EFL to allow teams five substitutions from Friday

The EFL will allow five substitutions in all fixtures from 12pm on Friday; Premier League to continue with three; top-flight urged to revisit their rules by club managers and England head coach Gareth Southgate; QPR manager Mark Warburton says five subs is "common sense coming into play"

Troy Deeney replaces Andre Gray for Watford in their Sky Bet Championship match against Coventry City
Image: EFL clubs will be able to make up to five substitutions from Friday

EFL clubs have voted to allow teams five substitutions per match, starting on Friday, but the Premier League will continue with three substitutes.

Following consultation with clubs, the EFL Board agreed to increase the permitted number of substitutes to five in all Sky Bet EFL fixtures taking place from November 20 until the remainder of the 2020/21 season.

Championship clubs can name up to nine substitutes in their matchday squad, with five permitted to take to the pitch in any fixture. League One and League Two side can name up to seven substitutes in their matchday squad, with five permitted to take to the pitch.

In August, Premier League clubs voted against allowing teams to make five substitutions per game in the 2020/21 season and the issue was voted on twice before start of the campaign - on both occasions clubs voted in favour of three subs.

Any club can propose a change, at any time, but it requires the support of 14 clubs to pass the proposal through.

Premier League CEO Richard Masters told parliamentary inquiry last week he did not expect re-introduction of five subs "for foreseeable future."

The English top flight is the only major European league that decided against continuing with the system this season, used towards the end of the last term after the coronavirus pandemic truncated the length of the 2019/20 campaign.

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Tottenham Hotspur's Portuguese head coach Jose Mourinho (L) speaks to substitute Tottenham Hotspur's English midfielder Dele Alli during the English Premier League football match between Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur at Old Trafford in Manchester, north west England, on October 4, 2020. 0:20
Speaking earlier in November, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee meeting he does not expect the reintroduction of five substitutes

The Premier League is not expected to reintroduce the five-substitute rule this season despite some strong support from at least half of its clubs, following a survey of the clubs by Sky Sports News earlier this month.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola have both complained the decision to reduce substitutes to three despite difficulties brought on by the pandemic is partly responsible for a spate of muscular injuries across the top flight.

Klopp said earlier this month it is a "necessity" for clubs to have five substitutes per match in the Premier League, while Guardiola labelled the current three subs limit a "disaster".

Southgate urges Premier League to reconsider sub rule

Gareth Southgate
Image: Gareth Southgate has urged the Premier League to revisit the rules regarding substitutions

England manager Gareth Southgate has also called on the Premier League to revisit their rules regarding substitutions.

"We were able to make five changes against Belgium - we made four in the end - and clubs don't have that option," Southgate said. "What will it take for that to change? There were a couple of less serious injuries against Belgium but what do we do? Wait until we get a load of really nasty ones?"

Southgate, who is also unhappy at the lack of a winter break this season, said England had taken measures to try and help players recover physically but he worries the issue will persist if something is not done soon.

"I have to be fair to the club managers. They are their players firstly and they have the right to play them as they see fit," he added.

"(Injuries are) a worry in the longer term because with no winter break, something has to give."

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Warburton on five subs: Common sense has prevailed

QPR manager Mark Warburton says he was initially against having five substitutions as he felt it handed an advantage to teams with bigger squads, but is now behind the rule as he says it puts player welfare first.

The Championship employed the rule at the end of last season, and Warburton feared it was open to exploitation, but he says "common sense" has now prevailed.

Mark Warburton, manager of Queens Park Rangers, looks on ahead of the Sky Bet Championship match between Middlesbrough and Queens Park Rangers at Riverside Stadium on July 05, 2020 in Middlesbrough, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images) 0:59
Mark Warburton said the EFL allowing teams five substitutions per match is a good result for player welfare

"I must admit I was pleased this morning to see the news, having initially been very much against the proposal," he told Sky Sports News.

"We had it at the end of last season of course, and I felt very strongly that it favoured the bigger squads, the wealthier clubs, in terms of the size and depth of their squad.

"You have three opportunities to use it, so you hope very much it doesn't slow down the flow of the game, which was an initial fear for many people.

"I do worry about the dynamic of a game, I do worry about a team being 1-0 up away from home - do you take your forward line off and put on three defensive midfielders, for example, to change it?

Mansfield Town boss Nigel Clough cheers on his team 0:46
Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough would like to see at least one U21 player having to be on the bench for League One and Two sides

"It doesn't go against the rules of the game, so to speak, but it does change undoubtedly the dynamic of that game.

"But I think now the overriding factor has to be the health and welfare of the players.

"This level of toll, this level of loading on individual players is so damaging, the data shows you the injury rate is rising so dramatically.

"We have to look after them and I think this rule, this is common sense coming into play."

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