A simple project to find out the most successful colour in sport turned out some fascinating and unexpected results. If you’re starting a team or running a club, read on to find the best colours in which to mount your title challenge – and which colours you should definitely avoid.

The most successful colour strip in the Premiership? No-brainer: red, possibly turning a shade of blue in recent years.

That’s what the received wisdom would tell you, anyway. It’s true that the most successful Premiership clubs have played in red and blue, but that doesn’t mean red and blue are therefore the most successful colours. That’s because when the whole spread of clubs is considered, red and blue suffer because there are also yo-yo clubs who play in these colours.

We wanted to find out if there was an advantage to playing in a certain colour, or whether it’s wholly down to the players. That’s to say: if two equally matched teams could play against each other a hundred times in randomly chosen strips, would a significant advantage emerge that could be attributed to the colour of the strip? We have reviewed data from the start of the Premiership in 1992 to find out how colours performed on average in terms of league points, goals scored and goals conceded.

The Findings

Prepare for an upset – the most successful colours are not red or blue. Read on to find out what they are.

Biggest average points haul: Burgundy

“What?” we hear you say (if you’re anything like we were). But it’s true. The colour with the highest average number of points taken (remember: 3 for a win; 1 for a draw; 0 for a loss) is burgundy. The average number of points in burgundy is 1.6, helped by Arsenal’s commemorative kit for 2005–06, the club’s last season at Highbury, when they averaged a stunning 2.36 points per game.

Arsenal’s commemorative kit for 2005–06 averaged a stunning 2.36 points per game.

Another surprise pops in in 2nd place. Vivid pink was Everton’s away kit for 2010, and they managed to get 1.58 points per game in it.

Finally a primary colour arrives, and it’s red at a tiny fraction below 1.58 points per game, but a solid performer, not a flash in the pan.

Fewest average points per game: Gold

It might be what athletes and Henry Kelly’s contestants are going for, but don’t go for a gold kit if you want to win games of football. Teams playing in gold averaged just 0.12 points per game. Leicester City failed to find the alchemy to turn gold into a lead, and didn’t win a single point in their 2014 gold away kit (they did get points in their blue away kit that season, however).

Leicester City failed to win a single point in their 2014 gold away kit

Gold’s unglistening cousin orange fared only slightly better, but was still second worst in terms of points. Wolves, Blackpool and Hull have all failed miserably in orange, averaging just 1.12 points at home.

And if you think yellow is much better, think again. The average points won in yellow is just 1.37.

Most goals scored per game: Burgundy

Clubs need to start taking burgundy seriously. Sure, points haul is going to be related to goals scored, but it’s not necessarily parallel. Teams can eke out 1–0 wins and bring home the 3s, but when they play in burgundy they seem to become goal machines. Teams playing in burgundy score an average of 1.5 goals per game, which beats red into second place with its 1.46 GPG.

Fewest goals scored per game: Green

If your team’s playing in green, remember to take a crossword puzzle and a travel pillow because you’re not going to be up on your feet much – a paltry 0.93 goals per game is all you can expect to be cheering. Since green isn’t the colour with the fewest points, we can also assume they don’t let in too many goals either, which is somehow even more boring.

Gold is a homonym of goaled, which is a linguistic joke when you see how useless gold-shirted footballers are at scoring them. But at least you can expect a solitary goal per game before succumbing to an inevitable draw or loss to attain those stultifying point tallies.

Orange-clad players can look forward to 1.14 goals per game, and their yellow counterparts 1.37, which is why the phrase “a thriller between Blackpool and Norwich” has never been committed to the internet (until now).

Fewest goals conceded per game: Burgundy

If you have started thinking burgundy is all attack, attack, attack and no track back, track back, track back, well it’s YOU who’s back-tracking now because yes, burgundy wins it again with fewest goals conceded. To be fair, they can expect to let in 0.98 goals per game, but when you’re banging them in at the other end and habitually winning, who cares?

Again, pink doesn’t do too badly, although bear in mind that the average leakage of 1.05 goals per game was from a small sample size (Everton away for one season). Interestingly, Everton finished mid-table that season, which means the pink away strip far outperformed the regular blue strip in both goalmouths.

Most goals conceded per game: Gold

Ah, so that’s where gold gets its name from. The other teams goaled more often when they were playing against teams in gold – in fact, opponents could happily expect to put 1.88 past the hapless golds per match. And orange and yellow, stop sniggering at the back – your defenders could only stand idly by while 1.77 and 1.52 goals per match whistled into the net, respectively.

