Fifa has been accused of ignoring its own guidelines after colour blind football fans encountered a “nightmare” viewer experience during the World Cup match between Switzerland and Cameroon.
Switzerland won the game 1-0 thanks to a second half goal from their Yaoundé-born striker Breel Embolo, but those who struggle with colour blindness or colour vision deficiency found it difficult to watch the game due to the “disastrous” kit clash. Colour blindness affects one in 12 men and one in 200 women worldwide.
Both teams played in their home colours, with the Swiss wearing red shirts, shorts and socks and Cameroon in green shirts and shorts with yellow socks. According to the National Eye Institute, colour blind people struggle to tell the difference between green and red more than any other colour combination.
The selection goes against Fifa’s own “equipment regulations” which state that kits worn by players and match officials must “contrast sufficiently” including to help “whenever reasonably practicable, those with a colour vision deficiency”. Both Switzerland and Cameroon have white away strips for this tournament.
“We are so disappointed with the kit selection permitted by Fifa for the Group G match between Switzerland and Cameroon today which resulted in many thousands of colour blind fans worldwide being unable to follow the match,” said Kathryn Albany-Ward, the founder of campaign group Colour Blind Awareness.
“After the colour blind ‘kit clash’ World Cup opening game in 2018 [Russia vs Saudi Arabia] we have worked with Fifa to help them develop kit regulations which should have avoided today’s disaster.
What Fifa’s regulations say
“The colours used on the respective playing kits worn by the two teams contesting a particular match must contrast sufficiently to allow the match officials, players, team officials, media, and spectators (including, whenever reasonably practicable, those with a colour vision deficiency) to distinguish clearly between the players and the match officials, between the different teams, and between the goalkeepers and the outfield players on each team.
“Where Fifa or the match officials consider that there is an insufficient contrast between the colours used …they may require one team (even after the match has started, if necessary) to switch to, or to combine, different items from its different playing kits as necessary in order to achieve such a clear distinction.”
“We’d like to know how the red/green colour combination for the Switzerland vs Cameroon game was allowed in the first place also why one team did not change into an alternative kit at half time in accordance with the regulations.”
Fifa’s regulations state that if there is an “insufficient contrast” between kit colours, a team can completely change their strip or else take different items from different kits to ensure a “clear distinction” between the sides.
According to Colour Blind Awareness, there have been kit clashes between goalkeepers and match officials in virtually every World Cup match so far.
Last year, World Rugby confirmed that kit clashes between teams wearing red and green would be banned from the 2027 World Cup onwards in order to help colourblind fans.
The challenges facing colour-blind players and fans
Bill Beaumont, Chairman of World Rugby:
“Colour blindness is largely misunderstood and the challenges for those who play, coach, officiate and support our sport is often overlooked. As someone who experiences those challenges first hand, I am delighted that World Rugby have launched comprehensive guidance for all levels of the game that place visually-impaired considerations at the heart of our decision-making. Through this guidance, we hope to raise awareness and change culture through positive actions.”
Chris Paterson, Ex-Scotland and Edinburgh back:
“I remember playing at night-time when we played for Edinburgh and Scarlets would come up in their dark red. I remember a couple of times making a line-break on a counter attack, running into what I thought was space between two of my own men and just getting [tackled]. Your focus is on the ball, you’re running and scanning the whole time…. [it’s] because there’s not that real clear division in our eyes, I suppose.”
Matt Holland, former Republic of Ireland footballer
“It only really affected me once in a game, my very first game for Charlton,” Holland told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“We went down on a pre-season tour to the West Country. We were playing Plymouth and we were in red – it was the only kit we had with us on the tour – and they played in dark green and I couldn’t tell the difference between the two shirts.
“Five minutes into the game I ran over to the assistant manager and said ‘I’ve got a real problem here, I can’t tell the difference!’. And he just looked at me like ‘what on earth have we signed?!’”
Fifa did not respond to i‘s request for comment.