September 29 – A survey of its members by the World Leagues Forum (WLF) has found that 95% of them would support a permanent option to keep an increased number of substitutions that can be used by clubs in their leagues.
The five-substitution rule was introduced by rule making body IFAB as a measure for clubs to help manage player workload during the pandemic. The fear was that the calendar catch-up by leagues trying to complete one covid-interrupted season and starting the next with very little break, would put too much pressure on players and increase the greater risk of injury.
The WLF survey examined whether the option to have more than three substitutions in top-tier professional football should become permanent. The conclusions from the 37 members who responded to the survey was a resounding yes.
36 out of 37 leagues have applied the 5-player substitution temporary rule, the English Premier League being the only one that hasn’t. The principle opposition to the 5-sub rule in the Premier League was from smaller clubs who felt the rule would further weight the competitive balance in favour of the bigger/wealthier clubs who can afford to have more leading, and by definition more expensive, players in their squads.
General comments from leagues in response to the survey identified a positive impact on the game with the opportunity to have five subs with leagues reporting it lead to an increased quality of play in their leagues, greater player opportunity and harmony, as well as it being a modern solution to a game that has increased in pace and hence provides greater player welfare.
While the majority league opinion was in favour of retaining the 5-subs rule, there was more than 75% for limiting the number of substitution opportunities to three during play.
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