Arsenal star Beth Mead suffered a head injury in the Gunners’ 1-0 Champions League qualifying win over Ajax that resulted in her team finishing the game with only 10 players after the match officials denied them the opportunity to bring on a concussion sub.
Mead didn’t start the game in Amsterdam, which was ultimately decided by a single Vivianne Miedema goal, but came off the bench only to then leave the field with stoppage time remaining.
The Ballon d’Or nominee took a blow to the back of the head from Ajax defender Lisa Doorn. Arsenal correctly were prepared to take no chances with her health and safety and began to prepare Lina Hurtig as a replacement, despite having used all of their allotted substitutions.
But the match officials put a stop to it, with concussion substitutes not yet actually adopted by UEFA despite launching a concussion charter in 2021 and trialling the use of additional replacements in the final stage of last year’s Under-21 European Championship. An IFAB trial that was seen in the WSL and Women's Championship ended in July of this year.
Under UEFA’s concussion protocol, the decision was made by Arsenal’s team doctor that Mead would not continue despite it potentially coming at a sporting disadvantage.
Gunners boss Jonas Eidevall confirmed after the match that he had asked the fourth official whether a concussion substitute would be allowed and initially appeared to get indication that it was. Given that he thought Hurtig could replace Mead, Eidevall had no reason to prepare his team for being reduced to 10 players during the break in play while the concussion assessment was going on.
“I think that’s misinformation from the referee,” he said. “I honestly don’t know how and why that can be, because for me it’s just such a simple question to answer yes or no.
Discussing the implications of concussion, Eidevall added, “In Sweden, where I come from, in ice hockey it’s very big. If you tackle towards the head, they’ve realised how dangerous that is, they are so harsh on penalising violence towards the head. Because that’s not only pain, it can have impact for the rest of your life, so that means the decisions need to be very good to not staying on.”
Eidevall questioned whether Doorn should have been sent off for the challenge on Mead, describing it as ‘careless’ rather than malicious, and added he wasn’t surprised to be leaving Amsterdam with two injuries, having also seen Rafaelle Souza suffer an ankle problem.