Colour blindness is an important issue in sport, affecting players, spectators and commercial interests at all levels. Thanks to UEFA and their work with the Partners of Tackling Colour Blindness in Sport (TACBIS), prominent players, football associations and clubs are getting behind this year’s Colour Blind Awareness Day on 6 September. 

From the grassroots to the highest professional level, colour blindness can impact the performance of players and coaches, or spoil the enjoyment of watching sport (live or on TV). Kit clashes, coloured footballs under floodlights, signage and multi-coloured digital content can be problematic for people affected, part of the ongoing, unwitting discrimination taking place across sport. A staggering 1 in 12 men have some form of colour blindness, and 1 in 200 women, amounting to a worldwide colour blind community of over 300 million people. 

To address and raise awareness of the impact of colour blindness in sport, the EU has funded TACBIS, a group of partners from across the footballing world, to launch this programme with the support of UEFA and the English FA. The group includes the NGOs European Football for Development Network and Colour Blind Awareness, the National Football Associations of Portugal, Iceland and Romania as well as Oxford Brookes University and Danish club Randers FC.

This year, Colour Blind Awareness Day coincides with a series of UEFA Nations League matches in the first week of September, with the partner NAs and clubs using this as an opportunity to promote the cause. High profile ambassadors such as Portugal’s Bruno Fernandes and Jéssica Silva, Iceland’s Gylfi Sigurdsson and other leading coaches, players and fans will be taking to social media to raise awareness and promote colour blind friendly sport initiatives. 

Kathryn Albany-Ward, founder of Colour Blind Awareness and expert in the field, further explained the importance of raising awareness for stakeholders in the sporting industry. 

“In the EU, close to 34 million people have CVD (colour vision deficiency) – and failure to acknowledge the difficulties they face in sport risks alienating them in significant numbers, meaning they are likely to turn off TV coverage and take to social media to vent their frustrations. So it’s in sport’s interests to resolve the issues. The good news is that implementing procedures to assist and protect those with colour blindness in sport is relatively simple. Much of the time, all that’s needed is a little goodwill and forward planning, and solutions can have positive benefits for teams, fans, sponsors and broadcasters.”

“The TACBIS partners have produced an animation to highlight the areas of football which can be impacted by colour blindness. We are also determined to prove the prevalence of colour blindness amongst football players, to identify the barriers to progression and the coping mechanisms employed by those affected. Colour Blind Awareness Day has been gaining momentum in the last few years, and we are excited to see it come to life this year in partnership with UEFA, the NAs and our TACBIS partners.” 

Bruno Fernandes, an ambassador for the campaign, pledged his support for colourblind players and fans alike. 

“Not being able to watch a UEFA Europa League or a Manchester United match on TV in full colour, to help easily distinguish between teams, referee cards and coloured objects in the stands, seems almost unimaginable to me. None of my teammates has identified as colour blind but for sure there are many in football who may face a range of difficulties when playing or watching the game. That’s why it’s so important to raise awareness, provide greater information and make changes so that those who live with colour blindness don’t feel left out and experience the game to the fullest. Football is a universal language and everyone has the right to speak it clearly and confidently.”

Gylfi Sigurdsson, National team player for Iceland and Everton player, is also one of the campaign’s ambassadors, and shared his experience of learning about the impact of colour blindness in football. 

“I was at Reading Academy for many years with another colour blind player who went on to play at a Premier League club. At the time we didn’t know Nick was colour blind and I never realised until now how much more challenging training would be for him if we used equipment he couldn’t tell apart. This must have made it much more difficult for him to earn a place in the squad at times.”

In the lead up to Colour Blind Awareness Day, players, coaches and NAs from around Europe will be sharing stories and images to help more people understand the challenges colour blindness causes in football. 

Particular Nations League matches will be used to showcase the cause. Iceland v England and Portugal v Croatia on September 5th will be the focal point for the posts and activations for the campaign. Look out for the videos and photos from leading ambassadors and FAs, and get involved yourself by sharing experiences and content with the hashtags: #1in12men, #1in200women, #ColourBlindAwarenessDay and #TACBIS.

Colour Blind Awareness Day is just one of many initiatives undertaken by TACBIS, UEFA and their partners to bring the issue into the public eye, with the funding and support of the EU.

For more information, please visit the Colour Blind Awareness website.

Published 7/9/2020