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!

  • Alexis

    I’ve suspected refs favoured Scum for years, nice to have proof!

  • gideonsupert

    Hasnt appeared to work for us since the suarez debacle. In fact referees appear to revel punishing us to the full letter of the law. Whilst letting our opponents kick ten shades out of us. Ive completely lost faith in the honesty of referees in the last three seasons. The whole FA from top to bottom is corrupt and rotten.

    • TimPM

      Not doing much to shift your club’s persecution complex stereotype eh?

      • gideonsupert

        This isnt based on a few games mate. But, a conclusion drawn since the beginning of the 2009-2010 season. It peaked last season when KD asked if the referee would be fair in the next game. Rather than exercise common sense he constantly booked our players for trivial things whilst letting the opposition gey with murder. Its been gradual over three. Now its just outrageous. My mate whos a utd fan who has no reason to. Completely agrees with me. What u n other fans think is irrelevant. Watch a Liverpool game and tell me if its balanced.

        • TimPM

          I’ve watched plenty and I think you all have a persecution complex. Same as plenty of others (which is why it’s a stereotype)

    • Totally correct mate. Liverpool seem to be the only team in red that so called officials seem to detest and whoever argues just take a look over the last few seasons the shit Liverpool have had bestowed upon them from the officials right up to the FA themselves. Corrupt is to much of a mild word for the FA and so called match officials.

      • TimPM

        “so called officials” You mean they’re not really officials? They just nab a uniform, drug the real ref and give all the decisions against you before disappearing until your next match?! :-D

  • Richard Hughes

    Well, it only took you two words to get it wrong: “Scienfic proof…” science doesn’t deal with proofs. Proofs exist only in axiomatic systems like logic and math: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-scientific-fundamentalist/200811/common-misconceptions-about-science-i-scientific-proof and again – at the end ” What’s more, you now have evidence to prove it!” No, you don’t. You may have evidence to support it.

    • TSS

      It’s a fair point, but we’re dealing with the tribal world of football here, not rocket science. Mainstream media has used “scientific proof” for years, politicians and almost every other person in the world does it too.

      Pedantry aside, it was me who used the wrong term. The evidence is still relevant. And this is still a football blog, not a scientific journal (I can’t stress the importance of that last part enough)

  • Richard Hughes

    No worries, I like cheap points scoring as much as the next fan, but I’m also a science advocate and I don’t think that football has to be inherently anti-intellectual. My adice to all Leeds fans is don’t let facts get in the way of your opinions ;-)

    • TSS

      Our opinion is that referees favour Manchester United, and the evidence supports it. Better? ;-)

      • Richard Hughes

        I actually agree with that. Fergie was gutted when Mike Riley didn’t sign an extension ;-)

    • TSS

      Well, our theory is that refs favour MUFC, and the evidence supports that theory. Better? ;-)

      In all honesty, it actually read “Scientific Evidence Suggests…” to start with – as you can see from the auto-tweet that follows publication http://twitter.com/TSSLUFC/status/238343906507513856 – but I altered for dramatic effect.

    • Miggy Dave

      your adice? learn to spell you boring dull prat

      • Richard Hughes

        “You dull boring prat”. Got it! Thanks. 5 mistakes in the 9 words above; I learn from the master.

  • Richard Hughes

    Stop putting your foot in your mouth. You say ”
    PS. An example of mainstream media (Time) using scientific proof for you -” – but they don’t actually say “scientific proof” in the article. They use “validate” which is equivocal and could easily mean “confirm” which scientifically “proof”. Less fast google, more reading for comprehension.

    • TSS

      Second paragraph –
      “The test that proved it involved observing stars whose position in the sky makes them appear to be close to the sun and measuring whether solar gravity warped space-time enough to distort the starlight slightly. A 1919 solar eclipse allowed scientists to see the stars clearly and make the necessary measurements — proving that the great man’s theories were correct.”

      • Richard Hughes

        Well in that case: ”
        proving that the great man’s theories were correct.” is very wrong and you’re right to cite this. I stand corrected (with regard to the use in the MSM) – but must respectfully guide you here:
        http://www.logicalfallacies.info/presumption/tu-quoque/

        • TSS

          Christ, it’s like being back at Uni! Haha

          • Richard Hughes

            Its worse – beer is more expensive.

          • TSS

            Good point!

