Premier League football is still tentatively scheduled to start up again by the middle of June, pending any further updates on the spread or severity of the coronavirus pandemic. However, footballers haven’t been able to play for so long that it’s likely that they won’t be nearly at the fitness levels that they were when games stopped in early March.
In order to mitigate some of the fitness issues that are sure to arise if and when football does restart, the International Football Association Board, which regulates the rules of the game, has temporarily changed the rules for substitutions, increasing the number of subs in a single match from three to five. This was a rule change proposed by FIFA, and the IFAB have now implemented it, with some caveats.
Here’s the full text of the rule change.
• Each team will be permitted to use a maximum of five substitutes.
• To reduce disruption to the match, each team will have a maximum of three opportunities to make substitutions during the game; substitutions may also be made at half-time.
• If both teams make a substitution at the same time, this will count as one of the three opportunities for each team.
• Unused substitutions and opportunities are carried forward into extra time.
• Where competition rules allow an additional substitution in extra time, teams will each have one additional substitution opportunity; substitutions may also be made before the start of extra time and at half-time in extra time.
In laymen’s terms: clubs will now have the ability to sub in five players from now until the end of the current season (i.e. 2019-20), but like before they will only have three opportunities during the game when they can make subs, not including halftime. Functionally it’s no different than the old rules, except that there are two extra subs.
Allowing clubs to sub in two extra players will potentially help with fatigue issues, especially for games that head to extra time. It’s a good idea, and frankly I wouldn’t mind if they’d allow this change to persist permanently. Clubs don’t have to use the extra substitutions, but it’s a nice thing to have in your back pocket, especially if it’s late in the game and you have gassed players on the pitch.