FIFA Regulations

Written by Michael Olson (Return to Kits Homepage for the 2018 World Cup)

World Cup kits are a highly regulated part of soccer. If you don’t believe me, check out FIFA’s 104 page handbook detailing every single logistic about teams’ equipment [4]. It’s thorough. According to FIFA, they released the book, “to allow the manufacturers to enhance our sport through aesthetic creativity and design…in return, those parties are expected to follow the rules.” [3] I will say, I looked over almost every regulation and thought to myself time and time again, “Oh that makes sense, I see why this included this.” I guess that’s how it gets that long. (I do think they should release an abridged version that’s only 10 pages long and could probably cover 90% of all equipment regulations and questions. But that’s just my opinion!)

Standard Regulations

Like I was saying, the equipment requirements make sense for the most part. Players are required to wear a jersey, shorts, and socks. (One-piece uniforms aren’t allowed.) Jerseys must have sleeves. If a player chooses to wear tights or an undershirt, they must match the uniform. Teams need one white-toned kit and one color-toned kit [3]. Goalkeepers need to wear clearly distinguishable clothes from all other players [2]. This list goes on and on and continues to provide regulations that just make sense. These ones aren’t points of contention they’re really just there as norms of the game. They provide consistency and make it easier to distinguish players.

Logistical Regulations

This is where the regulations get awfully thorough. (Again, I still think they are worthwhile, but there’s no denying that FIFA was pretty particular about these ones.) For example, teams need to keep a set of goalkeeper jerseys without names or numbers. This might seem kind of strange, but in the event that a goalkeeper gets a red card and an outfield player needs to cover in goal, that player will wear one of these jerseys. It’s a fairly logistical thing, but it makes sense. [5]

Along those lines, numbers on the back of are kept to strict bounds. They must be in between 3cm and 5cm thick. Numbers on the front must be no taller than 15cm and no shorter than 10cm. Names on the back of the jersey must be at least 4cm above the number, and have a certain size. [3] Each sleeve needs to leave a 12cm by 8cm “free zone” for any FIFA related badges. [3] Brands can only display 3 logos. Logos on hats cannot take up an area larger than 25cm². Talk about being particular. But, it all adds up! They make everything consistent and prevent brands from taking center stage. Their love for centimeter limits is just a smart, measurable way to limit everything.

(Random side note: previous World Cup champions get an exemption and can wear a champions badge if they want to. That has its own regulations, but it’s fun that they get to do that!) [3]

Style Regulations

Then there are stylistic regulations. Each jersey can have no more than four colors. Numbers must be clear / oppose the color of the uniform (this comes as sad news to Nike who likes to make the uniform change in different weather and mess with the color of numbers with chrome and iridescent highlights). [3] Names and numbers need to be sewn into or pressed into the jersey. And lastly, jerseys are allowed only one decorative piece. It cannot dominate the shirt (thus it must be an undertone.) The decorative piece is held to regulations of it’s own. It cannot push the manufacturer’s brand, a religious group, a criminal group, or any trademarked things forward.  These are pretty justifiable like the ones before. It’s important to tell uniforms apart and makes sure that they aren’t that complex.

Here’s an example of what these regulations look like in FIFA’s book. [4]

Questionable Regulations

After all of the regulations that make sense come the ones that stand out. They just don’t really add up. Sure, the others are specific, but they are rooted in good. These, I don’t know what they are rooted in. Undershirts cannot have religious or personal statements, which basically hushes the players. [2] Brands can be approved to make gear; however, their logos also need to get approved (and not all of the logos do get approved, why this is the case, I do not know.) Literally everyone needs to fit the gear recommendations.[1] That means random coaches, ball boys, and so on. It gets excessive for no clear reason. [3] And lastly, numbers need to be between 1 and 23. There’s actually just no reason for this.

For the most part, I’m not complaining about the regulations. They just put words to things that should be clear. They establish logistical and stylistic norms to follow that don’t really restrict anything, but there’s still something up. Not all of the regulations are perfect, and these ones should be questioned.

Return to Kits Homepage for the 2018 World Cup



[1] Nosowitz, Dan. “The 6 Craziest Requirements For FIFA World Cup Uniforms.” Co.Design. May 02, 2017. Accessed April 25, 2018.

[2] FIFA. “Law 4 The Players’ Equipment.” Law 4 The Players’ Equipment. Accessed April 24, 2018.

[3] Lind, Andrew. “FIFA’s World Cup Kit Guidelines Don’t Mess around.” Land-Grant Holy Land. June 04, 2014. Accessed April 25, 2018.

[4] FIFA. “Equipment Regulations.” Equipment Regulations. January 1, 2015. Accessed April 24, 2018.

[5] FIFA. “2018 FIFA World Cup Regulations.” 2018 FIFA World Cup Regulations. January 1, 2018. Accessed April 24, 2018.


How to cite this article:

“FIFA Regulations,” Written by Michael Olson (2018). World Cup 2018 Guide, Soccer Politics Blog, Duke University, (accessed on (date)).

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