Football’s governing body in Europe has decided upon the rule just two weeks before the first qualifying matches for the top competition were due to kick off.
That means all goals scored by Celtic in Denmark during their Champions League qualifier against FC Midtjylland will count the same as those scored at Celtic Park, and vice versa.
Instead of away goals counting for extra in the event of a two-legged tie on aggregate, second legs will have an additional extra-time added if the scores are level after 180 minutes of football.
If required, a penalty shoot-out will follow.
It’s a significant change to European competition rules, which has always seen a goal away from home valued more, particularly in first leg matches.
Rangers benefitted from the rule twice in recent years – defeating Sporting Lisbon in the 2010-11 Europa League knock-out stages. It also helped Walter Smith’s side see off Panathinaikos with a Nacho Novo goal in Greece to start the UEFA Cup final run in 2008.
Likewise Martin O’Neill’s Celtic side’s march to the 2003 UEFA Cup final in Seville was also aided by the rule to see off Celta Vigo. Away goals also came into force when Celtic drew with Legia Warsaw over two legs in 2014-15 and progressed to the Champions League play-off stage.
However, it has conspired against Scottish teams too and Alex McLeish’s Rangers side were denied further progress in the Champions League after successfully qualifying from the group stage for the first time in 2005-06. A 2-2 draw at Ibrox with Villarreal and only managing to score once in El Madrigal in the return leg draw.
The rule comes into effect immediately and will also affect Aberdeen and Hibs in the new Europa Conference competition, and Scottish Cup winners’ St Johnstone in the Europa League qualifiers.
UEFA explained some statistics behind the decision: “Statistics since the mid-1970s show a clear trend of continuous reduction in the gap between the number of home-away wins (from 61%-19% to 47%-30%) and the average number of goals per match scored at home-away (from 2.02-0.95 to 1.58-1.15) in men’s competitions.”