The Premier League will continue with drinks breaks during matches this season after it was revealed they were actually introduced so equipment can be disinfected to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
The drinks breaks have sparked controversy since they were brought in under Project Restart with some managers suggesting they have become nothing more than a tactical time-out.
It had been thought the primary reason for adopting them was for players, as they work back towards match fitness after the three-month lay-off, to take on vital fluids to rehydrate during summer weather while playing twice a week. The breaks are scheduled for natural pauses in the action mid-way through each half.
However the over-riding reason for using them is as part of the stringent protocols introduced by the Premier League to complete the season. In the protocols it was written in that equipment such as goal-posts and corner flags needed to be disinfected during the matches. Staff walk around the pitch with spray while the drinks breaks take place.
The fact the weather has been colder – with also some games taking place in driving rain – has frustrated pundits who have called for the breaks to be stopped because they interrupt the flow of games.
At the same time some managers, such as Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, have said they like the breaks because they give them an opportunity to talk to their players. Others such as Sheffield United’s Chris Wilder and Burnley’s Sean Dyche have deemed them unnecessary and claimed it has divided the games into four quarters.
There is an expectation that the drinks breaks will be scrapped for next season but because they are part of the Premier League protocols for games to be played it would appear they could remain in place if the pandemic is still a threat.
Meanwhile the directors of the International Football Association Board, which governs the laws of the game, were meeting on Wednesday via video conference to decide on whether to allow five substitutes, rather than revert to three, per team in the 2020-21 season.
The temporary change to Law Three was proposed by world governing body Fifa and was adopted for the 2019-20 campaign to help teams manage player workload. The likelihood is that it will now be extended for next season. It will be at the discretion of individual competitions whether they choose to adopt the amendment if the IFAB board agrees to extend it but it is likely to be adopted by the Premier League.