Before the 2019/20 English Premier League (EPL) season ended, on July 24, the Premier League confirmed the date for the 2020/21 season. The new season will start September 12. Though, the league was supposed to end on May 23, but with emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the calendar was distorted, In fact, every usual practice in the league was changed.

After the Premier League noticed a little bit of normalcy from rage of the pandemic, and strategized on how to manage the menace from affecting the conduct of the league, the league was resumed on June 17. The calendar was rescheduled to see the remaining matchdays — 9 games — played within a period six weeks. So the matches were jam-packed. And after the whole matches had been successfully played, the league came to a close on July 26.

Every season, a lot of new things is imbibed into the league. The EPL, more often than not, witnesses some controversial occurrences. So when the Premier League perceives any controversial thing in the league in a season, they quickly adjust it the season after. Most times, these new things are rules used in guiding the conduct of the league and the league games. And it is either a new rule is formulated to cover the lapses instigated by some occurrences, or an existing one is modified.

Therefore, making adjustment to some rules of the game, and taking into cognizance the ‘new normal’ that has been orchestrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Premier League has introduced some few new things into the 2020/21 EPL season.

Here are some of the new things the EPL fans should be expecting to see when the new season starts. However, before the league finally starts on September 12 some few other things might have been included. But for now, these are the confirmed ones.

1. Match Officiating Reviewed.

The Video Assistant Referee (VAR) was introduced into the EPL games during the 2019/20 season. The VAR is brought into the league to help referees in making a right call, a right decision. But, more often than not, since its inception in the EPL, the VAR has brought more controversies into the games than before. In almost every game, the VAR makes decisions that are controversial to the knowledge of teams, pundits, match commentator, and fans.

In the EPL, The VAR has been operated outside the FIFA general guidelines. Unlike in other leagues where the VAR is fully used, the EPL limits the involvement of the VAR (to only check for handballs, goals, penalties and red cards). In fact, the general manager of the referees body — Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), Mike Riley, had the involvement of the VAR in the EPL limited, by limiting the use of pitch-side monitors by match officials — the referees. To him, checking the monitors will slow down the game. Consequently, the referees do not have much say on a VAR decisions, even when they might have made a right call. The inability of the referees to check the monitors to confirm and reconfirm their decisions, really created a whole lot of controversial moments last season.

To avoid these controversial moments next season, in February, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) — a FIFA’s body — has initiated new rules, one of which is to allow referees take charge of decision making, through the use of the VAR pitch-side monitors. Whatever a referee feels about a decision, after watching the monitor, is what will prevail.

Also on match officiating, on the issue of handball, IFAB professes that if a player accidentally touches the ball with his hand, such a player won’t be penalised if: the handball does not lead to goal for his team, and if the play is prolonged with several touches after the handball.

On penalties, the new IFAB rules of the game has it that, if a goalkeeper flouts the rules by moving beyond the lane when a player plays a penalty and did not score, the keeper will not be penalised, except the keeper action plays a role in making the player miss the penalty — that is, the player will not be retaking the penalty if the keeper has no influence in their action. But, in a rear case scenario, if both keeper and player break the rules during a penalty, it is understood that the keeper’s fault is as a result of the player’s anti-regulatory feint, so the player will be penalised.

The issue of card giving has also being being addressed by IFAB. IFAB rules on card giving next season is: if a player commits a red card offence to prevent a team from an obvious scoring opportunity and the referee gives an advantage, the player will only be awarded a yellow card. Also, if a player commits an offence to prevent an obvious attacking play and the referee gives an advantage, such player will not be awarded any card.

2. Reviewed Number of Substitution.

Before now, in an official match, teams can only make a maximum of three changes. But the presence of Coronavirus has brought a change to that. However, IFAB has approved the five substitution to fully commence next season, but its acceptance will only be decided by each leagues.

When EPL resumed back to action last season in June, it was agreed by league board and teams that five players rather than three should be the maximum changes a team can make in a single game. The development came about due to the congestion in the rescheduled fixtures, to avoid the players being overstressed.

Since the virus is still and would still be present when the 2020/21 season starts in September, the rule will still stand. Therefore, teams will be allowed to register 23 players rather than the usual 18 in a match.

3. New Ball.

For the incoming 2020/21 EPL season, a new ball has been launched by Nike. Last season, the EPL used the ”Nike Marlin 2019” as the official ball in matches. But next season, the official ball will be the Nike ‘Flight’ ball.

To Nike, the ‘Flight’ ball will help in resolving the ”issue of inconsistent aerodynamics through a revolutionary ball design.”

4- Absence Of Fans.

This does not look new to many, but the truth is: last season did not start without the fans in the stadiums. However, the Premier League has been working endlessly to bring the fans back into the games. In fact, bringing the fans back to the stadia was one of the issues discussed in the Premier League meeting held on July 24.

However, the 2020/21 EPL season will start without fans in the stadiums, in conformity to the British government directives. But as from October 1, the fans will be allowed into stadiums on a socially-distanced basis. Eventually, maybe only 30% or 50% of fans will be allowed into stadiums, in order to actualize the social distancing.

These are some of the new things that will be happening to the EPL in the 2020/21 season. So, before the time comes, fans should have themselves exposed to them so as to avoid being an alien in their own game.



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