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?

USSF 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 ˆ but the final decision belongs to the referee.

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.”…


If you have some time to clarify the proper procedure for a situation I encountered and am getting conflicting information on, I would greatly appreciate it. I’m a 07 referee working on my 06 badge and was faced with a new situation in my upgrade assessment last weekend that I haven’t been able to get a concise answer on.

A player was frustrated with his own team, looking for a sub for a while, and when he finally was able to sub he removed his jersey about 20 yards on the field as he was coming off. The SAR handling the subs for that team (teams on both sides in this league/match) asked him to put his shirt back on and the player’s reply was, “no I can’t do that.” and he walked away still with his shirt off.

The AR (who is a state referee and an assessor) called me over, told me that the player needed a caution and on the advice of my AR I cautioned the player. At the time I knew that something had been said by the player, so I thought the caution was for dissent. There was no objection or argument from players or teammates and everyone accepted the card. The State assessor on the game told me after that he thought all my cards in the game were warranted, including that one.

Upon discussing my assessment with a mentor and area Director of Instruction, he asked me where in the laws/atr/interp/memos is this written that removing the jersey is a cautionable offense other than when its done in celebration of a goal.

To be honest, I don’t know the answer to that, and I don’t know if it is even written.

My SDA and the AR who is a State Ref and an assessor both said that they were pretty sure they remembered it somewhere, but couldn’t tell me where. The SDA said that I can always write that up as Unsporting Behavior or Dissent for refusing to follow the referee’s instructions to put the jersey back on.

My questions are, is there verbiage on this type of situation anywhere? What is the correct way to handle this situation? Was the caution even warranted, even though I’ve been told it was? If warranted, what should it be booked as?

Any clarification you can give me is greatly appreciated.

USSF answer (October 20, 2010):
Despite diligent effort, we can find nothing in the Laws of the Game or in documents issued by FIFA (or the International Football Association Board) that covers such an act.

1. So, what is out there?
a. As far back as the IFAB (published by FIFA for the IFAB) Questions and Answers 2000 and FIFA have been firm about dealing with players who remove their shirts in excessive demonstration of their jubilation (celebration) of a goal or to taunt or provoke their opponents. Such players are to be cautioned immediately for unsporting behavior. That continues today.

b. As of 2002 players who remove their shirts to display slogans or advertising are to be dealt with through disciplinary measures in accordance with the procedures of the particular competition under which they occur. In addition, when time wasting occurred referees would continue to take actions in accordance with the Laws of the Game. Our guidance to referees is that they must take action against goal celebrations which incite, are provocative, or take an excessive amount of time. Referees must report to the competition authority incidents involving players who uncover slogans or advertising on clothing worn under their uniform but may not take action against players for this reason alone. The Federation also stated on July 23, 2003, that “Simply removing the jersey in a momentary emotional reaction to scoring a goal should not be treated as misconduct unless doing so excessively delays the restart of play or is performed in such a manner that, in the opinion of the referee, it taunts, provokes, or incites opponents. And, of course, any material on the undershirt that is insulting, abusive, or offensive must be punished by a send-off/red card.

c. Nothing in the Laws, but some cultures — even here in the United States — do not like to see an excessive amount of skin showing. These are typically religious objections.

2. Where does this leave us?
a. If the player is protesting about something when stripping off the shirt, then the referee may have grounds for a caution for unsporting behavior.

b. If the referee sees the strip begin, asks the player to put the shirt back on, and the player refuses, then the player is dissenting and can be cautioned for that.

c. If the player is simply hot, tired, and ready to pack it in, the act is probably not worth worrying about it. One rule of good game management is that the referee should not do anything that will make any situation worse. Why get someone who is acting in all innocence cranky or upset?

We hope this is helpful to you and to your mentors.…


Quick question about stickum: Is it allowed or an infringement for a Goalie to use stickum on their Goalie Gloves.

USSF answer (October 19, 2010):
This answer from back in 2001 is still applicable. The citation from the Advice to Referees has been updated to the current version.

USSF 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 [2010/2011 edition of] the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game”:

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.

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.


During the Concacaf Champions League game between Santos Laguna and the Columbus Crew on Tuesday August 24th a goal for the Crew was disallowed. Renteria, the Crew player who assisted on the goal, was not wearing a jersey with name or number, having had to change it due to the presence of blood. After treatment he was waved onto the field at least twice by the center referee which is clear from replays and the fourth official made no attempt to stop him from entering the field. The goal is scored almost immediately. It is only then that the coaching staff of Santos besiege the fourth official (who is Mexican as well). After a conference between the center and the fourth the goal is disallowed, Renteria is cautioned and has to come off to change his jersey. restart is a goal kick.

