IFAB Approves Five Substitutions, Optional VAR on Temporary Basis as Leagues Resume

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Clubs will be permitted more than the typical allotted three substitutions as leagues resume following the coronavirus shutdown, according to a ruling approved by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) on Friday.

IFAB has signed off on FIFA's proposal to grant clubs up to five substitutions (with an extra one for cup matches that go into extra time) for competitions that "have either started or are intended to start, but are scheduled to be completed by 31 December 2020."

The catch is that clubs still only have three windows in which they can make those substitutions, "to avoid disruption to the game," according to FIFA. So unlike international friendlies, in which teams typically have up to six substitutions to make and the ends of those games can devolve into a substitution (or time-wasting) frenzy, clubs will have the same amount of chances to make moves, only the quantity of those moves has grown. It was not specified what happens in the event a club has used its three substitution windows but has not made the full complement of five moves and endures a legitimate injury.

The rule amendment was introduced by FIFA "as matches may be played in a condensed period in different weather conditions, both of which could have impacts on player welfare. The decision on whether to apply this temporary amendment will remain at the discretion of each individual competition organizer, while The IFAB and FIFA will determine at a later stage whether this temporary amendment would need to be extended further (e.g. for competitions due to be completed in 2021)."

One other wrinkle as leagues come back is that VAR is now evidently optional. FIFA says that for leagues that employ VAR, "these competitions are permitted to cease its use upon restart at the discretion of each individual competition organizer. However, where VAR is used, all aspects of the Laws of the Game and, by extension, the VAR protocol will remain in place."

The thinking, perhaps, is that removing VAR takes away the need to gather multiple people in a tight space, lessens the number of people required to put on a match and is one less logistical aspect for leagues and clubs to consider as they try to complete their seasons.