The Colour Blind Awarness group says that the Welsh Rugby Union’s (WRU) claim that the team’s alternate black kit would not solve the problem is wrong.
Kathryn Albany-Ward runs the campaign and is a consultant to World Rugby, including on the guidelines issued two and a half years ago regarding colour vision deficiency, which affects one in eight men in the UK.
World Rugby set out in September 2021 the harmful effects of clashes of colour in kit and other equipment, including on players’ performance, welfare and safety, as well as the enjoyment of spectators.
Albany-Ward said she had informed the Six Nations that Wales’s all-black kit would work as a contrast against Ireland’s green jerseys and white shorts.
A key point is the onus in the Six Nations is now on the away team to change, as illustrated by France wearing their alternate white jerseys against Scotland’s blue at Murrayfield last Saturday.
Albany-Ward said: “We have seen the WRU’s comments that their black away kit would be a colour-blind kit clash against Ireland’s green kit. This is not the case, as demonstrated by the kits worn by New Zealand [black] and Ireland [green] in the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Six Nations is already aware of this.
“In our opinion the Wales black alternate kit should be worn in preference to the red kit which everyone knows creates a notorious clash every year and prevents thousands of fans from following the game.”
World Rugby has promised to make changes to accommodate colour-blind clashes mandatory in their competitions – including the men’s and women’s World Cups – from 2025.
As things stand, the main say lies with broadcasters, whose advice jointly with World Rugby’s was followed during the recent men’s World Cup in France, including when Wales and Portugal, both of whom normally wear red, both changed kit for their pool match.
A similar compromise in last season’s Premiership final in England saw both Saracens and Sale Sharks playing in their alternate kits.
The WRU in their statement on Tuesday focused mainly on the spectators’ experience.
Chief executive Abi Tierney said she “wholeheartedly” welcomed the Six Nations’ regulation change from next year, and explained: “Kit colour clashes do change the way you watch a game and I have absolute empathy with those whose enjoyment is affected as a result.
“Of course, this is an emotive issue and red is such a traditional colour for Wales, just as green is to Ireland. Change strips always take a bit of getting used to and they can be ‘marmite’ to supporters.
“Our current alternate kit is black, and we have used green in the recent past. Neither of these examples particularly help with this issue and, additionally, the colour red in Wales is not just traditional but a part of our culture.
“But there are other ways to work around the issues and kits with significantly different designs can help avoid the problem too.
“We need to think laterally about how we can overcome the issue ahead of next year, perhaps not just with more inventive use of colours but in our kit designs too.
“If one team is in checks and the other is in stripes, for example, then colours become pretty irrelevant, but we are thinking hard about a solution that works for everyone.
“Tradition and heritage is hugely important in Welsh rugby and we want to reflect what the supporters want and what they are used to with our kit choices, but it is also extremely important to us that we are inclusive and welcoming to all.
“I think both ambitions are achievable, and I have every confidence in the expertise of our design teams that they will come up with a solution that works for all of our supporters and works for Welsh rugby.
“We recognise that this is [a] serious issue for many fans and we are taking it very seriously ourselves.
“It is regrettable that we haven’t reached a resolution to suit all this season, but I can confirm we are fully committed to correcting that in the next kit cycle.”
The WRU’s current contract with kit manufacturers Macron expires this year.
Albany-Ward said: “It’s really difficult to understand why the WRU has not even got a grip of this issue for the benefit of their colour-blind players – statistically two to three in every male squad, so four to six across Wales men’s and Under-20s – and therefore for the benefit of overall team performance.
“World Rugby’s guidelines on colour blindness are clear on player welfare issues. Surely no fans or coaches would want any of their team’s players not to be able to perform to their absolute best or to risk injury for the sake of wearing a ‘traditional’ kit colour – isn’t the whole point to want your team to win?”