Why Preston North End could be allowed to make more substitutions when football resumes

Teams will be able to make up to five substitutes under a new proposal from FIFA to help cope with the return to action amid the coronavirus pandemic, the world governing body has stated.

Monday, 27th April 2020, 1:50 pm
Scott Sinclair and Ryan Ledson prepare to come on as substitutes in Preston North End's game against Queens Park Rangers at Deepdale

Under current rules, teams can make three substitutions during league game, with the FA Cup allowing for a fourth sub if a tie goes to extra time.

FIFA have suggested the extra substitutions to take into account teams having to fit in a number of games during a a short space of time once football resumes after the Covid-19 shutdown.

They are also mindful of the fact that players won't have played competitively for three or four months if there is a summer resumption.

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The substitutions will be allowed at a maximum of three slots plus the half-time interval to avoid unnecessary stoppages.

The proposal is subject to the approval of the game’s law-making body the International Football Association Board, and it is then at the discretion of individual competitions such as the Premier League or the Bundesliga whether or not to implement it.

“When competitions resume, such competitions are likely to face a congested match calendar with a higher-than-normal frequency of matches played in consecutive weeks,” a FIFA spokesperson said.

“Safety of the players is one of FIFA’s main priority then. One concern in this regard is that the higher-than-normal frequency of matches may increase the risk of potential injuries due to a resulting player overload.

“In light of this and in light of the unique challenge faced globally in delivering competitions according to the originally foreseen calendar, FIFA proposes that a larger number of substitutions be temporarily allowed at the discretion of the relevant competition organiser.

“In competitions where less than five substitutions are currently allowed, each team would now be given the possibility to use up to five substitutions during the match, with the possibility of an additional substitution remaining during extra time, where relevant.”

The temporary dispensation on substitutes would apply to competitions which are either due to be completed or start in 2020 or 2021, so it would also apply to the 2020-21 season which is expected to start not long after the eventual conclusion of this season.

It will also cover all national team matches up to and including December 31, 2021.

A number of European leagues are working towards a resumption after the Covid-19 outbreak led to a near-total shutdown of sport on the continent.

Clubs in the top two tiers of professional football in Germany have got players back in training with a view to play starting next month.

Italian teams will be able to resume group training on May 18, while in France the Ligue de Football Professionnel is targeting a return to action in mid-June.

The Premier League and the English Football League are keeping a return date under constant review.

For the EFL, a May 16 return to training has been suggested with the season possibly resuming early in June.