Grassroots football set for rolling subs trial

Things looking up for subs?

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.

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Dan Pope
Writer at Teamer
Freelance writer, editor and copywriter, with a passion for grassroots sport. A right back turned football writer, Dan is the former editor of Club Website and has been lucky enough to work in the field of grassroots and community sport for the last 10 years.

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  1. Gary Taylor on March 5, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    How is this going to affect numbers of substitutions ? Will it still be 3 from 5 or unlimited ?

    • dpope on March 5, 2012 at 3:41 pm

      Yet to be determined Gary, but looks like moving towards unlimited & repeat subs rather than 3 from 5. Idea is to get more people playing the game.

  2. Mark on March 5, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    what a waste of time! rolling subs in friendleys is a good idea to get a grip on what your squad has to offer but competitive games should remain such and changing this rule is a joke surely?

    I run an IFA (supporters association club) as well as a sunday league side and the approaches to the two are, and in my opinion rightly so are different.

    In the more social IFA league rolling subs get everyone a game, but in the sunday league it is competitive and is difficult enough to run with 3 subs nevermind constant rolling subs… like i say – joke of a change if it is brought in

  3. Roger Hodson on March 5, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I am Secretary of a Youth team so it’s great news as the more of the lads getting pitch time the easier it will be to retain them, who wants to sit on the bench all the time especially at away matches BRING IT ON.

  4. davelittlewood on March 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    can you send me this in fo to dave littlewood
    25 birkdale drive eston cleveland ts6 9eb
    or any info regarding to this

    • dpope on March 5, 2012 at 4:00 pm

      Hi Dave – nothing has been decided or published yet. If you want to keep up to date with what’s happening, either keep in touch with your local FA or keep an eye on us here at Club Website.

  5. Jason hanaghan on March 5, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    I run Macclesfield boys u10 and I think that’s a really great idea in ameteur football bring it on who wants to sit on the bench all the time peeling oranges lol

  6. Wayne Hewins on March 5, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    Personally can’t see this going ahead it was suggested that we can name 7 substitutes but it never came to fruition. Rolling subs during friendlies is one thing but as an earlier post reads a competative game no way. A referee is suppose to allow 30 secs roughly per substitution this could in effect add a lot more time to a game. If asked by my county F.A. if my Sunday league would volunteer to trial this i would opt against this

  7. Dan on March 5, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Mark –
    How is it any more ‘difficult to run’ than any of the thousands of kids games that already do ‘roll on roll off subs’ ?

    Its about retaining adult players in football. Every year hundreds of adult grassroots teams fold.

  8. Graham Mills on March 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I think it’s a good idea for youth games but not for adult football. Three subs is already too many in my opinon. I’ve seen managers bring on players just to give them a game and it can upset the rhythm of the team.

  9. Richard Watt on March 5, 2012 at 6:48 pm

    We have run unlimited rolling subs in youth ‘soccer’ out here in BC, Canada for a number of years. From a coaching point of view, it offers flexibility and fosters a sense of fairness – everyone gets playing time. Generally, everyone gets equal playing time in recreational soccer – we don’t keep score until U13 – and then as they get older, players accept that some get more game time than others, but as a rule, everyone still plays.

    We have a rule at our club that everyone should get a minimum of 30% playing time, but parents and players accept that circumstances sometimes dictate what actually happens, and no-one is standing on the side with a stopwatch.

    Does it sometimes mean that you have to put a less able player on at a critical point in a game? Yes, of course, but isn’t that what being a coach is all about – developing those less able players to give them the tools to cope in those difficult situations? I’d rather be doing that than constantly telling some poor kid that there’s no playing time for him again this week…

  10. Dave Hammond on March 5, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    I think it would be a great idea. I currently will only take 14 players to a game as I won’t take people and not play them. If I could take more players then I would be able to give more lads the chance of at least part of a game. Won’t I don’t understand though is how one U18s league near me does have rolling subs and yet ours tell me the FA will not let them.

  11. Kenny Mitchell on March 5, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    Absolutely wonderful. First we,re going to get Summer football up here in Scotland in recreational football (all ages) and now rolling subs. Both ideas will encourage more youngsters and adults to stay in the game. Well done IFAB. Common sense at last.

  12. alan on March 5, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    what are the fa doing ….rolling subs in youth football yes (under 12 and below i think ) ,,,,,but upwards and adults ,,,no way

    surly if you start as a sub then this means you need to improve be it phsically or mentally,, (player development fa call it i believe) ,,then surly being that sub makes you try harder and improve (develop),and then get rewarded with a start ,which also makes you want it more and try even harder again (again developing confidence in ur self )

    thats the way i see it any way lol

  13. Lee Hayward on March 6, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    About time! It’s been working well in my local 7-a-side League for years. We’re also into the second season of it being implemented in women’s league games at County League level. The 7s have a squad of ten & the 11-a-side has a squad of 16 with repeated substitution permitted in both. It’s a useful tool in case of injury. Adds another tactical layer too.

