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FIFA, IFAB approve temporary use of five substitutes in football

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Coronavirus reform

Norway v Australia: Round Of 16 - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France Photo by Hannah Peters - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images

When football re-emerges in a few weeks or months, it will be into a world markedly different than what we had known before in many respects, some big, some small, some good, some bad.

One of the smaller, better changes will be the possibility to use five substitutes in an officially sanctioned football match — this idea was initially floated some weeks ago with FIFA jumping on board, and was recently confirmed to be slated for use by the Hungarian Football Federation, for example, when they resume in a couple weeks.

The idea is to help with the expected fitness concerns as teams gear up to play busy schedules that make up for the games postponed in the last 2-3 months, and then lead into next season without any or much of a break — all during the hottest part of the year for most European countries.

“The temporary amendment comes into force with immediate effect, and has been made as matches may be played in a condensed period in different weather conditions, both of which could have impacts on player welfare. The decision on whether to apply this temporary amendment will remain at the discretion of each individual competition organiser, while The IFAB and FIFA will determine at a later stage whether this temporary amendment would need to be extended further (e.g. for competitions due to be completed in 2021).”

-IFAB statement

IFAB are in charge of governing the laws of the game, and they technically exist outside of FIFA — but for all practical intents, they work together to create, adopt, and implement any new rules. With IFAB’s approval, the temporary amendment now becomes part of the Laws of the Game, which FIFA and its member associations are mandated to follow.

That said, implementing the five-sub option is left up to the individual associations in this case. The Premier League’s next crisis meeting is on Monday, which could see an official decision made in this regard.

One notable wrinkle in the new law is that teams will still only be allowed to make substitutions three times outside of half-time. As before, players will not be able to re-enter once taken off.

The new Law 3, which will only be in affect through the end of the 2020 calendar year, at least for now, reads as follows:

Law 3 – The Players – Temporary amendment

In summary:
- Each team will be permitted to use a maximum of five substitutes.
- To reduce disruption to the match, each team will have a maximum of three opportunities to make substitutions during the game; substitutions may also be made at half-time.
- If both teams make a substitution at the same time, this will count as one of the three opportunities for each team.
- Unused substitutions and opportunities are carried forward into extra time.
- Where competition rules allow an additional substitution in extra time, teams will each have one additional substitution opportunity; substitutions may also be made before the start of extra time and at half-time in extra time.

The use of return substitutes is not an option for senior competitions.