Premier League meetings: Players at breaking point over coronavirus-inflicted fixture pile-up as managers want return of five substitutes


Premier League players are at breaking point as frustration over the congested fixture list boils over.

The concerns of managers and captains were heard by the Premier League at special meetings on Thursday.

Managers and players are concerned about the number of games they have to play in quick succession during the Christmas holiday period because of the demands it is putting on squads which have been reduced in size as a result of Covid-19.

They feel they are being put in an impossible position by being asked to play three games between Boxing Day and January 2.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola raised the possibility of players going on strike over welfare issues at his news conference on Wednesday, although he then immediately played down the suggestion.

He said: “Should the players and the managers be all together and make a strike, or something, because just through words it’s not going to be solved?

“I don’t think [there will be a strike] because we want to play, we want to continue, to make the people happy going to the stadium on the 26th, 27th, 29th, 31st and 1st [January], and play games because we love to do that.

“I’m not saying there’s a reason to make a strike but (there are) more games and more games and less holidays. It’s a problem.”

Transparency wanted over postponement protocol

The protocol for postponing league matches was also a topic of concern at the meetings.

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Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel says he is a big supporter of using five substitutes as it can help players returning from a positive coronavirus test

Managers wanted clarification and transparency about why some matches are being called off while others go ahead.

They want to make sure that all clubs are treated in the same way when decisions are made about which games are postponed.

As far as the Premier League board are concerned, it was made clear that they cannot make subjective decisions about which games are postponed, as stipulated in the league’s handbook.

Top-flight clubs agreed in March last year that permission will not be granted to postpone a league match where the applicant team has 14 or more players listed on its squad available list.

Clubs are expected to utilise appropriately experienced Under-21 players. This will include any U21 player who has made a first-team appearance for the club, another Premier League or EFL club, or an overseas club.

The Premier League is set to publish a guide for fans explaining clearly their match postponement protocol.

Many want return of five subs

Many managers want to be able to use five substitutes again, and they want replays and two-legged cup matches scrapped.

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Manchester United caretaker boss Ralf Rangnick wants the rule of five substitutes to be reinstated in the Premier League

The rest of Europe’s top leagues have continued to allow teams to make five substitutions in a match – a rule that was introduced at the beginning of the pandemic across the world.

Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola are among the managers who want to be allowed to use two extra substitutes again immediately, and Manchester United caretaker boss Ralf Rangnick is the latest manager to publicly back the change.

“The five subs were implemented when Covid started, and I think it was the right decision to do that to save energy for players, especially if they have just recovered from Covid,” said Rangnick, ahead of the Monday Night Football encounter with Newcastle, live on Sky Sports Premier League.

“The same is true right now – we are in a similar situation to the one we had one-and-a-half years ago, therefore I don’t see why it shouldn’t be as it was one-and-a-half years ago. As far as I know, in Europe, England is the only country where they only allow three subs.

“I think it would be of great help to have five subs. I would be much more in favour of having five subs. I think we should seriously think about that again. Most of the players would be in favour of that.”





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