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Question Number: 31389

Law 4 - The Players Equipment 3/25/2017

RE: Competitive Under 13

Aaron Speca of Virginia Beach, VA United States asks...

1. Today the CR stopped play in the first half to inspect my son's footwear and called the AR over to assist. After the game, my son told me that at the time they weren't sure about the number of studs on the cleats. Apparently they determined that if there had been a stud directly in the center of the front of the shoe they would have been disallowed, but they accepted the shoes. He said they discussed something about an unfair advantage if he had more than the 'normal' number of studs, whatever that means. We bought them from the soccer section of a major chain sports distributor just last weekend so I was confused by their apparent confusion. Is there something in the laws or interpretations regarding the number of studs allowed on a set of soccer cleats?

2. In a later match where I was only a spectator (no rooting interest, the match before ours), the CR stopped play with about ten minutes left in the second half because he then came to the realization that two players from one team had the same number. At the time, one was playing and one was on the bench. He sent the player in the game off (no card, just said he had to leave and be substituted for) and told the coach that neither player with that number could re-enter for the remainder of the game. Although I completely understand why two players should not have the same number, some CRs I've seen don't make a big deal over it. However, I've never seen it handled in this way. Isn't this something that should have been handled in pregame inspections? (Typically in these tournaments, it's been my experience that the CR will review each team's player cards and equipment before the match starts.)

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Aaron,
No, there are no restrictions on the number of studs on the sole of a football boot. The only consideration is the requirement set out in Law 4 that:

''A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous.''

Now, I have frequently heard it said that footwear sold for use in baseball that has a 'toe cleat' in the centre of the front of the sole is dangerous as this cleat is more likely to injure an opponent, so I suspect that is what they were worried about.

However, any footwear sold by a recognised manufacturer for use in football (soccer) would not have such a cleat and should be OK - although the final decision, as always, rests with the referee. There is no issue or mention of gaining an unfair advantage in relation to the player's equipment in the Laws.

On the second issue, the Laws of the Game have no provisions regarding numbers on players' shirts but if the rules of competition do then yes, it would be better if this were sorted out pre-match. As far as the LotG go, there would technically be no problem with two players having the same number but as a referee you would certainly want to be aware of it so as to avoid possible confusion.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Aaron,
the LOTG only stipulate the item worn cannot be dangerous in the opinion of the referee so it behooves the official to grasp that the number of studs is not an issue nor the shape on manufactured boots sold as normal footwear.
Unless there was something utterly at odds like metal cleats filed to a point or screw ends poking out. Hard plastics or aluminum studs be they half moon shape, long studs or short have more to do with the type of ground conditions to be useful then to attack or hurt an opponent! Unless there is a specific inclusion in a by-law that states something in the ROC ( we are aware there are some in the USA that ban some baseball shoes) the manufactured soccer boots should be fine!

The number issue is one for the ROC as the LOTG do not require numbers. That said for the referee to arbitrarily do as he did he has exceeded his authority and not really accomplished anything meaningful for the match by doing so. . A piece of tape turns 13 to 113 or a 3 to 31 or 13 , and yes this could be EASILY sorted out in the pregame by an observant officiating crew.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Aaron
Thanks for your observations here.
It is for this reason that observers are sent to games so as to put right any misunderstandings of the Laws.
On the first one this matter should have been dealt with in the pre match inspection. Dealing with it during the game is not the way to approach this particularly when the condition existed before kick off. Now the Laws of the Game makes no provision for the number of studs, their positioning or type of material used. As Referee Grove mentions I too am aware of the concern about toe cleats shoes used in baseball / football not being allowed in soccer. That is unique to the US and some baseball shoes that I have seen with molded rubber cleats would be allowed throughout the world but are specifically mentioned as not allowed in certain competition rules in the US. It has nothing to do with unfair advantage and it is a safety issue only. Here are some examples
On your second question this is a competition rule questions. As already mentioned by colleagues the Laws make no provision for numbers. That is a competition rule matter and most competition rules requires that each player has a unique number assigned to him on the team roster. Clearly two players should not have the same number.
In this instance obviously it was not spotted until 10 minutes to go in the game? I assume that perhaps there was an exchange of jerseys at some point which is not unusual in underage where there might not be a jersey for every player. Now the referee overstepped his authority here. He was entitled to remove the player to correct his equipment yet he was not entitled to insist on a substitution. Totally incorrect in Law. What should have happened is that he should have asked the coach to sort out the jersey and allowed the player to return with the corrected jersey.
In my game yesterday which was a semi final my lead AR brought to my attention that at a substitution the fifth sub was about to enter with the same number 13 as an existing player. The team did not have any other jersey available for it fifth sub. I allowed it to happen and I made a mental note that I would have to ask #13 his name in the event of a caution. I could have gone with a bit of tape or something to delineate the difference. I chose otherwise as I felt it would hold up the game and I was well capable of managing this in the game myself.
I recall in 2012 in a WC qualifier Richard Dunne of Ireland got a blood injury and he had to replace his shirt. No spare #5 jersey was available so he put on a shirt with no number. The referee would not allow him to return without a number 5 on his shirt. Anyway a large 5 was drawn by marker on the shirt and that was allowed. For me it was just a mental note for the ref crew. The player with no number is #5. Not a big challenge of memory really.
In our more senior Leagues the competition rules allow for a blood jersey which is a unique numbered jersey to be used if a players normal jersey becomes blood stained or otherwise unusable during the course of a game. The blood jersey has no name on the back along with a number not currently assigned to any player on the team / roster. It is as easy to assign no number to the jersey as say 20 / 99 or whatever.

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