Players don’t always have to leave the pitch after injury treatment

A very unusual incident happened at the Reading v Queens Park Rangers match at the Madejski Stadium last Saturday and was one which I know bemused many spectators. There was a free kick awarded to Reading outside their opponent’s penalty area but one of the QPR players had gone down with an injury. After speaking to the injured player, the referee called on the club physiotherapist. Unusually QPR send on two physios when a player is injured, whereas most clubs will only use one, unless the injury turns out to be more serious when they may call for back up. This is not to say that QPR are incorrect in their action, for the Guidelines to referees in the Laws of the Game say that ‘after questioning the injured player, the referee may authorise one or at most two doctors to enter the field of play to assess the injury and arrange the player’s safe and swift removal from the field of play’. For doctors read physios. The next part of the Law, says that players must not be treated on the field of play but as we all know this is totally ignored. Instead, after the player has been treated he is made to leave the field of play and wait for a signal from the referee that he may return, which the referee can’t do until the game has restarted.

However, the unusual thing that happened with QPR is that after the two physios came on, another one of their players fell to the ground and lay on his back calling for treatment. The two physios then split, with one attending the original injured player and the other the new ‘patient’. When this second player had received treatment, the referee told him to leave the field of play but he refused to go to, bringing on many cries of derision from the Reading spectators. The question I have to ask is, was he trying to evoke the change to the law that was made in 2010.

The Law has of course always permitted the goalkeeper to be treated on the field of play and there is no question of him having to leave after the treatment his been given. Imagine what a farce it would be if he did. One of the outfield players would have to take over the position of goalkeeper until the game stopped again, (you can only change with the goalkeepers at a stoppage in play) and then there would be another delay whilst he changed back. The Law also said that if a goalkeeper collided with another player and they were both injured they could both be treated without leaving the field of play. Presumably this was to recognise that it would be unfair if one could stay and the other couldn’t.

In 2010 the Scottish FA put a proposal to the International FA Board that if two players of the same side were injured at the same time it would be unfair to leave that side with such a numerical disadvantage. The Law was then changed to add that if players from the same side have collided and required immediate treatment they too could stay on the pitch. Back to the QPR incident, had that player remembered this change in the Law and though they hadn’t collided, reckoned that if there were two of them injured neither of them would have to leave the pitch before the free kick? Or was it simply that he thought while the physio was there he might as well get him to relieve his cramp and therefore he didn’t rank as being injured. We shall never know but it does show how convoluted this distorted law on injuries has become for the referee and everyone else.


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