The Players' Equipment
"STICKUM" AND OTHER ARTIFICIAL AIDS
The Laws of the Game or any official USSF refereeing materials are silent on this matter. This silence suggests that "if it isn't prohibited it must permitted" in USSF sanctioned games.
Answer (September 6, 2001):
Artificial aids such as "stickum" are not part of the basic compulsory equipment of the player, which is comprised of a jersey or shirt, shorts, stockings, shinguards, and footwear. With the minor exception of the goalkeeper, players are not permitted to use any "tool" other than their natural ability to participate in play.
As to equipment for the goalkeeper, here is an excerpt from the [2010 edition] of the USSF publication "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game":
4.4 GOALKEEPER UNIFORMS AND EQUIPMENT
Under Law 4, goalkeepers must wear a jersey color distinct from the players of both teams and the referee and assistant referees. In addition, goalkeepers traditionally wear items of clothing besides those prescribed under Law 4. These items include soft hats or caps, gloves, training suit bottoms, pants with special hip or thigh pads, jerseys with pads along the elbows and arms, and separate pads for knees or elbows. There is no problem as long as these items of clothing do not present a danger to any players, are of a color distinct from the uniforms of players of either team and are, in the opinion of the referee, clearly related to the goalkeeper's function. The referee should prevent any player other than the goalkeeper from wearing an item of clothing or equipment that is permitted to the goalkeeper under these criteria.
END OF QUOTE
Please notice that the exceptions for the goalkeeper are designed strictly for protection of the goalkeeper, who is often expected to dive quickly to the ground. Law 4 is meant to ensure player safety, not player superiority through artificial means. There is no provision for the goalkeeper or any other player to wear artificial aids to enhance their ability to play. Therefore, tacky substances on the hands or "sticky" gloves are illegal equipment and, if used, constitute unsporting behavior for which a caution should be given.
WHAT IS "JEWELLERY"?
I could use some clarification on the FIFA definition of jewellery.
It is my interpretation of law 4 that "jewellery" has no firm definition, but, as a referee, I would defer primarily to the safety of the player's equipment to determine the wearing of accessories. This is obviously not worth arguing about, but several of my players were reprimanded today for starting the game with string bracelets around their wrists.
It would be a big stretch to see these as potentially harmful to a player or opponent, but the referee today was adamant that such string bracelets are universally understood to be "jewellery."
I ask this primarily as a referee, not a coach, because I want to know how FIFA would prefer this rule be interpreted.
Answer (December 15, 2010):
There is no "FIFA" definition of anything in the Laws. The definitions are all made by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the people who make the Laws, of which FIFA is a member. And they do not define jewelry for the simple reason that jewelry is jewelry, a decorative (usually) piece of adornment worn to enhance one's beauty or to plug some product or cause. All jewelry is prohibited by the IFAB in Law 4, no matter what its appearance may be. Jewelry in any form is dangerous, which is why the IFAB has prohibited it; players' hair or fingers may be caught and severely injured.
Jewelry includes (but is not limited to) "team spirit" strings; beads of any sort (worn in hair or on strings or leather, etc.); any adornment (including watches) worn on the wrist; rings with crowns or projections; adornment worn along the upper or lower arm; earrings of any sort (including "starter" earrings)l tongue studs; any visible body piercing; rubber, leather, plastic or other "bands" worn in reference to some sort of cause,
The only "jewelry" that is permitted in the United States is (a) medicalert jewelry for the purpose of aiding emergency medical personnel in treating injured players and (b) certain religious items that are not dangerous, are required by the religion to be worn, and not likely to provide the player with an unfair advantage (and even for the religious items, the player must have permission from the competition to wear it).
In short: No jewelry is allowed.
As a referee, how do you know if prescription eye glasses would be a problem as "Players may not wear anything that the referee considers dangerous to themselves or to their teammates or opponents."
In a competitive u15 game last weekend the referee would not let a player play with his glasses, and while I understand it is the referee's decision, what advice do I give the parents so they can get appropriate eye-wear?
Answer (October 25, 2010)):
The USSF guidance is contained in the following position paper of March 7, 2003, on player's equipment.
Re: Player's Equipment
Date: March 7, 2003
USSF has received a number of inquiries recently about how officials should handle situations where players wish to wear equipment that is not included in the list of basic compulsory equipment in FIFA Laws of the Game. Referees are facing increased requests from players for permission to wear kneepads, elbowpads, headbands, soft casts, goggles, etc.
The only concrete guidance in the Laws of the Game is found in Law 4:
"A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player."
This is followed by a list of required uniform items: jersey, shorts, socks, shoes, and shinguards. Obviously, this language is quite general. USSF suggests the following approach to issues involving player equipment and uniforms:
1. Look to the applicable rules of the competition authority.
Some leagues, tournaments, and soccer organizations have specific local rules covering player uniforms and what other items may or may not be worn on the field during play. Referees who accept match assignments governed by these rules are obligated to enforce them. Note, however, that local rules cannot restrict the referee's fundamental duty to ensure the safety of players.
2. Inspect the equipment.
All items of player equipment and uniforms must be inspected. However, anything outside the basic compulsory items must draw the particular attention of the referee and be inspected with special regard to safety. USSF does not "pre-approve" any item of player equipment by type or brand -- each item must be evaluated individually.
