Red shirts can aid sporting success

In sport the margins between success and failure can be minute. Sports performers, coaches and organisations go to great lengths to secure the tiniest advantage over competitors. But if a sport psychologist suggested to you that your chances of sporting success were influenced by the colour of the kit you wear, how would you respond?

Well, that is exactly what researchers have suggested and they have evidence to back their claims. 

Iain Greenlees and colleagues from the University of Chichester showed that goalkeepers who viewed film footage of soccer players preparing to take a penalty consistently reported feeling that red-clad players were more dominant and capable than those wearing white. The goalkeepers also reported being less confident about their chances of saving penalties taken by red-clad performers.

In a subsequent study, Greenlees and colleagues found that penalty-takers scored fewer penalties against a goalkeeper wearing red (54 per cent success rate) than a goalkeeper wearing blue, green or yellow (a 72 per cent success rate). This research adds to a small, but intriguing, body of research that supports a red effect in sport. 

The most widely accepted (although not uncontested) explanation for this strange phenomenon is that humans have evolved to associate displays of red with danger and dominance.

So, when we see red we experience subtly heightened levels of anxiety and experience, subconsciously, a desire to escape the situation. These effects reduce our ability to perform to our optimum and, potentially, hand a vital advantage to our red-clad competitor.

Two years ago Dr Greenlees presented research to the Society's Annual Conference showing that goalkeepers in red jerseys kept out twice as many penalties as those in other colours. You can read more about it on the BBC News website.

share