IFAB agrees to trial concussion substitutes

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The International Football Association Board (IFAB) has agreed to introduce trials for concussion substitutes with FIFA set to implement them at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

At their annual general meeting in Belfast, the IFAB decided that more research is required before introducing concussion subs into the laws of the game but the trials could take place as soon as this summer at the Olympics.

Irish Football Association chief executive Patrick Nelson, who chaired the meeting, said: “We agreed it would be a sensible move to draw up some protocols for trials for potential additional substitutes in cases of concussion.

“FIFA have expressed strong interest in being part of trials at the Olympics. More research data is needed before we could consider any permanent changes to the laws.”

It appears likely that permanent substitutions would be the preferred option rather than a temporary substitution while a longer 10-minute assessment is carried out. The current assessment period for concussion is three minutes.

Nelson said IFAB would not “close off” the 10-minute/temporary substitute option, and FIFA president Gianni Infantino said player health would remain the priority.

“If there is any doubt you have to keep the player out, and for the coach to have another possibility, he knows there is an additional substitution,” he said.

Infantino insisted player safety remained the focus
Infantino insisted player safety remained the focus (Nick Potts/PA)

Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham said that his organisation and the Premier League both favoured the permanent substitution model, and are keen to be part of any trials once the protocols are finalised.

The position adopted by IFAB drew criticism from brain injury charity Headway.

Its chief executive Peter McCabe said: “This is yet another example of football failing to act. This latest announcement just doesn’t go far enough to protect players from the dangers of returning to play following a concussion.

Headway believe three minutes is not long enough to assess a player
Headway believe three minutes is not long enough to assess a player (Mike Egerton/PA)

“Three minutes is simply not long enough to give medics a suitable window to diagnose concussion – a position that other sports, such as rugby, have quickly come to realise.”

The IFAB has also hinted a possible review of the offside law after much controversy over tight offside calls going against the attacking side with the use of video assistant referees.

“The AGM agreed to consultation with all the relevant stakeholders, including The IFAB Technical Advisory Panel (TAP) and the Football Advisory Panel (FAP), to review the offside Law to foster the spirit of attacking play,” an IFAB statement added.

It is expected that the advisory panels will work up proposals for consideration at next year’s AGM in Wales.

The offside law could be reviewed
The offside law could be reviewed (Mike Egerton/PA)

Infantino spoke on Friday about having “light in between” the attacker and defender, while Wenger has said an attacking player should be onside if any part of his body that can score a goal is at least level with the defender, even if other parts are in front.

Asked whether that principle was well received by the rest of the IFAB – the British associations – Infantino said: “It has been received very positively. That is why we decided to study this further, to debate it in different panels and with different stakeholders to elaborate a protocol.

“Obviously the philosophy of fostering attacking football always has to guide us. We have to be aware of tradition but it is true the offside rule has evolved over time.

“We will look into providing strikers more goalscoring opportunities and that’s why I think the feeling in the room and the feedback in the room was positive. But we have to test it.”

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