3. Focus on the equipment itself -- not how it might be improperly used, or whether it actually protects the player.
Generally, the referee's safety inspection should focus on whether the equipment has such dangerous characteristics as: sharp edges, hard surfaces, pointed corners, dangling straps or loops, or dangerous protrusions. The referee should determine whether the equipment, by its nature, presents a safety risk to the player wearing it or to other players. If the equipment does not present such a safety risk, the referee should permit the player to wear it.
The referee should not forbid the equipment simply because it creates a possibility that a player could use it to foul another player or otherwise violate the Laws of the Game. However, as the game progresses, an item that the referee allowed may become dangerous, depending on changes in its condition (wear and tear) or on how the player uses it. Referees must be particularly sensitive to unfair or dangerous uses of player equipment and must be prepared to order a correction of the problem whenever they become aware of it.
The referee also should not forbid the equipment because of doubts about whether it actually protects the player. There are many new types of equipment on the market that claim to protect players. A referee's decision to allow a player to use equipment is not an endorsement of the equipment and does not signify that the referee believes the player will be safer while wearing the equipment.
4. Remember that the referee is the final word on whether equipment is dangerous.
Players, coaches, and others may argue that certain equipment is safe. They may contend that the equipment has been permitted in previous matches, or that the equipment actually increases the player's safety. These arguments may be accompanied by manufacturer's information, doctor's notes, etc. However, as with all referee decisions, determining what players may wear within the framework of the Laws of the Game and applicable local rules depends on the judgment of the referee. The referee must strive to be fair, objective, and consistent – but the final decision belongs to the referee.
END OF QUOTE
This, of course, includes eyeglasses of any sort.
Back in 2001 USSF gave this advice to all referees: "Referees must not interpret [a statement from the IFAB -- the people who make the rules of our game] to mean either that "sports glasses" must automatically be considered safe or that glasses which are not manufactured to be worn during sports are automatically to be considered unsafe. The referee must make the final decision: the Board has simply recognized that new technology has made safer the wearing of glasses during play."
FACE PAINTING, TEAM SPIRIT AND INTIMIDATION
This past weekend I ref'd a U19G D2 game. Two girls from the home team had either a number or symbols painted on their face on the cheek under the eye. I asked the coach if they were tatoos. He said they were not. I told them that although anti-glare paint or strips under the eye would be OK, face painting for merely ornamental reasons would be considered adornment and would not be allowed. He became somewhat indignant and stated that he would get a clarification on the rules before he told them not to paint numbers/symbols on their face.
Questions: Can players wear anti glare paint/strips under the eyes? Can players paint numbers or symbols on their face?
Answer (September 15, 2008):
Law 4 - Player Equipment - tells us:
A player must not use equipment or wear anything which is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewelry).
The basic compulsory equipment of a player is:
- a jersey or shirt
- shorts -- if thermal undershorts are worn, they are of the same main color as the shorts
The referee must enforce the Laws of the Game, particularly as they apply to the safety of players. In other words, the player must not wear anything that is dangerous to anyone on the field and must not wear jewelry. The only players allowed -- by custom and practice, rather than by the Law - to wear any other items of clothing are goalkeepers. It is up to the referee to determine what is dangerous to the players in the game being refereed on this particular day at this particular field. The Federation cannot set separate guidelines for different age groups. There is no difference between under-tiny soccer, under-16 or -19 soccer, amateur soccer, professional or international soccer.
Anti-glare strips or paint on the face might be considered acceptable, as might paintings of flowers or the team mascot, but some face painting -- combat camouflage, stripes, etc. - is clearly intended as an attempt to intimidate the opponents and is thus unsporting behavior, rather than simply a matter of "building spirit," the reason usually offered for the practice.
If questioned by players, the referee should simply refer them to Law 4. If they do not wish to remove items that are unacceptable to the referee and thus to conform with the Law, inform them that the only alternative to removing the unauthorized equipment is not to play at all. Safety and common sense must be the referee's guideline.
If leagues or tournaments wish to prevent problems, they should adopt rules of competition which take the burden of determining that certain items are not acceptable in their competition. Referees should not be forced to make all the decisions in this area and thus become the target for player, coach, and spectator abuse.
And as a well-known former FIFA Referee would say: "Only in America!"
While doing a pre-game inspection of players prior to a game, I noticed that one of the boys was wearing shin guards that were totally inadequate to protect more than a few inches of his shin-they were about the size of a mens' wallet. I told him that I would not allow him to play until he found some larger ones, and lo and behold, he did. I later mentioned this to the referee,but he told me that I had no authority in the matter, and if the player wanted to risk his legs, so be it. I disagreed, pointing out that the law prohibits a player from wearing anything that presents a danger to himself, or others, but the man doing the center replied that this referred to items other than mandatory uniform.
Does the U.S.S.F have any guidance as regards this?
Answer (April 14, 2008):
USSF guidance follows Law 4:
- are covered entirely by the stockings
- are made of a suitable material (rubber, plastic, or similar substances)
- provide a reasonable degree of protection
If, in the opinion of the referee, the shinguards do not "provide a reasonable degree of protection," then they should not be allowed.