Local football may change substitution rules
Back in 1965 I was editor of the Reading Referee, the magazine of the Reading Referees Association, as I am again now. My co-editor, Peter Jefferies who sadly died much too young, and I had a disagreement in print over a major change introduced that season. This was the year that the Football Association first allowed the use of substitutes in competitive matches. Substitutes had long been permitted under the Laws of the Game but only with the approval of the National Governing body, and in England the Football Association had not agreed to them. That year they gave permission for the Football League to use substitutes as an experiment. Although I accepted there had been a lot of games where teams down to ten men through injury had gallantly fought but lost, I believed this was all part of the English spirit. It was my contention that substitutes were looked down on in this country as a fraud. This, I said, was clearly shown, when in the first game of the season, a substitute took the field at Arsenal, he was booed by a large section of the crowd. Peter however, thought very differently. He was in favour of the introduction of substitutes but felt that the League had not gone far enough; it should not have made the stipulation that only injured players could be substituted. It was true that it had already caused several arguments. Managers, as always were quick to try and get round the rules and fit players who were to be substituted, were instructed to limp off the field. This ruling however, was not the fault of the Football League or the Football Association but it was in the Laws, which stated that where substitutes were used, they could only replace injured players. This lasted two more years and in 1967 this restriction was removed and substitutes were allowed for tactical purposes. It was not for another thirty years however, 1995, that the number of substitutes permitted was increased from two to three. The use of substitutes has become a standard feature of the game but now, for local football at least, it faces a major change. It’s not always known, particularly by follows of professional football, that certain sections of the game have long been allowed what are called modifications, on some aspects of the laws. These sections are under 16s, women’s football, veterans (over 35) and disabled footballers. One of the modifications is for substitutions where a player who has been substituted can return later in the game. It is often referred to as ‘rolling subs’ but the correct term is repeatable subs as they still have to be made as normal, for example, at a stoppage in play. Often up to five repeatable substitutes are allowed. Earlier this month, the International Football Association Board agreed that modification on substitutes can be extended to all ‘amateur’ football. Amateur means a player who plays for fun or as a hobby without any material gain and who has never received any numerations except for expenses incurred. This was proposed by the FA as they said that more flexibility would encourage people to take up the sport or continue their participation. It certainly helps in youth football, where a player who has been substituted knows the game may not be finished for him as he has a chance of getting back on. Also as there are more substitutes allowed, more young people can be involved. The FA obviously believes is that this will also be true in Men’s football. This doesn’t mean there will automatically be a change in the substitution regulations in local Reading Saturday and Sunday leagues next season. It does mean however, they will have the opportunity in future to change their competition rules on substitutes, which would normally happen at their annual general meetings.