Football: IFAB extends law on five substitutions into 2020/2021 season

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FILE PHOTO: Liverpool’s Swiss midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri (L) replaces Liverpool’s Egyptian midfielder Mohamed Salah (R) during the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup Final football match. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) extended the five-substitution law to the 2020/21 season, subject to approval from each competition.

The IFAB said that a recent review of the law showed that the reasons that necessitated its implementation remained “valid” and the impact on player welfare was likely to continue into 2021 due to a number of factors.

“On the basis of this in-depth review, which included stakeholder feedback and an analysis of the impact of COVID-19 on competition calendars, The IFAB Board of Directors has extended the option to competitions scheduled to be completed by 31 July 2021 and to international competitions scheduled to take place in July/August 2021,” a statement by The IFAB read in part.

“The decision on whether to apply this temporary amendment remains at the discretion of each competition organiser.”

Some of the factors that necessitated the extension include that some competitions which resumed in 2020 may have a shorter-than-usual recovery or preparation period before the start of their next season.

Another factor was that for many competitions, the next season will involve matches being played in a shortened period due to a delayed start and the inability to end later than usual because of major international tournaments.

An example of this is the European Championship which is held in the European summer when most European football leagues have concluded their regular seasons.  It was scheduled to be held from June 12 to July 12 this year, but was postponed to June 11-July 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and disruptions to the football calendar.

While most European leagues which did not cancel are expected to conclude their seasons by the start of August, some clubs will still participate in the conclusion of continental club competitions in August. This means that the earliest that some can begin their next season is mid-September.

The IFAB added that there will be no changes to the other aspects of the law meaning that while each team will be allowed five substitutions per match, each team will only have three opportunities to make them.

However substitutions made at half-time are not counted as one of the three opportunities while unused substitutions and opportunities are carried forward into extra time.

In April, FIFA made a proposal to allow teams make up to five substitutions per game to enable players to cope with the return to action after a lengthy period out due to disruptions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In May, The IFAB agreed to make a temporary amendment to the Laws of the Game to protect player welfare.

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