The Premier League wants to adopt the use of temporary concussion substitutes in the competition next season in a departure from established thinking within the game on the risks of brain injury.
The English top flight has written to the game’s international rule-making body, the International Football Association Board, asking to trial temporary substitutes from next summer. To date only permanent concussion substitutes have been tested in men’s football, despite vocal criticism from brain injury charities.
The Premier League returns to competition on Boxing Day after a six-week break imposed by the winter World Cup. In preparing for the restart, the league revealed a raft of new disciplinary measures but said it was not prepared to imitate the Qatar tournament in adding on time to compensate for lengthy goal celebrations.
One of the few top-flight competitions to have trialled concussion substitutes at all, the Premier League believes that permanent subs have had a positive impact, allowing medics greater time to make accurate assessments of head injuries. English football authorities have also defended permanent substitutes from criticism in the past.
But after consulting club doctors during the World Cup break an overwhelming consensus for using temporary substitutes has emerged. Doctors argue temporary subs would take pressure off decision-making by allowing tests to be conducted away from the field. If a player was ultimately found to have sustained concussion, the temporary substitute would then become permanent.
The Premier League expects a response to a joint request, made alongside MLS in the USA and France’s Ligue 1, in the spring of 2023. It believes it will face opposition to any change both from other European leagues and Fifa.
The brain injury association Headway welcomed the news. The charity has been a vocal supporter of temporary substitutes and criticised football’s slow adoption of tougher concussion protocols. On Wednesday its chief executive, Luke Griggs, said the change would be a “progressive development” in protecting players from brain injury.
“Headway has repeatedly called for football to bring in temporary substitutes and, if this is confirmed, it will be warmly welcomed,” Griggs said. “The evolving nature of concussion means that a 10-minute off-pitch assessment will never be foolproof. But it will allow for medics more time to make better informed decisions, in the quiet confines of the dressing room, rather than snap judgments made on the pitch.”
Among other measures announced before the restart, the Premier League said it would double down on trying to eliminate time-wasting from the game. It will urge match officials both to crack down on and add time for moments lost. But officials have decided they will not go as far as Fifa did in Qatar, for example adding on time for goal celebrations, despite their own statistics showing the ball was in play almost three minutes longer during World Cup group stage matches than it has been in the Premier League season to date (58 minutes to 55 minutes and 18 seconds). The League also said that Premier League managers and coaching staff have been reminded of expected standards of behaviour after a series of incidents in stadium technical areas before this season’s break.