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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 34236

Law 4 - The Players Equipment 5/29/2021

RE: competive Adult

Shaun of Melbourn, Australia asks...

During a game, I had to stop it to deal with two players who had the same shirt number.
I asked one of the players to leave the field of play and he was substituted.
Does this warranted a caution, yellow cards, to the both players?

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Shaun,
While shirt numbers are allowed by the Laws of the Game, they are not required and there is no requirement or mention of cautioning players for anything related to shirt numbering.

Some Rules of Competition may require shirt numbers to be worn but they do not (to the best of my knowledge and experience) ever require cautions to be issued, either.

So no, this occurrence (which is not even an offence according to the law) does not warrant a caution.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Shaun,
as my colleague, Ref Grove indicated, it's nothing to get too excited about. The identification process can be also rectified by adding a piece of tape or add color to the number. I had a red team with a duplicate set of white numbered jerseys and there were 5 sets (10) players with the same duplicated numbers I asked that they color in the white number of 1 set and solved the issue. While I cannot recall any serious issues with players having the same or even no numbers I have them switching jerseys without permission creating id identification issues with regards to cautions and send-offs! Keeper going into the outfield in the second half wearing a shirt same as a player in the first half that sort of thing.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Shaun
Shirts numbers are managed by the rules of competition and they are to assist referees with identification. Law 4 in the Laws of the Game allows for this and this law applies to all equipment including clothing worn by players, substitutes and substituted players and its principles also apply to all team officials in the technical area
The Law states that the following are (usually) permitted:
# the player’s number, name, team crest/logo, initiative slogans/emblems promoting the game of football, respect and integrity as well as any advertising permitted by competition rules or national FA, confederation or FIFA regulations
# the facts of a match: teams, date, competition/event, venue.

Before the common use of numbers referees used to simply ensure that there was no more than 11 players on the field and in the case of sanctions, substitutions the player was asked for his name. Many games did not have rosters just the requirement to provide the names of the substitutes. The development of the game particularly at international level saw the need to manage games better with the introduction of cards, team rosters etc. That is now common place in the game throughout the world yet the Laws make no requirement for this. So technically a game can be played if the rules of competition allow for it with no player numbers!

Breaches of the principles set out in the ROC would usually be reported to the competition organisers who could sanction the team with a fine. No card sanctions would apply.

In your case as it is two players only with probably a legitimate reason then there is no action required. It was sorted on the day and I assume it had no impact on cautions etc.

I have never had this happen although I have had plenty of occasions where a particular numbered shirt was missing and while the ROC required one to eleven on the shirts that was not possible so say a missing 5 was replaced with a 15 and the match card amended accordingly.

There was a famous incident involving Richard Dunne who played for Ireland. He cut his face in a game between Russia and Ireland and as he had blood on his shirt he had to get a replacement. The replacement shirt did not have a number and the referee would not allow him to return until he had a number 5 on it! A member of the Ireland technical staff got a market and wrote a 5 on the shirt, front and rear. To me it was jobsworth as the referee knew that the only player on the field of play without a number was #5 Ireland

Many competitions now have what is called a *blood shirt* with a particular number assigned. That shirt is used when a player has to replace his shirt when it has blood on it.

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