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Rolling subs: will grassroots experiment work?

Sky Sports News' Peter Stevenson reports from the Rochdale and District Sunday League on the grassroots experiment of rolling subs.

Last Updated: 07/04/14 9:52am

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Sky Sports News' Peter Stevenson reports from the Rochdale and District Sunday League on the grassroots experiment of rolling subs.

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No footballer likes being on the subs bench, but a grassroots experiment appears to have given that traditional feature the red card.

For the past 12 months, hundreds of teams and thousands of players have had a taste of rolling subs.

It's a system that involves unlimited changes during the 90 minutes, and even allows players who have left the field to return.

Sky Sports News visited matches in the Rochdale and District Sunday League and found overwhelming support for the pilot project.

It's halfway through a two-year trial after being approved by the International FA board.

We spoke to managers as they wrote out the dreaded team-sheet, which in the past would confirm a player's worst fear....he hadn't made the starting eleven.

"It's a win-win situation and just helps when there's a niggle in the game."
Referee David Szuminski

Now players know that they almost certainly will get a game of some sorts thanks to the rolling idea.

Michael Thomas, manager of Rochdale Nomads said: "It's the best thing the league has ever done.

"We had 18 players at the start of the season, so we could send a couple home, and know that all the rest would get a game which is what it is all about."

The scheme has helped managers cope with tiredness and injuries among their players, but above all means that anyone who makes the effort to leave their bed on a Sunday morning won't have to spend all the game frozen on the touchline.

There are some minor disadvantages. Referees have to work overtime noting own the names of all those who leave and enter the field of play, so they are going through plenty of ink.

In theory, they should also add on time at the end of each half to account for each substitution.

But referee David Szuminski told us: "It's a win-win situation and just helps when there's a niggle in the game. A player can be taken off for five minutes to calm down. It's another tool we can use besides our yellow and red cards, and just helps all round with the respect campaign and communication with managers. "

Latest figures from the English FA show that the Rochdale experience is being repeated nationwide.

Last season, 178 leagues, involving 5,470 teams and 140,000 players took part in the experiment. This season it's 214 leagues, 6,740 teams and 165,000 players.

The international board has already approved a further 12 months for the trial, so those numbers are expected to rise even further.

Trevor Jones, president of the Rochdale Sunday League, believes that along with increased technology, the rolling subs idea can only be good for the long term future of football. He confidently predicts that his local league guinea pigs will pave the way for a much wider use of the scheme.

He said: "I am sure it will happen, and can see the idea being adopted by the Football League, and even international football in years to come. "

What do you think of the new experiment? Let us know using the form below.

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