The wearing of headgear by referees has been limited to ‘special conditions’ for a long time now. I see female referees and assistant referees wearing headbands and head scarves at the Olympic games. Has anything changed in this context recently?

USSF answer (August 22, 2008):
No matter what we see referees wear at international tournaments, that is not necessarily what referees should wear when working games in the United States. Our standard has been clear for many years now,

As to caps or other hats, Federation policy on hats was published in the October 1999 issue of Fair Play and has been reiterated several times in this venue:

Q. May referees wear caps and sunglasses?
A. With regard to caps, the policy of the United States Soccer Federation was stated in the Spring 1994 issue of Fair Play magazine: “Under normal circumstances, it is not acceptable for a game official to wear headgear, and it would never be seen on a high level regional, national or international competition. However, there may be rare circumstances in local competitions where head protection or sun visors might sensibly be tolerated for the good of the game, e.g. early morning or late afternoon games with sun in the officials’ line of sight causing vision difficulties; understaffed situations where an official with sensitive skin might be pressed into service for multiple games under strong sunlight or a referee who wears glasses needing shielding from rain.” Sunglasses would be subject to the same considerations. In addition, we ask referees to remember that sunglasses have the unfortunate side effect of suggesting that the referee or assistant referee is severely visually impaired and should not be working the game. They also limit communication between the officials and the players by providing a barrier against eye-to-eye contact. Sunglasses, if worn, should be removed prior to any verbal communication with players.

We know from Law 4 and “Law 18” (Common Sense) what equipment the players may wear. We also know that the intelligent referee will try to make an exception for players due to severe weather conditions, such as knit caps or gloves on very cold days. This would even extend to tracksuit pants, provided everyone on the team wears the same color — which need not be the same as the color of the shorts. The same is true of the officiating crew.

There should be no need for a written statement regarding referee attire. Referees are expected to look professional for every game they do, regardless of the level of play. Referees should exercise good sense in choosing what to wear — and what not to wear. Indeed, they should be certain to take care to protect themselves from severe weather conditions just as the players do. However, the intelligent referee will ensure that the officiating crew is not dressed differently, i. e., more comfortably, than the players for whom they are officiating the game. The conditions you cite at the current Olympic games are indeed special, with very high temperatures and high humidity.

Any further decision on referee headgear must be made by the USSF Referee Committee.

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