The success of football clubs could be down to the colour of their shirt, according to new research.

The success of football clubs could be down to the colour of their shirt, according to new research. Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Nottingham Forest - many of the successful football teams of the past 50 years have worn red kits, which is no coincidence according to the findings.

The research, involving academics from Durham University and the University of Plymouth, has been published in the Journal of Sports Sciences. It suggests that simply wearing a red shirt has given football teams an advantage, thanks to our deep-rooted biological response to the colour.

In nature, red is often associated with male aggression and display; it is a testosterone-driven signal of male quality (the red breast of a robin, for example) and its striking effect has even been harnessed by soldiers in the past.

More recently, in the sporting arena, research by Durham scientists demonstrated that competitors wearing red had increased success in Olympic combat sports. Armed with this knowledge, the experts set out to discover whether such an effect could be detected in English football: have red-shirted teams been more successful over time than teams wearing other colours?

Professor Robert Barton and Dr Russell Hill of Durham University (authors of the Olympic combat study) and Professor Martin Attrill and Dr Karen Gresty, of the University of Plymouth who led the research, analysed data on English football league results since the Second World War. Teams wearing yellow or orange shirts had the worst record. But is this link between team kit colour and success also apparent when teams play away? Apparently not.

They concentrated on how teams have performed at home when they nearly always wear their main signature kit colour. The results were surprising: they discovered a significant difference in success levels between red, white, blue and yellow/orange teams, with red teams across the whole of the top 68 clubs winning more often at home.

Teams wearing yellow or orange shirts had the worst record. But is this link between team kit colour and success also apparent when teams play away? Apparently not. The researchers found no difference at all in performance away from home, when teams typically wear a range of colours that often change over the years.

So why might wearing red shirts enhance performance? Professor Robert Barton, of Durham University, said: "We see a couple of possible explanations. Firstly, over time supporters may have been subconsciously more attracted to a club wearing red, so the club has developed an increasing resource base within its community. Secondly, there may be a positive psychological boost from wearing red, or being associated with a red team, that is reflected on the field of play. Competing against a team in red could also impair performance."

But is this still apparent in the modern game? Dr Russell Hill, of Durham University, said: "It is certainly true that the influx of wealthy foreign owners has changed the resources available to some teams and this should result in increased success, regardless of their shirt colour. Nevertheless, in close matches where teams are evenly balanced, we still predict that wearing red could tip the balance between success and failure and the red advantage will still persist."

Professor Martin Attrill, of the University of Plymouth, said: "These findings follow what we would expect if wearing red has an effect. One possible reason could be that red teams happened to develop in large cities, so over time they have had access to more supporters and resources. But we can dismiss this because we compared the results from all cities in England where there is a team playing in red and a rival team of another colour - for example, Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester and Nottingham. Over time, the red teams have performed significantly better in the league, despite sharing the same potential resource base."


Comments (13)

  1. fsc

So, how does that explain how shite Aberdeen are? :P

  1. fsc

This is a pretty old study for the states. They did something like this back when the Bulls were winning all the championships and got the same result.

  1. fsc

pretty stupid thesis. it can work for the english teams, but abroad its completely different.<br />The researcher also said that yellow teams tends to loose. Better inform him about the existence of Brazil\'s national team...

  1. fsc

I don\'t understand why the media have jumped on this research as new news. E-on produced the same findings after commissioning research by a Leeds University last year just before the FA Cup final. It also linked the story into business success. It was ignored then but for some reason now everyone\'s interested in it!! Any reader of Desmond Morris will know that he put forward exactly the same research in the late 1970s and I also reported upon it in the introductory essays in True Colours Vol 1.

  1. fsc

Interesting theory, but in practice it doesn\'t work, since \"football is a surprise box\" (remembering a brazilian football lore).<br /><br />And where the Brazilian national team enters in that story?

  1. fsc

Ah, I just forgot: Real Madrid

  1. fsc

Brazilian and Italian national teams... (and German, and French, and Argentinian...)<br /><br />Real Madrid (and Barcelona), Internazionale Milan (and Juventus), Valencia, Lyon, etc, etc, etc...

  1. fsc

It\'s a very interesting research. Of course, this research isn\'t saying the color is enough to win, but it helps.<br /> The statistics don\'t lie!

  1. ali

red hurts my eyes

  1. fsc

For the first English fan to mention 1966.... zzzzzz. I\'m surprised they haven\'t done already.

  1. fsc

for people to mention eternal chokers spain and their record.<br /><br />Besides, how many international teams who wear red can you name?<br /><br />Only Egypt and their record in the ACN comes to mind.<br /><br />The paper does say that there is a correction between teams wearing red and the size of the city they are based in. So kind of explains international teams as well, re:blue second best colour-argentina,italy, brasil\'58,uruguay,france.

  1. fsc

Desmond Morris wrote about this thirty years ago, and I don\'t think it was new then. The book was called \"The Soccer Tribe\" and another of its stunning revelations was that the players on winning teams get on a lot better together than those who are on losing teams.

  1. fsc

i agree this is old news

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