IFAB working group to target Spring for potential new rule on concussion subs

October 24 – The introduction of so-called concussion substitutes has moved a step closer after the game’s rule-makers set up an expert group to begin looking into whether changes to the laws need to be made.

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) said that its football and technical advisory panels addressed the issue at a meeting on Wednesday, with a ruling set for early spring.

“Possible options for assessment and management of concussion during a match were discussed,” IFAB said. “The panels agreed that any solutions would have to take account of both player welfare and the need to ensure sporting fairness.”

Stressing the “complex nature of assessing and managing concussion at different levels of the game”, it said the expert group would focus on the topic over the next few months.

At present, referees stop games in cases of suspected concussion to allow for the player concerned to be assessed by the team doctor before being permitted to continue. However, FIFPro, the international players’ union, says this does not go far enough. It wants players to be looked at by a neutral physician and temporary substitutions to be allowed for up to 10 minutes.

One sticking point is how to make sure teams do not simply fake a concussion in order to make a tactical change, another is what would happen if the temporary substitute gets sent off.

The push for concussion subs has been fuelled by new research which showed that ex-footballers had suffered disproportionately from a range of neurological disease than the general population.

“As a former player and now doctor working to improve the health and safety of footballers, I am pleased IFAB realises the importance of considering rules relating to concussion,” said FIFPro’s chief medical officer Vincent Gouttebarge in a statement.

“Over the last six years, FIFPro has recommended to FIFA and other football stakeholders that they extend the allotted time in which a doctor can assess a player with a potential concussion to 10 minutes.

“We would fully endorse any changes in the Laws of the Game that would facilitate this necessary 10-minute window, such as the use of a temporary substitute during this period.”

Wednesday’s IFAB session also reportedly discussed the VAR system which has been embroiled in controversy over the last few months with many pundits saying it is not living up to its remit to only assess “clear and obvious” errors by the referee and linesmen.

IFAB said that the views of the panels expressed in Zurich would be shared at its annual business meeting in Belfast on December 3. Any recommended changes to the laws of the game would then have to be approved at IFAB’s main annual general meeting next spring.

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