Substitution rules explained

Substitution rules explained

During the 2022 World Cup final in Qatar, the global public watched France make seven substitutions in the match, one of many records set at last year’s World Cup.

Just three years ago, the maximum number of substitutions that could be made in a match was three, while today this threshold has more than doubled. But what do the rules say, and how many substitutions can you actually make in European cups?

How many substitutions are possible in European cups?

Over the years, substitutions have gone from being a way to make sure that games don’t end with too few players because of injuries to being a real tool that coaches can use to change the way a game is played and keep track of the energy of the players.

After a few years of trying out different rules in different leagues and smaller competitions, it was decided after the COVID pandemic to allow five substitutions per game at all levels. This was done at first to make up for the shortened schedules caused by the various recoveries, but later it was also done because it made the games more exciting and unpredictable.

Each coach can then substitute up to five players from his starting lineup, but can only call a stoppage three times during the match. During these three interruptions, he can make as many substitutions as he wants, as well as in the interval between the first and second halves (in this case, the interruption does not count).

Extra substitutions in the event of overtime

In knockout matches, if the match goes on until extra time (even more likely with the elimination of a double away goal), each team has the possibility of making a sixth substitution and receives the opportunity to call one more stoppage of play to do so.

For example, if a team has made four substitutions with three interruptions in regulation time, they may call another interruption in which to make up to two substitutions.

If, on the other hand, he only called two interruptions to make the four substitutions, the coach may call two different interruptions to make the two additional substitutions available.

The FIFA Concussion Protocol: Why there is no seventh substitution in European cups

Since December 2020, FIFA has been testing a protocol that lets an extra player be put in the game if a player gets hurt in the head and might get concussed.

It was already used in some smaller tournaments, but it was just recently added to the Premier League and, most importantly, the World Cup in Qatar.As a result, France had to make seven substitutions in the final, with Rabiot being replaced in extra time following a blow to the head.

But this protocol hasn’t been used in UEFA games yet; it was only used at the Under-21 European Championships in Hungary and Slovenia in 2021.

This led to a quid pro quo in last September’s Women’s Champions League match, Arsenal-Ajax, when England striker Beth Mead was forced off the pitch after a blow to the head. The English team, given that the Concussion Protocol is in use in the women’s Premier League, was ready to bring on substitute Lina Hurtig, but the substitution was blocked by the fourth official, who highlighted to the English managers how the rules were different in the European arena.

Despite the requests received from the players’ associations (in particular from the English one), at the moment the Concussion Protocol has not been implemented in the European Cups, therefore the limit of substitutions remains five plus a possible sixth in the event of overtime.