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Question Number: 29484

Law 4 - Players Equipment 6/15/2015

RE: Select Under 17

Dominic Lucivero of Hoboken, New Jersey United States asks...

We had 2 players with the same number. We taped a 1 and recorded on the roster form as the player having a 3 digit number instead of 2. It happens that the taped number fell off during the game and the referee gave a yellow to one player then at another point in time gave a yellow to the other player wearing the same number. The referee said that because both had 19 that it also constituted a red because he did not know who received the 1st. His linesmen tried to tell him that the other player had the yellow but the ref waived him off and said they should have had diff. numbers. What should the ref or me as a coach had done? Is there a Fifa rule on this?

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Dominic,
We are generally reluctant to cast aspersions on officials we do not see or have no access to video to review. Yet if this occurred ....exactly... as you have described it appears an over zealous over officious official lacked some due diligence in investigating the decision to award a red card

Under FIFA it makes no mention of numbers. It is not FIFA but the ROC (rules of the competition) bylaws that often require numbers to id different players. Given you started the match with the id #s different the referee had to have noticed the roster information.

If during the match the number came off, a simple request by the referee to exit the field and fix it be it added a new piece of tape or an x marker under the number to easily id the player should have been all that is needed.

To caution both players forcing a red card for a 2nd caution because of the number issue is the very definition of an official with far too much unnecessary input in a match he is supposed to be neutral and non invasive. I point out as well to arbitrarily ignore the AR input also points to a poor grade of official. although you say ...linesman... so if that WAS the case then linesmen input may not be considered as neutral.

When booking a player you could ask for a name to go with the number. It is not mandatory but it does not hurt to do so. If the referee followed this policy and got a different name he could then undo his decision to follow through with a red card and sort out WHAT actually happened. By some simple problem solving and a check of the roster a bit of belief in the AR this gets solved with each player on a yellow card and the id # altered to correspond to the players name on the roster.

If the 3 digit 119 player or the original #19 player was shown a red card I as a coach would file an immediate appeal and protest. Stating the events as you recollect exactly as they occurred and include the AR (if not a linesman) trying to tell the CR of the issue. Present the roster listing, a good explanation and in my opinion the red card could be rescinded. That said I can not say what a protest review committee might decide . I can tell you next time use a felt pen then it doesn't come off or sew on a new number.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Dominic
Shirt numbers are not part of the Laws of the Game and are part of competition rules to assist with player identification.
Competition rules generally state that players must wear a uniquely numbered jersey. Some in fact require that the number be worn front and back and on the players shorts although that would normally apply in high level competitions. Many competition have squad numbers requirements so the player must play with the same shirt number in every game.
In this case the players should in my opinion not have been allowed to play with such a flimsy solution such as tape. That is the lesson for the team. Sort any kit issues before they cause a problem. If it was allowed the wise referee would ensure that on cautioning the player with the possible number issue that the player should be asked for his name. Then the identification issue does not arise.
I suspect that the referee here was miffed with the number situation. He simply decided that he cautioned player wearing # and then a short while later cautioned player wearing # and made no effort to ensure the proper identification. Bring that a stage further I would like to understand what player he reported as receiving two cautions. Did he report the three digit player or the two digit one? That certainly opens the case for the mistaken identity provided of course there is sufficient evidence to support that. I suspect the shirt number issue in its own right is in itself sufficient grounds to show grounds for mistaken identity and the roster will prove that point.
As an aside I recall in last season Premier League a player had to change his jersey due to blood on his shirt. There was no numbered replacement shirt so the referee allowed him to play without a number. A mental note told the referee that # had his jersey replaced with one that was not numbered.
I also recall Richard Dunne of Ireland getting blood on his shirt in a game against Russia. Ireland did not have a replacement # 5 and the referee would not allow him to play until the replacement shirt was numbered. A felt pen sorted the dilemma with a permanent solution. See this story
Let me finish by posing this hypothetical question. Had the referee seen that the same numbered shirt was still on the field of play with the dismissed player returning to replace his numbered double would the referee be aware of that or how would he deal with it? Would he listen to pleas that it was in fact not the player he dismissed?

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