Five substitutes up for debate after players’ Covid-19 cases rise
The spike in Covid-19 cases among footballers, quarantine rules and the truncated pre-season have encouraged proponents of additional Premier League substitutes to push again for their introduction next season.
Although the continuation of a rule that was brought in during Project Restart was defeated 13-7 in a vote of Premier League clubs this month, it will again be put to a shareholder’s meeting on Thursday.
A major swing would still be required for five substitutes to be agreed instead of the usual three, but there is a feeling that the case for greater flexibility and rotation has been greatly strengthened following all the disruption of a severely shortened pre-season.
Players who test positive for Covid-19 should not resume full training for at least two weeks following a positive test and there is already less than a fortnight before the new 2020-21 season begins.
Manchester United midfielder Paul Pogba was left out of France’s squad for their Nations League games next month after testing positive. Pogba’s United team-mate Aaron Wan-Bissaka is in a mandatory 14-day isolation following a holiday in Dubai while, at Chelsea, Jorginho, Ross Barkley, Emerson, Michy Batshuayi, Mason Mount, Fikayo Tomori, Tammy Abraham and Christian Pulisic are all in isolation. Six of them – not identified – have tested positive and a further two are obliged to isolate.
There was a positive test for Covid-19 among the first team at Southampton last week while England captain Harry Kane missed the start of Spurs’ pre-season because he was obliged to quarantine on returning from a holiday in the Bahamas.
England’s squad for the Nations League fixtures against Iceland and Denmark are also expected to be hit this week with Covid-related withdrawals. With so many players un
Test completed: Brighton successfully staged a pilot fixture with 2,500 fans
able to train, there is a feeling that more managers and clubs will be behind allowing two additional substitutes. It is a proposal, however, that is ultimately expected to favour clubs with larger resources and bigger squads.
Maximising the return of fans will also be a key element of Thursday’s meeting, especially after the Government’s formulation of a new Sport Tech Innovation Group. Although fans will not be back at Premier League matches until October, the new group, which will include deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam, will consider how technology could boost crowds beyond 30 per cent.
“Many experts helped get sport back on behind closed doors when that looked difficult earlier this year – and I believe they can help us unlock the next challenge,” culture secretary Oliver Dowden said.
Brighton successfully staged a pilot with 2,500 fans in their preseason friendly with Chelsea on Saturday.