FIFA wants to let teams use 5 substitutes during backlog

Sports

Liverpool’s manager Jurgen Klopp, center, shouts out from the touchline as Liverpool’s Adam Lallana, left, is substituted by Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah during the English FA Cup fifth round soccer match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge stadium in London Tuesday, March 3, 2020. (AP Photo/Ian Walton)

GENEVA (AP) — With soccer facing a congested program of games caused by the coronavirus pandemic, FIFA wants to let teams use five substitutes.

FIFA detailed a temporary plan Monday to help prevent more injuries due to “potential player overload” as soccer competitions catch up with a backlog.

The proposal gives competition organizers the option of letting teams use five substitutes instead of three in 90 minutes, and a sixth in knockout games that go to extra time.

“One concern in this regard is that the higher-than-normal frequency of matches may increase the risk of potential injuries due to a resulting player overload,” FIFA said in a statement.

Clubs such as Manchester City face an intense program in three competitions if games can safely restart in the coming weeks.

City could have 19 more games — 10 in the Premier League, up to six in the Champions League and up to three in the FA Cup — being scheduled in as few as 10 weeks through August.

Juventus could need 20 more: 12 in Serie A, up to six in the Champions League, and two Coppa Italia games.

The proposal must be signed off by soccer’s rule-making panel, known as IFAB. Teams would still be limited to three stoppages of play to make the changes.

IFAB approval should be a formality on a panel which includes officials from FIFA and the four British national federations.

FIFA suggested retaining the five-substitute rule next season, which looks likely to start later and be condensed into less time.

It would also apply to all national-team games through December 2021.

World Cup qualifying programs are already behind schedule in Asia and South America, and are on track to face problems in Europe next year.

After UEFA postponed the 2020 European Championship by one year, that tournament is now set to take fixture dates in June from the 2022 World Cup qualifying groups.

One solution would be national teams playing three competitive games instead of two during the 10-day periods when clubs are mandated to release players for international duty.

The substitutes proposal was announced in anticipation of soccer resuming though it is unclear when that will happen. Games will be played in stadiums without fans for at least several weeks and likely longer.

“FIFA’s main principle is that health comes first and that no match or competition is worth risking a single human life.” soccer’s world body said.

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