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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 33740

Law 4 - The Players Equipment 10/28/2019

Trevor A Cox of Reading, PA United States asks...

When referees are so anal about the color of tape on the players'socks, why are players like Jack Grealish of Aston Villa permitted to wear socks around their ankles? IF they are wearing shin guards they are certainly NOT on the shins.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Trevor
Law 4 tells us and I quote ** The compulsory equipment of a player comprises the following separate items:
# a shirt with sleeves
# shorts
# socks - tape or any material applied or worn externally must be the same colour as that part of the sock it is applied to or covers
# shinguards - these must be made of a suitable material to provide reasonable protection and covered by the socks
# footwear**
As written Law 4 requires that socks must be worn yet it does not spell out how, other than the socks must cover the shin pad. Put the two together and for most players socks are pulled up to knee length over the pads.
We know that Grealish is wearing shin pads and that they are covered by his socks so he is compliant with the Laws.
The point you make highlights one of the problems with the Law in that it does not specify the size or location that the pads must be worn nor for that matter the suitability of the pads, material nor how the socks are to be worn. A referee will look at Grealish and say he meets the Law so the referee has done his part and the player has his own safety to consider.
So Law 4 allows Grealish and other players to chose what pads to wear and how to wear them. A player can wear an Underage player set of pads, which I think Grealish is wearing and for that matter high up on the shin with socks pulled up, the complete opposite of Grealish and still be compliant.
As to enforcement of Law 4 many referees do not like certain aspects of same such as the tape colour, different colour trusox socks, undershorts of a different colour yet they are obliged to enforce the Law. Some just let it slide at lower levels of the game while others see it as required by Law so they enforce it like any other part of the Law.
Flip it over somewhat and ask why do teams / players who know the Law on this matter do not act in a Pro manner by ensuring they meet the requirements of the Law. If some level of standards are not maintained sure before long players would be wearing all sorts of kit with only the jerseys being the same! I personally like teams that are kitted out professionally and look the part rather than some who are a mixed bag of poor kit, poor standards.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Trevor,
I don't see the relevance with the tape. The colour of the tape is a clearcut, black-and-white law. A lot of referees hate the law as much as the players do, but we're paid to do a job - and agreeing with the law isn't a prerequisite for applying it. We all know it's easier for everybody if things like this are applied consistently rather than have some doing their job, and some ignoring it.
As for shinpads, while the laws require shinpads to provide a 'reasonable degree of protection' (and covered by the socks), this is not defined so remains subjective, even highly ambiguous.
Thus, especially at higher levels, most referees take the approach that players are taking their own safety into their own hands and as long as some shinpads are worn then the law is met. This means a lot of adult players run around wearing shinpads designed for 6 year olds.
Years past there was a general rough agreement on what 'reasonable degree of protection' meant, but this was difficult to enforce due to the laws being so vague so referees will often let it be.

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Trevor,
While it may be true that some referees are more meticulous about certain aspects of the law than others, what they are not allowed to do, is enforce things that are not in the Laws.

The Laws require shin guards made of a suitable material to be worn and require them to be under the socks, however they do not specify how big they need to be or how far up the leg they must be worn.

Let me be clear, I think Grealish is being a fool unto himself and is stupidly putting his own safety at risk but at the same time, there is nothing technically wrong with him wearing the small shin guards that he does wear and playing with his socks rolled down the way he does. I actually think it is something his coach and/or club should be dealing with as he is a key player for them and they are allowing him to run a higher than normal level of getting injured and missing matches but that's ultimately up to them.

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