Rolling subs trial has a fast-growing fan club

Norfolk County FA football administration manager Matt Carpenter.

Norfolk County FA football administration manager Matt Carpenter. - Credit: Archant

A radical change in the way substitutions are made in grassroots games all over Norfolk is set to keep on rolling next season, if early feedback is anything to go by.

The new system, being trialled in the majority of the county’s junior level leagues and involving thousands of players, allows teams to field up to five substitutes who can be introduced on a roll-on roll-off basis.

The two-year pilot scheme, instigated by FIFA in a bid to increase player participation in matches, was not without opposition when Evening News Copy IT Norwich Sunday League clubs were asked to vote on its introduction at the league’s annual meeting last year.

But over halfway through the current campaign, the number of dissenting voices, which led to a over a third of the Norwich Sunday League clubs voting against the new rules, appears to be on the wane. League secretary Ben Casey, who is in regular contact with club officials and is a familiar face at Sunday morning matches at all levels, said he had received only positive feedback. “So far I have not had one complaint from anyone saying it’s rubbish and isn’t working,” he said. “I have not heard of referees having problems with it either. It took a bit of getting used to in the first two or three weeks but the clubs have embraced it and just got on with it.” He added: “Some of the clubs have said it’s a godsend. Managers with squads of 14 or 15 players are pleased because it enables them to keep the whole squad happy.”

The scheme is useful for enabling players who would not last for 90 minutes to be used in short bursts or allowing flagging players to be given a breather. Teams that had previously used all their subsitutes before losing a player through injury, would not now have to suffer numerically, as a substituted player could be “rolled” back on. Casey added: “It will be for the clubs to decide whether we do it again next season.” Norfolk FA football administration manager Matt Carpenter said the roll-on roll-off substitiutions would be one of the topics for discussion at the County FA Football Development Day, which officials from the county’s 19 affiliated leagues, spanning adults, women’s and youth football, had been invited to at Barnham Broom Hotel this Sunday. Most of the county’s adult leagues have adopted the system, open to clubs below Anglian Combination Premier Division level, this season. The leagues operating it are: Norfolk Christian League, Yarmouth Saturday League, Yarmouth Sunday League, NE Norfolk League, North West Norfolk League, Norwich Sunday League, Norwich Saturday League and South Norfolk Sunday League.

Leagues that decided not to adopt it this season are: the Anglian Combination, Breckland and District League, Central and South Norfolk League, and the King’s Lynn Sunday League.

Individual leagues will ask their clubs to vote on whether they wish to use the system next season.

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“It will be interesting to see how it goes,” said Carpenter. “Some leagues decided to vote against it this time because it was new and they wanted to see how it went.”

Carpenter, who has refereed Norwich Saturday and Sunday League matches this season, added: “As a referee, other than a little bit of an initial teething issue in terms of people getting used to the system I have not experienced any problems at all.”

The roll-on roll-off system is also in use for all of Norfolk County FA’s cup competitions, other than the Norfolk Senior Cup, with three substitutes permitted.