Rolling substitutions could be a feature in all UK grassroots football matches from next season, following a ruling by football’s law makers this weekend.
The International Football Association Board (IFAB), who set the official Laws of the Game, have approved a two-year experiment by the four UK home nations to modify the number of substitutions allowed in the amateur game.
The law change means that repeat substitutions could become a feature of all youth and adult football matches from next season.
The announcement heralds a success for the home nations, who hope that a more flexible approach to substitutions will increase participation in the grassroots game.
Nick Levett, National Development Manager for Youth and Mini Soccer at the English FA described the announcement as a ” real step forward for the grassroots game”.
“After two years of work we have finally been granted to look at substitutions in grassroots football,” he posted on his Twitter page.
“I was told two years ago ‘you’ve got more chance of scoring the winning goal in the Champions League Final than changing this rule’. Well, I just scored the winner.
“This is a real step forward for the grassroots game. A massive step to support increasing participation.”
The announcement was also welcomed by the Scottish FA, which hopes it will help in its bid to increase the number of football participants from 65,000 to 130,000.
“We are delighted with the modification allowing a more flexible approach to the number of substitutes in the amateur – or as we know it, recreational – game,” SFA Chief Executive Stewart Regan said.
“This is a significant change for our Affiliated National Associations and will enable us to encourage as many people as possible to take up the game.
“Strong, quality growth is a fundamental pillar of our strategy document, Scotland United: A 2020 Vision, and today’s decision will assist our primary objective in that area of doubling the number of participants in the country.”
Currently 11-a-side rules in open age football and the older youth football age groups allow a maximum of five substitutes to be named, with three allowed to be used, meaning that in parks and playing fields across the country each week some amateur footballers do not even get on to the field of play.
Details of how each of the home nations will manage the trial period are yet to be announced. The four associations worked closely in proposing the rule to IFAB and will hope that a successful trial period will lead to a lasting change for the grassroots game following the conclusion of the trial in 2014.
IFAB is made up of representatives from each of the four home nation’s FAs and FIFA. Each UK association has one vote and FIFA has four. Six votes are required to pass any changes to the Laws of the Game.