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IFAB extends five-subs rule through 2020/21 season

We’ve had a trial run, but five subs will be in effect all next season, so get used to it if you haven’t already.


The International Football Association Board (IFAB) has announced that they’ve officially decided to keep the five-substitutes rule through the 2020/21 season, per ESPN. The rule was changed in May for the leagues that were resuming to help teams adapt to truncated schedules as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The idea was that having so many matches in a short period of time would greatly increase the risk of injury for players. Allowing for more subs was intended as a preventative measure.

As uncertainties remain with the coronavirus across the world, the IFAB decided it would be best to keep the rule in place for the 2020/21 season. This will also apply to next summer’s European Championships, which were supposed to take place this summer. Of course, the final decision was made after IFAB carried out “an in-depth review based on stakeholder feedback and analysis of the impact of the COVID-19.” The IFAB also maintained “the changing impact of the pandemic on football will be kept under constant review to ensure appropriate action is taken in the future in relation to this temporary amendment.”

Each league still has their own discretion as far as keeping the amendment active for next season or not even, though it’s been widely accepted by all of the top leagues thus far. Some observers argue that the five-substitutes rule favors bigger clubs. For example, in the Premier League, Aston Villa, West Ham United, Bournemouth, and Sheffield United have all showed opposition to the amendment.

In theory, the best teams also have the strongest squads and therefore can use five decent/really good options instead of three. With the five subs, a team could use a total of 15 players instead of 13 (outfield players). Hence, the team with the strongest depth players (i.e. the richest teams) will benefit.

There are certainly many people who share that opinion. Is there perhaps a way IFAB can make adjustments to the current amendment to help create a more level playing field league to league?

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