Colour blindness or colour vision deficiency (CVD) affects 1 in 12 men and 1 in 200 women around the world. That’s roughly 285 million people in total.
The condition can range from a mild form of the more common red-green colour blindness, making it difficult to distinguish between shades of red and green. Rarer forms limit an individual’s colour spectrum exclusively to duller shades of blue and grey.
Participation in and viewership of sports can be difficult for those 285 million. For someone with red-green colour blindness, watching a team wearing red face off against a team in green, against the green background of a pitch especially, is a nightmare.
Two similar dark kits or two similar light ones can be equally confusing. The general rule of thumb, to avoid such problems, is for one team to don white or an adjacent light colour, while the opposition goes for a dark alternative.
To mark World Colour Blind Awareness Day on September 6, World Rugby launched a new set of guidelines aimed at making rugby accessible to colour blind people, from grassroots all the way up to the top of the professional game.
The organisation has identified several key areas ranging from kit clashes to visual information for fans in stadiums.
The problem extends beyond fan viewership though. Former Scotland back Chris Paterson contributed to the World Rugby announcement and detailed his own struggles with CVD on the pitch.
It is a welcome change for the sport in the aftermath of the red of the Lions clashing with the green of the Springboks during the summer test series.
World Rugby’s landmark initiative is a huge step forward in the battle for the sport and so too does it highlight the need for action across the board.
It’s nigh-on impossible for colour blind fans to distinguish between opposing sides when, for example, Cork take on Limerick as they did in this year’s All-Ireland hurling final. The traditional red of Cork and green of Limerick
The problem is worse still when you consider statistically, at least two or three players on each panel have the condition.
The Cork-Limerick fixture is an almost yearly dilemma for roughly 300,000 colour blind people on the island of Ireland. It’s always disappointing turning on the TV intent on taking in an otherwise great game of hurling, only to be let down by the GAA’s inaction on colour clashes.
Other tied, including Galway-Wexford and Mayo-Kerry, have seen both teams change into their change strips in recent years to avoid confusion It makes the clash between the Rebels and the Treaty a glaring one.
Many an email to Croke Park down through the years on the issue from your friendly neighbourhood SIN writer have fallen on deaf ears, but it’s not for the want of trying.
The Premier League faced some criticism during several games throughout the 2020/21 campaign, including the biggest game of the year when Liverpool took on rivals Manchester United at Anfield.
The away side could have opted for their black-and-white striped third kit but instead donned a green strip that ignited debate among colour blind people on social media.
England’s topflight swears by a computer model used to generate kit matchups. The programme is given every team’s jersey options each season and produces matchups for the season that avoid clashes.
The computer is far from perfect. It regularly puts the claret and blue of sides like West Ham and Aston Villa up against the dark change strips of the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool.
This officially avoids a clash but for a viewer with CVD, distinguishing can still be tough.
UEFA by contrast identified the importance of dark vs light ahead of the Euros. Games throughout the tournament generally featured one team in white and the other in a dark shade.
Progress is at last being made to support people with CVD in sport but there remains a great deal of work to do.