I really like your colour sir!
I really like your colour sir!

Dr. Errol Sweeney, a former professional referee that officiated in South Africa, touches on a subject (see Football365.co.za – Opinion) that I encountered recently in a National First Division (NFD) match.

Law 4 Player’s Equipment notes the following regarding the issue of colour: “The two teams must wear colours that distinguish them from each other and also the referee and the assistant referees.”

Dr. Sweeney opinions that Wits coach has no reason, according to the Laws of the Game, to complain. While I agree in principle, I also humbly disagree, as it all depends on the amount of tape used. The coach of First Division side Ikapa Sporting, Sergio dos Santos, was rather amused when I informed some of his players to either change the colour or reduce the amount of tape used around their stockings/socks if they want to take the field of play.  Though dos Santos made no issue about this, he asked my reasoning for this sudden “rule change”.

Well, it’s quite simple really. It’s no rule change, but common sense, aka Law 18: His opponents had white stockings. Ikapa Sporting players had black stockings. These players taped up a third (and some half) of the socks with white duct tape to uphold their shin guards. One player even had white socks over his dark stockings. Thus, up to half the stockings of some players were the same colour as their opponents. So we have a situation were some players had colours that obviously did not distinguish them from their opponents socks, but are the same, and to a large degree at that. How does this impact play?

The coach or his players might not be confused, but I have difficulty in establishing a last touch of the ball if I look down at players legs.

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EDIT (2 Nov09): FIFA has with interest noted the usage of tape over the hose/stockings/socks of players slipping into the game of football. FIFA, being forward thinkers, and having seen this issue creeping in to the Fifa U20 World Cup in Egypt recently, issued the following directive:

Tape (or any such) may only be used if it is the same colour as the main colour of the hose/socks.

FIFA contends that tape changes the colour of the socks/hose, thus it is in contravention of the provision of the Laws of the Game. The ruling of FIFA is based on the same principle as that which governs the colour of undergarments. There is no official notice from FIFA via circular letter yet – as this takes time – but we can be proactive in South Africa and take action while awaiting FIFA’s official directive to the confederations.

The only endeavor left now is to get consistency in application of the ruling via all referees here in South Africa.

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