Premier League clubs are to consider again the prospect of allowing five substitutions per team within a match, with the change likely to finally be adopted.
Teams have voted against the introduction of five substitutes on three occasions in the past two years, leaving England’s top flight as with the only top‑level league in Europe where three changes for any team in any given match remains the maximum permitted.
Jürgen Klopp has been among the most vocal critics of the lack of change and with the International Football Association Board, the sport’s rule-making body, confirming the one-time emergency rule has now been made permanent, a possible change is to be put before clubs at a Premier League shareholders meeting on Thursday.
It is believed a change in the law could be agreed in principle before full implementation next season. After strong resistance over the past two years there is now a feeling among clubs that the numbers are finally there to authorise a change, with 14 of 20 votes required to put new rules in place.
The row over an expanded subs’ bench cuts to the heart of rivalries among top-flight sides. Klopp, for instance, has had a habit of contrasting the demands placed on his Liverpool squad with those faced by relegation-threatened Burnley, who are among the clubs thought to have voted against the change.
While smaller clubs believe more substitutes gives bigger clubs with deeper squads an unfair advantage in individual matches, Klopp points to the harmful effect that not moving from three to five substitutes has on players who not only are key to their clubs but also to their international sides. Before Christmas, Klopp used Sean Dyche’s side as an example of how some clubs play significantly fewer games once international fixtures are taken into consideration and he returned to the same theme prior to the current international break.
“You have to recover and rest every second you can do so,” Klopp said. “It is really tough for the boys, not just us but others as well. My first year the team had 63 games in 2015-16. No international games involved in that, just club.
“This year it will not be much less but it is tough. We have to think about how we can keep these world class players [fresh]. Sorry to say but during the international break I don’t know how many Burnley players on international duty, I don’t know.”
Six players from the Burnley squad were called up for by their national teams in this break, with Nick Pope selected in goal for England against Ivory Coast on Tuesday, a fixture in which he faced club teammate, Maxwell Cornet.