Overall Performance

So here we have it – the definitive results from a quarter of a century’s worth of research into performance based on Premiership strips. Ranked from best (most likely to score goals and points and to concede fewer goals) to worst (the opposite), the rankings are:

Talking points and Trivia

So what conclusions we can draw from 786,600 minutes of stats, plus a bit of Fergie time? Let’s make like Didier Drogba and dive in.

There’s a definite suggestion of advantage

Two key findings mentioned above hint at colour playing a part. Everton’s success in pink in an otherwise lacklustre season certainly has the look of a hard fact, even though it’s a pretty small sample size. Don’t be thinking this was some wishy-washy pale red, by the way. It was positively fluorescent. There’s no way Everton players could have failed to pick out their team-mates in a crowded box using only peripheral vision, but to be fair, so could the opposition. Leicester’s woeful experience of playing in gold (0 points) compared with their reasonable performance in blue, even when away, certainly points to a colour effect.

Grey isn’t the colour, but was Fergie right
to change at half time?

Dishwater. Overcast skies. The M25. Old white underwear. Man Utd’s 1995–96 away strip. What do they have in common? Greyness. Grey doesn’t have much going for it, and it sits firmly in the middle of our chart where it belongs. But grey hit the headlines in April 1996 when United were at The Dell dressed in grey and were being thumped 0–3 at half time. What does Ferguson do? He orders them to change their strip to blue and white (their third kit), claiming grey was making the team “invisible”. In the second half United absolutely destroyed Southampton, eventually winning 27–3. OK, they lost 1–3.

Fergie saw the partial comeback as vindication of his decision (as though a half-time natter with one of football’s most feared managers has no effect). But we’re sorry, Sir Alex, the stats say otherwise. When United played in grey they lost four and drew one before abandoning it, an average points-per-game of 0.2 out of a possible 3.0. But the average for others wearing grey in the Premiership is a much more modest 1.3 points per game. Chelsea, Aston Villa, Bolton, Newcastle and Liverpool have all worn grey and performed, well, averagely.

Red vs Blue

Arsenal vs Chelsea match

No fewer than 58 of the 92 clubs (63%) in the English football league have either red or blue as their main colour, so there are plenty of opportunities to see how they fare against each other.

In terms of Premiership champions, the two colours comprehensively dominate, with every one playing either in red (17 titles) or in blue (7 titles if you count Blackburn’s two-tone strip). To buck the trend you have to go back to the last year of the old First Division (1991/2) when Leeds won playing in white, and before that it was 1980/81 with Aston Villa’s claret and blue.

But this data is misleading, as there have only been five Premiership champions (Man Utd, Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Blackburn), and let’s face it, three of them have benefited from sugar daddies and the other two are massive clubs with strong investment and fervent fan bases – i.e. they’d tend to be winners whatever colour they played in. (As we go to press, however, we might be about to see a third category of champion if Leicester hold their nerve.)

We do have one example of the same club playing in both red and blue and we can see their fortunes when they did. Cardiff City has played in blue since 1908, but in 2012 the club’s owner Vincent Tan had other ideas, and saw a rebranding of the Bluebirds to red as a smart move for the international market. The fans naturally took a different view. However, red-shirted Cardiff rose up the Championship and were promoted to the Premier League in 2013. Great news for red! But their spell in the top flight was ill-fated. They finished last, taking just 30 points from their 38 games. Boo red! The club reverted to blue in January 2015. Conclusion? Money can buy success, but without the roar of the crowd behind you, it can be short lived. So don’t mess with a century of tradition.

With a mountain of caveats, we have the final conclusion on the success of red versus blue in the Premiership era. Even with the “bad” teams factored in, red strips have still proved to be dominant every single year – even when they haven’t taken the top spot. The graph below shows the average points per season of the boys in red and the boys in blue... and it’s a lock-out.

Want to Dig into the Data? Be our Guest!

The data we’ve gathered covers the entirety of the Premier League era up to the end of the 2014/15 season, which is 8,986 games (the first three seasons had 22 clubs, which thereafter changed to the current 20). That’s a lot of data, and there are no doubt other colour-related stories hidden in there that passed us by.

So now it’s up to you to have a play with the stats. We’ve made it easy to isolate colours, clubs, home and away fixtures an all the other data that fed into our findings, and we’d love to hear from you about any fascinating conclusions you draw.