The English Premier League is currently the only major football competition in Europe that is not allowing teams to use five substitutions per match. Though they did allow it for the remainder of the 2019-20 season when play resumed after the initial COVID-19 induced lockdown, the league’s clubs voted not to continue the use of five subs for this season on two separate occasions.
The bigger English clubs, such as Liverpool and Manchester City, voiced strong support for continuing to allow extra substitutions out of fear that fatigue during the current compressed campaign would result in increased injury rates. However, many of the smaller clubs saw it as another advantage for the richer clubs who can afford deeper benches and voted against it.
As injuries have begun mounting across the league in recent weeks due to the fixture congestion that many predicted would be disastrous, calls for a return to allowing five substitutes, led primarily by LFC and City managers Jürgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, have grown substantially.
The English Football League, another holdout, decided to join the rest of the continent today as they announced England’s second, third, and fourth tiers would begin allowing managers to use five subs starting on Friday.
According to The Guardian, the Premier League may finally be coming around as well. Though the leaders of many of the English clubs may still be against the change, it appears as though there is widespread support among PL managers to once again move to five subs.
At a recent meeting with premier league executives, the managers apparently pushed the league to reconsider the rule, which means many of them will have expressed opinions in contrast to their clubs’ official positions on the matter.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Though club executives may be more concerned with the money that comes with their league position, the managers are much more concerned with the well-being of their players, and managers such as Ralph Hasenhüttl (Southampton), Steve Bruce (Newcastle) and David Moyes (West Ham) have publicly spoken in favor of five subs in recent days.
Since it’s ultimately up to club executives, not managers, if the Premier League will join the rest of Europe on this issue, it remains to be seen if this will be enough to sway the clubs to vote in favor re-instituting five substitutions.
There is also some argument about how much it will actually help alleviate the injury woes so many clubs are facing. Ultimately, the problem is the dangerously congested schedule, and while more substitutions would be a positive, it may prove to be little more than a band aid on a growing wound.