How important is the colour of a club’s shirt?

Manchester United

Is the choice of strip simply a means to an end, or can it actually hold a bearing on the outcome of the match?

In June 2012, the majority of Cardiff City fans reacted with outrage as it was announced that the club would be changing their blue strip for a red one. Their beloved Bluebirds would no longer be blue. In October 2012, Deportivo Tachira of the Venezuelan Premier League invaded the pitch to protest one-off pink shirts. The reasoning behind it was admirable (an unsuccessful attempt to raise breast cancer awareness), yet this incident highlights the importance fans place on their club colours.

In 1996, Manchester United suffered a famous loss at The Dell. Sporting their controversial grey kit, the Red Devils were 3-0 down by half time. In an unprecedented move, the players emerged from the tunnel for the second half in a completely different strip. Then manager Sir Alex Ferguson went on to blame the kit for the team’s defeat: the club lost four of the five games played in the strip before prematurely retiring it.

A paper published in the Journal of Sport Sciences in April 2008 analysed data and created a hypothetical table from 1947 onwards encompassing all English leagues, concluding that ‘teams with red shirts [win] substantially more often than expected on the basis of their frequency’. Three of the top four teams (overall) had a red home strip, while the bottom 16 did not. Could it all be coincidence, or does a colour synonymous with trophies breed success?

There are many benefits of a well-designed strip, from increased revenue to happy fans. In the modern game, there is more emphasis than ever on the finer details, with intricate diet plans and cutting-edge recovery programmes for injuries. Thankfully clubs didn’t have the knowledge we have today when they designed their first ever strips. If they had, then red army chants would be obsolete.

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