All international football matches, including qualifiers for the 2022 Fifa World Cup, may see five substitutions to help the teams cope with their backlog of fixtures. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The use of five substitutes per match is one of the main rule changes being mulled by Fifa, the world governing body for football in post-coronavirus era. The rule change will be in place till December 31, 2021 to combat fatigue and injuries as a greater games are going to be squeezed into a shorter period to make up for the lost time.

It is learnt that Fifa is proposing an increase in the number of changes allowed in 90 minutes from three to five - with a sixth during extra-time for knockout games - to help combat injuries as a greater games are going to be squeezed into a shorter period of time.

Football authorities will now need to look at completing leagues, domestic cups and continental competitions (such as Champions League and Europa League) all at the same time within a stipulated period.

“Safety of players is one of Fifa’s main priorities. One concern in this regard is that the frequency of matches may increase the risk of potential injuries due to a player overload,” a Fifa spokesperson was quoted.

“In light of this and the unique challenge faced globally in delivering competitions according to the originally foreseen calendar, Fifa proposes a larger number of substitutions be temporarily allowed at the discretion of the relevant competition organisers.

Under Fifa’s proposals, the rule change would apply until December 31, 2021, meaning all competitions in the 2020-2021 cycle would also allow five substitutions - however there would still only be three breaks in play per team permitted for substitutions in order to prevent matches losing their tempo.

It would also apply to the international matches, with qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup also affected by the coronavirus-inflicted backlog. All qualifying programmes are already behind schedule, mostly in in Asia and South America, and are also set to face problems in Europe next year after Uefa postponed the 2020 European Championship by one year.

The game’s law-making body, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), now has to now ratify these rule changes but, given the circumstances - this could just be a formality.

“When action resumes, such competitions are likely to facece a congested match calendar with a higher than normal frequency of matches played in consecutive weeks,” the official noted.

“In competitions where less than five substitutions are currently allowed, each team would now be given the possibility to use up to five substitutions, with the possibility of an additional substitution remaining during extra time where relevant,” the spokesperson added.