The Football Association is to make a second attempt to get approval from Fifa for trials of temporary concussion substitutes after proposals were rejected last month.
English football’s governing body is expected to use the AGM of the law-making body Ifab on 4 March to restate its view that the Premier League, alongside MLS and Ligue 1, should be allowed to test an alternative method for dealing with head injuries.
The push is likely to be met with resistance from Fifa, reinforcing the sense of a split at the top of the game over how best to treat a crucial issue.
Fifa remains committed to trials of permanent concussion substitutes and cites research among participating club doctors showing a majority felt no changes to the trial protocols were necessary.
The FA was once a proponent of permanent substitutes but the chief executive, Mark Bullingham, has changed his position and stands alongside players’ unions and brain injury charities in calling for temporary measures. The Premier League has also endorsed temporary substitutes, citing its survey of club doctors who wanted temporary substitutes to be used.
When the proposal was submitted for the first time at Ifab’s annual business meeting last month, it failed to reach a vote after Fifa – which holds a casting vote at Ifab – stuck to its position. It believes permanently taking players off the pitch with suspected concussion is the best way to keep them safe. Ifab is comprised of Fifa and the four British football associations.
Fifa says if the permanent substitute protocol is properly applied, using the credo ‘suspect and protect’, then decisions can be made quickly and effectively to protect players. It also aired concerns that temporary substitutes could be gamed by teams looking to obtain a competitive advantage.
Proponents of temporary subs fear the risk of losing a player permanently puts extra pressure on club doctors and means players are more likely to insist on playing on. Last year the chief executive of Ifab, Lukas Brud, told the Guardian that the permanent protocols were not being properly applied by clubs taking part in the trials. “If you don’t take a player off, no protocol will help you,” he said.
After last month’s meeting the international players’ union, Fifpro, in conjunction with the World Leagues Forum, said they were “greatly disappointed” with the decision and would “consider our options” in opposing the move.
The head of brain health at the Professional Footballers’ Association, Dr Adam White, said: “We believe the introduction of temporary concussion substitutes is now increasingly seen as a commonsense measure to better protect players. Many will rightly ask: ‘If not now, when?’”