Manchester United, Liverpool and Co. will return to our television screens in June as the Premier League restarts after a three-month coronavirus-enforced hiatus.
There will be a couple of small, but notable changes to the game in this brave new post-Covid-19 landscape, including the obvious fact that there will be no supporters at the match in the interests of public health.
The game itself of course will largely be the same, but we will now see more substitutions being made in competitive matches due to the five-substitute rule.
So what is the rule all about and why has it been introduced? Goal brings you everything you need to know.
- What is the five-substitute rule?
- When was the five-substitute rule introduced?
- Why has the five-substitute rule been introduced?
- Will the five-substitute rule become permanent?
What is the five-substitute rule?
The 'five-substitute rule' is a temporary change to the maximum number of substitutes a team is permitted to make during a game, increasing the number from three to five.
In addition, the Premier League has increased the maximum number of substitutes permitted to sit on the bench from seven to nine.
However, while the total number of substitutions possible in a game is now 10 instead of six, managers will only be allowed to make changes at three points in the game.
The idea behind limiting the number of stoppages for substitutions is to reduce the level of disruption in a match, something that could in theory be exploited.
When was the five-substitute rule introduced?
The IFAB made a temporary amendment to Law 3 of the Laws of the Game in May 2020 following a proposal made by FIFA.
In a circular to all national football associations and federations, the IFAB outlined the nature of the change and indicated that competition organisers had discretion regarding whether to apply it or not.
Premier League shareholders subsequently agreed to implement the change for the remainder of the 2019-20 season, which resumes in June 2020 and will conclude at the end of July.
Why has the five-substitute rule been introduced?
The five-substitute rule was introduced with player welfare in mind as football resumed in the midst of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
A three-month lay-off without competitive action, even though players continued to train individually during the hiatus, combined with a lot of games in a short period of time is a risky prospect.
Players such as Kevin De Bruyne have expressed concerns about the chances of sustaining injuries when action resumes, while ex-Liverpool physio Andy Renshaw predicts there will be "a ton" of muscle issues.
As well as the increased potential for injury, climate was also a consideration in the decision to increase the number of substitutes, with leagues continuing in the height of summer, when temperatures peak.
The IFAB and FIFA are fully aware of these associated risks and, accordingly, made the temporary change. The IFAB also stressed existing Laws of the Game which allow for water breaks.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has had a far-reaching impact on daily life, including sport, around the world," the IFAB's circular to national assocations and federations read.
"As many countries begin to emerge from this situation, the focus is slowly turning to the resumption of football competitions that have been affected by the virus.
"When competitions resume, matches may be played in a condensed period (e.g. to reduce the impact on future competitions) and in different weather conditions, both of which could have an impact on player welfare."
Will the five-substitute rule become permanent?
The five-substitute rule has initially been introduced as a temporary measure and is ostensibly in place until the end of 2020.
FIFA and the IFAB will revisit the rule change at a later stage in order to assess whether its application needs to be extended into 2021.
It is entirely possible that the temporary rule change could end up becoming permanent - should it be considered to improve the game - but it is currently only a temporary tweak.
Therefore, it is expected that the IFAB will revert the rule to the previous maximum of three substitutes in a game.