How do Premier League subs work?

The Premier League substitution rules have been one of the most controversial over the last couple of years. The rule on substitutions has become more confusing as the Premier League has sought to find the right balance between protecting players and not handing over big tactical advantages to certain sides.  

How do Premier League subs work? A team can make a maximum of 5 substitutions in a Premier League game, with nine players on a Premier League bench. Teams have three opportunities to make substitutions in a game. So to maximise the 5 changes allowed a team would need to make multiple substitutions on at least one occasion.

The Premier League substitution role is one that has changed quite a lot but it is simpler than you think. A Premier League team is allowed to make five substitutions during a Premier League game, being able to pick from a bench made up of nine players. Prior to the 2022/23 season teams were only allowed to make three changes. 

This has been increased to five for this season in order for clubs to better manage the health of their players over long gruelling seasons. Substitutions are allowed to take place on three occasions during a match, with managers also being able to make changes at halftime that do not count towards this rule of three. There is no obligation for managers to make any subs, the rules simply state the maximum number of substitutions that a team can make. 

On some occasions, you may see teams make more than five substitutions in a Premier League game and this is due to the concussion substation rule which is being trialled by the Premier League this season. 

Premier League concussion substitute

With the long-term effects of concussion becoming a much more talked about issue all around sport, the Premier League has introduced the concussion substitution rule. This states that if a player is substituted because they are suspected to have a concussion then this will not count against the teams 5 substitutions.

When a player goes down with a head injury the team doctor will make an on-field clinical assessment of the player. If there are clear symptoms of concussion or any video evidence of concussion then the team will be allowed to make an extra substation. In a game, each team is permitted to use a maximum of two concussion substitutes. 

The extra part of this rule is that when a concussion substitute is made the opposing team is allowed to make an extra substitution. This is so that no team is allowed to make more substitutions than another even if a player has gone off for a concussion. 

It seems likely that this could become a permanent rule however the Premier League is discussing a change for the concussion rules to make the substitution allowed to be temporary, a system similar to the one that they have in Rugby. 

The main driver for making a concussion substitute temporary is to increase the frequency with which the rule is used. If the player passes the head injury assessment, they will usually not be substituted, which could mean players are still out on the field with potential concussions. The change would make it more likely for players to go off the field if there is a suspected concussion because they have the chance of coming back once a more thorough examination is completed. This could be a rule introduced as soon as next season as the Premier League is currently discussing it.

Can you make all 5 subs at once? 

The new Premier League rules allow teams to make a maximum of five substitutions in a game and this has brought with it a lot of questions about how those five subs can be used.

A team can make all five substitutions at the same time if they want to. There is no minimum number of times that these substitutions have to be made, only a maximum. The five substitutions have to be made at no more than three different times excluding half-time, but there is not a rule on the minimum number of occasions a substitution can be made. The idea of keeping it to 3 occasions plus half time is so that it does not negatively impact the flow of the game. If each manager made 5 subs at different times during a match that would be more than 1 every ten minutes! If they are all in the second half one every 5 minutes! If they all fell after the magic 65 min mark… well that would be 10 stoppages for subs in 25 mins. Not great for the fans hoping to see a dramatic conclusion to an exciting game!

Why was the five substitution rule introduced? 

We have seen a lot of major leagues in Europe introduce the five-substitute rule to allow teams to make two more changes than they were previously allowed to do. It is a controversial rule with a lot of players questioning why the rule was introduced. 

The five substitution rule was introduced to help to alleviate the pressures of a busy calendar. Modern football players are playing more games than ever before, particularly with the 2022 World Cup breaking up the 2022/23 season, meaning the domestic season is much more congested. 

By introducing the five substation rule, teams can rotate players more often and star players should be able to get more rest as they don’t play as many games. It helps to alleviate the pressures of an incredibly congested schedule which should make the games higher energy as well as reducing the number of injuries. 

How many subs in the Champions League? 

For the 2022/23 season, the Champions League have adopted the same rules on substitutions that a lot of other major leagues have chosen to do. 

In the Champions League, a team can make five substitutions, choosing players from a bench made up of eleven players. In a similar way to the rules in the Premier League, these substitutions have to be made at no more than three times. It means that the benches of Champions League teams are massive, giving a lot of players an opportunity to play in the Champions League. 

What Leagues use the five substitutes rule? 

What may surprise a lot of Premier League fans is that the top flight of English football was one of the last leagues to introduce the five-substitute rule. The five substitute rule was one of the rules introduced as a response to football starting again during the Covid-19 pandemic, to help with the congested structure caused by the pandemic. 

But a lot of top European leagues decided to stick with the rule and are still using it today. Major European leagues like La Liga, Serie A and the Bundesliga are all examples of major leagues that have been using the five-substitute rule. It is becoming very common in competitions all over the world. 

Even the 2022 World Cup featured the five-substitute rule and the Premier League have reinstated it for the 2022/23 season. 


Life long Portsmouth Fan and have followed football since 1993. Is there a better sport on earth?

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