9 The Daily Telegraph Thursday 6 August 2020 *** Sam Wallace 2014 QPR Chief Football Writer Why the five substitutes plan needs to be killed off today Subsequent summer transfer spend Biggest signings Where they finished A 2013 Crystal Palace nother showdown at a Premier League shareholders’ meeting which could have implications for the fragile competitive nature of the competition, and the vote today is one that those clubs who occupy the places lower down the table simply have to win. It is the question of five substitutes or three substitutes – a fundamental change to the game that was voted through for Project Restart and one in which the biggest clubs have a vested interest in enshrining in the league’s laws for another season. The International Football Association Board, which oversees the laws of the game, has given the Premier League free rein to make its own decision and now we will see just how committed the big clubs are to preserving proper competition. Project Restart, and the long journey towards its launch, exposed the divisions in this delicate confederacy of interests. From the megalodons at the top ploughing on towards global supremacy, to those in their wake for whom survival is always the priority. Not all will look back at their actions without regrets. The adoption of the five substitutes rule was a welfare issue as the league took a step into the unknown with an intense match programme for players whose natural cycle of fitness had been disrupted. Even then there was disquiet at the measure and the advantage it would hand to clubs who could afford squads of deeper quality. Aston Villa, Bournemouth, West Ham and Sheffield United voted against. Today there will be much greater emphasis on how the rule favours bigger clubs and less on the notion of protecting players from burnout. The clubs should throw it out. The signs are that there will not be the 14 votes needed to make it law. The five subs rule threatens the competitive balance of a league in which the biggest clubs have all the advantages, apart from the greater burden of fixtures that success brings. The Premier League does not accede to demands to reschedule games to help preparation for European fixtures for a very good reason. Those in the Champions League already have an advantage from the tens of millions of pounds earned in that competition – they do not deserve another. The Premier Subsequent summer transfer spend Biggest signings Where they finished 2012 West Ham Subsequent summer transfer spend Biggest signings League’s popularity is built on its unpredictability. That only comes when the likes of Manchester City or Liverpool are caught on a day when they might be tired, or underprepared, and all the many circumstances in their favour are mitigated. It is what makes the league so popular and it is why games are not rescheduled simply because of a long European trip for one of the big names. The refusal of the league to do so is often met by bewilderment from overseas managers, who are accustomed to big clubs getting what they want. Five subs would unleash on the lower half of the table an inequality they have never faced before. Not only do the leading clubs’ squads already have greater depth, but they would be able to attract a better calibre of players outside the first XI, with the promise of a that core number and in doing so make them more powerful. Throwing out five subs is not just important for the newly promoted teams or for upwardly mobile clubs such as Sheffield United, Burnley and Southampton, it also preserves the ecosystem of the league that is so vital to its commercial success. The Premier League’s popularity has been built, in part, on its biggest names – although not simply their successes. Just as crucial are their occasional shock defeats. Hard to imagine, for example, any of the major American sports leagues skewing their own rigorously competitive balance in favour of fewer surprises. There may be an argument raised that five subs gives greater scope to play young England qualified players, although the evidence is weak. The number of England qualified players featuring in the league has gone up this season – 36.7 per cent of all appearances, the highest since 2004-05, although that is still only the 14th highest of all Premier League seasons. Yet the proportion among substitutes was 34.2 per cent. That is up from last season (31.3 per cent) but down on 2017-18 (35.2 per cent). The prospect of even stronger squads for the elite, and perhaps the stockpiling of English talent, should kill the five subs proposal. Leeds United, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham, scrambling to assemble Premier League-ready squads in little more than a month, will surely see the jeopardy of agreeing. Why would they vote for the option of facing 16 top-class international players on any given afternoon, rather than 14? There are already two transfer windows a season, and when it comes to the transfer of the leading academy players, the odds are all in the favour of the biggest clubs. For the competition in which they play, and its unique global appeal, three subs is quite enough. Where they finished 2011 Swansea Subsequent summer transfer spend Biggest signings Where they finished It would unleash on the lower half of the table an inequality they have never faced before 2010 Blackpool Subsequent summer transfer spend Biggest signings steady accumulation of minutes from the bench. There is a limit to the number of top-quality players that even the best clubs can sign on the basis that not everyone can play. Five subs would change that in their favour. Over the course of the past season, the number of outfield players with 20 or more league appearances for Liverpool, City, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur was 13. For fourth-placed Chelsea, a keen proponent of adopting five substitutes, it was 14. For fifth-placed Leicester City it was 15. Those represent the core players of a squad – the individuals a manager would prefer to rely upon. The option of two extra substitutions per game would give some the opportunity to increase Where they finished into next season. I also care and believe so much in this group of players and I’m just disappointed that we’re not going to have the opportunity to attack the Premier League. “The reason why I am most down at this moment of time is mainly for the fans, for [owner] Matthew Benham and for all the people who have been at this club for many, many years and they deserve so much to be in the Premier League.” Brentford are also likely to face a battle to keep winger Said Benrahma, while midfielder Josh Da Silva is attracting interest from a number of Premier League clubs. Brentford also announced yesterday that midfielder Dru Yearwood had left the club to join MLS side New York Red Bulls for an undisclosed fee, subject to a medical and international clearance. The 20-year-old arrived from Southend on a four-year contract last summer, but managed only two league appearances from the bench for Frank’s side.
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