Disability in football: Colour blindness?

Disability in football: Colour blindness?

Colour blindness is defined as “the inability to distinguish the differences between certain colours”. It affects 1 in 12 men, therefore it is highly likely that each Premier League starting XI (let alone squad) will include at least one player that is affected.

At its worst it can prevent players being able to decipher between their own team and the opposition.

Despite the issue being so widespread it has only just began to receive the recognition it deserves. This is highlighted by The FA recently publishing a 78 page article addressing the matter.

This blog post sets out what clubs can do by way of best practice to assist their players.

Disability?

At the moment, courts do not recognise colour blindness as a disability. In two cases (Dixon v Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police S/120872/2006 & Bessell v Chief Constable of Dorset Police ET/1400313/2016), tribunals have held that colour blindness was not a disability in accordance with the Equality Act’s definition of disability.

Although it was held that colour blindness is an impairment, it was deemed that it is unlikely to have a substantial and long-term adverse effect on a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Interestingly however, in each case the claimants were permitted to proceed with a claim for indirect sex discrimination. This was on the grounds that more men are affected by colour blindness than women, with the condition only affecting 1 in 200 women.

Nevertheless, The FA state that they have “obtained advice from an expert in the field who has confirmed that colour blindness should be treated as a disability… and that any club which does not recognise colour blindness as a disability does so at their own risk”.

Reasonable adjustments

If colour blindness were held to be a disability, in accordance with The FA’s opinion, clubs would be under a duty to take reasonable steps to circumvent the disadvantages, pursuant to section 20 Equality Act 2010 – often referred to as the “duty to make reasonable adjustments”.

The relevant factors used to determine what is reasonable include, but are not limited to:

  • The extent to which the adjustment was practicable;

  • The financial costs of making the adjustment,

  • The extent the adjustment would disrupt the club's activities; and

  • The financial and other resources available to the clubs.

Suggestions

Despite the uncertainty as to whether colour blindness is or is not a disability, it is still good practice for clubs to be mindful of the issue and to take steps to reduce the effect.

The sort of things we suggest that must be taken into account include (this is not an exhaustive list) the colour of:

  • Kits;

  • Balls;

  • Training cones;

  • Bibs; and

  • Line markings.           

Good colour combinations which we recommend are:

  • White v black;

  • Red v yellow;

  • Black v yellow;

  • Blue v bright reds; and

  • Blue v yellow.

One example of such good practice in action took place this season, in a match between Southampton vs Brighton. Although the teams’ home kits did not clash, it was deemed that it would be best that Southampton should wear their striped home kit and Brighton wear their block colour away kit. This was for those who are colour blind to distinguish more easily between the two.

We would recommend this sort of positive action is taken at all age levels in both matches and training sessions.

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