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IFAB approves FAI’s request to trial concussion substitutes


The Football Association of Ireland’s application to trial concussion substitutes in the upcoming League of Ireland season has been approved by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) and will come into effect at the President’s Cup meeting of Shamrock Rovers and Dundalk at Tallaght Stadium on Friday, March 12.

IFAB confirmed their approval in a letter to League of Ireland Director Mark Scanlon on Thursday with the FAI adopting Protocol B which will form the basis for the season long trial in the SSE Airtricity Premier and First Divisions, the SSE Airtricity Women’s National League and the Senior Men’s and Senior Women’s FAI Cup.

The IFAB led trial is designed so that in the event of an actual or suspected concussion, the player in question should be permanently removed from the match to protect their welfare, but the player’s team should not suffer a numerical disadvantage. Protocol B allows for two permanent concussion subs per team in a game with no numerical or tactical disadvantage.

Welcoming the approval from IFAB, League of Ireland Director Mark Scanlon said: “The FAI is delighted that the Protocol B Concussion Substitute guidelines will be utilised in the new League of Ireland season, beginning with the President’s Cup on March 12.

“We have worked on this plan with our Medical Director Dr Alan Byrne since IFAB first approved such trials in December and we have opted for Protocol B with the approval and full support of the Board of the FAI, the National League Executive Committee, Women’s National League Committee and our clubs. We have also worked closely with the referees via our Referee’s Department and they have given the implementation of these Protocol B concussion substitute rules their full backing.

“This approach prevents a player sustaining another concussion during the match as multiple head-injury incidents can have very serious consequences. It also sends a strong message that, if in doubt, the player is withdrawn but there is no numerical or tactical disadvantage to either side by prioritising the player’s welfare. The rule reduces the pressure on medical personnel to make a quick assessment and is simple to operate.”

FAI Medical Director Dr Alan Byrne has produced an information video for players, coaches and supporters ahead of the trial period and recently updated club medical staff and management on Protocol B during a virtual conference ahead of the new season.

Dr Byrne added: “FIFA and UEFA have been involved for many years in research around concussion and this is a development which I very much welcome. I don’t think we can ever be done with educating and making people more aware of this topic.

“The season long trial is part of the knowledge gathering around the whole area of concussion. We hope to gain some knowledge around the types of injuries that can cause concussion, help build our knowledge base and put us in a better position to make decisions around the welfare and safety of our players.”

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