You might think designing a World Cup football kit was relatively straightforward. FIFA’s 92-page Equipment Regulations suggest otherwise
World Cup kits are subject to stringent design guidelines laid down by FIFA in its official Equipment Regulations, covering everything from type sizes to colours and logos.
The document for the Brazil tournament declares that its purpose is “to allow the manufacturers to enhance our sport through aesthetic creativity and design”. But, it warns, “in return, those parties are expected to follow the rules”. And there are plenty of them.
Numbers and letters used to identify players are subject to particularly complex rules, as Neville Brody found out when designing the typeface for England’s kit (you can read all about it in our June issue). According to FIFA’s equipment regulations, numbers on the back of men’s shirts must be centred and between 25 and 35cm in height, with a stroke width of between 3 and 5cm. Numbers on the back must be chest height, between 10 and 15cm high, while players’ names must be between 5cm and 7.5cm. In addition, at least 4cm must be left between names and numbers.
“The problem, ultimately, is there’s a rectangular proportion you have to fit things into – if letters are square, then once they hit the height, they are too wide,” Brody told us.
There are also rules about how those names and numbers must be affixed to shirts: “Players’ names appearing on shirts shall be sewn on or affixed by heat transfer or similar technique. No player’s name shall be attached with Velcro or other temporary means,” FIFA says.
FIFA allows for numbers to include ‘breathing holes’ of not more than 2mm in width– a rule which provided both Brody and Puma designers GBH with opportunities for innovation. Brody used this rule to add texture to his England typeface (above) while GBH’s Mark Bonner (also interviewed in our June issue) cut the holes in a star pattern to echo Puma’s World Cup visual identity.
In part IV of its regulations on playing equipment, FIFA says that numbers and letters must be ‘clearly legible and distinguishable from a distance for all players, match officials, spectators and media’. “This is prescriptive, but it doesn’t qualify – it doesn’t say what distance, for example,” says Brody. “The largest you’re going to see it is on a giant playback screen or if you’re a match official standing a metre away. The smallest is on a mobile phone. You have to think about scale and legibility, not just for a match, but for distributed images,” he adds.
Colours are also subject to regulation. KIts are not allowed to use more than four colours, one of which must be ‘clearly predominant’. Equipment may not “be made of reflective material or change colour or appearance due to any external influence, including pressure, light and water”. So no Predator-style shape-shifting or invisibility cloaks please.
Aside from colour and type there is a whole world of regulation relating to the various marks and logos which may appear on kits. For example, Member Assocations can display their emblem within shirt numbers, but only once and at max 5 cm square (see above).
The so-called Sleeve Zone may also carry national flags and country names (see below)
There are separate stipulations for shorts, socks and goalkeepers’ caps.
Goalie gloves too
Manufacturer’s logos are, of course, also subject to regulations.
As are the various graphic elements they use – Adidas’s three stripes for example
In addition to their main logo, many brands also employ additional ‘technical’ logos which FIFA also allows for
Another recent innovation covered by the regulations is the practice of customising match day shirts to commemorate each game
And it’s not just the players whose clothing is subject to strict rules – the subs and coaching staff (or “individuals present in the Controlled Stadium Area” in FIFA parlance) must also comply
As we discuss in the June issue, kit manufacturers and their designers are on a constant mission to push the limits of these stipulations as far as they can but their basic premise is sound: to ensure a standardised approach that allows some latitude but prevents a free-for-all with giant logos and clashing team colours. Going too far can have serious consequences. In 2004 Puma memorably pushed its luck with a one-piece Cameroon kit worn at the African Nations Cup. Cameroon was docked points in qualification for the following World Cup as a penalty while FIFA regulations were promptly adjusted to specifically outlaw such a design in the future.
But that episode hsn’t completely surpressed GBH and Puma’s flair when it comes to kit design – we’re particularly looking forward to seeing Ghana and Cameroon strut their stuff in these FIFA-approved numbers in Brazil
You can download the full FIFA Equipment Regulations here
Full details of CR’s June World Cup special issue here