More trials and rule changes as football leaders review Laws of the Game

Football’s rule makers have approved a number of changes to the Laws of the Game to take effect from July 1, 2024.

Though the changes apply from July, competitions starting before then — such as New Zealand’s winter leagues — can delay their implementation till the start of subsequent competitions.

The rule changes relate to permanent concussion substitutes, player equipment, fouls and misconduct, and penalty kicks.

They have been approved at the 138th annual general meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB), held in Scotland in early March 2024.

In addition to the rule changes, IFAB said it would continue to run trials to test the value of using sin bins as a punishment for dissent and tactical offences.

Trials will also be used to increase the time limit for goalkeepers to hold the ball for eight seconds, rather than six, with possession reverting to the opposing team if they hold it for longer.

The potential rule change is aimed at reducing time-wasting.

The changes and clarifications

The next edition of the Laws of the Game, which will come into effect on July 1, 2024, will include the following changes and clarifications:

  • Law 3 (The Players): Additional permanent concussion substitutions to be a competition option in accordance with the necessary protocol.
  • Law 3 (The Players) and Law 4 (The Players’ Equipment): Each team must have a team captain who wears an identifying armband.
  • Law 4 (The Players’ Equipment): Players are responsible for the size and suitability of their shinguards, which remain a compulsory part of their equipment.
  • Law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct): Handball offences that are not deliberate, and for which penalties are awarded, are to be treated in the same way as other fouls.
  • Law 14 (The Penalty Kick): Part of the ball must touch or overhang the centre of the penalty mark, and encroachment by outfield players will be penalised only if it has an impact.

More protection against concussion injuries

Under a new protocol for reducing the risks from concussion injuries, teams will be allowed to replace a player with a suspected head injury without it counting towards their allocation of substitutes.

“Regarding permanent concussion substitutions, the trial we’ve run is effectively concluded, and that is now enshrined in the laws of the game,” Scottish Football Association’s chief executive Ian Maxwell old reporters.

“It will be up to competitions to determine if they want to use permanent concussion substitutions as per the protocol.”

In New Zealand, new national guidelines have already been introduced for the 2024 winter community football season which include:

  • When a player suffers a concussion, they must have a minimum period of 21 days away from full competition.
  • Medical clearance must be obtained before they return to play.

READ MORE: Community football to introduce new concussion guidelines for 2024 season >>>>

Football leaders backed the moves to raise awareness of how to recognise the symptoms of concussion and treat them appropriately.

Noel Mooney, Chief Executive of the Football Association of Wales. Photo credit: FIFA.

“If there’s any doubt about any player’s ability to continue due to a suspected concussion, then they should be taken off the pitch, they should be assessed properly,” Noel Mooney, Chief Executive of the Football Association of Wales, said.

“And the medical evidence we’ve got suggests there is no amount of time that will allow that to happen and let them still take part in the game. And fundamentally, the protection of the players has to come first.

“Why would you risk a player coming back onto the field who may be concussed because the only tests you can carry out at the side of a pitch won’t give you the concrete understanding of whether a player is concussed or not?

“So it’s very simple. If there’s any doubt about player safety, then the player should be removed from the pitch.”

Other topics

FIFA confirmed that it would launch a global campaign to raise awareness of how to recognise the symptoms of concussion and treat it appropriately, while The IFAB also requested relevant medical data analyses to be provided to the subsequent AGM in line with the amendment to Law 3 regarding this topic.

Members also received an update on The FA’s trials with body cameras at grassroots level and with a ban on “deliberate heading” at U-12 level and below.

The IFAB also received an update on the offside trial which has been undertaken at U-18 level in Italy, and agreed to further trials.

The AGM, which was chaired and hosted by the Scottish FA, was also attended by representatives from FIFA, The FA, the Irish FA, the FA of Wales and The IFAB administration. At the meeting, FIFA Secretary General ad interim Mattias Grafström was confirmed as the new chair of The IFAB’s Board of Directors.

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