There has always been a case – indeed, a need – for a change of strip for football teams, in the event of a clash of colours. When there was a chance of confusion the away team would change to a second outfit, and that was the end of it.
With the modern need to flog replica kit at every opportunity teams now wear “away” strips simply to encourage a second form of income, but I’m not sure the psychology is right. I recall a match last season in which Arsenal were beaten in an away game in Europe and in which they wore their blue strip when there was not the slightest hint of a clash with the home team. This seems to me to be an immediate risk to results, for the simple reason that one is reinforcing the idea of being away from home.
In football, as in various other sports, there has always been a home advantage. Sports psychologists and statisticians have long debated the reasons for this, but whatever reasons they come up with the statistical effect is obvious. It may be less pronounced these days in the higher leagues of football, thanks to such things as standardised pitches and more comfortable travel before games, but the bias is still there.
The other thing that has evolved in recent years is the stress on small details, and marginal improvements in sporting performance. Whether in terms of physical training or nutrition, or analysis of opponents, the small percentages count. And it’s in that context that I don’t understand why clubs are willing to overlook the small but significant element of home advantage when choosing kit.
If you are going to be playing away, why reinforce that with the strip? Surely Arsenal would have felt more at home (in all senses) wearing red and white in Germany. And I am convinced that my own team, Swansea City, would have made a better fist of a lousy 0-3 defeat at Newcastle last year if they had stuck with their all-white instead of that naff green-and-black hooped outfit that looked more like a lower-order rugby team, and which actually blended so well with the green grass and massive dark shadows at St James’ Park that they seemed camouflaged and unable to see one another.
Of course, at the other extreme it’s possible to run into trouble with more lurid colours as well, as this little clip will illustrate. That’ll teach ’em…