won the first game 1-0 at home, and then they scored in the 25th minute today to lead 1-0 away at Lyon.   So what had been a game in which Lyon had only to score a goal to tie now means that Lyon is 2.9 goals behind?  Why?  In order to win, they have to score 3 goals.  They cannot tie because they will lose on the away goals rule, hence the decimal 2.9 goals.

2 goal deficit?  I’ll keep watching.  3 goals?  Sorry, I really value my time.  I love watching football, but I’m not going to watch the game anymore, there are more productive things I can do than watch a game whose outcome is already decided 99.5% of the time.

And if alot of people did, that means ads probably go for less in these type of games, because advertisers factor in the possibility that people stop watching the game.  Actually, this is probably automatically factored in because advertisers buy ads based on an average of previous ratings.   When people stop watching because of the away goals rule, the avg ratings will be down.  So, in my opinion, the rule should be changed because fans would be more interested and thus football on the whole would make more money.

That’s the economic angle, but I think the other angles similarly argue for ending the away goals rule.  From a sporting angle, do teams really need the away goals rule in order to attack when away?  I doubt it.

Is it fair?  I argue that it’s not.  I’m not sure what the statistical advantage is to playing away on the second leg, but I imagine that it is significant, statistically.  It just seems dumb and more likely to increase the randomness factor inherent in sports (although perhaps having the occasional worse team go through is good for ratings?  Maybe, but I doubt it, and I think studies in the US have shown that dynasties are good for ratings)

My proposal: end the away goals rule.  Play the entire 180 minutes in aggregate.  If there is a tie at the end, reduce the teams to playing 7 on 7 with a golden goal (sudden death, for us Yanks) rule.  Let the 4 field players taken off be available as substitutes in the overtime period, and allow substitutions liberally.


*it’s better than penalty kicks, which isn’t football.

*it’s better than the away goals rule, which is random and sometimes leads to drab second matches as teams try to do anything at home in the second leg to prevent the away team from scoring.

*All goals count the same, rather than some goals counting for alot and other goals not mattering at all.  A goal is always worth a goal, rather than sometimes being worth 1.9 goals like it is right now.

*it will be super exciting! I truly believe this.  Plus minor rule changes are usually interesting

*The best team will win more often.


*It’s a different form of soccer (better than away goals and penalty kicks, in my opinion).

*It punishes the winner by tiring out its best players (maybe, though I think allowing liberal substitutions would help alot).

*It is a drastic departure from football tradition (dude, so are penalty kicks, and we’ve decided who wins the World Cup that way!  you can’t make it any worse than deciding the World Cup winner by PKs!  at least this is actual football).


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