Football is about to change, potentially forever.
According to The Athletic, IFAB rule-makers are set announce that the Premier League will maintain the five substitutes rule throughout the entirety of the 2020/21 season.
The rule change was initially implemented as a temporary change to help combat fixture pile-ups and help player welfare following the Covid-19 break. It was contested originally by some clubs, including Crystal Palace and Sheffield United, but ultimately pushed through.
The rule was also adopted by all of Europe’s Top 5 leagues too and with the Premier League now leading the way in carrying it over, it’s likely others will follow.
I can’t help but feel the new rule is a kick in the teeth to smaller clubs. The new rule greatly benefits the richer clubs, who have deeper squads and better talent in their ranks. A club like Manchester City, where they could quite literally field two entirely different starting line-ups that would challenge for European places, being able to change half their outfield players in a game doesn’t seem fair.
One counter argument to this is that it gives young players a greater opportunity to be a part of the match day squads, thus creating more opportunities for pathways from academy football to first-team football.
Why not just partially change the rule? In Italy, clubs are allowed to name up to twelve players on their bench at all times but still only allowed to make three changes (prior to Covid-19). This would provide the same opportunity to include youngsters in the match-day squad but will keep an even playing field when it comes to making changes.
At that point it comes down to game management from the manager, rather than an abundance of options that you can take your pick from.
It’s a change that once it becomes official for next season, will likely end up becoming the new normal and be made permanent afterwards. Hopefully the rule-makers will take into consideration the concerns of the smaller teams and find a healthy compromise for all.