Due to the global novel coronavirus pandemic, almost all sporting events and leagues around the world were forced to suspend or cancel their plans starting in March. However, as some countries begin to ease their lockdown restrictions, some sports are starting to slowly return. As some European soccer leagues begin preparing to resume their seasons, the International Football Association Board has temporarily amended the laws of the game, allowing teams to use up to five substitutes per game, increased from the original limit of three.
The IFAB approved FIFA’s proposal on Friday and will take effect for any leagues that start and end within the 2020 calendar year. FIFA originally submitted the proposal in order to ensure the health and safety of players given that they have not played soccer competitively since mid-March. There is also the possibility that some leagues may attempt to play more games in a shorter period to make up for the number of games missed. The hope is that the new temporary substitution rule will limit the number of injuries and stress on players’ bodies once the season picks back up.
While the rule increases the number of substitutions allowed by each team, it does not change the amount of times a change can be made, eliminating any added possibilities for time-wasting. So teams will still have just three opportunities in a game to make a substitution, but with the chance to swap more players than usual at each stoppage in the game.
“The temporary amendment comes into force with immediate effect, and has been made as matches may be played in a condensed period in different weather conditions, both of which could have impacts on player welfare,” IFAB’s statement read. “The decision on whether to apply this temporary amendment will remain at the discretion of each individual competition organiser, while The IFAB and FIFA will determine at a later stage whether this temporary amendment would need to be extended further (e.g. for competitions due to be completed in 2021).”
The German Bundesliga resumed training in April and is set to become the first European league to resume on May 16 with a plan to play without fans and end the season on June 30. This week, players in Spain’s La Liga began reporting for training after being tested for COVID-19. There is no set date for the league’s return yet, but Sports Illustrated reported that the Spanish football authorities wanted teams to train for about a month before competition resumes. Most Serie A teams in Italy began training this week with no set return date.
In France, the remainder of the Ligue 1 2019-20 season was officially canceled on April 30 and Paris St. Germain were crowned champions. The Premier League season remains postponed, and it is unclear whether domestic and European competitions will return this year.