By Randy Vogt
A soccer player's basic uniform consists of a shirt, shorts, socks, shinguards and footwear. All players should have their shirts tucked into their shorts, including goalkeepers, and shinguards must be completely covered by the socks. A preventive officiating technique is to make sure that the goalies are wearing shirts that contrast with both teams before the match, rather than realizing it at kickoff.
The footwear will generally be cleats, and the referee must check the bottoms to make certain that they are not dangerous, such as having sharp edges. Players may not participate without footwear. However, a goal counts if scored by a player who temporarily lost a cleat.
According to the rules, shinguards must “provide a reasonable degree of protection.” Players cannot use shinguards that have been cut in half.
For improper equipment, such as earrings, the referee hopefully spotted any jewelry before the game while checking the teams and no player is wearing it on the field. But if a player wears jewelry on the field, play does not need to be stopped. Instead, the ref waits until the next stoppage in play, then tells the player to leave the field to correct equipment. A substitute can replace the player wearing jewelry. The player with jewelry is allowed to reenter the field when the ball is out of play and the ref has checked that the equipment has been corrected.
Medical alert jewelry or clothing required by a player’s religion may be worn only if the referee does not consider it dangerous and it does not give the player an unfair advantage while playing. Medical alert jewelry can often be made safe by wrapping it with tape with the necessary information still showing.
Regarding uniforms, should a player remove his jersey when celebrating a goal, that player is cautioned for unsporting behavior. For the caution to be given, the shirt need not be completely taken off; all that is needed is that the bottom of the shirt to be raised to the bottom of the chin. Players who raise jerseys to display slogans, advertising or messages are cautioned as well.
Regarding arm and/or hand casts, they must be properly covered in sponge and not be dangerous to others for that player to participate.
For complete knee braces, manufacturer’s padding comes with each brace and should be worn over it so that there are no sharp edges, which can be dangerous. Some players do not like to wear the padding as they believe it limits their mobility. Have them wear the manufacturer’s padding over the brace so they can play.
Some leagues, especially youth ones, prohibit players with casts or knee braces from participating. Ask about this before going to the field.
Instructions to Teams?
When checking the teams, many referees, particularly new ones, make the mistake of telling them how the game will be called.
Saying things such as “When the goalkeeper has the ball, you leave her alone, otherwise I’m going to call a foul” or “Gentlemen, I heard that you don’t get along with the other team so I’m going to call a tight match” or any other such instructions is a bad idea and can open a can of worms.
After all, as soon as the ball is legally in play near the keeper and you don’t call a foul, the keeper’s team will complain that you contradicted yourself. Or as soon as you don’t call a perceived foul in a game that you said that you were calling tight, players will complain. Besides, who told you that those teams do not get along?
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 8,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In Preventive Officiating, he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at http://www.preventiveofficiating.com/)