Champions League new rules for 2021/22: fans in attendance, substitutions, away goals
UEFA have made a number of changes to the rules and regulations of the Champions League ahead of the 2021/22 edition of the tournament.
A number of significant changes to the Champions League have come into force in the current, 2021/22 edition of the tournament. The biggest change to the competition is the abolition of the old away goals rule which UEFA announced would be scrapped completely back in June. The away goals rule has featured in all European club competitions since it was introduced in 1965.
Away goals no longer count as double
Under the old rule, in the event of a draw, goals scored away from home counted as double but that led to a tendency for home sides to focus on avoiding conceding and, it was argued, gave the visiting team in the second leg an unfair advantage if the tie went to extra-time. From 2021/22, ties which end level after the second leg will go to extra-time then a penalty shoot-out if required, irrespective of the number of away goals a team has scored.
UEFA explained in a statement. “With the decision to remove this rule, ties in which the two teams score the same number of goals over the two legs would be not decided on the number of goals scored away, but two 15-minute periods of extra time are played at the end of the second leg and in case the teams score the same number of goals or no goals during this extra time, kicks from the penalty mark would determine the team which qualifies to the next stage of the competition”.
Five or six substitutions
Changes to the number of substitutions which each team can make during a match, which were enforced ahead of the knockout stage during the coronavirus pandemic in July 2020, will remain in place for this edition of the tournament. Up to a maximum of six subs can be used in one match, depending on the stage of the competition. Under Article 41.04 of the regulations, UEFA explain: “Up to five of the substitutes listed on each team’s match sheet may take part in the match. Exceptionally, a sixth substitute listed on the match sheet may take part in knockout matches exclusively during extra time. Each team may use a maximum of three stoppages in play to make substitutions (one additional stoppage in extra-time can be used). Substitutions made before the start of the match, during half-time, between the end of normal playing time and extra time, and at half-time during extra time do not reduce the number of stoppages in play that can be used. A player who has been substituted may take no further part in the match”.
Stadium capacity and travelling fans
Matches in the 2019/20 Champions League from the quarter finals onwards were played behind closed doors due to the pandemic. In October last year, UEFA announced that fans would partially be allowed to return - but only fans from the home team and up to 30% of the stadium’s capacity. Those restrictions were also subject to changes if local authorities decided that the public’s health might be at risk. For last season’s final, 6,000 fans from each of the two finalists, Chelsea and Manchester City, were allowed in to watch the game from the stands at Estádio do Dragão in Porto.
While restrictions on fans attending matches have been eased in all of Europe’s major leagues, rules and restrictions concerning travel between countries mean that attending games will be a more complicated task for travelling supporters than it was before the pandemic.
UEFA have not announced any updates on the criteria for attending matches but fans attending recent events such as Euro 2020 and the Super Cup have been required to present a vaccine passport or a similar document to show that they are not infected with Covid-19 (vaccine passport, negative PCR test result or certificate of previous infection). Regulations state that stadium capacity will be set by UEFA with 5% of the total capacity allocated for away fans in the 2021/22 edition of the Champions League. While capacity crowds have returned in the Premier League, different rules apply in different countries - in Spain for example, authorities have reduced stadium capacity to 30-40% for large-scale events and in Germany, attendance has been capped at 50% for Bundesliga games. UEFA are expected to provide more information on away fans attending group stages matches at this week’s draw - in many instances, whether travelling supporters are allowed or not will be decided by respective governments and local authorities. The organisers have pointed out that all aspects relating to match organisation and procedures, including dates, venues and kick-off times may be subject to changes on approval by UEFA's administration.
The group stage draw for the 2021/22 Champions League takes place in Istanbul, Turkey on Thursday 26 August at 12 noon ET, 9am PT (18:00 hours local time, CEST). The group stage gets underway on Tuesday 14 September 2021.