Premier League

Premier League chief Masters responds to Klopp criticism over desire for five substitutes

10/11/2020
Premier League
Liverpool
Manchester City v Liverpool
Manchester City
Unlike many leagues across Europe, the English top-flight has reverted back to a maximum of three changes per game this season
Article continues below

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has said that it is unlikely the league will change its current stance and allow five substitutions per game this season. 

Premier League clubs voted down the use of five subs for this term, a rule that was utilised when the previous campaign resumed after the coronavirus-enforced break. 

Though several other leagues across Europe are allowing a maximum of five changes per game due to fixture congestion caused by a delayed start to the campaign, the Premier League has reverted back to the normal maximum of three.

It is a stance that has enraged several managers, including Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, who both complained about the rule after Liverpool and Man City drew 1-1 on Sunday. 

Article continues below

That game saw Liverpool right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold injured, with Klopp feeling the fixture congestion will make more injuries inevitable.

"It's a lack of leadership," Klopp said in his post-match media conference over the league voting down the use of five subs. "Richard Masters sold it completely wrong.

"It's not an advantage [to be able to use five substitutes], it's a necessity. It happens in other countries, it was sold completely wrong and now you have this situation.

"Trent will be out for England, [he] will not be the last or only one [England manager] Gareth [Southgate] will have to deal with either."

Guardiola concurred with the Liverpool boss, saying: "Here we believe we are more special, we don't protect the players, so that is why it is a disaster."

Managers of smaller clubs, however, have expressed support for keeping the limit at three changes per game, with more subs believed to benefit bigger clubs with deeper squads.

Speaking at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport parliamentary select committee on Tuesday, Masters said that while he understood Klopp and Guardiola's concern, the rule was unlikely to change.

"There is an argument to be made that five substitutes change the competitive balance of the football match, versus the very real issues about player welfare," Masters said. "I think it's a finely balanced argument.

"We've had two votes on it at club level and both have been relatively conclusively supportive of three subs – ie, returning to that model, which has been the historic one.

"That has created some frustration in the system, which you are seeing, alongside discussions about the fixture scheduling, which again is a pandemic-related issue.

"So you can see why it is an issue for debate, particularly if you are, in Jurgen and Pep's case, competing in Europe."

Masters added: "It is busier and it's also coupled with the fact that we ended the season at the end of July and not the end of May, and the normal rest periods haven't been taken into account.

"So there's a real issue there and it has been discussed at length. I don't foresee it changing in the foreseeable future."