Premier League could be forced to change as subs rule to be made permanent

The English top flight has yet to fall in line with other competitions, returning to the three substitutions rule at the start of the 2020-21 season and retaining it this term

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In pictures: Chelsea v Southampton

The number of substitutions allowed by Premier League club has been a divisive topic for clubs and fans alike over the past two years.

The allowance was increased to five when the 2019-20 season resumed following its mid-season suspension, with the Premier League following the example of the Bundesliga.

However, Premier League clubs failed to reach the majority needed to make the change for the 2020-21 campaign, despite managers including Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola making the case for an increase.

Other competitions have stuck with five subs, including the Champions League and Europa League, but the Premier League reverted to three.

The debate could be revived, though, after a ruling from football lawmakers IFAB recommended a permanent change to the number of substitutes permitted in a game.

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Jurgen Klopp is one of the managers who called for the Premier League to allow teams to continue making five subs per game



IFAB had approved an extension of the temporary measures, brought in after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing teams to make additional substitutions.

A number of league and cup competitions kept the measures in place, but the Premier League opted against doing so amid complaints from some that it advantaged bigger teams.

“[The IFAB’s Football and Technical Advisory Panels] today recommended that competitions should be able to decide on increasing the number of substitutes according to the needs of their football environment, while the current number of substitution opportunities (three plus half-time) should stay the same,” a statement read.

The statement from IFAB is a recommendation that the temporary changes to be made permanent, and doesn’t force leagues to up the allowance.

Still, the latest comments may put extra pressure on the Premier League, with a sense that they haven’t fallen in line with other top European leagues.

La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga are all continuing to permit five substitutions per team in the 2021-22 season.

Former Premier League striker Stan Collymore is among those to speak out against the recommendations, bringing up concerns about the benefit it could give clubs with deeper squads.

“Even more of an advantage for big squads, even more of a gap in squad depth between haves and have nots as bigger clubs can now “store” an even greater number of players,” Collymore tweeted.

“Only someone who hasn’t watched football could argue City, United, Liverpool and Chelsea having 2 more subs available isn’t a significant advantage over a season.”

Premier League clubs have only been allowed three subs this season


Manchester City FC via Getty Ima)

A handful of other proposals were discussed at the IFAB meeting, including an recommendation to extend the trial of concussion substitutes in order to gather more data.

Members also discussed a proposal from South American confederation CONMEBOL to extend the half-time break from 15 minutes to 25, though this was knocked back.

“On [this request], several members shared their concerns, particularly regarding the potential negative impact on player welfare and safety resulting from a longer period of inactivity,” the statement from IFAB read.

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