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New Rules for 2021: Five Substitutions

New Rules for 2021: Five Substitutions
The K League office have decided to bring in the five subsitutions per game ruling this season. K League United's Daegu FC correspondent Muyeol Jung summarises why and how it is implemented and how it would affect the teams. 

Introduction

On January 18th this year, K League’s first executive meeting was held and they confirmed the details of rules on five substitutions and the matchday squad. This is not a completely new rule to spectators as FIFA temporarily relaxed the law following the outbreak of the global COVID pandemic, with European leagues currently playing with five substituteses.

 

Background

The league does not specify the reason behind the introduction of the new rule, however, it is believed that there are three reasons. First of all, this is the rule recommended by FIFA for the time being and there’s no reason to go against it. Second, this year K League's fixtures are more congested than last season with a lot of uncertainty over international travel and events. This can be understood as a precaution for players' safety and as a means of guaranteeing the quality of play. Last, but not least, recent good results from youth teams in Asian Games and the U20 World Cup reinforce the idea. While the Reserve League remains suspended because of Covid restrictions in place for this year, extending the number of substitutes will enable more young players to earn playing time.

 

Rule explanation

  • U22: those born on or after 1st of January 1999 eligible
  • Matchday squad: 11 + 7 substitutes
  • Depending on the number of U22 players included on matchday squad, the number of matchday players will be reduced to 16.
  • Depending on the number of U22 players on the pitch, the number of substitutions allowed will vary from 5 subs to 2 subs
  • U22 rule is temporarily lifted when U22 players are called up to the national team.
  • Six different permutations (table below)

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    • 1) you have two U22 players in starting lineup -> Five subs allowed from seven bench players
    • 2) you have one minimum U22 player in starting line up and one minimum U22 on the bench -> Five subs allowed from seven bench players
    • 3) One U22 starter and one U22 on the bench, but the benched player doesn’t play -> three subs allowed from seven bench players
    • 4) One U22 starter and no U22 player on the bench -> Three subs on from six bench players
    • 5) No U22 starter and one U22 player on the bench -> Two subs on six bench players
    • 6) No U22 player in match day entry -> Two subs on from five bench players


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    Expectations

    Despite the number of substitutions relaxed to up to five, some teams will be happy with three subs as long as they can start one U22 player as per usual if they don't have two solid U22 players or if any of them are injured. There wouldn’t be much incentive for teams to eagerly use all five subs every single game unless they seriously face fixture congestions or injury problems. Last season, Jeonbuk were able to play with only two subs made for must-win games. This may remain as the case this year. However, this year will be much more difficult as the league will run in normal 38 round fixtures.


    Listen above to the K League United Podcast where we discuss which clubs would benefit most and which would suffer.


    Possible scenarios

    At its most extreme, and pushing the rule to its limit, teams are able to use two U22 starters with two early substitutes before half time before utilising a further three in the second half. However, it seems most likely teams will continue to use one U22 player in the starting eleven and one on the bench, resulting in three substitutions from a bench of seven.


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