Hosting and organising rugby
The implications of colour blindness for organisations running or hosting rugby are extensive but not generally recognised, meaning that the needs of most people with colour blindness tend not to be considered within rugby organisations or taken into account during the hosting of rugby events.
The colour blind spectators’ match-day experience can be negatively affected due to lack of knowledge of their needs by venue operators, but it is not just spectators who must be considered. Behind the scenes there are implications for marketing, communications and ticketing, for those running amenities such as catering and there are a variety of issue for operations to take into account, including stewards’ training, accreditation processes and emergency procedures. Other external stakeholders such as broadcasters, investors and staff can also be affected.
Colour blindness affects about 4.5 per cent of people so it is important for event organisers and host venue operators to be aware that colour blind spectators are likely to face challenges understanding any information they provide which relies on colour. Host venues should consider not only the match-day experience for colour blind fans but also how information in colour is used behind the scenes.
Top tips for venue operators
- Information on websites – information on websites can often be inaccessible in part to people with colour blindness, including hyperlinks, stadium/wayfinding details/ticketing portals and merchandise information. Ensure websites are designed to meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.1 (or latest update) AA rating as a minimum.
- External wayfinding: Liaise with external stakeholders such as the police, transport operators, etc. to ensure all local transport, wayfinding/emergency wayfinding plans and evacuation routes near your premises are accessible to people with colour blindness.
- Internal wayfinding: Review tickets, match-day programmes and wayfinding signage to ensure stadium plans, seating plans, car parking information, wall-mounted and hanging banner signs as well as circulation routes are easy for people with colour blindness to understand.
- Stadium facilities: To make facilities more inclusive, consider:
- toilet facilities (especially toilet door lock indicators)
- retail information in concessions/the club shop
- stadium tour information
- sponsor information and advertisements.
- Emergency signage: Remember approximately six per cent of spectators will struggle to see emergency signage and equipment such as fire extinguishers and defibrillators, so ensure emergency information is easily visible to someone with colour blindness. In particular, red and green emergency signs and equipment can appear to be the same colour for colour blind people and can also be difficult to see against some surfaces, such as grey concrete stadium walls.
Common challenges faced by colour blind people at live events
The most common issues faced by spectators attending live events include:
- difficulties in seeing and understanding wayfinding information, including public transport maps, stadium plans, parking information, colour-coded transport routes and disabled access information
- being unable to see emergency signage and equipment against some background surface colours
- difficulties understanding information on websites and in using ticketing platforms
- being unable to read crucial information such as allergen information at concessions/in hospitality areas or read safety or other information on notices or ‘big’ screens
- being unable to see sponsor information, such as logos or information on advertising hoardings
Behind the scenes there are potential implications for
- employees/staff, including players/athletes, stewards/volunteers, broadcasters/media
- catering and amenities
- event planning and operations
- emergency planning/evacuation
- safety and security, such as accreditation pass information and emergency signage
- stadium plans, equipment and software used in the control room
Venue operators/clubs should therefore consider how facilities might be made more inclusive for people with colour blindness.
Even something as simple as changing the way toilet cubicles show ‘vacant’/’engaged’ can have an impact. Denoting ‘vacant’ with green and ‘engaged’ with red causes confusion and embarrassment. Simply labelling with symbols or the words ‘vacant’ and ‘engaged’ can help to make people with colour blindness feel more included.
As a first stage, it is extremely important to review all safety and security signage and information to eliminate risk as far as possible. In addition to checking emergency/general wayfinding information, accreditation, etc. Also consider less obvious safety risks such as the way allergen information is provided in hospitality areas/concessions and whether colour blind fans can easily identify who to ask for help, for example could different coloured stewards’ jackets be confusing?
The next step could be to rethink how general information is presented, for example within restaurant menus, stadium tour information/procedures and even whether your club logos and sponsors’ advertising hoardings are actually legible for everyone.
In addition to the public facing areas of the stadium, remember colour blind employees and other event-day stakeholders and review any on-field features, service areas, control rooms and player facilities from the perspective of stadium employees with colour blindness (such as stewards and operations staff) and assess the potential experiences of external participants including media/TV, emergency services, catering and delivery personnel.
