Premier League

Concussion substitutes, handball criticism and VAR – IFAB gives key law updates

Football associations have been invited to begin a trial on concussion substitutes from January - but they have not gone far enough, according to Headway.

7:32pm on Wednesday 16th December 2020
Robin Bairner

The International Football Association Board (IFAB) has given the green light for concussion substitutes to be trialled as early as January, while it has also criticised certain referees for their interpretation of the handball law.

IFAB, which is the body that oversees the laws of the game, says that any league that wishes to test substitutes for significant head injuries is welcome to do so as of January.

The long-term repercussions of head injuries have been given increased publicity in recent years as former players have come forward with brain conditions.

Additionally, there have been several high-profile cases of players suffering significant head knocks in recent weeks. David Luiz continued to play on for Arsenal against Wolves, despite a head wound that was still bleeding, while Raul Jimenez suffered a fractured skull in that same incident.

Concussion Substitutes

Both the FA and the Scottish FA have indicated that they intend to conduct trial on concussion substitutes in the domestic cup competitions. Additionally, the Women’s Super League and Women’s Championship will benefit from the ruling.

John Stiles, the son of World Cup winner welcomed the ruling.

"It's been a long time coming. I think there's been a general reluctance from football in general, particularly within the FA, to acknowledge there's even a problem, and I don't think they've done enough or acted quickly enough,” he told BBC Sport.

"And it takes an horrific incident like the one involving Luiz and Jimenez to make them actually do something."

Meanwhile, Headway, a brain injury charity, are not so optimistic.

“Rather than celebrating this development, we're left to question what difference this will actually make,” chief executive Peter McCabe said.

"The key questions are, how will players be assessed for suspected concussion, and how will decisions be made about whether they should be permanently removed?

"If decisions continue to be made in the same way, it is very hard to see how player welfare will be improved."

IFAB admits handball issues

Due to persistent controversy about the interpretation of the handball law, IFAB were forced to release a statement on the subject.

During the summer, it sought to emphasise that players should only be penalised when making their body “unnaturally bigger” or if the ball strikes an arm that is above shoulder height.

"It is clear there have been some high-profile incorrect decisions wrongly been portrayed as the law being wrong, when it actually was VAR getting it wrong," Elleray said.

"In 2019, we were not asked to change handball but give more instructions to referees and detail in the law. Some refs have taken that too literally and lost the spirit of handball."

While there will be no immediate change in the law, it will come under review again in spring.

Another issue that will be revisited is the length of time VAR decisions can take, although Elleray said the game is now “fairer” and there has been “reduction” in both diving and mobbing of referees.

Additionally, domestic competitions will be able to maintain the five substitute rule until December 31, 2021, while it will apply in international competitions until July 31, 2022. That means it will apply to the 2022 World Cup.

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