Football’s lawmakers are this week set to announce a “temporary” change to the laws of the sport allowing teams to make up to five substitutions in games when the sport resumes after the coronavirus-induced suspension.
The proposal to help teams cope with likely fixture congestion in a packed calendar was made by world governing body FIFA and is expected to be validated by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) this Friday.
The IFAB said last week that it was working with FIFA on a “temporary dispensation of Law 3 (The Players) allowing competitions to give teams the option to use a maximum of five substitutes on up to three occasions during the match, plus at half-time.”
Limiting the number of occasions on which teams can make changes would remove the incentive to do so purely for time-wasting purposes.
A sixth change may also be permitted in matches that go to extra time.
Currently teams can make three substitutions during games, although since 2018 teams have been allowed to make a fourth substitution in extra time.
Leagues will not be obliged to implement the change, a source said, but they will be free to do so as soon as they restart after almost all football around the world shut down in mid-March because of the pandemic.
The German Bundesliga is set to be the first leading European league to restart later this month.
The IFAB’s objective is to “protect players’ health” when matches do resume, with a fixture schedule that could be even more packed than usual potentially leading to an “increased risk of injuries”.
While the measure is intended to be temporary, it could be maintained for the whole of the 2020-21 season and right through to the next European Championship, which was postponed by a year until June and July 2021 because of the pandemic.
FIFA have said that implementing the measure will be “at the discretion of the organiser of each competition”.
“If the measure is still in force, UEFA could then adopt it for the Euro,” a source said.
It remains to be seen if the measure could be left in place permanently, but doing so may play into the hands of the wealthiest clubs with the largest squads and greatest strength in depth.