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The world football governing body, FIFA, is proposing allowing teams to use five substitutes when football resumes due to the congestion caused by the coronavirus pandemic, has reported.

Thus it is suggesting upping the number of changes allowed in 90 minutes from three to five – with a sixth in extra time of knockout games – to help combat injuries with more games to be squeezed into a shorter amount of time.

With league seasons, domestic cups and continental competitions such as the Champions League and Europa League due to be completed, some teams face a huge number of matches once the 2019-20 campaigns are permitted to resume – should that be possible.

“When competitions resume, such competitions are likely to face a congested match calendar with a higher than normal frequency of matches played in consecutive weeks,” a FIFA spokesperson said.

“Safety of the 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.

“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 organizer.

“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.”

Under FIFA’s proposals, the rule change would apply until December 31, 2021, meaning all competitions in the 2020-21 season 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 becoming fragmented.

It would also apply to national team matches, with qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup also affected by the coronavirus-inflicted backlog.

Qualifying programs are already behind schedule 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, meaning the tournament is now set to take fixture dates in June from the 2022 groups.

The rules would have to be ratified by the game’s law-making body, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), however, that is expected to be a formality. 

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