The PFA on five substitutions: ‘Health and wellbeing the priority’

James Rodríguez, Everton

The Professional Footballers’ Association has reiterated support for calls from managers and players, for the Premier League to re-introduce five substitutions based on concerns on player health and wellbeing. 

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has created a congested fixture list, which is ultimately impacting upon player’s physical health, with more and more players picking up injuries during games.
 
Following a failed motion to pass the proposal earlier in the year, the PFA wrote to the Premier League asking for clubs to reconsider their collective decision. 
 
The PFA contacted Premier League chief executive Richard Masters and expressed concerns regarding the risks of the “intensely congested programme” and stated that “medical experts have highlighted the fact that more injuries will occur when players are fatigued”.
 
PFA Deputy Chief Executive, Bobby Barnes explained: “We fully understand the concerns of clubs in terms of competitive balance but we strongly believe the number one priority should be player welfare. The way it’s going at the moment, you could see more injuries and more longer-term injuries.” 
 
The PFA has also engaged in consultation with world players’ union FIFPRO, which represents more than 60,000 players worldwide. FIFPRO released a statement on Friday which said the current fixture scheduling lacks sufficient considerations for player’s “health, wellbeing and performance and requires an urgent and ongoing revision by competition organisers”.
 
FIFPRO’s chief medical officer, Vincent Gouttebarge, told the Guardian: “It was peculiar that the Premier League did not allow five substitutions, by contrast, it is allowed in all the other major leagues in Europe and in the Champions League and Europa League.” 
 
Gouttebarge highlighted: “The Premier League is one of the most affected because it is the top league in the world and it attracts elite players who are also playing international football.”
 
A change to the rules in England this season would be possible, but it would need the support of at least 14 clubs in the league to pass the motion. The proposal has already been rejected twice.