The English Football League has confirmed five substitutes will be allowed across all divisions from the next round of fixtures.
The game’s law-making body, the International Football Association Board, announced in July that the five replacements rule would be extended into 2020-21 – but that it would be up to individual competitions whether they adopted it.
The Premier League is the only major top-flight division in Europe which does not allow teams to make five changes in a match during the current campaign, with the Champions League, Europa League and international fixtures also permitting five substitutes.
— EFL Communications (@EFL_Comms) November 18, 2020
The proposal has twice failed to secure the 14-club majority needed to be adopted for the new season, after a vote to use five subs during the final two months of the delayed 2019-20 campaign was supported.
England manager Gareth Southgate suggested “something has to give” as Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson were withdrawn from the England squad because of fitness concerns, while Liverpool defender Joe Gomez has been sidelined by a serious knee injury.
Reds boss Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola have also been leading calls for additional substitutes this term in a bid to curb a spate of injuries.
However, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters confirmed he was not expecting a change “in the foreseeable future” when he gave evidence at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee session last week.
Nevertheless, the EFL announced on Wednesday a motion in support of additional substitutes to be used had been passed by the board.
Under the new regulations – which come into force from November 20 in time for Coventry’s Championship match against Birmingham and the League Two fixture between Mansfield and Colchester on Friday night – teams in the Championship will be able to make five changes from a pool of nine substitutes.
For League One and League Two, any five from seven will be permitted.
A statement from the EFL read: “Following consultation with clubs, the EFL board has agreed to increase the permitted number of substitutes to five in all Sky Bet EFL fixtures taking place from 12 noon on Friday 20 November for the remainder of the 2020/21 season.
“Regulation 33.4 has been amended to permit Championship clubs to name up to nine substitutes in their matchday squad, with five permitted to take to the pitch in any fixture.
“League One and League Two clubs can name up to seven substitutes in their match day squad, again with five permitted to take to the pitch.”
— Carabao Cup (@Carabao_Cup) November 18, 2020
The PA news agency understands these regulation changes apply to matches in the EFL only, with no decision yet made on the Carabao Cup.
In line with IFAB decisions, each team is only permitted a maximum of three opportunities, not including the half-time break to make substitutions during the game.
The current EFL board directives are set to expire at the end of February 2021, with a proposal expected in due course to formalise the changes until the end of the current campaign.
IFAB’s football and technical panels, meanwhile, are expected to consider next week whether to recommend an extension of the five substitutes dispensation beyond 2021.
‼️ ALERT: The handling of the football match calendar lacks sufficient consideration for the health, well-being and performance of footballers.‼️
— FIFPRO (@FIFPro) November 9, 2020
The chief medical officer of FIFPRO, the global representative organisation for professional footballers, Dr Vincent Gouttebarge expressed surprise that the Premier League had not opted to continue with five subs this season.
“I know that the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) and FIFPRO are not very pleased with that and we have tried to push to allow five substitutions,” Gouttebarge told the PA news agency.
“It is something that we are doing almost every week because every week we have players who incur some injury as a consequence of the congested match calendar. We are going to keep fighting about that.
“Five substitutions are only one piece of the puzzle. It does not solve the puzzle but it helps us to move forward and I believe it is the least we can do.”