Rolling subs get thumbs up as IFAB extends grassroots trial

Club Website members give their backing to the use of repeat substitutions in grassroots football as the game’s lawmakers, IFAB, extend the FA and SFA’s trials for another season

Four out of five people in the UK’s grassroots football community would welcome an increased use of repeat substitutions in the game, a Club Website poll can reveal.

The news comes after the International Football Association Board (IFAB) granted a one-year extension to a successful two-year trial run by the Football Association and the Scottish FA in 11-a-side football in a bid to increase participation in the grassroots game.

With the first trial of its kind drawing to a close at the end of the 2013/14 season, 61 percent of Club Website members said they would like to see repeat substitutions used across all grassroots football, including open age games.

19 percent of respondents said they would like to see repeat substitutions – or ‘rolling subs’ – used in all youth football but not in the adult game, while 20 percent said they would limit their use to just the younger age groups, as was the case before the trial began.

Normal 11-a-side rules allow a maximum of five substitutes to be named, with three allowed to be used in open age football and youth football in the older age groups, after players move up from mini soccer. Over the years the rule has resulted in, week after week, many amateur footballers not even making the field of play in matches up and down the UK.

With pressure on FAs to increase participation at grassroots level, the home nations joined forces to propose to IFAB a more flexible approach to substitutions with a view to retaining more players for the traditional 11-a-side game.

Initial feedback from the trial has proved positive and, with more leagues across the country wanting to get involved, IFAB have decided to grant an extension to the FA and SFA, requesting that they submit further results to their advisory panels at the end of the 2014/15 season.

Nick Levett, the FA’s National Development Manager for Youth and Mini Soccer, was pleased with the “positive” news and hoped that it spelled the beginning of a more permanent move.

“The number of leagues taking on repeat substitutions is increasing year-on-year,” he said.

“The initial concerns that referees had about the number of player changes haven’t materialised. The initial concerns from adult managers about teams using the rule to run the clock down or waste time haven’t materialised. The feedback has been really positive.

“So we’ve had an extension to the pilot. It will be interesting to see if FIFA and IFAB ever go back on it. I will be surprised if they do as the feedback has been so good.”

Club Website poll: After the recent rolling subs trial, do you think this system should be used across all grassroots football?

YES. Use rolling subs in ALL GRASSROOTS FOOTBALL (youth & open age) 61.1%
NO. Keep to YOUNGER AGE GROUPS (traditional subs for older ages & open age) 20.4%
NO. Use in ALL YOUTH FOOTBALL but leave open-age as traditional subs 18.5%

Total votes: 2,968 votes

Dan Pope on LinkedinDan Pope on Twitter
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.

Take the hassle out of organising your sports team with Teamer. Organise, communicate and take payments.


  1. Tony Gardner on June 28, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    This rule works well, and benefits the game at all levels of football. What it also means is that an injured player can come off for treatment without either the team playing with 10 or him being permanently substituted. The objections- that substitution can be used as a disruptive or timewasting tactic- have not materialised in my experience as a Referee. And if they did- well, substitutions may only be made with the Referee’s permission- so it could be withheld in cases of abuse. A good rule which ought to come in at ALL levels.

  2. Geoff on July 11, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Tony, I completely agree with your comments. As a youth football manager is great to be able to use rolling subs and a benefit to the players.

  3. Gavin Burke on October 6, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    Having just returned from injury to play 11-a-side, this new rule is really helping me keep going at football. I would have gave up as wouldn’t have wanted to be a sub every week, now we have a group of 12-15 turning up each week and all getting a fair share of football!!

Join the discussion