The EFL Championship on Wednesday announced that it will reintroduce five substitutes, after members of the EFL put the decision to a vote.
The new rule will kick off on Friday in the Championship game between Coventry and Birmingham and is expected to last for the entirety of the 2020/21 season.
The EFL comprises of 72 teams from the EFL Championship down to League Two, and although it is affiliated with the Premier League on the same pyramid, it runs as a separate body from the top-flight.
The substitutes rule was amended by FIFA and IFAB when football returned post-lockdown in May to give clubs a chance to mitigate the effects of the congested fixture list and managers were allowed to make up to five substitutes in place of the former three, as well as name up to 20 players on their bench.
It was seen as a welcome development and the rule was extended to this season to cover international and club matches, although it was left at the discretion of individual leagues.
While most leagues opted to maintain the five subs rule, the Premier League was the only major European league to vote against this and reverted to the previous status quo of three substitutes per game, with smaller clubs fearing the advantage this would hand to bigger sides with more squad depth.
However, this decision has been criticized by several stakeholders in the game, with many managers, including Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, and Jose Mourinho all bemoaning the extra burden placed upon their players.
Matches have been played at an alarming rate as football authorities try to balance out the calendar and this coupled with the lack of pre-season, as well as international football has placed an incredible toll on the players’ bodies.
Data shows that muscle injuries have increased by over 40% this season and almost all clubs have been hit, with Liverpool currently affected the worst.
Jurgen Klopp will have to do without his starting defence in the coming weeks, after they all picked up varying degrees of injuries in the space of a month and the fact that the England national team has also been affected is of great concern to manager Gareth Southgate.
Speaking on the need for Premier League to introduce five substitutes, the England manager said:
”We were able to make five changes against Belgium – we made four in the end – and clubs don’t have that option,”
“What will it take for that to change? There were a couple of less serious injuries against Belgium but what do we do? Wait until we get a load of really nasty ones?”
He also bemoaned the lack of a winter break in England and the measures that the national team is taking to protect players.
I have to be fair to the club managers. They are their players firstly and they have the right to play them as they see fit,”
“(Injuries are) a worry in the longer term because with no winter break, something has to give.”
It is unknown of the Premier League will follow the EFL Championship in reintroducing the five substitutes rule but the increasing rate of injuries has seen support for it grow in recent weeks.
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