The colour blind spectator’s matchday experience
Aside from problems with kit clashes on the pitch, colour blind people are often excluded from information conveyed in colour from the moment they start to plan a match-day trip when they visit the event/club websites. There can be challenges across the entire match-day experience and the most common areas where colour blind fans can face difficulties are:
Planning a visit – accessing venue website information (especially websites designed around club colours), ticketing platforms, or trying to understand public transport, car parking and local area maps.
Getting to the stadium – colour-coded directional signs and local area maps from public transport hubs can be difficult to follow, as can directional signage to/from and within car parks (especially multi-storey car parks) and identifying the correct stadium entry points, including accessible entry points/VIP entrances on colour-coded stadium plans/totem signs.
Arriving at the stadium – directional signs to blocks and stands may be difficult to see or to make sense of, especially at larger stadiums which have colour-coded sections or where signage does not stand out due to lack of colour contrast, e.g. black block letters against a red background. At the turnstiles, colour-coded lights which indicate whether or not access is granted can also cause confusion and create a risk of bottlenecks. A simple fix would be to add a tick or a cross facility to indicate whether access is permitted or denied.
Inside the stadium – where signs are mounted can have an impact upon how visible they are, including block/stand/row signs and signage to amenities. Signs with coloured backgrounds may be difficult to spot against some surface colours/backgrounds. Information should have strong contrast against background colours and signs should also contrast well against walls and other surfaces, otherwise colour blind people may struggle to spot them, especially in crowds.
In addition to confusing emergency evacuation and equipment signs notices such as prohibited items and allergen information can be misunderstood if information is given in some colour combinations – for example, prohibited items notices should not be designed with icons against a dark background.
Other issues affecting venue operations
Stadium operators may wish to review how information is presented within venue policies and procedures (e.g. processes for operating equipment) and consider where potential risks might lie. For example misinterpretation of fire control panels, sound systems, CCTV and turnstile entry software, technical stadium plans, emergency exit plans/routes/procedures, information/equipment provided to stewards or accreditation information by colour blind staff employed at the stadium.
A separate review of implications for catering companies, broadcasters/media and other external stakeholders should also be undertaken.
Further information, including links to the European Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sport Events (in particular Annexures A and C) and the Sports Ground Safety Authority ‘Green’ Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds (Sixth Edition), including Appendix C: Guidance on colour vision deficiency can be found in Further guidance and resources.
Additional factors for clubs and governing bodies to consider
If designs do not take into account people with colour vision deficiencies, there can be a direct impact upon revenue streams for clubs and governing bodies. In addition to information about your organisation being misunderstood, poor design can lead to wasted opportunities to promote your brand and your marketing objectives can be compromised. Ticket sales, potential sales of merchandise and the impact of advertisements and sponsors’ logos may be being squandered – for up to five per cent of potential customers. There is a lot of potential revenue which may potentially be lost.
Colour schemes selected to create a specific look and feel for an individual tournament can appear differently to people with colour blindness. While this might not be an issue in terms of branding, it can sometimes cause problems where, for example, stadium dressing colours can render emergency signage invisible due to lack of contrast between the branding colours, for example above a vomitory exit, and the emergency signs.
Implications for design/marketing/branding/communications
Fortunately, designing for colour blindness is quite straightforward once basic principles are understood. Most solutions are inexpensive and simply a matter applying common sense.
Crucially, there is no need to provide different solutions for people with different types of colour blindness, the same solutions will work for everyone no matter what kind of colour blindness they may have.
When designing a new brand, designers should be aware that depending upon the colours they use the impact they intend may not be the same for everyone.
It is important to understand that people with colour blindness are unlikely to worry about how colours might be different for them provided they have equal access to all of the information. When developing brand colours, it is important to ensure all information is accessible.
In the image below, while some colours chosen lack contrast with background colours the information is available by other means (text and numbers) so the colours in the graphics are not needed to deliver the important information.
In documents, where information such as graphs provide statistical information, simply adding text/numbers/symbols or textures can be the difference between information being accessible or not.
