Temporary amendment (COVID-19)

Additional substitutes

Due to the impact of COVID-19 on football, The IFAB approved a temporary amendment to Law 3 – The Players to give competitions involving the first team of clubs in the top division or ‘A’ international teams the option of allowing teams to use up to five substitutes per match. The temporary amendment was introduced to protect players, in particular where competitions are being played in a condensed period and in different weather conditions, as this may have an impact on player welfare (see circular nos 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23).

This optional temporary amendment is available to all top-level competitions scheduled to be completed by 31 December 2022.

The IFAB will carry on monitoring the ongoing impact of the pandemic on football so that appropriate action can continue to be taken, if needed.

Temporary amendment to Law 3 – The Players, detailed wording:

"Competition organisers have the option of applying either or both of the following:

    During the match, each team:

    • may use a maximum of five substitutes
    • has a maximum of three substitution opportunities*
    • may additionally make substitutions at half-time

    Where extra time is played, each team:

    • may use an additional substitute (whether or not the team has used its maximum number of substitutes)
    • has one additional substitution opportunity* (whether or not the team has used its maximum number of substitution opportunities)
    • may additionally make substitutions: 
      • in the period before the start of extra time
      • at half-time in extra time

    If a team has not used its maximum number of substitutes or substitution opportunities, the unused substitutions and opportunities may be used in extra time. 

    *Where both teams make a substitution at the same time, this will count as a used substitution opportunity for each team."

    Amendment period


    Does this option favour wealthier clubs with bigger squads?

    The temporary amendment exists primarily to support player welfare where competitions are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Does the temporary amendment affect the concussion trials?

    No. The temporary amendment is independent of the concussion trials (and vice versa).

    Could the temporary amendment be extended even further?

    The IFAB will continue to monitor the ongoing impact of the pandemic on football and will determine at a later stage whether this option will need to be extended further.

    Could the temporary amendment become a permanent Law change?

    No decision has been taken as to whether this might become a permanent Law change. The IFAB will not make any such decisions until the pandemic has subsided sufficiently for football to return to “normal”.

    Why does the temporary amendment only apply to top-level competitions?

    Other competitions already have the option of five substitutions, as defined in Law 3 – The Players: 
    “The number of substitutes, up to a maximum of five, which may be used in any match played in an official competition will be determined by FIFA, the confederation or the national football association except for men’s and women’s competitions involving the 1st teams of clubs in the top division or senior ‘A’ international teams, where the maximum is three substitutes.”

    Is it compulsory to apply the temporary amendment?

    No. Applying the temporary amendment is an option at the discretion of each individual competition organiser.

    Are teams required to make five substitutions if the temporary amendment is applied in their competition?

    No. Teams have the option of making up to five substitutions but are not obliged to do so.

    Does this lead to increased disruption to matches?

    To reduce disruption, each team has a maximum of three opportunities to make substitutions during a game. In addition, substitutions may also be made at half-time (and, where extra time is played, in the interval between full time and the start of extra time, and during half-time in extra time). If both teams make a substitution at the same time, this counts as one of the three opportunities for each team.

    What happens with unused substitutions?

    If a match goes to extra time, any unused substitutions and opportunities are carried forward and can be used during extra time.