Concussion substitute trials approved by IFAB

The International Football Association Board (IFAB), has approved the introduction of permanent concussion substitutions on a trial basis from January, 2021.


A combination of high-profile dementia diagnoses from former football players, including Nobby Stiles, who has since lost his life to the disease and the recent announcement of Sir Bobby Charlton's diagnosis, has led to calls for more to be done in the game to protect the welfare of football players.


The decision was reached at an annual business meeting held by IFAB.


In the wake of the death of Nobby Stiles, his family urged the authorities to act quickly on protecting players from serious head injuries and concussions, which was shortly followed by a serious incident occurring in the English Premier League, where Wolverhampton Wanderers forward Raul Jimenez clashed heads with Arsenal defender David Luiz, resulting in Jimenez suffering a fractured skull and having to leave the field, whereas Luiz was allowed to continue for the rest of the half before being taken off at half-time.


IFAB said that its members agreed "in the event of an actual or suspected concussion, the player in question should be permanently removed from the match to protect their welfare, but the player's team should not suffer a numerical disadvantage".


In a statement, the FA said: "Player welfare is of paramount importance and The FA has played an active role in lobbying for the IFAB to support the introduction of head injury substitutes within the rules of football."


Leagues and bodies who want to take part in the trial will have to request to do so through IFAb and FIFA, with The Football Association (The FA) stating their clear intentions of implementing the trial in both the men's and women's FA Cup, as well as the Women's Super League and Women's Championship.


FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said: "The reason we want it in the competition is the reason most other leagues around the world have applied it.


"That is, for player welfare. We recognise it's been a short pre-season, we recognise we're in a very congested season now and we feel it's appropriate to have the ability to have five substitutes and we'll be applying that to our competition"


However, brain injury charity Headway doesn't believe that the introduction of concussion substitutions goes far enough to protect player welfare.


"Headway has been calling for concussion substitutes for years - and yet rather than celebrating this development, we're left to question what difference this will actually make if IFAB moves forward with permanent, rather than temporary substitutes," said Peter McCabe, Headway chief executive.


"The key questions are how will players be assessed for suspected concussion, and how will decisions be made about whether they should be permanently removed?


"The benefit of a temporary concussion substitution is that it allows for the player to be assessed off the pitch, in a quiet, appropriate treatment room away from the heat of battle and the glare of players, officials, coaches and fans.


"We know how difficult it can be for club medics to make concussion assessments on or at the side of the pitch, particularly in such a short space of time or when there are language barriers.


"If these decisions continue to be made in the same way, it is very hard to see how player welfare will be improved."


The Premier League has since announced that they too will be requesting to IFAB and FIFA, via the FA, to introduce concussion substitutes on a trail basis in the Premier League.


A statement read: "With player welfare the Premier League’s priority, clubs agreed in principle to introduce additional permanent concussion substitutions following approval of the trial by IFAB yesterday.


"The trial is a result of the IFAB’s consultation with stakeholders and recommendations from their concussion expert group to allow additional substitutions for players with actual or suspected concussion. "



Author: Jake Wilkin

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