The anti-doping statistics below use light-coloured numbers against dark backgrounds and dark-coloured numbers against light backgrounds and the charts are a great example of good practice.
Commercial implications – broadcast revenue/ sponsors and advertising/ merchandising/ ticketing
The most important revenue streams for clubs and governing bodies are ticket sales, sales of merchandise, sponsorship deals, advertising revenue and broadcasting revenues. Despite eight per cent of the male population being affected by colour blindness, commercial partners including sponsors and advertisers can be unaware of the implications.
In rugby, if fans cannot watch a broadcast game due to a kit clash then they may switch off coverage. This could in turn impact upon the value of broadcasting rights. With the aim of selling as much advertising as possible, broadcasters need to reply upon viewing figure projections supplied by competition organisers. Ensuring you avoid colour blind kit clashes can maximise viewership and retain the confidence of broadcasters.
For example, if five per cent of the projected audience is not watching the game, then they also will not be seeing the advertisements in commercial breaks but they also won’t see on-pitch, pitch-side (static or animated hoardings), or logos on the kits themselves.
Watching any two teams with green v red is impossible, whether it’s live in the stadium or on TV, the closeness of players in scrums or mauls is so difficult and I have stopped trying to watch now. All sides have alternative kits and not choosing close matched colours would help.— Johnathan Sutton (@johnny_sutton) April 2, 2021
Sponsors and advertisers
Clubs and governing bodies can take steps to avoid kit clashes and also to raise awareness among their sponsors and advertising partners to ensure as many people as possible are able to follow matches and that advertisements and logos are as prominent as possible.
The logo in the image below is an example of good practice. Without the white edge the red of the sponsor’s logo would merge into the colour of the pitch and be difficult for colour blind people to see and the sponsor’s exposure to eight per cent of the men half of a percent of women and watching the game in the stadium or on TV would be limited.
Clubs and governing bodies can take advantage of opportunities to maximise financial returns by advising their sponsors and advertisers on how they can make the most of advertising opportunities at their events by improving prominence for colour blind fans, thereby ensuring maximum returns on investment for all concerned.
Notice how the red and green pitch-side hoardings in the simulated image above (left) are much less prominent than in the normal image (right) because the colours of the hoardings appear to be the same and also appear to be the same colour as the pitch to people with colour blindness.
Food and merchandise concessions
Relying too heavily on club colour schemes can also have a negative impact upon club revenue at concessions, as demonstrated in the two images below. Simple techniques such as outlining the red letters with a white edge would ensure colour blind people could read all the text without losing the impact of club colours for customers with normal colour vision.
How merchandise is labelled both in club shops and online can have an impact upon whether or not colour blind fans will make purchases. It is very important to label all items with simple colour names so that colour blind people can be confident about what they are buying. Online retailing in particular is often designed in a way which will deter colour blind fans from making a purchase.
For colour blind people by far the most frustrating experience in purchasing is when they try to buy tickets. Far too often ticketing portals pay no regard to people who struggle to distinguish between colours.
Using colour only to convey ticketing information makes it extremely difficult for people with colour blindness to purchase tickets independently. Not only can this deter fans from attempting to purchase tickets and affect revenue, it can also have a negative impact upon fans’ self-esteem. Having to ask for help is an inconvenience, but it is also disempowering.
Different coloured dots are frequently used on ticketing platforms to distinguish between different types of tickets. In the seat selection image below, selected and available seats are indicated by red and green dots which appear the same colour to most people with colour blindness, meaning they have no way to work out which seats they are trying to buy. Other seat type colours are also confusing. This issue could have been avoided by using different shapes in addition to colours.
Stadium plans which rely upon colour only to provide information are also commonly used to denote different price bands for sales of match-day or season tickets and for wayfinding. Often colour-coded stadium plans are also printed onto match-day tickets to assist in locating stadium entry points, etc. See also Secondary labelling below.
Where colour is used on stadium plans, information should also be given in another way. On match-day tickets, strongly contrasting information and text and numbers is often all that is needed, as in the good practice example below.