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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 33226

Law 4 - The Players Equipment 4/8/2019

RE: Rec/advanced Under 11

Jane of Chesapeake, VA USA asks...

We have a player who has long hair that falls forwards across his eyes. The child has no peripheral vision and sometimes no forward vision. We have asked the childs parent to safely secure the players hair back out of his eyes as we feel it is a safety issue. The parent refuses as he says we are singling out his child. There are other kids on the team with long hair but they either wear ponytails or have a style that is back out of their eyes. The parent insists that he will ask the child to secure his hair only if and after there has been an accident on the field. There is no hard and fast rule in the FIFA rules or our local league rules about this that I can point to.
Can someone help point me in the right direction?
Many thanks

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jane
Hair is clearly not covered in the Laws of the Game. Only items worn are subject to the authority of the referee such as metal hair ties, hair pins etc.
My advice is to ignore this matter unless it is a club rule / policy. If the parent wants his child to wear her hair unrestrained then so be it once it is not policy. Every player has a duty to take care of their own safety particularly when it is not covered by law or by rule. You have highlighted a concern and the parent has chosen to ignore that then so be it. You have done what common sense and good practice suggests.
In my opinion you have treated the best interests of the child as the primary consideration here with the advice and that has been challenged by the parent. I would ensure that no distress is caused to the child which probably means doing nothing further. To do anything else may create other problems such as that already raised by the parent such as singling out, discrimination.
So unless you witness an obvious incident such as running blindly into another player causing injury then there is little if anything a coach or for that matter a referee can do. The referee in games can speak with a player if he believes that her actions of running around *blindly* banging into opponents is causing a problem for the game. In time the player will chose herself based on experience particularly when the game gets more challenging.
My experience would suggest that little if anything will happen to the player or opponents. There is more chance of the issue itself causing problems than the hair debate should it be pursued. My advice is to now ignore this yet be aware of the attitude here of the parent.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Jane,
You will not find anything in the Laws of the Game that applies to how a player wears their hair, although any extraneous items that are attached to the hair are subject to the normal provisions regarding the player's equipment having to be safe. Wearing your hair long is not a safety issue, as far as I can judge. I would also be surprised to find anything in local competition rules in this regard.

I think the only way to approach this is as a coach. When I coached youth football (which I did for several decades) I was involved mainly in two different types of competition - purely recreational local leagues which were very relaxed in nature and highly competitive competitions, often of an international nature such as the Dana, Norway and Gothia cups in Scandinavia. In the recreational leagues I would say that nobody, myself included, was too bothered about how kids wore their hair. It was not a safety issue and there was not usually too much at stake in any of the games (some of the leagues didn't even keep standings).

On the other hand, when I coached teams in high-level international competitions, we did always have a team policy that players with long hair had to have it arranged (tied back, braided etc) in such a way that it would not get in their eyes. The last thing you want in an important knock-out competition where a single mistake or missed opportunity can cost you the game and/or cause your elimination from the competition, is a player who misses a goal scoring opportunity or fails to make a crucial tackle because their hair was in their eyes and they either lost sight of the ball or had to stop to rearrange their hair which was putting them off.

We had this as a well-established guideline that applied to everybody so there was no question of unfairly picking on any individual player. I don't know how your local league is structured but if there is no 'minimum playing time' rule (some of the recreational leagues I was involved in had this) then it is usually up to the coach who gets chosen to play. In the case of the teams that we took to international competitions all the players and parents knew the policy on hair styles and not a single person ever voiced any objection to it.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Jane,
I have seen incidents where hair was an issue but usually to the detriment of the one with the long hair. Generally it was being pulled, occasionally stepped on or so wet it did in fact block their vision at times. Yet in terms of weaponizing the hair as a danger to others, a head whip of the long braids and or beaded extensions have been the worst of the unsafe referee interventions I thought needed to be singled out as unacceptable .

Parents being idiots is not an unacceptable adult occupation at times! Allowing the vision to remain impaired when a simple headband or tie back is just infantile use of power for no good reason. Ask the kid directly, you ok playing without it tied back? You could bench him first time you notice he misses the ball because of it but if he is having fun and no one is bothered is it a real problem or just an annoyance? Parents have every right to teach their kids but as a coach you not only have a duty to that kid but also the others as well. Use the RARE - Respect always reasonable expectations.

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