SFA chief executive Stewart Regan last night hailed what he believes will be a significant boost to the domestic game at grassroots level.
Earlier this week, football’s lawmakers gave the green light to introduce rolling substitutions, probably by the start of next season.
In a revolutionary move, delegates at the interim business meeting of the International FA Board (IFAB) – the guardians of the game comprising Fifa and the four British home associations – took a significant step towards ripping up the rule book.
They will allow all five subs to come on and off the pitch at any given time during 90 minutes or extra time, reducing the pain of being left on the sidelines week after week.
Although the move will only affect amateur and recreational football, and needs to be rubber-stamped by the IFAB’s full annual meeting on March 1, Regan says its implementation cannot be underestimated.
The Scottish FA have already been running a pilot scheme with their English counterparts which has proved hugely successful in aiding participation. Now the experiment looks like becoming part of the fabric of the game.
Regan said: “Typically what happens is that if kids and adults are told they are only going to be a sub, there is less of a desire to turn up and be involved.
“Rolling subs will encourage participation. We want more people involved in football. Instead of only having 11 players, with a maximum of three subs, this allows all the subs to participate.
“That is a substantial improvement, not just for Scotland but around the world. The role of an FA is not just about the senior game. It’s also about promoting health and social benefits.
“We are pioneering an initiative that will encourage more people to remain in the game, particularly children and over-35s. We are an ageing population and many people can’t play for 90 minutes.”
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Regan was backed by his opposite number at the English FA, Alex Horne, who said: “We still need to establish if there is definition that works globally, especially in countries where there is no professional or even amateur football at the level we have. But it’s an important idea.”
Only at the main IFAB annual session in the spring can amendments to the laws be made but one innovation that won’t be seeing the light of day is Fifa President Sepp Blatter’s bizarre idea of allowing managers to be permitted tennis-style challenges against refereeing decisions.
Blatter first made the suggestion during Fifa’s annual congress in Sao Paulo last June but IFAB delegates, aided for the first time by two newly established panels of experts from across the game, say it’s too early to consider video replays as an extension of goal-line technology.
Regan said: “It’s the first time we met to discuss this since the Fifa congress and we felt there are a lot of questions that need to be answered. We’ll keep talking but I can’t see this coming into effect in time for next season. There’s a lot more discussion needed. Football relies on being free-flowing.”
His Welsh FA opposite number Jonathan Ford agreed, saying: “We were not sure about the idea of giving teams a challenging opportunity. We should never say never but there was a degree of scepticism around the table.” Meanwhile, doing away with the so-called “triple punishment” – penalty, sending off and suspension for offences committed inside the area that prevent goalscoring opportunities – is another thorny issue that will return to the negotiating table in March.
One suggestion is to turn red cards into yellows if fouls are not deemed violent conduct. “This has been on the agenda for the last four years,” said Regan. “We scratch our heads and work out how we can deal with it.”
One of the key members of IFAB’s two new advisory panels is former World Cup referee Pierluigi Collina and Regan said the Italian was among those pushing for change.
“He said enough was enough and that we cannot keep pushing this back. We need to do something to reduce the amount of punishment that is meted out for denying a goalscoring opportunity.”
Regan added: “There are two ends of the spectrum. Either you reduce the automatic suspension or you adopt a more technical solution whereby the 18-yard box is deemed a special area and that denying a goalscoring opportunity becomes a yellow card since a penalty is awarded there anyway.
“It will come back in March and there will a recommendation for change. Quite what that will be is subject to more deliberations between now and then.”
Three-minute stoppages for cases of concussion, recommended by Fifa’s medical experts, are also likely to be rubber-stamped next spring.
Regan said: “Everyone agrees it’s a good idea.”
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