Scottish FA look to implement changes; how they might affect Celtic

By Euan Davidson

December 16, 2020

The Scottish FA have today announced trials of “concussion substitutions”.

The SFA’s announcement follows advice from the International Football Association Board (IFAB). The new rules will allow players to make changes in the event of a head injury.

Even if a team has used all of its substitutions, they will not be forced to play with 10 men if a head knock has occurred (SFA).

In the SFA’s official announcement, they said:

“Player safety and wellbeing is paramount to the Scottish FA and we have played a leading role in raising awareness of concussion in sport, following the introduction of the world-leading concussion guidelines in 2015, If In Doubt, Sit Them Out.

“The Scottish FA can confirm that it will begin the application process to introduce the concussion substitute trial in the Scottish Cup at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Jeremie Frimpong receives treatment at Celtic Park / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

How this affects Celtic

The subject of head injuries is extremely relevant to Celtic. Only last week, Jeremie Frimpong had to seek treatment for a head injury, following a stumble into advertising hoardings.

Chris Sutton has been particularly vocal about the impact of head knocks in football. During the match, he tweeted:

Whether it’s accidents like Frimpong’s, or the continued damage of heading the ball, authorities in the sport have finally been proactive. This year, under-12s were banned from heading the ball entirely (BBC).

Between that measure and the new legislation on concussion subs, it’s clear that the Scottish Football Association want to lead the world in preventing long-term brain injuries caused by football.

John MacLean, the Scottish FA Chief’s Medical Consultant, said:

“This is an important step in the progress that is being made across sport surrounding head injuries. The introduction of a permanent concussion substitute in football would build on Scotland’s world-leading approach on the subject of head injury and trauma in sport.

“Implementing the trial in the Scottish Cup will in turn provide invaluable data to inform a wider implementation plan for Scottish football.”

Given the use of the phrase “earliest given opportunity”, it’s clear that Sunday’s Scottish Cup Final may be the first venue for these changes. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that, of course.

Hampden will play host to the Scottish Cup Final on Sunday / (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Football’s links to brain injuries further scrutinised

Football in general has been under the microscope in this area. Campaigners such as Sutton and his Blackburn Rovers team-mate Alan Shearer have stressed the need for reform. The Alzheimer’s Society commented on heading the ball and concussion risks in football in Februrary, stating:

“Researchers compared the causes of death of 7,676 former Scottish male professional football players born between 1900 and 1976 against over 230,000 matched individuals from the general population.

“The study revealed that former professional football players had an approximately three and a half times higher rate of death due to neurodegenerative disease than expected.”

Celtic’s iconic captain and manager Billy McNeill’s dementia was linked to head injuries caused by football (BBC). A fierce and determined aerial presence, McNeill suffered from dementia since 2010, sadly passing away last year.

Cesar’s daughter, Susan McNeill said:

“In Dad’s day, he was playing with a big heavy leather ball which would get soaking wet and would become extremely hard.

“We know that in training they practised with the same ball. So we do feel that there is a link between (his condition and) his playing days.

“Obviously the results that have come out recently are indicating that.”

Given the mounting evidence, it’s clear the SFA want to lead the way on harm reduction. We applaud them for doing so.