ZURICH: Football teams will be allowed to use five substitutes when play resumes after the coronavirus pandemic, the sport’s law-making body announced on Friday.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) said in as statement that it had agreed to a proposal by world governing body FIFA for a temporary change to the rules “to protect player welfare”.

Teams face likely fixture congestion in a packed calendar as they attempt to make up for lost time when play can resume.

The lay off is expected to have an impact on player fitness levels too.

It also said that competitions which were using video assistant referee (VAR) would be allowed to drop it for the time being.

The change will apply to competitions scheduled to be completed by 31 December of this year, although FIFA and IFAB left open the possibility that the period could be extended.

While teams will be able to make five substitutions, “to avoid disruption to the game, each team will only have three opportunities to make substitutions” as well as at half time or before extra time.

In competitions that allow an another replacement in extra time, teams will have an additional substitution opportunity.

The previous limit on outfield substitutes for top-level competitions has been three in regulation time.

The IFAB said the change had been made “as matches may be played in a condensed period in different weather conditions, both of which could have impacts on player welfare.”

Football has been at a standstill since mid-March but many leagues and federations are still hoping to complete the season. To do so they would have to cram fixtures into a shorter period than usual once games re-start.

Leagues which typically end in May are preparing to restart and face a congested schedule into July and August to complete their season.

Italian champions Juventus could play 20 more games this season: 12 in Serie A, up to six in the Champions League and two in the Coppa Italia.

“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,” FIFA said.

“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).”

Congestion is expected to spill over into next season. Club competitions such as domestic leagues and the Champions League are set to start later and lack the option of finishing beyond May because the European Championship and Copa America are due to start in mid-June 2021.

It remains to be seen if the measure could be left in place permanently, but doing so may play into the hands of the wealthiest clubs with the largest squads and greatest strength in depth.

The announcement comes a day after the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) said it had proposed allowing teams in Spain to make five substitutions if matches resumed in the country.

Thursday’s statement said that it was the RFEF who raised the possibility of introducing the measure to FIFA “more than a month ago”.

The statement also said that La Liga chief Javier Tebas had shown support for the move, which takes a similar format to IFAB’s.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2020