THE Team GB Olympic kit was revealed last Thursday to something of a brouhaha. Or, if you prefer, something of a bluehaha. (Ha ha.) A few people got into a tizz over Stella McCartney’s design, which included plenty of blue and a fair bit of white, but hardly any red.
It was a storm in a tea cup, really. Although if Stella’s design has been in any way influenced by her dad, it should solve once and for all the question of whether Sir Paul supports Everton or Liverpool.
Different newspapers dealt with this minor controversy in different ways. The Daily Star quoted half of Twitter (“Oh dear, the Olympic kit!!” tweeted cyclist Bradley Wiggins). The Daily Mail delved into its online comments to hear the leaden humour of Ed from Surrey (“Someone really should have told Stella that the Union Jack has red in it”). And the Guardian decided to phone up an academic and a sports psychologist.
They discovered a 2005 report by Professor Robert Barton and Dr Russell Hill, of the University of Durham, which claimed that wearing red consistently increased athletes’ chances of victory. Their study was initially based around combat sports at the 2004 Athens Olympics, in which competitors were randomly assigned red or blue uniforms, but subsequent research has suggested similar trends across a number of sports.
The thrust of the article was that Britain had missed a chance to help their athletes by not including red in the design. As sports psychologist Dr Victor Thompson put it: “If the red increased confidence, [positive] aggression and sense that they are dominant, then they are likely to perform closer to their peak potential.”
All of which raises the question: If wearing red improves sporting performance, just how bad were the England side that lost to Germany in the last World Cup?
Such pop psychology should be approached with caution – particularly when it concerns colours. I saw the excellent comedian Sarah Millican interviewing terrifying TV dating uberfraulein Tracey Cox on BBC Two recently. Millican asked if it was true that men preferred women to wear bright red lipstick because it makes the mouth look like a vagina. “Oh, absolutely,” Cox responded. Because ALL MEN THINK THE SAME. Except the gay ones, presumably. Millican, by the way, responded with a gag about pubic hair and moustaches. But then you knew this.
(The subject of unsophisticated gender politics reminds me of a friend of a friend of a friend who, sitting in the pub one night, announced without apparent fear of contradiction: “All men want a threesome.” Really? A threesome? Ahead of a year’s subscription to Gardener’s World Magazine? Or a weekend in Rhyl? Or a nice poached egg? How can you be so sure?)
One interesting side issue in the sporting kit debate (yes, we’re back to that now) came out of a German study, which claimed officials may be subconsciously swayed by teams playing in red. According to research, judges scoring bouts between red and blue competitors scored them significantly differently when the colours were digitally reversed. So if ever your team concedes a dodgy penalty at Old Trafford, Anfield, the Emirates or, um, Morecambe’s Globe Arena, you genuinely can blame it on the ref.
But I’m still confused about the idea that wearing red improves performance. I’ve seen it claimed by a number of people that wearing all white has the same effect – indeed, when he was Bolton manager, Sam Allardyce changed the club strip for that reason. So I’m not sure what happens if a team in all white plays a team in all red.
(Although, thanks to a 1996 study involving a team from Manchester, I can confirm that if a team turn out in grey, the players can’t see each other.)
Having said all of this, perhaps the red success theory does have some weight. In the Premier League, none of the current bottom eight play in red – instead, three teams wear blue and white, one team wears blue, one team wears white, one team wears claret and blue and one team wears gold.
At the other end of the table, a team in red will probably win the title (even though a team in blue are currently top).
And London’s top team this season look like being reds as well. Which will come as a bit of a let-down to a team in blue and another in white.
Last on MOTD: Chelsea 0 Tottenham 0
Commentator: Jonathan Pearce
Chelsea have been London’s top Premier League finishers for each of the last seven seasons. But not this year. Not unless they can make up eight points on Arsenal in eight games.
Tottenham, for a long time, looked like being London’s top finishers this season. But then Fabio Capello resigned, Harry Redknapp was acquitted of tax evasion charges, the world put two and two together and Spurs promptly fell to pieces.
Redknapp has accrued two points from his last five league games. Even Andre Villas-Boas can boast a better record than that, and he’s out of a job now. At the start of February, Tottenham were 12 points ahead of Arsenal. Now they’re three points behind.
It was a nothing sort of game at Stamford Bridge yesterday. Chelsea, invincible there during the Jose Mourinho era, dropped home points for the sixth time this season, despite Juan Mata hitting the post with a free kick.
Tottenham, whose last league win at Chelsea was so long ago that Margaret Thatcher was still Prime Minister, almost scored at the end when Gareth Bale headed against the bar. Perhaps if Bale had been wearing a red shirt, that would have gone in. Then again, he’s scored six times in 33 games for Wales, so perhaps not.
Anyway, if wearing red really made that much of a difference, surely Swindon would have beaten Chesterfield in today’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final?
1. Fulham: 7 (2L: 3, 3L: 2)
2. Aston Villa: 6 (2L: 4, 3L: 4)
3. Wigan: 5 (2L: 8, 3L: 4)
4. West Brom: 5 (2L: 4, 3L: 4)
5. Norwich: 5 (2L: 3, 3L: 4)
6. Stoke: 5 (2L: 2, 3L: 6)
7. Swansea: 4 (2L: 6, 3L: 4)
8. Sunderland: 4 (2L: 6, 3L: 0)
9. QPR: 4 (2L: 3, 3L: 2)
10: Wolves: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 6)
11. Blackburn: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 5)
12: Liverpool: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 4)
13. Tottenham: 3 (2L: 2, 3L: 1)
14. Chelsea: 3 (2L: 0, 3L: 5)
15. Newcastle: 2 (2L: 0, 3L: 0)
16. Everton: 1 (2L: 8, 3L: 4)
17. Bolton: 1 (2L: 4, 3L: 6)
18. Arsenal: 0 (2L: 3, 3L: 1)
19. Manchester United: 0 (2L: 1, 3L: 0)
20. Manchester City: 0 (2L: 0, 3L: 1)
2L = On second last (Swansea 0 Everton 2)
3L = On third last (Norwich 2 Wolves 1)
(Teams receive one point every time they are last on Match of the Day. Teams level are separated by the number of times they are on second last, then by the number of times they are on third last. MOTD2 not included.)