THE PLAYERS’ EQUIPMENT – LAW 4
There are four underlying principles behind Law 4 of the soccer Laws of the Game, “The Players’ Equipment:” 1.) Safety of the players is paramount; 2.) Specific gear is required to be worn; 3.) Colors are used to distinguish participants; and, 4.) Other gear is optional that is permitted to be worn. The wording regarding each of these principles as contained within Law 4 is fairly straight-forward. In addition, the Law includes a section on the sanctions for non-compliance. [Supplemental wording provided by CoachingAmericanSoccer.com® is provided in brackets.]
Law 4 states,
“A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous [to themselves or to other players]. All items of jewelry (necklaces, rings, bracelets, earrings, leather bands, rubber bands, etc.) are forbidden and must be removed. Using tape to cover jewelry is not permitted. The players must be inspected before the start of the match and substitutes before they enter the field of play. If a player is wearing or using unauthorized/dangerous equipment or jewelry the referee must order the player to:
A player who refuses to comply or wears the item again must be cautioned.”
2. Specific gear is required to be worn
Law 4 states,
“The compulsory equipment of a player comprises the following separate items:
Goalkeepers may wear tracksuit bottoms [instead of shorts]. A player whose footwear or shinguard is lost accidentally must replace it as soon as possible and no later than when the ball next goes out of play; if before doing so the player plays the ball and/or scores a goal, the goal is awarded.”
Law 4 states,
Undershirts must be the same color as the main color of the shirt sleeve; undershorts/tights must be the same color as the main color of the shorts or the lowest part of the shorts – players of the same team must wear the same color.”
Law 4 states,
“Non-dangerous protective equipment, for example headgear, facemasks and knee and arm protectors made of soft, lightweight padded material is permitted as are goalkeepers’ caps and sports spectacles (sports glasses). Where head covers are worn, they must:
The use of any form of electronic communication between players (including substitutes/substituted and sent off players) and/or technical staff is not permitted. Where electronic performance and tracking systems (EPTS) are used (subject to the agreement of the national football association/competition organizer):
Equipment must not have any political, religious or personal slogans, statements or images. Players must not reveal undergarments that show political, religious, personal slogans, statements or images, or advertising other than the manufacturer`s logo. For any infringement the player and/or the team will be sanctioned by the competition organizer, national football association or to be justified by FIFA.”
Sanctions for Non-Compliance
Law 4 states,
“For any infringement of this Law play need not be stopped and the player:
A player who leaves the field of play to correct or change equipment must:
A player who enters without permission must be cautioned and if play is stopped to issue the caution, an indirect free kick is awarded from the position of the ball when play was stopped.”
– Under Law 4, it is extremely important for coaches to find out and understand the “local rules” that apply to their competition and to their team. See: CoachingAmericanSoccer.com “Soccer ‘Local Rules'”
– Coaches must not make assumptions about local rules. Some high school rules, for example, do not insist on sleeves on jerseys.
– Coaches must instruct their players that different referees may provide different answers as to what is going to be permitted, and what is not, based on their individual discretion.
– Coaches need to teach young players and their parents early about the rules regarding equipment, and the information needs to be reinforced often. “Local rules” may allow for differences at early ages, but the Law will be enforced in its entirety as the players get older. Eventually, corrections must be addressed and exceptions must not be allowed.
– Unless modified, Law 4 applies to all players, regardless of age or gender.
Safety and Inspection –
– Coaches must teach their players about the pre-match and pre-substitution inspection procedure. Players must respond to all directions from the referee or other match officials regarding equipment. This will likely include showing the soles of both shoes In order to demonstrate compliance with the Law or local rules. Establishing a procedure of lining up in a disciplined fashion for the pre-match inspection goes a long way in assisting the referees with the conduct of the game.
– Player passes, if they are used, are likely to be reviewed during the pre-match inspection. These need to be handed out to the players in advance and be in proper order.
– The prohibition against jewelry is very explicit and will be enforced. This includes stud earrings and wedding bands. Hard hair clips and watches are also included in the ban on jewelry.
– Cleats with replaceable studs that are worn, pointed, or have exposed shafts are not permitted and must be rejected upon inspection.
– Arm casts, hand casts, and finger splints may be permitted if they are sufficiently padded and the referee deems them to be safe.
– A full knee brace may be permitted if it is completely padded, usually with materials provided by the manufacturer, and there are no exposed metal parts or sharp edges, and the referee deems it to be safe.
– Religious items (jewelry) mandated by a person’s faith may be worn, but only if it is well padded and the referee deems it to be safe.
– Medical-alert bracelets or necklaces (usually identified as jewelry) may be worn, but only if they are well padded and the referee deems them to be safe. (This must be done in a way that still allows the safety information to be visible.)
– Spectacle guards are not permitted.
– Elastic hair bands for women (“scrunchies”) are generally considered to be acceptable.
– Referees are also not permitted to wear jewelry, except for a watch or other timing device.
Required Equipment –
– Coaches may use a memory trick known as the “Five S’s” to ensure that they address each part of the mandatory equipment with their players. These are: Shirt, Shorts, Shinguards, Socks, and Shoes.
– Law 4 does not specify that cleats are required, just shoes (“footwear”). Cleats, however, are essential for effective outdoor competition. See: CoachingAmericanSoccer.com “Outdoor Soccer Shoes (‘Cleats’).”
– Shoes need to be properly laced and tied so that they will stay on. See: CoachingAmericanSoccer.com “Tying Soccer Shoe Laces.”
– Shirts must have sleeves, but both short- or long-sleeves are acceptable. No “vest-style” shirts are permitted.
– Shirts and shorts must be separate pieces of clothing. No “unitards” or skirts are allowed.
