COLOUR VISION DEFICIENCY
Springboks and All Blacks can never meet again in their primary kit – new World Rugby regulations
World Rugby has quietly adopted a policy that Test teams will have to wear ‘light’ or ‘dark’ kits from 2025 to make it easier for spectators who are colour-blind.
The Springboks might have to wear a white strip at this year’s Rugby World Cup (RWC) in France if they play against the likes of the All Blacks or France, despite never having had a kit clash before.
That’s because World Rugby, the game’s governing body, has made it policy to accommodate people who suffer from colour vision deficiency (CVD), more commonly known as colour-blindness.
That means when the Boks and All Blacks meet after 2025, and possibly as early as RWC 2023, they will – according to the decree by World Rugby – never play in their “home” kit.
In 2021, World Rugby released guidelines about their intention to adopt colour-blindness policy, and last week it became official. This hasn’t gone down well.
SA Rugby engaging
SA Rugby has written to World Rugby indicating that it might not follow the protocol demanding light and dark jerseys.
Daily Maverick understands that New Zealand Rugby, custodians of the All Blacks, are also unhappy – for obvious reasons. The All Blacks are the most recognisable brand in the sport. If they had to play 50% of their matches in white, it would undermine their brand and their commercial value.
“While SA Rugby supports World Rugby’s ambition to make rugby as inclusive as possible, we have serious reservations about the potential impacts the application of the colour-blindness regulations may have, and believe they need further interrogation,” chief executive Rian Oberholzer told Daily Maverick in an email.
“For instance, it would mean that the Springboks and All Blacks would never meet again with both in their primary colours at any World Rugby event.
“The guidelines say that: ‘If only one person watching on the sidelines of the school field is having trouble following some elements of the game due to an avoidable kit clash, then rugby is letting them down.’
“But we believe that some or all of the 11 out of 12 males and 199 out of 200 women who are not colour-blind (on the statistical base presented) may also feel let down if the time-honoured traditions of the game are lost, setting aside the potential damage to the equity established in those colours and brands over centuries.
“We believe the impact on the game’s broader support base also needs to be considered. We will continue to engage with World Rugby on the subject.”
Rugby is facing a wide range of issues, from concussion lawsuits to refereeing inconsistencies, as well as a financially struggling professional game.
Every union in the world is under commercial pressure – the Wales Rugby Union nearly collapsed earlier this year. Two English Premiership clubs declared bankruptcy, and in South Africa, the Western Province Rugby Football Union remains in administration. It is not guaranteed to recover.
In Australia, the sport is battling to attract fans and players, and New Zealand Rugby only averted commercial disaster by selling a stake in the All Blacks to a private equity firm for billions.
Rugby is facing an existential crisis brought on by various factors, not least of which are its myriad complex laws and their implementation.
Colour-blindness seems to have been given priority over far more pressing issues.
According to research published by World Rugby, about 8% of males and 0.5% of females suffer from red/green colour-blindness – the most common manifestation of the condition.
“The risk of being colour-blind varies with ethnicity and red/green types of colour-blindness are more common in people of North American and European descent,” the World Rugby document on colour-blindness notes.
Read in Daily Maverick: Schumacher family planning legal action over fake Die Aktuelle AI ‘interview’
“The reasons for this are not yet fully understood. Scandinavian men have the highest chance of being colour-blind (more than one in 10), while people from sub-Saharan Africa and indigenous populations have the lowest chance.”
This confirms that these findings appear to have come from a study of white people only. The prevalence of CVD among races that aren’t white is lower, and among the black population it’s only about 1.4%, according to one study.
It’s not that there aren’t issues with CVD for players, fans and officials alike. Former Scotland international, Chris Paterson, had this to say in World Rugby’s document on colour-blindness:
“If you are coaching and lay a red cone out [I] can’t see it … I’m red/green colour-blind and I can’t see it. Green/yellow cones confuse me as well,” Paterson said.
“You have to look really hard and you can’t see it in your peripheral vision, and if you run towards that red cone, you think someone has moved it.”
Apart from requiring teams to wear kits that contrast in terms of light and dark, other aspects of the regulations include asking broadcasters to consider colour in graphics.
While it’s commendable that World Rugby is attempting to make the sport as “inclusive” as possible, it does seem like a relatively small issue given the other problems faced by the sport.
Cynics might even say it’s a distraction from issues that are far more central to the long-term survival of the sport. DM