As football begins to consider resumption of competitions across the world following the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Football Association Board (The IFAB) has agreed to temporarily increase the number of substitutions a team can make in a match in order to protect player welfare.
For competitions which have either started or are intended to start, but are scheduled to be completed by 31 December 2020, the IFAB has approved FIFA’s proposal to introduce a temporary amendment to Law 3 – The Players, which will allow for a maximum of five substitutions to be made per team.
However, to avoid disruption to the game, each team will only have three opportunities to make substitutions; substitutions may also be made at half-time.
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.
The decision on whether to apply this temporary amendment will remain at the discretion of each individual competition organiser, while 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).
The amendment to Law 3 affects both the 2019/20 and 2020/21 Laws of the Game, with the latter coming into effect as from 1 June 2020. Normally, each team is allowed three substitutions per match.
In relation to competitions in which the video assistant referee (VAR) system is implemented, these competitions are permitted to cease its use upon restart at the discretion of each individual competition organiser. However, where VAR is used, all aspects of the Laws of the Game and, by extension, the VAR protocol will remain in place.
Law 3 – The Players – Temporary amendment
– Each team will be permitted to use a maximum of five substitutes.
– To reduce disruption to the match, each team will have a maximum of three opportunities to make substitutions during the game; substitutions may also be made at half-time.
– If both teams make a substitution at the same time, this will count as one of the three opportunities for each team.
– Unused substitutions and opportunities are carried forward into extra time.
– Where competition rules allow an additional substitution in extra time, teams will each have one additional substitution opportunity; substitutions may also be made before the start of extra time and at half-time in extra time.
The use of return substitutes is not an option for senior competitions.