Can Soccer Referees Wear Hats?

Wearing the correct attire as a professional match official is an important part of the job.

Referees have to stand out from the players in order to avoid confusion and cases of mistaken identity on the pitch.

However, one factor that is usually left unaccounted for is the sunlight on a hot summer day.

Being able to have a clear line of vision is critically important for match officiators, as they need to be able to view incidents without anything natural or artificial obstructing their eyesight.

This is why in today’s article I’ve set about to quickly answer the question of whether soccer referees are allowed to wear hats during a game.

And so, to cut a long story short…

Soccer referees are permitted to wear a hat as long as this clothing accessory is safe for players and other officials; is devoid of any commercial designing or logo embroidery and is a solid black or predominantly black colour, so as to avoid any possible kit and uniform clashes that could cause confusion on the field of play.


Why it’s occasionally important for referees to wear hats

Just for a second or two, think about what referees have to deal with on a matchday:

  • Soaring temperatures
  • High altitude
  • Fan hostility

The list certainly doesn’t have to end there.

Now, if we focus on just the first bullet point above, there’s a lot of knowledge to take away.


1. High temperatures

why soccer referees wear hats - high temperatures

During the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the heat was out of control.

The world football governing body had to introduce mandatory drinks breaks – the first taking place in a last 16 clash between the Netherlands and Mexico – so that players could hydrate themselves and recuperate from the heat which was rising to as high as 40 degrees Celsius.

Hats are quite useful in such a situation as the brims can be used to block out the rays of the sun, not to mention the fact that they are great tools for keeping sweat out of one’s eyes.


2. Skin cancer

What’s quite scary is the fact that a person can develop cancer due to cumulative sun exposure.

Cleveland Clinic posits that the sun’s ultraviolet rays damage skin fibres called elastin, and that when these fibres break down a person is left with weaker skin that droops, stretches and is unable to go back into place after extension.

Referees definitely come into the firing line here, as their role entails running up and down a field come rain or shine.

So, if you’re reading this and know of a referee who officiates without wearing a hat on a sunny day – encourage them to form a new habit.

Wearing a hat protects the scalp and other parts of the head from repeated exposure to the sun’s intense rays, as the material sits nicely on top of the skin and acts as a barrier.

This would ultimately help to reduce a referee’s own cancer risk.


3. Torrential rainfall

why soccer referees wear hats - rainfall protection

It’s quite easy for one’s visibility to be significantly affected from only a slight downpour of rain.

Just think about why cars have windscreen wipers!

Referees who were glasses as a visual aid can have their visibility impeded by a light sprinkle, which is why wearing a hat is almost necessary in wet conditions.

With the brim worn face forward, any droplets of rain will land on the cap and not interfere with the eyesight of a referee – a sensory element that is so important for their officiating performance.


Referee hats: the full requirements

To give this article a bit of backbone and for the sake of further clarity, I’m now going to outline what can and can’t be done when it comes to referees wearing hats.

First of all, US soccer explicitly permits the wearing of hats by referees as long as each of the following stipulations are met:

  • The cap must not endanger player and official safety
  • Hat colour has to be in line with overall referee uniform and not clash with the kit colours of participating teams
  • No commercial markings or logos are allowed to be displayed on the hats

Additionally, the American Youth Soccer Association that supports youth football within the nation called for hats worn by referees to be solid black or predominantly black in colour.

So, a standard black baseball cap should suffice for any match official.


Concluding thoughts

Referees are provided with the option of wearing a cap or hat for sun and rain protection, provided that the item is of a solid or predominantly black colour; does not display any visible commercial designs or markings and is not a danger to the safety of the officials or the players themselves.

Samuel Waihenya
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