U.S. Soccer OKs caps for refs

By Mike Woitalla

Kudos to the U.S. Soccer Federation, which has announced its approval for referees to wear caps.

Previous wording in U.S. Soccer’s “Advise to Referees on the Laws of the Game” stated that, “Hats or caps are not part of the officially accepted uniform …”

Recent reporting by Soccer America referee columnist Randy Vogt and myself demonstrated that even at the grass-roots level, referees in the USA were not protecting themselves from skin cancer with headwear because they believed they were not allowed to wear caps.

The new wording from U.S. Soccer:

• Caps may be worn so long as the cap does not endanger the safety of the official or the players.

• The cap should be consistent with the referee uniform and not conflict with the uniform colors worn by either team.

• The cap may not bear any commercial marks or logos.

In April, longtime referee Vogt, who two years ago had surgery for two types of skin cancer on his scalp, addressed the issue in his article, “The Skin Cancer Dilemma for Refs.”

“A great amount of credit should go to those refs who posted their personal stories about skin cancer under the articles or contacted us about their stories, such as Joe Machnik. Their support showed this is a vitally important issue,” Vogt says. “I’m thrilled that U.S. Soccer recognizes that wearing a cap is good preventive medicine and the folks in Chicago [U.S. Soccer headquarters] deserve a ton of credit for responding so quickly, for the safety of their refs who spend so many hours in the sun.”

Machnik, one of the USA’s most accomplished referees and currently Fox Sports’ referee analyst, is also a melanoma survivor. "I don't see a downside to referees wearing caps," he said.

The soccer world tends to be stubborn and move slowly about making changes, thus U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati deserves plenty of praise for acting swiftly on this issue that affects so many.

Last weekend I once again spent much time on the fields of one of the seemingly countless youth soccer tournaments around the country. Most the refs I spoke were working three games per day under the hot summer sun -- and they assumed they couldn’t wear caps.

On Monday, U.S. Soccer began spreading the word that they can. It announced that, as part of its “commitment to health and safety” its “medical and referee experts prepared the following recommendations for the referee community and incorporated them into our referee education materials”:

• Consider wearing sunscreen daily on areas of exposed skin.
• Apply skin protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater 15 minutes prior to being exposed to the sun.
• At a minimum, reapply every 2 hours or more frequently if sweating extensively.
• Take advantage of halftime to reapply.
• Consider wearing long sleeves (or UV protective clothing) if applicable during high sun exposure periods.
• Periodically (once a year) review exposed skin for any changes or growths and consult your doctor or dermatologist.
• Caps may be worn so long as the cap does not endanger the safety of the official or the players.
• The cap should be consistent with the referee uniform and not conflict with the uniform colors worn by either team.
• The cap may not bear any commercial marks or logos.

8 comments about "U.S. Soccer OKs caps for refs ".
  1. Leo Strine, July 21, 2015 at 9:18 a.m.

    Having had Mohs surgery on my scalp, I think the caps are a reasonable decision. But I also think that they would have been reasonable simply because when it rains the water affects the sight of the referees during the game and on very sunny days, the sun can affect the sight also. Caps would help avoid errors when raining and in bright sun light..

  2. Brian Something, July 21, 2015 at 9:36 a.m.

    Kudos for Vogts and SA for embarrassing some common sense into US Soccer. Lives will be saved because of this.

  3. Robin Buss, July 21, 2015 at 6:05 p.m.

    Well done Mike - common sense has finally prevailed at US Soccer. That's less than a month since your July 26 article quoted Rick Eddy, U.S. Soccer’s Director of Referee Development “U.S. Soccer's position on wearing caps is referees are not allowed to wear caps. Have you ever seen a referee at the international or professional level [wear a cap]? I never have.” Living in England now I don't have to worry too much about the sun any more, although this year it's been quite sunny, my biggest concern is that I can't find youth tournaments (or any kind of youth soccer) even just to go and watch. Maybe it exists up in the north of the country but down here in Bournemouth and on the south cost summertime soccer for youth players is non-existent!

  4. R2 Dad, July 21, 2015 at 6:09 p.m.

    I read the lede as referees earning caps for officiating international matches, much like players get caps for representing their country. Actually an interesting idea. re actual subject of story: Obviously overdue rule change on the black baseball cap to protect the scalps of referees. Though now we have to be prepared for kids wearing those urban/x-game caps that fit over their ears with the stickers still on the flat bill. Yo.

  5. Bill Wells, July 21, 2015 at 7:37 p.m.

    There is already and has been listed for some time for a official cap.

    It is listed under Official Sports website

  6. Bill Wells, July 21, 2015 at 7:43 p.m.

    Actually I am a former USSF ref and My son is a grade 7+ Ref and If one wears a cap all have to wear a like cap. It has the USSF emblem on it. Get real hot here is South Texas.

  7. R. Antonette, July 22, 2015 at 12:18 a.m.

    Hopefully this doesn't mean more inferior products for referees (kits, hats) and that these caps will be engineered for keeping cool while running. Under Armour makes a great black cap that many AYSO referees in our area wear.

  8. Randy Vogt, July 22, 2015 at 8:59 a.m.

    Now that US Soccer is clearly and officially allowing refs to wear caps, let's hope that no assessors deduct points from refs who follow these guidelines as the assessors do not have any basis to do so.

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