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In the final between Chelsea and Manchester City, Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa refused to be substituted, enraging his coach Sarri. Apparently, a few years ago, Messi acted the same way with his coach Enrique.

Can a coach force a player to get out of the field to be substituted, maybe by asking the referee to tell him to get out? Can a player really refuse to get out, if he does not want to? Are there any rule discussing these situations? According to the official rules, was there anything Sarri could have done?

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Not really, no.

Law 3.3, Substitution procedure says

if a player who is to be replaced refuses to leave, play continues

indicating that the referee has no power to enforce a substitution, and further is required to ignore an unsuccessful attempt rather than wait for the conflict to be resolved.

Law 3.7, Extra persons on the field of play says

If a team official, substitute, substituted or sent off player or outside agent enters the field of play the referee must:

  • only stop play if there is interference with play

  • have the person removed when play stops

  • take appropriate disciplinary action

indicating that the team officials or bench are not permitted to try to enforce the substitution themselves by entering the field.

However, should the player leave of their own accord with permission of the referee, and somehow be restrained from re-entering it until the next stoppage of play, and the substitution is alerted before this time, and the substitute enters the field at halfway when permitted, according to the remainder of Law 3.3, then a substitution has technically occurred. Law 3.7 then applies to the substituted player themselves, barring them from returning to the game. For all practical purposes however, this procedure should not be relied upon.

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