Have the new Premier League rules compromised football’s integrity?

Since the pandemic, the Premier League has experienced a number of changes, with fans having to support their clubs from home, proposals to play games at neutral venues also led to talk of a need to uphold the integrity of the competition; but perhaps it was the proposed rule changes that would throw game integrity into question the most.

We have conducted research to decipher how much of an impact these new rule changes have had on the Premier League table. By analysing match data, we looked at which 4th and 5th substitutes scored goals and how many goals were scored in a five-minute window of the water break. Read on to find out more about what we discovered.


Rule change: Five substitute rule

With it now being possible for clubs to make five substitutions during a game, that means there is a possibility of two players on the field that previously would not have been able to have an impact on the final score.

Despite this being a historic change in the Premier League, it is a rule which most teams were happy to embrace, including larger teams such as Chelsea. It has also been announced recently that this rule change is planned to stay in place for next season.

On average, we found that all teams in the Premier League are using one extra substitute per match. With the top four clubs having an increase of 1.3 substitutes as an average compared to prior the restart, and the bottom four clubs using on average 1.4 extra substitutes.

Of course, this rule could have all sorts of implications defensively and offensively, but we have investigated goal contributions by these “ghost subs”, which could have had a huge impact on team positions within the league table.

Leicester City

On two occasions 4th substitutes have influenced the result of games played by Leicester City. For example, in their game against Crystal Palace a game that was finely balanced at the time of the 4th substitution being used, Harvey Barnes was able to enter the field and assist the two goals that won the game.

With Leicester City in a battle for the Champions League positions this is three points that could have cost their rivals Manchester United upwards of £40m, leaving them just outside of the top four spots they need to qualify.

Aston Villa

At the bottom end of the table in Aston Villa’s game against Newcastle, 4th substitute El Mohamady came on to score a goal to level the score and rescue Aston Villa a point in a 1-1 draw, a point that could have proved vital in saving themselves from relegation, a fate that could cost clubs as much as £100m with the sheer drop off in television revenue between the leagues.

Premier League rule changes


Rule change: Mandatory water breaks

The changes to substitutes was not the only rule change since the restart of football, with the Premier League also opting to add mandatory water breaks at around 22 and 66 minutes. These were intended to assist with the physical burden of a sudden resumption of the league; the thought being the players would not be up to full fitness, after what was the longest ever break for the Premier League including between seasons.

Perhaps at the initial stage of the resumption the water break could have made some sense, however the temperatures were not as expected, and its effectiveness has somewhat diminished. The new breaks in play take the intensity out of the game and give a team under pressure the time to readjust with their managers guidance, a luxury they wouldn’t have had before the restart, further bringing integrity back in to question.

Teams returning from the touchline may take a couple of minutes to get themselves back into the game both mentally and physically. To understand its effect, we looked in to how many times goals were scored immediately after the water break. From our research we found that there have been more than 40 goals in total scored within a five-minute window of the water break since the Premier League restarted.

Manchester United

One of the most important of these goals came when the rule was implemented during Manchester United’s very first game back.

After Manchester United failed to get back in to shape, Tottenham Hotspur were able to break the deadlock scoring just two minutes after the water break, a game that Manchester United went on to level things up with the game ending 1-1.

The margins are so small in the race for Champions League qualification, even without the previously mentioned five substitutions rule change, this alone could have cost Manchester United two extra points, two points which would have been all they needed to cement a Champions League spot.

Premier League rule changes

How do you feel about the new rule changes in football? Tweet us your comments at @FootySuperTips

Data sources: premierleague.com, BBC

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