Concussion Substitute in Football To Commence from January On Trial

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International Football Association Board (IFAB) has approved the introduction of concussion substitute in football on trial. The trial will commence in January 2021.

The lawmaking body of FIFA approved the new rule at the body’s annual business meeting held on Wednesday, December 15. IFAB has been working on the new rule for months and the approval of the new rule came weeks after Arsenal’s David Luiz had a collision with Wolves’ Raul Jimenez which led the Wolves’ striker to undergo surgery on his fractured skull.

Concussion Substitute in Football To Commence from January On Trial
Arsenal’s David Luiz and Wolves’ Raul Jimenez lying on the pitch after a head collision during a league match.

The concussion substitute gives room for football teams to immediately substitute a player who suffers a concussion during a match even when the team has completed the regular number of substitutions allowed per match.

In the last few months, the debate that the head injuries players sustain during matches possibly contribute to the rising cases of dementia has gained a lot of interest. This inspired the introduction of the concussion substitute with the aim that players who suffer such an injury will be taken care of immediately.

IFAB permits domestic leagues and international competitions to try two forms of the concussion substitute. The first trial only permits the team that has a player that suffers a concussion to make an extra substitution. While the second type of trial permits both the team that suffers a concussion and the opposing team to make a substitute each.

The English FA has agreed to adopt the concussion substitute format that permits both teams to make an extra substitute each if either team has a player that suffers or is suspected to be suffering a concussion. This, according to the FA, will prevent the abuse of the new rule.

After IFAB agreed that the concussion substitution should go on from January, the English FA issued a statement to make known its role in ensuring that the world football lawmaking body approves the new rule.

“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.”

Meanwhile, IFAB has extended the 5 substitutes per match which the lawmaking body introduced earlier in the year to help teams cushion the effect of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic which has forced league bodies across Europe to implement congested fixtures.

While announcing the extension of the 5-substitute rule after its meeting on Wednesday, IFAB confirmed that the extension is applied to domestic competitions ending by 31 December 2021 and for international competitions ending by 31 July 2022.

Though the Premier League adopted the rule to complete the 2019-2020 season, the league had to stop the practice ahead of the 2020-2021 season when most clubs in the league voted against it. This has made the league the only major league in Europe that failed to continue with the rule.

However, the English FA has said the 5-substitutes will be used in the FA Cup. The FA also confirmed that the trial of concussion substitutes will commence in the men’s and women’s FA Cup competitions, as well as the Women’s Super League and Championship.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said the reason the FA intend to adopt the 5-substitutes rule was because of the “reason most other leagues around the world have applied it.”

“That is, for player welfare. We recognize it’s been a short pre-season, we recognize 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”, he added.

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