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Official: IFAB extend five substitute rule for 2020-21 season

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Good decision!

Newcastle United v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) has extended the five substitution rule for the entirety of next season (2020-21).

(Ed.note: the logical evolution of football allowing for more and more substitutes thus continues. We started with none, now we are here.)

Here is an excerpt from their statement today, which confirmed the extension.

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.

-IFAB statement

This rule was first brought into effect on 8th May, 2020 to help deal with the effects (fatigue, injuries, etc) of congested schedules after three months of no football (and just a little bit of training) due to COVID-19. The rule will continue to exist exactly as before: 5 substitutes will be allowed but only three chances (excluding the half-time break) to make changes.

Also as before, the decision to enjoy the benefit of this rule will be up to each league’s own discretion. IFAB have simply made the option available, though it’s surely going to be adopted just as widely as it is now.

The rationale behind extending the rule is that teams will only get a small break between the end of this season and the start of next season. This season is officially set to end on 23rd August (Champions League final) while leagues such as Premier League are set to start soon after in mid-September.

Another reason is the fixture congestion. Since the 2020-21 season is starting more than a month later than usual, it likely will have more games cramped together to make sure that following season (2021-22) starts on time.

For (big) clubs with good depth (in terms of absolute or relative quality to starters) this is certainly great news, allowing better use of said depth to ensure not only that players stay fit, but to change in games in their favour, such as Frank Lampard’s triple substitution at half time against Leicester City in the FA Cup. For (small) clubs who don't quite enjoy such luxuries of squad depth, this won’t be as beneficial and could put them as a disadvantage when compared to opponents.

Chelsea, who pushed the Premier League to expand the bench as well (to 9), should be quite happy with the extension of this rule, with the likes of Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech already signed, and probably more coming in as well.