The FIFA rule change that could boost Sunderland, Portsmouth and Coventry City's promotion hopes
Sunderland could see their promotion push aided by a FIFA rule change – which would allow up to 16 players to be used per game.
The world governing body are currently working through a number of issues posed by the suspension in football – ranging from financial to fitness concerns.
And in a bid to deal with the latter, FIFA have put forward a proposal that would see teams able to use FIVE substitutes when football eventually resumes.The substitutions will be allowed to be made during a maximum of three slots plus during the half-time break in a bid to avoid unnecessary stoppages.
These changes are being proposed in recognition of the long lay-off players have had due to competitions being suspended and the anticipated high volume of matches when and if play resumes.
For clubs such as Sunderland – who are chasing promotion and face a number of key fixtures within a short space of time – the move will be a welcome one, given it would avoid fatigue and reduce the risk of injury within squads.
The proposal still has to be approved by the game's law-making body the International Football Association Board, but it will then be at the discretion of individual competitions as to whether or not to implement it.
Hypothetically, the rule change could be approved in the Premier League but not in the EFL.
A FIFA spokesperson said: "When competitions resume, such competitions are likely to face a congested match calendar with a higher-than-normal frequency of matches played in consecutive weeks.
"Safety of the players is one of FIFA's main priority then. One concern in this regard is that the higher-than-normal frequency of matches may increase the risk of potential injuries due to a resulting player overload.
"In light of this and in light of the unique challenge faced globally in delivering competitions according to the originally foreseen calendar, FIFA proposes that a larger number of substitutions be temporarily allowed at the discretion of the relevant competition organiser.
"In competitions where less than five substitutions are currently allowed, each team would now be given the possibility to use up to five substitutions during the match, with the possibility of an additional substitution remaining during extra time, where relevant."
According to PA Sport, the temporary rule change on substitutes would apply to competitions which are either due to be completed or start in 2020 or 2021, so it would also apply to the 2020-21 season.
It will also cover all national team matches up to and including December 31, 2021.
Sunderland have eight games remaining in their League One season, after matches were halted on March 14.
The EFL have not put a concrete date on a return to action, but have advised clubs not to return to training any earlier than May 16.
When football does resume, games are set to be played behind closed doors.