– Goalkeepers must also wear all of the mandatory equipment (with the exception of “track-suit bottoms” instead of shorts).
– There is a wide variety of commercially available shinguards that meet the requirements of Law 4. See: CoachingAmericanSoccer.com “Shin Guards.”
– Shinguards must be covered by the socks at all times. As such, the socks cannot be allowed to fall down during play. Players may use tape or garters to hold them up, but the tops of the socks must be folded over to cover these devices unless they are the same color as the socks.
– It is strongly recommended that shorts have drawstrings and that they are secured tightly.
– Local rules need to be checked regarding the use of sponsor-identification, logos, badges, crests, and similar patches on shirts before they are applied.
– Oddly enough, the Law does not specifically address printing numbers on jerseys or shorts. These are usually required by local rules, often mandating that numbers be placed on both the backs and fronts of jerseys and sometimes on the lower-right leg of shorts. In addition, last names, first names, or nicknames may be allowed to be placed on the backs of jerseys above the number.
– Referees may insist that jerseys that are designed to be tucked into the shorts be kept that way. This is within the rights of the referee. Similarly, a referee may insist that jerseys with long sleeves have the sleeves kept down (unrolled).
– The IFAB explains that a player who loses a shinguard or shoe by accident is allowed to keep playing because it is unfair for them to be required to stop playing immediately. “…it seems fair to allow the player to have until the next restart of play to put it back on.”
– Shinguards that have been cut down in size or made from unsuitable material, such as cardboard, are not permitted and must be rejected upon inspection.
– Clothing manufacturers have been creating jerseys that are designed to better fit women. These still must have sleeves.
– Because of potential jersey-color conflicts between teams, coaches need to address having as many as three sets, “home,” “away,” and “third.”
– Coaches should coordinate colors with the opposing coach in advance of a match.
– Note that the color of soccer shoes is not addressed in the Law, thereby allowing players to wear any color of cleats that they want.
– It is understood that referees and other match officials are also expected to wear matching uniforms with a shirt that is different from the players and the goalkeepers. Although Law 4 places the onus to change shirts on the players, officiating teams generally try to coordinate colors in advance or have different-colored shirts available.
Optional Equipment –
– Captains of each team may be required by local rules to wear elastic armbands designating their position.
– All players are allowed to wear gloves. Field players usually only wear thin, tight-fitting gloves in cold weather. Goalkeepers almost always wear specially-designed gloves that assist them in catching the ball, but they are not required.
– Goalkeepers are not permitted to apply any artificial spray-on or tacky substance to their hands to assist in catching balls.
– Goalkeepers are permitted to wear soft caps with flexible bills to prevent glare from the sun or from floodlights.
– Sports glasses (“spectacles”) are specifically allowed as long as they are not considered to be dangerous. The determination of what qualifies as “dangerous” is still left to the discretion of the referee before the start of a game. Parents of young players who need glasses are strongly encouraged to check with their league organization to obtain a definitive statement regarding the use – or non-use – of particular frames and lenses. If the use of certain frames and lenses is allowed, it should be explicitly stated in the “local rules” of the competition. Youth coaches are expected to provide a copy of local rules to the referees before each game. Parents, however, should not assume that this is being done and should have their own copies at the ready to be made available at the time of player equipment inspection prior to a match. If the local rules do not contain such a statement, parents should obtain a signed statement from the organizing authority pertaining to their child and the specific equipment involved. If this is not done, parents run the risk that their child may not be permitted to participate without taking the equipment off. Without a “local rule” or a specific statement, it is perfectly within the rights, duties, and responsibilities of the referee to deny participation if the equipment is determined to be dangerous and it continues to be worn. See: CoachingAmericanSoccer.com “Soccer Eyesight.”
– Mouthguards are permitted, but they must be made of a soft, pliable material. Mouthguards are strongly encouraged for youth with braces on their teeth.
– External orthodontic headgear/mouthgear that cannot be removed is not permitted.
– Headgear for both field players and goalkeepers is permitted as long as it is soft and clearly designed for protection. Any headgear that is hard or could be interpreted to provide a player with an advantage (in “heading,” for example) is prohibited.
– Undergarments, such as T-shirts, sweatshirts, compression shorts, slide pants, tights or thermal underwear, are permitted as optional equipment. In addition, outer clothing, such as ankle socks and tape is also permitted. All of these items, however, are subject to the color requirements of Law 4. If any portion of these items is exposed (visible; not covered entirely by the mandatory equipment), it must match the corresponding color of the shirt, shorts or socks as indicated above.
– Only the one designated goalkeeper for a team shall wear goalkeeper-style equipment, e.g. – goalie gloves.
– The portion of the Law allowing head coverings is generally directed toward the hijab. Other religious head coverings may include a turban or a yarmulke, again as long as the referee determines them to be safe and to not provide an advantage.
– No clothing is permitted to cover the jersey or to interfere with the ability of the players and the referee to distinguish between teams and the goalkeepers.
– The IFAB explains that a player who has changed equipment only has to undergo inspection and the referee’s signal to re-enter the match, rather than wait for a stoppage, because “…this does not happen for a player returning after an injury. Allowing the player to return… during play removes an ‘unfair’ situation which is often a source of conflict between players and officials…”
– Players shall not tape over, cover up, or hide prohibited items.
– A player who is cautioned (yellow-carded) for refusal to comply with the provisions of Law 4 is done so as “unsporting behavior.” Failure to again comply after having received a caution is likely to result in an ejection (red card).
– Disciplinary sanctions for willful violations of this Law, particularly the display of slogans, advertising, or political, religious or personal statements, may be imposed by the competition organizer.
– If an approved item becomes dangerous or is used in a dangerous manner during a match, it is subject to the provisions of the Law requiring correction or removal.
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