5 subs option extends to 2021


Teams across the world will continue to exercise the option of using five substitutes in a game up to next year after International Football Association Board (Ifab) allowed the change for competitions scheduled to be completed by July 31 2020.

Ifab is a body that is mandated to determine the Laws of the Game and comprises representatives from each of the United Kingdom’s pioneering football associations of England’s Football Association, Scottish Football Association, Football Association of Wales, Northern Ireland’s Irish Football Association and world football governing body Fifa.

The body approved the use of five substitutes on May 8 to help clubs cope with crammed fixtures due to the Covid-19 pandemic for competitions to be completed this year.


With the future of football still uncertain in most countries, Ifab’s Board of Directors has agreed to review the option.

“The main reason for the temporary amendment to Law 3 was the impact on player welfare of competitions being played in a condensed period and in different weather conditions. The recent review has shown that the reasons for the temporary amendment remain valid and the impact on player welfare is likely to continue into 2021 due to various factors including some competitions which resumed in 2020 which may have a shorter-than-usual recovery/preparation period before the start of their next season.

“For many competitions, the 2020/21 season will involve matches being played in a condensed period due to a delayed start and inability to end later than usual because of major international tournaments,” reads an Ifab statement.


According to Ifab, to avoid disruptions to the game, each team will only have three opportunities to make substitutions, although substitutions made at half time are not counted as one of the three opportunities.

However, the decision to apply this temporary amendment remains at the discretion of each competition organiser.

The development could be good news for local clubs that are likely to face crammed fixtures when football resumes.

Former referee Duncan Lengani said the amended law would help reduce fatigue among players.

“In our case, players have been inactive for more than five months, so they may not be fit enough to cope with congested fixtures. Allowing more substitutions would give teams the chance to rotate their squads,” Lengani said.

Football remains suspended in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Fam and the government are discussing possibilities of kicking off the 2020 season next month.

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