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Fourth substitute in extra time is a good idea, says Gerard Houllier

Jul 2, 2014, 3:29 PM EDT

Gerard Houllier

Former France and Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier believes it’s time the International Football Association Board reconsider the stance on allowing teams a fourth substitute during extra time.

It’s a concept that was proposed to the IFAB, the game’s law-making body, two years ago but it failed to win the necessary 75% majority and was not passed into law.

The policy behind the proposal is straightforward – to limit the risk of injury in the later stages of knockout games or finals.

Houllier, who is the senior member of FIFA’s technical study group TSG that analyzes trends and tactics at the World Cup, explained his rationale to a group of reporters, including Reuters, on Wednesday:

I think it would be a good idea and I think the TSG (through FIFA) will put it back to the board….

I personally think it’s time. You have probably noticed at this World Cup everything is so quick, the tempo has been so high and we have seen 29 goals scored by substitutes, a record….

But among the technicians, we think we should have the possibility of another substitution.

The problem, of course, is that nothing happens quickly or pain-free within the IFAB, which is notoriously conservative in its attitude to changing the laws. The hope is that the creation of Houllier’s TSG, which comprises the four British associations and four representatives from FIFA, will be the difference maker in speeding up the proposal process.

The advantage the fourth substitution proposal holds is that ultimately, it comes down to player health. In Brazil, FIFA went so far as to protect players from oppressive heat by instituting the now infamous ‘cooling break’, seen for the first time in last Sunday’s match between Holland and Mexico. The three minute chance to hydrate at the end of each half was clearly savored by the players, even if Louis van Gaal controversially used the opportunity to change tactics.

Of course, an extra substitute could create some backlash as fitter teams may deem it a hindrance to their game plans. Why should less fit teams be rewarded for their lack of preparation? The purists are also likely to argue that such a move creates a slippery slope.

But when it comes to player health and team safety, a single added sub allowed during the short window of extra time feels like a smart way to up the intensity and drama.


  1. creek0512 - Jul 2, 2014 at 4:24 PM

    Injury time or extra time? An additional substitute in extra time of tournament matches makes sense. However adding a sub fir injury/stoppage/added time in every game defeats the purpose of adding time on time at the end of the half.

  2. navyeoddavee9 - Jul 2, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    Extra time not injury time, extra sub for injury time? that makes no sense, extra time perfectly reasonable

    • tariencole - Jul 3, 2014 at 8:27 PM

      I find myself in agreement with Houllier for perhaps the 1st time ever. This is eminently sensible. I would even go as far as to say 1 sub for each extra-time session.

      But then, my suggestion for settling Knockout stage draws is to play silver goal extra time. That is, team leading at end of any period wins. Furthermore, each period after the 1st, I would reduce the sides by 1 player, until it became 7v7. Again, allowing 1 (unused) sub to come in.

      It’s still soccer. Skill is still required. No PK lottery, and teams playing for a tie would be punished, because the shrinking sides would only allow quality to come out more, rather than less.

  3. reformed2012 - Jul 3, 2014 at 1:14 AM

    Or do it the NCAA way, each team have 3 subs, when you use one, the other team gets one additional one. If one team use up all their subs, they will have to wait until the other team use theirs, then they get one back.

    In other words, the SUM of both teams allowable subs remains 6 at all times. Of course, players who were subbed out cannot be subbed back in.

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