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?
USSF 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!”