Brain injury campaigners say they are “very disappointed” after global football bosses rejected calls to try temporary concussion replacements in the Premier League next season.
The International Football Association Board (IFAB) is meeting at Wembley to discuss the possibility of a trial after world players’ union FIFPRO and the World League Forum called for testing protocols in the Premier League, Ligue 1 and Major League Soccer.
However, football association Chief executive Mark Bullingham, who backed the idea of a trial, said the group could not reach a consensus, saying: “There are very strong and very different views in the room.”
“We agree that it will remain under active scrutiny,” he added.
The focus will now be on improving the effective implementation of permanent concussion replacement protocols, he said.
However, brain-injury activists argue that a temporary concussion replacement would give players the best protection.
Luke Griggs, chief executive of the charity Headway, said the “logic error” behind the latest decision was incomprehensible.
“The argument for continuing the current system seems to be that a permanent concussion bench prevents injured players from returning to the field and is therefore a safer system.
“But this completely misrepresents the benefits of a temporary concussion replacement.”
He added: “Temporary substitutions allow more time for medical staff to assess players in the quiet confines of the dressing room.
“A 10-minute assessment will never be perfect if concussion symptoms can be delayed, but it’s better than the impossible job of having a doctor make a quick judgment in two or three minutes under tremendous pressure and glare Or as it is now, with tens of thousands of fans in stadiums and millions more at home.”
He also said that if a player does show symptoms of returning to action after passing an off-field evaluation, there is nothing to prevent a temporary substitution from becoming permanent.
The concussion debate was “the longest conversation” in a meeting that lasted about 90 minutes, Bullingham said.
But when asked if next season’s Premier League trial could still take place or be postponed, he said: “It’s been postponed.”
The Permanent Concussion Alternative Trial will continue indefinitely.
The FA has been coordinating an international effort to get approval for ad hoc concussion trials and called a meeting of the other three English football associations on Monday, with the majority understood to be united in support of the protocol being trialled.
But the fact that no consensus was reached suggests that FIFA – another component of IFAB – still believes that a permanent concussion replacement trial is the best approach.
IFAB is made up of the four English football associations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) with one vote each, while FIFA covers the remaining 207 national associations and has four votes.
FIFA surveyed team doctors who had adopted the trial and found that 71% supported a permanent concussion replacement model.
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Dr Adam White, head of brain health at the Professional Footballers’ Association, described the failure to implement a temporary concussion replacement as “extremely disappointing”.
He said: “We believe that the introduction of temporary concussion replacements is now increasingly seen as a common sense measure to better protect players.
“Many will rightly ask ‘if not now, when?