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Over the course of the 2021/22 Premier League and EFL Championship seasons, I've noticed that, about once a month, games are getting temporarily paused due to medical emergencies in the crowd. I don't recall this happening in previous seasons, so I suspect there's been some kind of rule change regarding how medical emergencies in football grounds are handled - previously the match would just continue, and the stewards would try and sort it out while minimizing disruption, but now the match is brought to a halt instead.

When exactly was this change brought about, and why? And if it's not an official rule, then why the sudden change in policy?

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I don't believe that anything has changed per se, other than generally more awareness amongst fans, players, referees etc. that in a medical emergency quick action can save lives, which probably came through hardest after the Christian Eriksen incident in Euro 2020.

Given that all Premier League teams, and likely most of the Football League teams, have fully-trained doctors / medical professionals as part of their match-day staff, and that most will likely be equipped with life-saving equipment (eg a defibrillator1), it would seem inappropriate to not ask them for help.

We must not forget that, for all our passions for the game, it is just a game, and if a medical emergency should arise, in which halting the game would increase the likelihood of someone receiving the treatment that they need, then it should be welcomed.

That's not to say we should stop the game because someone slips and rolls their ankle, but I believe in all of the cases in the Premier League, the incidents have been because of a cardiac arrest, or similar type of incident in severity.


Opinions over... In terms of actual rules, there have been no changes from IFAB or the FA for this season to explicitly state that the referee must stop play in the case of a medical emergency outside of the field of play.

The only current rule that could possibly apply, albeit I think this is more for direct interference, is perhaps Law 5.3 which states:

Outside interference

  • stops, suspends or abandons the match for any offences or because of outside interference

There are then a list of some specific examples, but I would imagine that they are not exhaustive.


  1. A small part of me thinks this is a requirement now, though I have not yet been able to find an example document for the Premier League or Football League. However, for UEFA sanctioned matches, it is a requirement to have a defibrillator, amongst other medical equipment, pitch-side.
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    Just to reinforce the fact that this wasn't the result of a rule change, the FA have actually changed the rules for 2022/23 to go in the opposite direction: teams have been told not to stop play for a medical emergency in the crowd "unless absolutely necessary".
    – F1Krazy
    Aug 5 at 9:13

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