There’s nothing more mesmerising than a sea of fans all decked out in their club’s colours.
It’s one of the most iconic parts of football itself. Colours not only unifies but sets us apart, forming both bonds and rivalries, whilst giving each club its own identity.
Our team colours also go on to form affinities through life too. Those colours help to shape and influence our choices from clothing to interiors. Not only do we tend to prefer colours that are linked with our own club, we often despise colours associated with our rivals.
Despite how deep club colours run, it doesn’t stop club owners from tinkering with them. Unfortunately, but not always, when colours are changed, it feels like the heart of the club is being ripped out leaving many fans seething. In recent times, one of the most standout situations is Cardiff City.
Cardiff has a long affinity with the colour blue dating back to 1908 when they first became known as Cardiff City. Adopting blue and white as their home colours. It also played a part in influencing the club’s nickname ‘the bluebirds’. So when the club suddenly transformed to wearing red home kits in the 2012-13 season it was met with outrage. Despite this, and amidst protests, red still managed to stick around for two and a half-seasons. Eventually, they converted back to blue, halfway through the 2016-17 season.
Nonetheless it didn’t put a stop to the stadium extension in the Ninian stand containing an upper section of red seats. Which looks quite bizarre amongst the blue and white seating in the rest of the stadium.
To further add insult to injury, Cardiff’s owner Vincent Tan decide to have the badge re-designed. The famous bluebird became a red dragon! At this point, you could be forgiven for thinking that the owner was after a reflection of the Welsh national team. Which might not seem so bad if it wasn’t for the fact that Cardiffs nearest rivals after Swansea, happen to be Bristol City, who also play in red. It was a recipe for a disaster.
The reason Vincent Tan changed to red was due to it being his ‘lucky colour’. Believing it would ‘bring good fortune’. It was also a condition of his further investment in the club. Still, changing clubs colours to conform to your tastes, whilst ignoring an entire history, is never going to sit well.
Eventually, common sense prevailed in an apparent ‘heart-to-heart’ with his mother, who allegedly convinced him to revert back to blue. He also changed the badge back. Despite this, blue wearing teams still take great pride in chanting ‘we’ll always be blue’ when playing them.
On the flip side, somewhat, is Salford City. Whilst they did try to put up a fight to try and save their tangerine colour it didn’t stick. These days little old Salford are no longer playing around in the lower leagues. Instead, they currently sit proudly in league two. They have quickly risen up the leagues after a certain group of former Manchester United players took over, who then decided that Salford could be more like United by switching from playing in tangerine and white, to red, white and black!
Whilst the colour change immediately saw fans remark about the similarity to that of United, it went down with the fans better than the likes of Cardiff. This was partly down to a smaller fan base and the fact that red isn’t a huge step away from tangerine. Then again Salford is pretty much United territory anyway. Many United fans hail from that area and it borders a large part of Manchester city centre.
Another reason the colour change went more smoothly might have something to do with Salford only forming in the 1940s. Their kit history is more mixed too. Playing in blue and white for a while and then maroon. Rumour has it, that tangerine was only worn when they borrowed kits off Blackpool due to financial reasons and not being able to afford their own. The tangerine colour stuck and various incarnations of it were sported. Pairing it with white shorts then black shorts. One season even see an all orange shirt and shorts but paired with blue socks!
Talking of Blackpool they introduced the same colour in the 1923-24 season after being influenced by the Dutch. Blackpool’s director Albert Hargreaves, who happened to be a referee, had officiated a game between Belgium and the Netherlands. He took a fancy to the Dutch kit, so much so he persuaded the other directors at Blackpool to adopted the unusual colour, initially pairing it with black.
The club kept this kit for 10 connective seasons before having a break. They reintroducing it but this time pairing it with white. Whilst it’s difficult to find out how much of an uproar it caused among fans, it was criticised by news outlets at the time. In 1925 the following comparison was made “Tangerine and black may sound well, but the team cut a sorry figure at Ewood Park by comparison with the spotless and debonair blue and white of the Rovers”. This is insinuating that tangerine wasn’t as sophisticated as Blackburn Rovers’ blue and white kit.
One reason there may be more uproar about clubs changing their colours today is likely down to marketing and branding. Much emphasis is put on club colours because of how much merchandise is now available to purchase, especially the replica kit. Colour seems to be perhaps even more entwined in a clubs history due to this. Especially purchasing years worths of home shirts only for a club to suddenly change it. Those clubs who do experience it, can end up feeling like they’ve being stabbed in the back or like their clubs history is being erased.
In-terms of not so much messing with their colours but taking perhaps a more experimental approach is Bayern Munich. Initially wearing pale blue shorts and white tops in 1900. The shorts were hard to obtain. Black shorts were worn as a replacement, but bizarrely described as ‘dark blue’! they then took to wearing white and maroon. The 60s saw more experimenting with a red and blue stripe similar to Barcelona. Not long after they opted for red and white before transitioning to an all-red kit. The ‘90s saw blue accents emerge again and so the merry-go-round continues.
It’s only natural with so much faffing around with home shirt combinations, fans became aggravated. The 2014-15 season saw the club return to an all-red kit. This started a campaign with fans calling for the traditional red and white colour-way. This came complete with its own social media hashtag as well as banners, handouts and chants at the stadium stating “Wir wollen rot-weisse trikots” translating as we want a red and white kit!
Following on from this, in 2018 the club made a statement after consulting with fans. Boldly claiming there would be no more blue featured in the home kit! It will be interesting to see if Bayern stick to their word given their history and the many incarnations already seen.
For most fans, it would be sacrilege to change their colours, unless it intertwines with the clubs past. Whilst many clubs have dabbled with their colours earlier in their history, today consumerism means years spent buying into the main home colours and for a club and to suddenly change that feels like an erasure.
Despite outcries from fans in recent history, it’s not likely to stop some owners from trying it out, especially if they think it could appeal to other fan bases and bring about financial investment from other continents. Sadly the reality is that for most of us, it’s our worst nightmare.
This is the story of an international football match causing an international incident, which had ramifications for many years...