The effect of an additional substitution in association football. Evidence from the Italian Serie A

Carlos Varela-Quintana, Julio del Corral Cuervo, Juan Prieto-Rodriguez


The substitution of players during a match has been one of the most significant changes in the Laws of the Game of the association football. FIFA regulated its application in the 1970 World Cup by establishing two replacements, which were expanded to three in 1995. The experimental introduction in 2016 of a fourth replacement during the extra time of several tournaments (the Olympic Games, the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup) as a previous step to a possible application in next 2018 World Cup makes advisable to study how coaches reacted to an additional substitution in past situations. The present research examines coaches’ behavior before and after the FIFA regulatory reform in 1995 that authorized the third replacement. For this, substitutions made in the Italian Serie A during the seasons 1994-95 and 1995-96 are analyzed. Our hypothesis is that teams made more physiological substitutions than tactical ones, which would reflect in a higher proportion of neutral substitutions (replacements of players who belong to the same positions). The results from the estimated discrete choice models found evidence of a change in the coaches’ behavior giving preference to neutral replacements over tactical substitutions, probably to maintain the game intensity and prevent injuries.


incentives; substitutions; football

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