  14. Ian Shearer on March 6, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    I think this will work as it does now in Veterans football.

    An 11 a side team will have a maximum 5 subs all of whom may be played and they may return to the field after being subbed off.

    The ref will not need to take the name of players coming on so the exchange will be faster.

    At the moment in Vets football it is not abused. It will be in the more competititve levels – specialist long-throw, dead-ball takers will be subbed on then immediately off, so some minumum time may be needed. Time will tell.

  15. Keith Pollard on March 7, 2012 at 1:25 am

    Roll on, roll off subs makes sense at all but the highest levels of youth football and the Sunday amateur game. If you want to keep people involved in football… they have to get the chance to play, not stand on the touch line until the last 10 mins.

  16. Jim nicholls on March 7, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    I think it’s worth a try though i’d like to know the exact mechanics of it. Would it still be five named subs? i assume subs would still be made in the usual way?

    I have longed hoped for grassroots to go with 5 from 5 instead of 3 from 5 as no one wants to sit on the bench every week. Not sure if this is the answer but it’s heading in the right direction at last.

  17. roger lawrence on March 9, 2012 at 8:11 am

    i think this is one of the most sensible rule changes in years. this will help grass root football at all levels.
    gives all the kids the chance to have a run and improve. this will mean more players to choose from for national level as fewer lose interest in the game.
    also very helpful at all levels with injury’s ! why should a team be punished for having a number of injuries in a game.
    i have played in a team that finished with 8 due to this.
    knocked out of two qtr finals due to this also…
    love it ! well done !
    dont appoint redknapp .. take the special one …

  18. Ian on March 16, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Roll on, roll off in Sunday Amateur (Open Age) Football?
    JUST SAY NO!! Nick Levett, National Development Manager for YOUTH and MINI Soccer: STOP MEDDLING WITH OUR GAME – WE LOSE!.Thank you

  19. peter stanton on March 20, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    About time to it will give more players more oportunity of playing.

  20. daz wilkie on March 26, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    ABOUT TIME TOO, this will defo help keep numbers in the game. for all those crowing about it not being right just ask yourself when do you normally make your last sub. let me guess 10 minutes to go hoping you don’t get an injury. this rule change will allow you all to manage your teams to their full potential. its a no brainer 16 players at the start of the season same 16 in January hardly ever been heard off unless your running away with the league. financially you’ll be able to plan better too because you know how many will be there every week. LIKE I SAID ABOUT TIME TOO

  21. Tom Gavin on April 5, 2012 at 11:49 am

    I fully support up to Under 14s because game is shorter and not as tactical as adult game.
    Danger of turning into American Football, bringing on specialist kickers etc – also disrupting flow of game when losing.
    Suggest any player coming on as substitute has to stay on for minimum 15 minutes.

  22. Ian on April 12, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    I have been trying to get use of 5 named subs implemented for past 3 seasons only to be told it would never happen. Would rather not have the roll on roll off though

  23. James Sheehan on May 15, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    This is a terrible idea!!! Give players LESS time as they will be subbed off!! It will hurt whole clubs in general as Reserve teams will suffer, as 1st XI will take 5 subs, as it will be a massive advantage to rotate 16players!! Gone will be the days of winning with the bare 11!! Then go 1-0 up & send on 2 extra defenders & take the forwards off & park the bus!!

  24. Jonesy on May 25, 2012 at 10:31 am

    I think you are all hyping the point about a person only getting 10 minutes at the end of the game. They tend to only get this because the manager doesnt think they are good enough or trust them to play any longer in the game. Rolling subs will not help this as it will only benefit the player if the manager still wants to put him on.

    Think of how fractured this will make the game and how difficult it will be to adapt to a different tactic/line-up possibly every 15 or so minutes if the manager wishes.

    Not a good idea in my opinion, though I can see why they thought it might be

  25. Pete @ St Joseph's on June 1, 2012 at 9:20 am

    Great suggestion and i believe that this could work in cases where you have only named 1 or 2 subs and you swap player/s who then gets injured within 10 minuets for what ever reason and then you should be aloowed to ask the original player/s to go back on the field to make it 11 v 11 for the remainder of the game.

  26. Matt on June 7, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Ludicrous idea. Can see teams going 1-0 up and bringing 5 defenders on and parking the bus. If it doesn’t work, bring them off again. The game will be extremely stop-start. It will end up like hockey, with teams sending on free kick and penalty specialists. Plus, if the referee adds on 30 seconds for each substitution, like they do now, we’ll be playing for days!

