Soccer laws panel gets leagues’ request for concussion subs

Iran’s goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand collides with teammate Majid Hosseini (right) during the World Cup Group B match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on November 21, 2022.

LONDON—A request by the Premier League and Major League Soccer (MLS) to use temporary substitutes for players with suspected concussion will go to a meeting Wednesday of the game’s lawmaking panel.

The leagues have been joined by France’s Ligue 1 in asking to start a more flexible protocol for head injuries in their next season — which for MLS opens February 25 — after trials were already rejected last June by the soccer laws panel, known as IFAB.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino and IFAB have supported letting teams instead make an extra permanent substitution to replace players with suspected concussion.

That policy at the World Cup in November saw Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand continue to play after several minutes of treatment following a clash of heads with a teammate early in a 6-2 loss to England. Beiranvand soon asked to be substituted and was carried off on a stretcher.

The leagues and the global soccer players’ union FIFPRO believe temporary substitutions are a quick response to a head injury, giving time for medical staff to make a full assessment without the pressure of a game continuing while their team is missing one player.

The current mindset of “if in doubt, take them out” for treating players with head injuries is not working, FIFPRO general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said. “We are not taking always the cautious decision.”

FIFPRO has lobbied IFAB on the issue, saying “conditions for a thorough and appropriate examination to inform clinical decision making are inhibited by traditional sporting rules.”

The union has suggested up to 10 minutes are needed for players to be properly assessed pitch-side. A temporary substitute would then become permanent if the injury player cannot continue.

Baer-Hoffmann said soccer bodies in England and the United States are leading on the issue with debate and research into concussion and head injuries in sport at a more advanced stage.

The meeting at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday should set the formal agenda for IFAB’s annual decision-taking meeting due on March 4. Both meetings will be hosted by the English Football Association.

FIFA has four of the eight IFAB votes with one each for the English, Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh associations. Six of the eight votes are needed to approve any changes to the laws of the game, which cannot pass if FIFA objects.

Image credits: AP


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