The decision to reduce the number of players on substitutes' benches in Football League matches from seven to five could limit first-team opportunities for young British players, according to Gus Poyet and Sam Allardyce, two of the managers who have to deal with the new rules.
An extraordinary general meeting of the 72 Football League clubs last week voted for the change, at the same time agreeing to increase the number of home-grown players in a matchday squad from four to six – "home-grown" meaning registered with any domestic club for three years before the age of 21.
Cutting the number of bench places is intended to reduce costs, but Allardyce and Poyet believe the decision is short-sighted and counterproductive, especially in the Championship.
"They say that we should have more young English players, but this rule goes against that," Poyet said. "There are two places less on the bench, so now I need players who know the game and can play in different positions. If I have to choose between a player who has been in football 10 years or one who is in his first season, I'll pick the 29-year-old, not the 17- or 18-year-old."
Allardyce agrees. "Not to have the choice of substitutes that you could have available and not to have the same opportunity to blood youngsters off the bench is a big step backwards for saving a few bob. And it will stop young players developing in the lower leagues because teams will keep smaller squads.
"The game has moved forward so quickly that it warrants a seven-man bench. The pace and the physicality has reached such a level that we're suffering more injuries than ever. Sometimes you're forced into playing a youngster and you find out that he can handle it. We've got a lot of young players at West Ham and it's a shame for them."
Poyet also objects to the timing of the decision, which came only 15 days before the first league match of the season. "They didn't consult the managers, they didn't consult the players," he said. "If you say it's going to be next season, OK, but not in two weeks. I made my squad to have 18, and now it's going to be 16. When a player comes and asks why he didn't make the squad, I will tell him to go and see the Football League."
The rule change, however, does not apply to the League's Carling Cup competition. "So it's five on Saturday and seven on Tuesday in the Carling Cup," Poyet said. "Why is that? Are you going to save money or not? So it's better to go out of the Cup, isn't it? The quicker you get out, the less money you spend. If we're trying to save money, this idea started at a meeting [of Football League chairmen in June] in Cyprus. Why didn't we keep the money for the flights and hotel for the teams who can't afford seven substitutes?"Reuse content