No temporary concussion substitutes in the Premier League next season

A temporary concussion substitute trial in the Premier League next season has been rejected by the game’s lawmakers.

The International Football Association Board met at Wembley on Wednesday to discuss the possibility of a trial after a request from world players’ union FIFPRO and the World Leagues Forum to test the protocol in the Premier League, Ligue 1 and Major League Soccer.

However, Football Association chief executive Mark Bullingham, who supported the idea of a trial, said no consensus could be reached.

“There were very strong and very different views in the room, and we didn’t reach a consensus,” he said.

“We agreed that it would remain under active review.”

However, Bullingham conceded there was now no chance of a trial taking place in the next Premier League, Ligue 1 or MLS season.

The focus, he said, was on improving the effective implementation of the permanent concussion substitute protocol.

Mark Bullingham
Mark Bullingham said there would not be IFAB support for a temporary concussion substitute trial right now

The news will be a major blow to brain injury campaigners who believe the temporary concussion substitute approach would give the best protection to players.

Bullingham admitted that the concussion debate was the “longest conversation” in a meeting which overran by about 90 minutes.

But when asked whether a Premier League trial could still happen next season or had been pushed further away, he said: “It’s been pushed further away.

“I tabled it a year ago, I tabled it again today. There are different points of view and they all have merit. I’m probably not the best person to give you both sides of the argument, but there won’t be IFAB support for a trial right now.”

The permanent concussion substitute trial will instead continue indefinitely. FIFA conducted a survey of team doctors that had adopted the trial, and found that 71 per cent supported the permanent concussion substitute model.

The FA had been co-ordinating international efforts to get a temporary concussion trial approved and gathered together the other three UK football associations for a meeting on Monday, where it is understood a majority were united in support of a protocol being trialled.

However, the fact that no consensus could be reached indicates FIFA – the other constituent of IFAB – remains convinced that the permanent concussion substitution trial is the best approach.

The Professional Footballers’ Association’s head of brain health, Dr Adam White, said: “It’s extremely disappointing that IFAB’s members have yet again passed on the opportunity to introduce what we believe would be a valuable tool to better protect player welfare.

“Leagues and player unions are aligned on this and asked IFAB for permission to introduce temporary concussion substitutes from next season.

“There is a fundamental issue if player unions and leagues feel football’s lawmakers are holding them back from doing what they collectively agree is best to protect the safety of players.

“The next step will be for unions and leagues to discuss what this means and what options are available to them.

“We believe the introduction of temporary concussion substitutes is now increasingly seen as a common-sense measure to better protect players.

“Many will rightly ask “if not now, when?”