Football’s five substitute rule extended due to pandemic until end of next year

Football’s five substitute rule has been extended until the end of next year, with the pandemic predicted to disrupt the sport for at least another season.

Any competition that is completed before 31 December 2022 – a date which encompasses the Qatar World Cup – will be allowed to implement the rule, football’s lawmaking body, the International Football Association Board, confirmed on Friday.

The decision came after Ifab was lobbied by a number of clubs, competitions and football bodies, including the European Club Association, to preserve the emergency change, which allows a team to change up to five players in a match and was introduced to prevent player injury and fatigue in competitions compacted by the pandemic.

A study conducted by Ifab found that calendar disruption – whether involving the rescheduling of matches or the suspension of leagues – had affected every continent in the past year. It came to the conclusion that disruption was likely in the next year too despite schedules apparently returning to normal in places like Europe.

It is up to individual competition organisers to decide whether to implement the rule, with Fifa set to make a call on the World Cup. The Premier League has been the only top-flight European competition not to implement the rule so far, but the interests of several of its members are represented by the ECA.

Meanwhile, Fifa has admitted that its decision to deregulate football agents in 2015 was a mistake and has called for more dialogue with players’ representatives over plans to reform the transfer market. “Now we are trying to move forward. Agents are essential and a very important part in the football transfer market and this is a project for agents,” said Emilio García Silvero, Fifa’s chief legal officer.

Fifa’s new system would include a ‘clearing house’ into which funds from transfer deals must initially be paid in order to guarantee the transfer of solidarity payments to training clubs. But it would also necessitate the licensing of agents and limit their payments to 10% of any fee when working for a selling club.

The proposals have met with vociferous opposition, with Jonathan Barnett, who represents Gareth Bale among other clients, saying: “If Fifa insist on doing what they are insisting on doing at the moment, obviously there’s going to be a lot of litigation flying around.”


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