By Andrew Warshaw
September 9 – Europe’s leading clubs are to lobby UEFA to let them use five substitutes per game in the group stages of this season’s Champions League and Europa League as part of the effort to ease fixture congestion and the physical burden on players after such a short pre-season.
FIFA and the game’s law-making body, IFAB, recently gave individual leagues the option of continuing with the five-sub initiative which came into force when last season finally resumed and was extended deep into summer because of Covid-19.
UEFA approved five subs for the completion of its club competitions but this season’s qualifying rounds have reverted back to three subs.
The European Club Association, which represents some 200 clubs, wants UEFA to change its mind due to the new season beginning so close to the old one ending.
“Between October and Christmas, leading players will play every three days for three months,” ECA chairman Andrea Agnelli told a virtual press conference after the body’s annual assembly.
“We hope UEFA will listen to us, as they normally do about the health of players. We need a consistent and harmonised style of play given the congested calendar. We will point out to UEFA that all clubs across all nations in all leagues are in favour of one decision.”
“A majority of clubs have voted for five substitutes and I think we would like to see this at international level,” said Agnelli.
With one notable Brexit-like exception. Of the so-called Big Five European leagues, only the English Premier League is sticking to three subs this season as a result of an absurd voting process which needs a 14-club majority to change the rules.
Germany and France are both going with five and Spain and Italy are likely to follow suit.
But England is going out on a limb, fuelled by domestic self-interest about whether five subs would benefit wealthier clubs with more quality and deeper squads.
The next time their clubs start moaning about fixture congestion, they should perhaps look at themselves in the mirror. Not only at club level. Their decision potentially also affects the national team where fewer opportunities will be given to players compared with all the other top nations.
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