Skip to main content

Statistically speaking one in 12 males and one in 200 females are colour blind, meaning there will be at least one player in every male football squad, two or three in a rugby union squad and one on each team in a cricket match.

At Colour Blind Awareness our priority in sport is to support  everyone working in sport who is colour blind.

Colour blind players, coaches and match officials have the most to lose where sport does not take their needs into account yet they are the group which has been ignored the most to date.

Watch this feel good video featuring a ‘surprise’ Danish National team player who is about to fly out to play in the World Cup, proving being colour blind need not affect your career prospects if you speak up.

At grass roots level young children can be put off playing sport simply because they can’t easily tell kits apart or see equipment clearly, but for those players who are dedicated to a specific sport, play at a high level and want to make sport their profession, or are already playing at elite level, being colour blind has the potential to cost them their professional careers. Fear of being treated differently is the reason most colour blind players who have been diagnosed tend to hide their condition.

There are many colour blind players across sport who have had, or continue to have, extremely successful careers despite their colour vision challenges. You can make it to the very top in sport, despite being colour blind!

Top sportsmen and women who are colour blind

Here’s a short list of some well-known elite sports people who are open about their colour blindness

  • Sir Bill Beaumont – rugby union, Chair of World Rugby
  • Sir Ian Botham – former Test cricketer
  • Tiger Woods – golfing legend
  • Jurgen Klopp – Manager of Liverpool FC, former elite footballer
  • Lars Lagerback – international football manager – Sweden, Norway
  • Matt Holland – former Republic of Ireland and Premier League footballer
  • Thomas Delaney – footballer for Denmark (see video above)
  • Mike Blair – former Scotland captain and British Lion, rugby union player
  • Chris Paterson – former Scotland rugby union player
  • Chris Rogers – former Australia opening batsman
  • Gary Ballance – former England Test cricketer
  • Remi Allen – Aston Villa footballer, Women’s Super League

Research into prevalence of colour blindness in elite players

The TACBIS (Tackling Colour Blindness In Sport) Project investigated the prevalence of colour blindness in elite football players, including screening players at both club and International level and found 6% of elite, male footballers have a colour vision deficiency. These finding have huge implications for the football industry and other sports, not least because 8% of the general male population is colour blind which means that 2% of males (who are colour blind) are being lost through the Academy system. The 6% figure translates to 1.5 colour blind players in every football squad who have made it to elite level. The Press Release provides more details.

TACBIS held a panel session in Budapest in November 2022 to discuss the implications, chaired by Kathryn Albany-Ward, our CEO. The panellists were

Francisca Araujo              Head of CSR, Portuguese Football Federation

Marc Douglas                   Game Research and Development Manager, World Rugby and Former FIFA Assistant Referee

James Chiffi                      Head of Wellbeing and Development, Swansea City AFC and Founder of Beyond the White Line

Dr Adam Bibbey              Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology, Oxford Brookes University

Nicholas Bignall               Former Professional Footballer, Reading FC, Southampton FC.

A short video ‘The Challenges of Being Colour Blind: Insights from Elite Sportspeople’ was also created for this event including interviews with Portugal National football players, colour blind former (Scotland) rugby Internationals Mike Blair and Chris Paterson and ex Test referee Dave Pearson contributing. You can watch a video of the panel session and the online Q&A session and the TACBIS research papers can be downloaded from the TACBIS website.

Outside the TACBIS project Colour Blind Awareness and Oxford Brookes University are continuing to work with clubs and National teams to extend the research and provide training and support for coaching staff and affected players. Although the initial research was in elite footballers, there is no reason to expect a lower incidence of colour blindness in males in other sports. In rugby, for example, two to three players in every squad can be anticipated. By coincidence these statistics are nicely as demonstrated in by Mike Blair and Chris Paterson in the Elite Sportspeople video above as they both played for Scotland at the same time!

For further information on how we can help your organisation please contact us.

What to do if you think you (or a player you coach) might be colour blind?

Coaches please read our factsheets and the dedicated page on Coaching, Kit and Equipment and take a look at our Solutions and Services for Sport. We offer player screening and support/training for players, coaches and management.

If you’re a player and you’re concerned that you might be colour blind

  • First of all, don’t panic! Look at the list of well known colour blind people and remind yourself that they made it!
  • Remember the statistics at the top of the page – you won’t be the only colour blind person in your club or probably even in your team
  • Read our Guide for football players and once you’re comfortable with it, share it with your coaches and teammates.
  • Also read our information for coaches so you can direct your coaches to our information to ensure they ‘get it’ and can provide you with the support you need.

What do other elite players think about the challenges facing colour blind players?

As part of the TACBIS project, for Colour Blind Awareness Day 2022 we asked some International footballers to find out more about colour blindness and the impacts for players. You can watch the videos of what they discovered by clicking on their names below, but here are some of Fabio Carvalho’s  thoughts.

Portuguese players Fábio Carvalho (Portugal and Liverpool), Fábio Silva (Portugal and Anderlecht) and Jéssica Silva (Portugal and SL Benfica Women’s) wore simulation glasses to experience how people with protanopia (severe red vision deficiency) to look at different football sock colours (simulating kit clash challenges) and to dribble around orange cones wearing simulation glasses, which make the cones appear to be the same colour as the grass.

Iceland National player Hallbera Guðný Gísladóttir learnt about colour blindness by chatting to 15 year old Iceland player Sunna Kristin Gísladóttir and former Romania player Lucian Sanmartean played in a match where all the players wore the same colour bibs (to simulate challenges for colour blind players in ‘kit clash’ games).

The Randers FC first team also had a training session which was a simulated colour blind kit clash, with all players wearing orange bibs. You can see how they got on in the Coaching, Kit and Equipment page.