I have an interpretation question for you. First, let me give you the context; I was assessing a referee for upgrade (8 to 7) in a B-U18 match. In the 19th minute the referee noticed that one of the players was wearing two earrings which were either missed in the pre-match inspection or were added subsequently, and he correctly instructed him to leave the pitch.

As we discussed this after the match, I pointed out that there was another player (an opponent) who had his wrist taped and I asked if the referee had checked to see what it was covering. I was told by one of the AR’s that the League had directed their referees in their preseason meeting that they were not permitted to ask a player to remove a band-aid or tape to ascertain whether the band-aid or tape was covering an earring, etc.

According to this AR, they were specifically told that they could not ask a female player to remove a band-aid which covered her eyebrow even though they were confident that it was covering a stud. Apparently the league is concerned about some kind of liability.

This direction from the league is the source of my question. It is directly opposite of what I have always told referees as concerns gloves, hats, bandages, wraps, etc. I feel that not only do referees have the power to ask to see under such coverings to ascertain whether they are covering or hiding illegal or impermissible equipment, etc., but further, they have an obligation to do so. My belief is that if a player refuses to satisfy the referee by demonstrating that there is nothing unsafe or illegal under such coverings then s/he should not be allowed to participate in the match. I would appreciate your advice on this question. Thanks!

USSF answer (May 5, 2011):
No league may require a referee not to enforce the Laws of the Game to the fullest, particularly when it pertains to participant safety.

Under Law 4 (see Interpretations) covering items of jewelry is forbidden: “Using tape to cover jewelry is not acceptable.” If any covering (including but not limited to tape) is being used by a player in a place where such a covering is not normally expected and where jewelry is often found, the referee has an obligation to ensure that the player is not hiding illegal equipment and should approach the player in the same manner as would be used in any jewelry situation: “I need to see what is under the tape. You have the right to refuse but, under these circumstances, I have the obligation to not allow you to play.” Tape is, after all and by itself, “equipment” and, as such, needs to be inspected to ensure that it (or whatever is under it) is not dangerous.

Law 4 tells us:

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

The referee is required by Law 5 to ensure that the players’ equipment meets the requirements of Law 4.

We provided the following answer on December 15, 2010, regarding jewelry:

“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.”