USSF answer (September 1, 2010):
Your description of the situation seems to suggest that the game was stopped because the player had no numbers or name on his shirt, not because he entered the game without the referee’s permission. That is a matter regarding the rules of competition, not the Laws of the Game and interpretations thereof, and thus falls outside our competence to answer.…


I thought I saw a memo sometime last year on resending requirement for player’s uniforms sleeves. Is players uniforms must have sleeves?

Thank you

USSF answer (August 23, 2010):
The Laws of the Game require that a player’s jersey have sleeves. No memorandum or position paper on this matter has been issued since 2003.…


I am a Referee Instructor. After watching the Seattle vs Colorado match, a student asked me if MLS does not follow Law 4 in dealing with undershorts. Seattle’s shorts are blue and yet several of their players were wearing knee length green sliding shorts and one player was wearing white. Since they were knee length, it was obvious even on TV that they were not following as we are teach. Not wanting to get into my opinion of the Referee, I answered that I was not intimate with MLS’ Rules of Competition and it could be waved in those. Can you clarify this?

USSF answer (July 26, 2010):
The requirements for the pros are precisely the same as those for all other players. This was an oversight by the refereeing team.…


I am asking this for one of our players in our league. I am presently the president of a club in [my state].

This is for over 30 women division. One of our players wears in the inner lobe of her ear a half circle earring with a small ball on each end and it can only be removed with surgical instruments. It could be easily covered.One referee has refused to let her play while she played before some games with no issues.

Nowadays many younger girls have body piercing and so on .

Question: Would it be less dangerous such an earring than a metal knee brace and what is the rule regarding this kind of earrings.

Thanks for your answer.

USSF answer (June 1, 2010):
Unfortunately for your player, the rules we play by, the Laws of the Game, are clear: no jewelry.

A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewelry).

The rule on no jewelry also applies to items worn as part of body piercings. The only exceptions for “jewelry” are medicalert bracelets and religious items specifically required by the wearer’s religion.

Although the referee on any particular game has the final authority to approve or disapprove any item of equipment as to its safety, that decision must be taken within the Laws of the Game which are quite clear on the subject of jewelry. There are only two acceptable reasons even to consider allowing such noncompulsory equipment — religious or medical reasons — and even there the referee must still determine that the item meets the Law’s safety standard. By tradition and worldwide acceptance, nondangerous wedding bands are also considered acceptable. It does not appear that the item worn by the player in your scenario meets any of the exceptions and so we would expect every referee to be firm in not allowing anyone wearing such an item to be a player.…


Could you help me settle an on-going discussion within our referee board?

Although the rules of the game and most local leagues are clear on adornments worn by players, there appears to be little ever said about adornments worn by referees. Specifically, earrings. Does US SOCCER or FIFA have any directives on this subject? I seem to remember seeing what I thought was an earring on an English Premier League game referee, or was I mistaken?

USSF answer (May 26, 2010):
With the exception of the referee’s watch (and the possible exception of a wedding band), no referee should wear any adornment that is not permitted for players. In other words, NO JEWELRY.…


I am looking for advice on whether a commonly used knee brace may be in violation of Law 4. I’m seeing more and more female players recovering from ACL injuries using a brace similar to the one shown in the attached file. In a game I did yesterday I noticed a brace during checkin. I asked the player and coach if a referee had ever disallowed her from playing because of the brace and the answer was no. At the start of the second half the opposing coach approached me to inquire about the brace. He told me that his players were complaining that they were getting ‘bumped’ by the brace during close in play. No player approached me with that complaint.

Is such a knee brace considered to be dangerous to players?

USSF answer (May 26, 2010):
Braces may be worn if they meet the same requirement that must be met for any equipment, that it ensures complete safety for all participants. The final decision rests with the referee for this particular game; not the last game, not the next game, but this game.

In addition, a player wearing an item of clothing or equipment which is not standard but which has been inspected by the referee and found not to be dangerous may still not use the item dangerously during play. If the player in question is using the brace to unfairly augment her abilities or as a weapon, then it may not be worn.…



Especially at the professional level (MLS), are referees looking to see the players have some type of shinguard on their legs, but nothing more? 

As you are well aware of, Law 4 – The Players’ Equipment states:

-provide a reasonable degree of protection

Two examples of almost no protection would be Colorado’s and former USA International Pablo Mastroeni and Chivas USA’s Blair Gavin (I’m sure there are more).

Again, at what level of play does it not become necessary to provide a reasonable degree of protection? Or is it necessary, even at the professional level, but not always enforced by the referee? Do FIFA referees enforce this law or let it go as trifling and simply make sure everyone has some type of shinguard? 

USSF answer (May 6, 2010):

In general, the decision on the “reasonable degree of protection” is made using The Seven Magic Words, “If, in the opinion of the referee.” Referees must remember that at the professional level, the players and trainers must take responsibility. What is sufficient protection to one, may not be to another.…