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Question Number: 29831

Law 4 - Players Equipment 10/19/2015

RE: Recreational ... Under 13

Ken McKay of Medway, MA USA asks...

I recently had a young female player show up to a game with DANGLING earrings which I was informed could NOT be removed because of personal/family religious reasons. In this particular case the coach of the opposing team was also an official, and one whom I know and respect. He said that religion basically trumps FIFA and the player needed to be accommodated.

It was a low level game, and a cold enough day that warm hats were common on the pitch, but I was terribly uncomfortable with the situation all game long.

What guidelines can you offer to deal with this kind of situation? Some official instruction in cases where it might be a high level match would be particularly helpful ...

Thank you.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Ken
Jewellery is not allowed and there are no reasons allowed by FIFA to give a derogation to earrings on what is stated in the laws as and I quote *strictly forbidden*
The only concessions made in recent times is the wearing of a medical alert bracelet and even at that it must be taped to the body so it poses no danger and the wearing of head coverings such as a hijab or turban. That concession was made on religious grounds. No such concession has been made on jewellery .
Now we know that the law is not uniformly enforced or that all referees adhere strictly to the Law. Some just ignore it and probably if challenged say that they did not see the offending players earring. Some allow taping (which is not allowed either) on the basis that it could be taping up the hole rather than the earring. It can be difficult when religion is used by a coach suggesting that a players rights may be infringed. This plays on a fear of confrontation when coupled with uncertainty about the law makes for an uncomfortable position for a referee to be in. Ultimately it us up to the referee to decide and to ensure there is no risk of injury to the player or an opponent. I have in the past ignored a religious medal on string or very light chain. Those will break very easily if tugged and pose no risk to anyone. Technically it is incorrect yet I would be 100% confident of no injury or potential for injury. I could not say the same about the danger posed by a earring post sticking into the neck or the earring getting caught and ripped out of the ear lobe. In a 2010 published study over a 10-year surveillance period, 0.25% of total injuries seen in the emergency department of a paediatric centre were related to jewellery items. Even if those injuries are relatively rare, they still result in visits to the emergency room. Cases in the study were mainly lesions such as punctures abrasions, lacerations of the ear, face and hands, and one corneal abrasion. In total, the database reported three cases of severe injuries to the fingers, including one case necessitating amputation.
Best practise in all physical education states that all jewellery should be removed. Soccer is no different.
Anyway you will know for the next time.

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Answer provided by Referee Dennis Wickham

Jewelry is prohibited by the laws of the game. Thus, 'personal/family' reasons are irrelevant.

With items worn for religious reasons, there are two requirements for such an item to be worn by a player: first, it must be clearly religious in nature. Second, the referee must determine that it is not dangerous.

As to the first requirements, referees may not be aware of what is or isn't required to be worn as part of someone's religious beliefs. The wise player will discuss the issue in advance with the league, and get something from the league before the game. In practice, however, the players seldom do so. IMO, the referee should accept at face value a comment from the player that the reason is worn for religious reasons, unless 100% certain it is not.

That doesn't end the discussion, however. The referee must still determine if it not dangerous. In making a decision whether a particular item is safe, however, the referee should not simply assume everything is dangerous. The referee should make an individualized assessment of the specific danger caused by the specific item. That an item is unusual (such as a hearing aid) does not mean it is inherently dangerous.

Dangling earrings, however, present known safety issues. The jewelry can get caught in others clothing or head covering, presenting a danger to the player - - part of the ear lobe may get torn off the player if/when it gets caught. Dangling jewelry also can scratch or cut an opponent's eye, leading to a serious concern.

Religious items can often be accommodated, but religious reasons are do not trump the safety of the players.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Ken,
I have had that argument presented to me under different formats over the course of my career. They were just installed, medically unsafe to remove them, could get infected, its reflects my religious values.
My answer is the same for all youth and competitive type matches!
If you wear them, you do not play!
Well what if I tape them up?
If you wear them, you do not play!
Your choice your decision
My match My decision My reputation.

I suspect those with studs will tape over and try to ease it by an inattentive referee. Now the story is the tape is to protect the holes in the ear , not that it hides the earrings from sight. Given we are not meat inspectors we can accept face value but if the cover comes off, exposes the lie, then off they go and now we examine before the tape goes back on!

My answer to a woman who showed up to a recreational low level match with no records or point system, pre-decaled, bedazzled and with enough metal to sound the airport security while still outside the building. You are a woman and intelligent enough to KNOW this is a bad idea but you do not care do you? So I will ask the other team, if they all say yes you can play then I will abide by their decision.
Should you do the same heck no, but the biker boyfriends surrounding the pitch did make me refrain from saying ,
If you wear them, you do not play!
To be fair she removed the easier ones, the chain links dangling earrings but the studs in ears, nose , tongue, lip, belly and nether regions. I was not inclined to push the issue. Was I wrong? Probably but they just wanted to play and these teams ,well she was not the only one! The wedding rings turned inwards cause they cannot slide off and tapped You can certainly refuse to officiate but they were playing anyway! Sigh I be bad !

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