Why Do Soccer Referees Wear Pink?

Soccer referees perform a key role in ensuring that matches run smoothly.

They dictate the flow of the game through stopping and restarting play, as well as making sure that the players remain disciplined throughout game proceedings.

In addition to being in charge of how matches progress and unfold, referees have to remain professional and conduct themselves with decorum.

This carries over to things like their mannerisms and even the way in which they dress before taking to the playing field.

Now, one question about match officials that generally pops up on sports forums is why they wear pink colored shirts.

Well, the reasoning for this is as follows…

Soccer referees wear pink-colored shirts in order to distinguish themselves from the players participating on the field. Wearing a pink jersey color eliminates any confusion that participants could have as the color usually contrasts well with the kit colors of both teams.

Let’s explain this a little further.


Reasons why soccer referees wear the color pink

You can be almost certain that if soccer referee had a choice of what shirt colors they can officially wear for games, pink would be way down in the pecking order!

The bad news for match officials is that they don’t get to decide the rules!

Now here’s the main reason why soccer referees sometimes don pink…


1. Distinguishing themselves from the players

why soccer refs wear pink - distinguishing themselves from the players

Professional soccer games involve two sets of 11 players on the field.

Each team will usually turn up in a different color so that no confusion exists when it comes to team mate identification once the match is underway.

Referees have to be transparent in the sense that they don’t interfere with play as games go on.

If a referee wore a blue colored jersey that was identical to that of one side, then players from that team could mistakenly think that the match official is their team mate!

They’d end up passing the ball to the referee who would then have to stop the game and initiate the drop-ball procedure if the object managed to hit them.

Therefore, a pink top is a really good color that helps distinguish themselves from the players on the pitch, so that the game can flow smoothly without such avoidable interruptions to proceedings.

Pink is usually suitable as a color because most teams don’t have a kit – be it home or away – that is of the same color.

You will find the odd club here and there that wears an away kit or an alternate one that’s pink in color but examples of this are few and far between.


2. Breast cancer awareness

why soccer refs wear pink - raising breast cancer awareness

Another possible reason for soccer referees wearing pink is to honor breast cancer awareness month.

This is an annual campaign that is used to raise awareness about the impacts that breast cancer as a disease can have on people’s lives.

It usually takes place for the whole of October – from the 1st of the month to the 31st.

Soccer seasons generally run through this period of the year, particularly within Europe.

It certainly wouldn’t be out of the realms of possibility for a referee association to stand up and say that all referees should wear a pink shirt in order to raise awareness for the breast cancer initiative.

After all, it’s for a very worthy cause.


Is wearing pink a good idea for soccer referees?

Even though soccer is regarded by many as a gender-neutral sport, you tend to notice certain aspects of the game being particularly male-dominated.

There’s an argument to be made that referees wearing pink jerseys can undermine their authority in the eyes of players.

At least that’s what appeared to happen in another sport – rugby.

Referees in Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) were given the order to stop wearing pink shirts because the officials reported that they felt like their authority was being called in to question by players who weren’t observing discipline and respecting them.

You can make a solid argument that the color is good for contrast and distinguishing officials from the playing set.

But there’s also a valid case to be made that adrenaline-fueled soccer players may try to belittle referees wearing pink shirts, or simply not afford them as much respect than if they were wearing a more “masculine” color instead.

Anyway, we are yet to see this sort of dissent in soccer so maybe players in this sport are just well-behaved!

Samuel Waihenya
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