Does Away Shirt Colour Affect How Successful Clubs Are?

Does Away Shirt Colour Affect How Successful Clubs Are?

Does Away Shirt Colour Affect How Successful Clubs Are?

The new season is about to begin with every club in the Premier League wearing new home and away shirts. It didn’t used to be like this, of course, but the idea of flogging three new £50 shirts to fans every season proved to be too tempting for the clubs. We’ve all read those articles about how teams with red home shirts are generally more successful but what about away kits? Away kits change colours regularly so which ones are historically more successful than others? Kit manufacturers make a choice when they release a new away kit and it seems that some choices are better than others.

The Early Days

Since 1921, away sides in the English Football League have been required to wear a different colour strip. Before that, authorities didn’t want any two teams to wear the same home colour but as the league grew, that became impossible. The onus was on the away side to change their team wear and very little has changed since then in that regard.
One thing which certainly has changed through time is the regularity with which the new kits are released. Take Manchester United as an example; in the early 20th century, their away kits would remain unchanged for up to five seasons at a time and even as changes became more regular, they were minimal. There were very minor alterations in the twenty years which followed the 1957 release of their away kit. In those two decades, the collar changed shape slightly and some detailing was added to the sleeves but that was about it. Now, United release two alternative kits each season with huge variations in colour and design.

Red versus Blue

The same can’t be said of home shirts. Unless you’re a Cardiff City fan, your side’s home shirt wouldn’t have changed much in the last few decades. Sponsors, manufacturers and design will shift but the primary colour won’t see too many changes. A club’s home shirt colour is too important to its history – and marketing – to change every season but is that a hindrance to some clubs? When owner Vincent Tan took over Cardiff City in 2010, he quickly sought about redesigning the club’s primary colour from blue to red because, as was argued at the time, it would help increase the club’s popularity in international markets.

Cardiff have since switched back to their historical blue strip but would they have been better off in red? There’s no doubt that historically, red shirts have ruled in Europe. Manchester United and Arsenal have dominated much of the Premier League era, with Bayern Munich doing the same in Germany and AC Milan having spells as Europe’s best. Blue and white are the other two key colours with Real Madrid, Juventus, Internationalize, Chelsea and Manchester City all represented.

The blues of the Premier League are also the favourites to win the title this season with Manchester City at 15/8 and Chelsea 7/2 on Bet Way as of 28 July. The red teams are slightly further down the rankings with Manchester United at 10/3 and Arsenal out at 11/1. These are pretty steady statistics. Those four sides – along with Liverpool and Tottenham – are the wealthiest teams with the best players and they aren’t going to be changing their home strip colours anytime soon. But what about the away kit colour which does change every single season?

Black is the New Black

Well, if history is anything to go by then either Chelsea, Manchester United or Arsenal will win the Premier League title this season. All three have a primarily black kit as either their away or third choice strips and those have been by far the most successful in recent years.
Navy blue and white were generally the most successful away kit colours in the early days of the Premier League. Teams with those colours featured on their away or third kits won eight of the first eleven editions of the Premier League but in recent years, things have changed. Now, black is the new white with every one of the last seven Premier League champions sporting a predominantly black away or third kit. That 11/1 on Betway for Arsenal to win the title is looking like a decent bet.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 06: Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Leicester City at the Etihad Stadium on February 6, 2016 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Interestingly, this goes against scientific research. A 2015 study in the Journal of Sports Sciences showed that white is in fact the best colour for a sporting kit. The study claims that participants were 5.2% more successful at tracking the movement of players in white than in green. The human eye finds it easier to track white against the predominantly-green setting of a football pitch. “The kit colour may indirectly influence football match results,” the study concluded by, “warranting more attention to the home and away shirts by managers and scientists.”
It’s a hugely interesting topic and perhaps something which more clubs should be aware of. There is far too much history and established brand knowledge to change a side’s home shirt colour overnight but the same cannot be said of away and third kits. Black has ruled in the Premier League in recent years but perhaps clubs should be looking at white away kits in the future. It’s a potentially tiny advantage but the slimmest of margins could make all the difference in a football match.

Posted on August 08, 2017

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