The Premier League must decide whether to allow five substitutions per team next season or revert back to three, after the game’s lawmaking body confirmed the temporary rule is to be extended through the 2020-21 campaign.
The International Football Association Board (Ifab) announced on Wednesday that competitions will be able to continue with the measure of allowing up to five substitutes, which was brought in as football returned amid the coronavirus pandemic in order to help teams deal with intense fixture lists through the summer and “protect player welfare”.
The rule was backed by the majority of top-flight clubs when it was proposed in June, but it was opposed by four of the 20 clubs and is likely to cause more debate ahead of the start of next season, scheduled for 12 September.
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Ifab said in a statement: “The IFAB Board of Directors has extended the option to competitions scheduled to be completed by 31 July 2021 and to international competitions scheduled in July/August 2021.”
The rule allowing additional substitutes has been considered controversial as it disproportionately benefits wealthier clubs with stronger, deeper squads. Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has consistently used all of his possible subs, while Burnley’s Sean Dyche has made very few changes since the restart.
While some of the league’s wealthier clubs are likely to back the rule for the new season, citing the condensed timeline for both preseason and the league campaign itself, and emphasising the need to protect players from a heavy workload, many of the rest are expected to rail against the move.
Prominent Sky Sports pundits Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville both tweeted their opposition to extending the rule. Carragher called it “nonsense” while Neville wrote: “I don’t like or agree with this [the rule extension] at all!”