December 27, 2021
Seesawing studies find that red is for winners or black results in more penalties – while others find effects murky at best
Like a red rag to a Tiger: can shirt colours really affect results in sport? | Sean Ingle
Here’s one to ponder while gazing at another dull and drabby December sky. Can colour affect sporting performance? Tiger Woods certainly thinks so. “I wear red on Sundays because my mom thinks that’s my power colour,” he said, while blasting his way to 15 majors. So does Sir Alex Ferguson, who famously changed Manchester United’s grey kits at half-time during a 1996 defeat to Southampton because, he claimed, his players had struggled to pick each other out. Meanwhile, for more than 15 years a battle has raged in sober journals over whether a red uniform can provide a winning edge – and whether other colours lead to a disadvantage.
Newspapers, including the Guardian and New York Times, have also reported on the latest developments with breathless fascination. “Red is the tint for winners,” we wrote in 2005. “When all else is equal, a sporting strip of scarlet is enough to tip the balance.” Our report highlighted a highly influential study in Nature that examined combat sports at the 2004 Olympics and found that across 19 of 29 weight classes in boxing, taekwondo, Greco-Roman and freestyle wrestling, red had more winners than blue.
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