Hanging Judge: Opposing team colours simply have to be distinguishable

Law four of the Fifa laws of the game deals specifically with players’ equipment, and spells out in detail what is and is not allowed.

You may remember that I dealt with jewellery in a previous column, including wristbands, and I also touched on cultural issues.

Well, imagine my surprise when I read recently that a referee had a conundrum. In a match involving two lower-league teams in South Africa, there was a clash of colours. You could be forgiven for questioning the planning and foresight of the teams involved.

Do the teams not contact each other to see what colours they will wear on the day? Is there no system they can use to avoid this situation?

Anyway, the visiting team arrived to find that the home side was wearing the same – or very similar – colours. Naturally, the referee was in a fix. He couldn’t have two teams whose kit was almost identical running around.

How would he know who was who?

Generally, the rule is that the away team changes into another kit so that the home team can wear their colours. This is understandable.

However, that’s not always the case. In fact, some leagues insist that the home team change because it’s easier for them to get replacement jerseys. This makes sense. But neither option was feasible for the teams and the away team was anxious to play the game because they would have to travel back for a rematch if it didn’t go ahead. In some instances, that can be expensive.

Some bright spark came up with the idea that if the entire team rolled around in the mud for a while, they would make their green kit brown, which might satisfy the match officials and allow the game to continue. But the ref said no.

While it’s not for me to pass judgement on any match official confronted with such a problem, from the photograph shared on social media, I feel that the referee was wrong when deciding not to allow the game to go ahead.

This is what law four says if there is a clash of colours:

  • The two teams must wear colours that distinguish them from each other and the match officials;
  • Each goalkeeper must wear colours that are distinguishable from the other players and the match officials; and
  • If the two goalkeepers’ shirts are the same colour and neither has another shirt, the referee allows the match to be played.

There are other specifics contained in this law, but they really only apply to professional teams that have the financial resources to adhere to them.

I feel some leeway must be given to teams in lower leagues. These teams are struggling just to make ends meet and they find it hard to have one set of gear, let alone a replacement kit.

Perhaps it’s the fault of the refereeing authorities whose job it is to inform all match officials about the protocols that must be adhered to. We must also not forget that not all teams are awash with money. Sometimes exceptions have to be made for a game to be played.

Having said that, you only have to watch the UK Premier League and cup games to see that the referees at the highest level – some of whom wear Fifa badges – are also not conforming to law four when it comes to a clash of colours.

I rest my case.

Please feel free to make comments or ask questions.

Happy whistling!

  • sports@citypress.co.za
  • thehangingjudge88@gmail.com
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