Re-thinking home and away in league ties / by kevin murray

In European football, also known in the States as European soccer, there are numerous tournaments, in which the biggest tournament is the Champions League, and just below that is the Europa League tournament.   As might be imagined, there are all sorts of rules and regulations regarding the seeding of those teams, in addition to all sorts of contingencies addressed.  In the group stage, as well as the round of sixteen, quarter finals, and semi-finals, each of these fixtures features a pair of games being played home and away.  Additionally, each of these respective tournaments also has regulations in regards to the structure of those home and away games, in which, for instance, in the round of sixteen, the higher seeded team, which is the winner of their respective group, plays the first game of their leg of the tie on the road, and then the second game of the leg of the tie at home.  The feeling of those that structured this system, is that the higher seeded team would typically want to play the second leg at home, of which, by doing so, they would have the advantage of being in front of their home fans, and hence, even if entering into the second leg of the tie, having lost the first game on the road, for instance, they would have the wherewithal and support to overcome such a deficit at home.


While most pundits and managers believe that this is exactly the way it should be, it would seem that to add a little extra drama, as well as gamesmanship to the whole tournament format, would entail that whenever there is a situation in which the rule makers have developed a regulation in which their intent is to favor the group winner, or the higher seed, and  so forth, they should also write into those rule books an opportunity for that team to have the option, if so desired, to reverse the fixture, so that rather than playing the first leg on the road, they could instead opt to play the first leg at home.  While one might wonder, why any team would do this, the bottom line is that the manager of that team, should know or have a strong belief as to whether playing at home first, would be a material advantage in getting the positive result, so desired, and some teams may well determine that to "put the sword" to their opponent in the first leg, so as to basically make the return leg a non-event might well be an appealing option to them.


A rule such as this, would be fairly easy to implement, and further, in order to be fair to all parties, basically the winner of the group stage, or the higher seed, as the case may be, would be permitted the option of flipping the fixture order, of which, this option would have to be exercised within 48 hours of the announcement of the tournament fixture pairings.  This would therefore give the winner of the group stage, or higher seed, enough time to make a determination as to whether they favor such a change or not.  In any event, pundits, sports writers, and sports shows, really don't have enough material to commentate upon without repeating themselves ad nauseam, so that, in general, by adding this little twist, this would add some additional air time and speculation to the discussion of upcoming fixtures and strategy, and provide a wealth of opportunity for second guessing, all of which, would be good for the game.