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Question Number: 35054

Law 4 - The Players Equipment 8/5/2023

RE: Various Under 16

jonathan of Lorton, VA United States asks...

This question is a follow up to question 20274

I have had issues with goalkeepers wearing only a penny (often pretty thin and no sleeves) (and the same shorts and socks as the rest of the team) to distinguish them from other players on both teams, and I get considerable pushback from coaches claiming that a penny is just fine. My concern is that it can be hard to identify the keeper, for example during a corner kick, with 15 or more other players moving about in front of the goal. I do not feel that a penny adequately distinguishes the goalkeeper. This is not an issue for 7 v. 7, 9 year olds, but for older players in league play, I would think the keepers should be more easily distinguishable. Thoughts?

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Jonathan
Thanks for the question.
In my opinion a soccer pinny / bib should only be used as a last resort when there is a clash of colours with no other goalkeeper jersey available on the day at short notice.
I have had games where it was the only option available yet it should not be a regular occurrence. Also socks and shorts are okay as long as they are different from the opponents and they can be the same as team mates.

As regards push back from coaches that would be of little concern to me. If I felt that the pinny / bib was not acceptable then that is all that matters. Find a jersey / tracksuit top that does not clash or the matter gets reported with perhaps a fine . What should be certain is that the jersey sleeve should not clash with any other sleeve on the field of play including team mates.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Jonathan,
certainly it is better to be able to easily distinguish, as you pointed out, if it is hard, you could get confused! The game is supposed to be fun. Unless the game is compromised as being unsafe to play or continue , I hold the opinion that a reasonable referee should do everything possible to ensure kids do not go home disappointed. The terms, clearly identified, seems straight forward. It is ITOOTR> in the opinion of the referee, if the pinny is sufficient to distinguish the keeper from the players. If you as the CR say no, please find something better, the team is required to do so, until you are satisfied. That said, in a kids' game, do you really want to go the route? It is easy to dig holes to create a problem where none existed if we get too anal, but then the, correction, should not be so difficult in most cases. As my colleagues Ref McHugh & Ref Wright alluded too, pinnies are indeed an item of last resort but if they allow the game to move forward its a win win for all. As highlighted, we can live without seeing numbers, the key aspect is to ensure the arm coverings do NOT pose an identity problem as that is the likely flash point of any possible trouble to identify who touched the ball in a crowd involving players and keeper(s) . ..

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Jonathan,

Echoing my esteemed colleagues, a pinney/bib/vest should only be used as a last resort.

There's no problem with the socks and shorts being the same as the rest of the team (heck, if you forget which team is going which way you'll be grateful for this!). There's no real need to differentiate their legs.

A GK - even at this level - really should have 2 jerseys. Their main one should, of course, distinguish them from their own team, and they should have a backup. Though if they're wearing the same shorts and socks, it's suggesting that the team probably doesn't have a dedicated GK, so they probably just have the 1 GK jersey as part of the team kit.

So if they don't have an alternate jersey, and there's a kit clash with the other team - then yes, have them wear a bib. If the only clash is with the referees, then let it go.

Yes there are arguments against wearing it - and of course, they're not part of the LOTG. But if that's the only option, then we should be looking at ways to get the game going and without problems. The only real problem is a kit clash, and the bib solves that.

Yes, it CAN be an issue that their number is concealed - but if you have teamsheets, the GK is usually clearly marked. Even if not, you can still ask their name/number (some countries obtain the name when a card is shown). You could argue there's a risk of getting tangled up with other players, but I used to referee Futsal where teams often wore bibs, and that was rare.

At this level especially, let's not get too hung up on the strict technicalities of the LOTG. Heck, I used to referee local first grade mens and one day the away team just forgot their alternative strip, so they all wore bibs. Yes, it caused some issues with identifying players, but the more important thing was to find a way to play the game.

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