IFAB clears way for concussion subs, but sinbins remain on trial

March 4 – Football’s lawmakers have approved a series of changes ahead of the 2024/25 season, impacting all major leagues across the globe.

Additional permanent concussion substitutions will now be enshrined in football’s laws but it remains an option which is up to organisers of individual competitions to implement.

The changes were announced by the International FA Board at its annual general meeting on Saturday with concussion high on the agenda.

“Regarding permanent concussion substitutions, the trial we’ve run is effectively concluded and that is now enshrined in the laws of the game,” Ian Maxwell, CEO of the Scottish FA, told reporters.

“It will be up to competitions to determine if they want to use permanent concussion substitutions as per the protocol.”

The protocol allows a team to replace a player with a suspected head injury without it counting towards their allocation of substitutes. But there was no movement on temporary concussion subs despite numerous requests from player unions to allow an injured player to return after being assessed.

Sinbins, where players are sent off for 10 minutes as in rugby union, was also a discussion point with Mark Bullingham, CEO of England’s FA, saying the protocol was still being refined at grassroots levels.

“For some reason the Premier League managers thought it would apply to them, that wasn’t the intention,” he told reporters. “We’ve said: ‘Let’s get the protocol right’ before we move it up the pyramid. We need to get it right away from the pressure of the cameras and the fans.”

The time limit for goalkeepers holding on to the ball will also be increased to eight seconds in a trial, with possession reverting to the opposing team if they hold on to it for longer. The current law allows them to hold the ball for six seconds.

“We’re seeing an increasing trend and time being wasted in the game,” Maxwell said. “It’s certainly a difficult situation under the current laws for the referees to manage, there’s a reluctance to administer fouls for that.”

The panel also extended trials that let referees explain their decision after VAR reviews. This took place at Women’s World Cup last year and will do so again at the Paris Olympics tournaments that start July 24.

“It is absolutely important we improve in-stadium communications,” Maxwell said. “It is far from ideal sometimes.”

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