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Colour-blindness campaigners have hit out at the Football Association after a clash between Sunderland and Newcastle’s kits left thousands frustrated.

The home side’s red-and-white striped jerseys set against the visitors’ black-and-white at Saturday’s FA Cup Third Round tie meant there was insufficient contrast to allow the colour-blind audience to distinguish between each side.

It is the latest in a long line of clashes which have caused game-wrecking issues for those who are colour blind, with one in 12 men and one in 200 women affected.

Kathryn Albany-Ward, founder of Colour Blind Awareness, wrote a UEFA-backed guidance document for the FA on the issue and, as recently as November, addressed a meeting of Premier League club secretaries – with Newcastle included.

‘I wrote to the FA’s head of diversity, equality and inclusion after the Charlton versus Cray Valley Paper Mills match which caused problems and didn’t hear back,’ she explained.

Colour-blindness campaigners slam the FA after kit clash in Sunderland’s Tyne-Wear derby with Newcastle… as they bemoan the governing body’s response in addressing the issue

Colour-blindness campaigners have hit out at the Football Association after a clash between Sunderland and Newcastle’s kits left thousands frustrated

Sunderland's red-and-white striped jerseys were set against the visitors¿ black-and-white jerseys, meaning there was insufficient contrast to allow the colour-blind audience to distinguish between each side

Sunderland’s red-and-white striped jerseys were set against the visitors’ black-and-white jerseys, meaning there was insufficient contrast to allow the colour-blind audience to distinguish between each side

Kathryn Albany-Ward, founder of Colour Blind Awareness, wrote to the FA's head of diversity, equality and inclusion, Yasir Mirza (pictured), after Saturday's kit clash

Kathryn Albany-Ward, founder of Colour Blind Awareness, wrote to the FA’s head of diversity, equality and inclusion, Yasir Mirza (pictured), after Saturday’s kit clash

‘I wrote to him (Yasir Mirza) again after Saturday’s game and initially heard nothing back again.’ After Mail Sport contacted the FA this morning a response was sent this afternoon. ‘I was told that there was “guidance” within the rules to advise clubs of the need to cater for those who are colour blind but there is little point of that if there are no sanctions – which there aren’t,’ Albany-Ward added. ‘The response is really disappointing and you have to wonder what it will take until the issue is addressed.’ 

Two Premier League managers are thought to be colour blind and it is likely that a number of top-flight players are also impacted, given the prevalence.

Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp has previously said he was ‘a little bit colourblind’ while ex-Manchester United interim Ralf Rangnick told Leipzig’s website that he suffers from red-green vision deficiency. Mail Sport columnist Chris Sutton disclosed on the ‘It’s All Kicking Off’ podcast that he struggled to distinguish between striped shirts during his playing career.

‘Clubs who do this are penalising themselves, let alone the audience,’ Albany-Ward added. ‘Such clashes will impact on their players and members of their own coaching staff. Do clubs not want to help their own players? The explanation I have previously had is that some of the lower league clubs in the FA Cup can’t afford different kits if there is a clash. This was a game between two big clubs and there were other alternatives available.’

Red and green are the most common colours to cause problems. Many have issues seeing red and will have seen the match as a clash between two sides wearing black and white stripes. For others it will have appeared to have been a game between two sides wearing white.

The issue does appear to be improving in the Premier League after a history of clashes. Manchester United wore white recently, instead of green, for their trip to Liverpool with those who are colour blind in mind. A simple solution is for one side to wear a dark kit and the other opt for a light one.

In 2021, Chelsea’s decision to wear light blue for a match at Sheffield United – rather than their traditional, darker blue, caused major problems. That jersey looked white to those with colour vision deficiency, while the Blades’ red socks merged with the grass and came indistinguishable from Chelsea’s.

The Premier League has software that is meant to flag potential issues – although there were five clashes in the 2020-21 campaign.

UEFA regulations state that there must be ‘clear contrast between each team’s first-choice and second-choice outfield player attires, to the extent that they could be worn by opposing teams in a match,’ but there is no specific provision for clashes that could impact those with colour blindness.

European matches between Arsenal (red) and Sporting CP (green) and Manchester United (red) and Real Betis (green), have also triggered problems.

Red and green are the most common colours to cause problems for those who are colour-blind

Red and green are the most common colours to cause problems for those who are colour-blind

Things are slightly improving in the top flight, with Manchester United wearing white recently, instead of green, for their trip to Liverpool with those who are colour blind in mind

Things are slightly improving in the top flight, with Manchester United wearing white recently, instead of green, for their trip to Liverpool with those who are colour blind in mind

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In the presentation delivered in November, Premier League clubs were told that in an average TV audience of 1.53m the likelihood was that 91,800 viewers would be colour blind. In a 50,000-capacity stadium those impacted would be 3,000.

The FA did not comment. If they receive information about potential clashes it will be shared with clubs for their consideration. Guidance states kits should be ‘distinguishable in a manner which would enable individuals with colour vision deficiency to distinguish them from one another’.

Newcastle and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport declined to comment. It is not thought that the matter will be in the remit of the forthcoming independent regulator for football as their role will focus on financial matters. Minister for Sport Stuart Andrew is colour blind.

ITV also declined to comment, with insiders suggesting they have little say on kit choices. Sunderland did not wish to respond, although as the home team they are entitled to wear their first-choice kit.





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