Cardiff City fans were in uproar when their new owners changed their home shirt to red, but the overseas image boost that Chan Tien Ghee claimed they will reap isn’t the only advantage to an all red kit.
It’s long since been established that for some reason, teams and athletes across a variety of different sports seem to be more successful wearing red. English football stands testament to this bizarre statistical anomaly with the success of Manchester United and Liverpool dwarfing all else.
Research conducted by J. Atrill et al found that this is the case throughout English football, across all divisions;
Since 1947, English football teams wearing red shirts have been champions more often than expected on the basis of the proportion of clubs playing in red. To investigate whether this indicates an enhancement of long-term performance in red-wearing teams, we analysed the relative league positions of teams wearing different hues. Across all league divisions, red teams had the best home record, with significant differences in both percentage of maximum points achieved and mean position in the home league table.
Until recently, all theories to explain this phenomenon have centred on the teams and individuals. One such theory is explained here by Mind Hacks’ Tom Stafford writing for the BBC;
Across the animal kingdom, red colouration is associated with male dominance, signalling aggression and danger to others. The vividness of the red displayed by individuals of various species has been shown to relate to the amount of the hormone testosterone they have in the bodies, which also correlates with their physical health and eventual breeding success. The researchers claimed that humans too are subject to this “red = dominance” effect, and so, for combat sports, the athlete wearing red had a psychological advantage.
However, as Tom Stafford goes on to reveal, research carried out using doctored footage of taekwondo fights from the 2008 Beijing Olympics suggests otherwise.
It seems it’s not the individual participants of the sport who are effected by the colour red, but the referee instead.
”A new study suggested that the previous theories based on dominance or visibility of the competitor were wrong. The effect wasn’t anything to do with the effect of colour on the athletes, but instead to do with the effect on the referees.
“The statistics were correct, contestants wearing red really do win more, but we had been looking in the wrong place for an explanation. This study used digital manipulation to show experienced taekwondo referees fights that were identical, except for the colours worn by the contestants. Judging the same fights, referees awarded more points to contestants who had been photoshopped red than to contestants who had been photoshopped blue.
“In any competitive sport there will be close calls, situations where the margin of victory is small, and a referee has to make a judgment to the best of their abilities in the blink of an eye. It seems that because red does have an association with victory and dominance, the judgement of these marginal situations can, occasionally, be influenced by the contestant’s clothes colour. Colour does produce a psychological effect, but it is a bias in the refs, not in the contestants.”
So, there you have it. All of you reading this who have spent countless hours arguing with Manchester United fans about Howard Webb being a biased S.O.B who helps them to an additional dozen points each season were right all along. What’s more, you now have evidence to support those claims!