  27. Thomas Alsop on June 8, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    Great idea. The only opposition to it surely must come from traditionalists who don’t like change. One day rolling subs will be standard in all versions of the game and people will struggle to remember or even believe there was a time when soccer didn’t have rolling subs. If Twenty20 cricket was the traditional format, people would laugh you out of the room if you suggested a 5 day variant. Rolling subs are the future. I couldn’t find any good arguments against it on this page of comments.

  28. Chris blowers on June 8, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    This is the worst idea I have ever ever heard.
    Teams will just bung on a load of defenders on a corner and then put a load of strikers on when attacking.

    Clearly this person has pushed this decision for “equal opportunities” bla bla whilst not understanding you are tearing the heart out of the game.

    It’s a disgusting idea which should have been put to every amateur player but was made by a load of pencil pushers

    You’ve ruined the sport I love

  29. owen deneny on June 22, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Absolutely lost for words!

    1stly players will be less happy as they will have less time and numbers will dwindle.

    2nd: as a manager do you know how hard it will be to keep not only 5 subs happy but now 16 players with varying amounts of time played.

    3rd : subs, players will argue that they are being charged unfairly as everyone will have played different amounts of time. Again making numbers dwindle.

    4th if I go 1-0 up against top of the league or in a cup final I would make 5 subs every dead ball opportunity to stop the game being played.

    That’s just to starters.

    I am well prepared to start petition / protests on this.
    If any one else is interested feel free to email me.

  30. Richard O'connor on July 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Great idea for youth football,but a joke of a rule for adult football. Football is a natural cycle and learning curve of finding your own level.Players who are on the bench will eventually move to a club and a level that he is appreiciated at. Benefitting that team and level he is suited to. Rolling subs will see levels drop as players will be playing in leagues they dont naturally belong. Players motivation to get fit and try and progress themselves will dwindle as the leagues will not require high levels of fitness or competitivness. Nick Levett from the FA is behind this,he is in controll of youth development. He should stick to what he knows.

  31. Jim C on September 9, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    I think this is a fantastic idea for youth football.
    A chance for all kids to get game time and not sit or stand in the rain while some coach/manager lives his sporting fantasy through them. Great idea.

    Also a good idea for Over 35’s Leagues where players obvisously still love the game and want to participate but might need a breather from time to time to do so.

    But I think to have this in all open age football would be a backward step. Tactically it would make games a farce and also with men lined up along the touchline I think it leaves it open to abuse. Banned player or ringer turns up and simply swaps shirt with a mate.
    That is a whole different minefield.

    We played under these rules in a recent County Cup match and the game, in a prestige competition, desended into farce. The players hadn’t a clue what was happening, the disruption to the flow of the contest was massive and our treasurer had a nightmare trying to work out who owed what in match subs !

    We’ll see how it goes. Personally i think the Leagues themselves should be able to make the choice via a vote of their member clubs.

    As i said, a great idea at some levels. but not a blanket ruling for all.

  32. DEXTER ROBERTS on September 10, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    can some one please pass this information on to Robbin Davies of the swfa and let us all no when it will become eligitable at under 12 level.

  33. Fenton Thorpe on December 26, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Nice to see, that them that control football, Have
    woken up to the real issues grassroots Managers
    had in keeping small non-funded teams going,
    Access to all, To every match,

  34. Neil Brazier on August 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    The Worcester FA have just introduced this as a “trial” in our county. I’m not happy with it and you can read why here:

    The biggest turn off was the fact they over-ruled the majority oppossed to the descision. Stupid.

  35. Eddie Ferguson on September 12, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    A good idea esp for those children who are technically better but not as physical or strong yet sit on the bench for 80% of the game – try telling a 9 yr old why he’s not playing when he can run rings – bring it on for youth football all day long…

  36. kev obrien on March 12, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    what a stupid idea, just look back to international friendlies a few year s back when 5,6,7, changes made the game was a shambles and a waste of time, plus most sunday morning sides are lucky to get 11 players let alone 16.and these teams are not run by fully qualified fa coaches ,most are lads who have got too old to play but still want to be involved, the games will become a shambles.

  37. Gavin Burke on October 6, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    I have just returned to 11-a-side amateur football after years away with a knee injury and my worry was not being able to get a game or having to keep coming off and then being dropped from the squad. In my first game I started the match, came off for ten minutes before half time, went back on then came off with five minutes left. This is helping me so much to get back into the game and all the other players who don’t want to turn up and only get the last 20 minutes.

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