  • Matthew

    Manchester United have that biggest team in the world thing going for them, as they have the money behind them and the players, hate to say it but a lot of their players are superstars in the world of football and thus the media is always on them.
    This is anything must factor into biast decision in their favour, and ones against them.
    Since we were knocked out of the Premier league we haven’t had that kind of attention anymore, we’re that fallen giant that has never really recovered, this is anything is why Bates needs to leave and someone with money buys us, because, and this is a fact, if we return to the premier league, with the financial clout behind us, we’d be getting some favouritism too. And not by our own fans.

    • TSS

      The evidence covers the part where we were in the Prem. Have you actually read the above? This isn’t just about Manchester United, wearing red gives you an advantage throughout every league and is the same thing is found in other sports too.

      • Matthew

        My bad. Haha

        Still I was mostly answering on the point of refs making judgements in Manchester Uniteds favour, even ones they don’t deserve, and ones they do.
        You could just imagine the media frenzy if a ref made a decision against Manchester United that was quite frankly completely wrong. Infact the same applys to decisions for and against them off the field too, they’re too damn big in this league and we don’t have the clout as a club to knock them down a few pegs.
        They’re always in the spotline, even random shit we don’t care about gets mentioned. Just media coverage has covered virtually everything I’ve mentioned about them.

  • Which team playing in RED did the Ref’s favour in 69, 71 and 92 ? Funny how this “research” only covers the premiership years ! when United have been dominant and Leeds have nosedived, sounds remarkably like a bitter sheep shagger to me

    • TSS

      Erm… ”
      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.”

      The Prem started in 1992, no? It’s also not confined to the Premier League. Liverpool have never won a Premier League title, yet they were name too. Did you read any of the above?

  • I’m sure there’s also something out there in the stats world that says that it’s easier to see players in red at short and long distance as well. Probably something to do with how red (shirts) and green (grass) get along in how we see things. I think there is a correlation between success and wearing red.

    • TSS

      That’s one of the theories certain people have used to explain the success of the red teams anomaly. To my knowledge, there has been no supporting evidence.

      The contrast angle is definitely not specific to green on red because, as the research by J. Etrill et al points out, this anomaly is present across numerous sports (played on different surfaces). However, red stands out against a lot of backgrounds so it could still be a factor.

      I subscribe more to the evolutionary theory personally (second piece of quoted text), although I’m sure there’s other factors involved that contribute to why referees seem to favour red.

      • TimPM

        Reading somewhere about Leeds’ switch in kit colour I remember something about our initial change to white also being part to do with making us easier to spot for our own players?

  • I do also think there are preferences with referees towards the bigger teams. It’s subconscious I’m sure, but it’s there. There was some awful refereeing towards us in League 1 but I think that was down to a poor standard of refs. It’s impossible for a ref to be 100% impartial to be fair. I remember after Graham Poll retired, he admitted he had a soft spot for Leeds and had been a big admirer as a kid. He never disclosed that at the time, but it came out.
    Sky Sports cameras are 100% accurate. Refs are just human. If Man City dominate English football in the future, like Man United did in the past, then I’m sure over time they’ll get the benefits over the opposition.

    • TimPM

      I seem to remember Ellery(sp?) pulling on a LUFC jumper when I was quite young…

      And D’Urso bending over backwards for Scum before Howard Webb was probably even a ref!

      • Cmoore

        The chants of “David Elleray, is a Leeds fan, is a Leeds fan!” Replaced the usual disparaging version! It was against Newcastle Utd. the first thing he did was book the legendary Bruno Ribeiro!

  • What we need is referees who are colour blind!!

  • marcco62

    Is this a “my dad’s cleverer (more clever obviously) than yours post” because it may be very academic and literate but it’s becoming about as stimulating a read from a football point of view as OK magazine :-)

    • marcco62

      Sorry this should have appeared nearer the Richard Hughes and TSS debate, I’m too thick for this site ;-)

      • TimPM

        You should see some of the “debates” me and TSS have behind closed doors lol

  • henrymouni

    Good news for Barnsley!!
    I think it is more Fergie’s red face and big watch that gets to the refs!

  • mrbigwheels

    Red it is then!. Mind you I prefer a crisp dry chilled white with mi’ lunch.

  • RedDevil

    I missed the part with the “scientific evidence”