Premier League clubs agree to five substitutions rule change

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LONDON (AFP) – Managers will be able to make up to five substitutions for the remainder of the 2019/20 Premier League season after clubs agreed to the temporary rule change at a meeting on Thursday.

FIFA proposed the solution last month to “protect player welfare” with a large number of matches packed into a few weeks to clear the backlog of a three-month layoff due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Premier League clubs also agreed to increase the number of substitutes available for selection from seven to nine for the remainder of the season.

“For the remainder of the 2019/20 season, the number of substitutes that can be used during a match will increase from three to five players,” the Premier League said in a statement.

“Shareholders also approved for clubs to increase the maximum number of substitute players on the bench from seven to nine for the rest of the 2019/20 season.”

To avoid too many stoppages, however, each team will still only have three opportunities to make changes as well as at half-time.

The Premier League will resume with two matches on June 17 as Manchester City host Arsenal and Sheffield United travel to Aston Villa.

The remaining nine full rounds of fixtures are then expected to be completed in just five weeks.

No decision was made at Thursday’s meeting on how league standings would be determined if a spike in infections should cause the season to be interrupted once more.

Just one positive case from 1,197 tests was detected from the latest round of checks on players and staff.

Clubs have reportedly agreed for a small number of matches to be played at neutral venues where it is considered necessary by the emergency services and safety advisory groups.

“The majority of remaining matches will be played, at home and away as scheduled, with a small number of fixtures taking place at neutral venues,” Mark Roberts, the UK’s national lead for football policing, said last week.

Roberts suggested any match where runaway league leaders Liverpool could win the title for the first time in 30 years would be played at a neutral venue to discourage crowds from gathering around Anfield.

Liverpool are 25 points clear at the top and just two games away from clinching the title.

However, Merseyside Police have said they are happy to police matches in Liverpool, including the Merseyside derby at Everton’s Goodison Park which is due to be played over the weekend of June 19-22.

Liverpool City Council’s safety advisory group will convene next week to make a decision regarding that fixture.