IFAB approves trials with additional concussion substitutes

IFAB logo

MANCHESTER: Football's rule-making body IFAB has approved extensive trials with additional permanent substitutions for actual or suspected concussion effective January 2021.

This follows consultations IFAB had with key stakeholders and recommendations from the Concussion Expert Group (CEG) and IFAB’s Football and Technical Advisory Panels (FAP-TAP). 

At a meeting held by videoconference and chaired by IFAB director and Football Association of Wales chief executive Jonathan Ford, IFAB confirmed that it has agreed on the implementation of protocols that will be the basis for the trials. The members agreed that, 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.

This approach:
prevents a player sustaining another concussion during the match as multiple head-injury incidents can have very serious consequences;
sends a strong message that, if in doubt, the player is withdrawn but there is no numerical or tactical disadvantage by prioritising the player’s welfare;
reduces the pressure on medical personnel to make a quick assessment; and
is simple to operate and can be applied at all levels of the game, including most of football that is played without doctors or medically qualified staff available on site.
Today’s (Wednesday) announcement comes after less than a year of detailed consultation with relevant stakeholders, medical concussion experts, team doctors, player representatives, coaches, competition organisers, refereeing and Laws of the Game experts.

Confederations, national football associations (FAs) and competition organisers (via their national FA) interested in participating in these trials must apply to The IFAB and FIFA. Competition organisers must ensure that the official protocols are used in their entirety and that the required feedback is submitted.

Five-substitute option 
The Board approved extensions of the temporary amendment to Law 3, which allows the option of up to five substitutes in top-level competitions, for domestic competitions ending by 31 December 2021 and for international competitions ending by 31 July 2022. The members agreed that the ongoing impact of the pandemic on football should remain under constant review so that appropriate action can be taken. The next review will be at the AGM 2021.

Other topics
Clarifications related to the Laws of The Game 2021/22 were discussed, including circumventing the deliberate pass to the goalkeeper, stoppage time and offences against outside agents.

Given that the interpretation of handball incidents has not always been consistent, the members agreed that further clarification should be considered at the Annual General Meeting (AGM). It was agreed that not every touch of a player’s hand/arm with the ball is an offence. In terms of “unnaturally bigger”, referees should judge the position of the hand/arm in relation to the player’s movement in that phase of play.

The Board was also updated by FIFA on potential future practical considerations relating to offside and the latest developments with video assistant referees (VARs), in particular with future innovations that could include more affordable VAR systems to allow competition organisers with more limited budgets to be able to use VAR technology.

The ABM shapes the agenda for the AGM, where any proposed changes or amendments to the Laws of the Game are considered for approval. The next AGM will take place via videoconference on 5 March 2021.