With the world of soccer slowly returning, FIFA announced on Friday that it would temporarily allow leagues the option of granting teams five substitutions per game as opposed to three. Part of the approved changes proposed by The International Football Association Board (The IFAB) include video assistant referee (VAR) becoming optional for leagues. All changes will last until the end of the calendar year (2020).
In order to avoid disrupting the game, teams can only make the five substitutions during three instances in the match, meaning teams will have to make multiple substitutions at least once a game if they want to change more than three players. So, essentially, one team could not make five individual substitutions at different times in a game.
If teams make a substitution at the same time, this will count as one of their three opportunities for each team. Unused substitutions and opportunities carry into extra time where applicable, and for those competitions that already allow one extra sub in extra time, they would get an additional one in this instance. That could result in a sixth change, if needed. Substitutions may also be made before the start of extra time and halftime of extra time.
With players potentially playing more games from here until the end of the year, there are concerns of overheating and dehydration, this rule allows some players to get a breather and allows managers to bring fresh reserves in case players begin cramping up more than usual. The rule is effective immediately, and it's up to the individual competition leaders to decide if they want to apply it.
Here's a look at The IFAB's approved proposal to "protect player welfare" once leagues resume playing after the coronavirus pandemic:
- 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.
FIFA also announced that the use of Video Assistant Referee for the remainder of the season would be up to the leagues, giving them permission to cease using it if need be. Often times those operating VAR are within close distance of each other and wouldn't technically be practicing social distancing, though we may see some leagues come up with plans to continue using VAR while attempting to ensure the health and safety of those involved.