Away kits at home in the Premier League era

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It should be easy, solving kit-clashes, but as our post on the League of Ireland showed, it isn’t always the case.

In that regard, it’s surely a success of sorts that there have only been four occasions since the Premier League began in 1992 that a home team have been forced to wear a change kit? We say ‘forced’ as the PL rules allow teams, in their final home or away game of a given campaign to wear the following season’s kit. Previously, this was only allowed in the last home game and sometimes they decided to showcase the away strip.

The instances of necessary change have involved a lack of foresight on behalf of the away side and/or the officials, in each case.

Early in the 1993-94 season, Newcastle United met Sheffield Wednesday at St James’ Park and the Owls made a mind-boggling decision. Having joined forces with Puma that summer, their home obviously clashed while the largely black away would also have caused problems. So somebody thought that a white shirt with black pinstripes would be suitable. Referee Roger Dilkes did not, and so Newcastle had to wear their blue kit. It didn’t affect them as they won 4-2.

The white shirt would be worn by Wednesday away to Wimbledon in the league on January 15, 1994. Four days before that though, they were away to the Dons in the Coca-Cola Cup, and because the officials still wore black in the domestic cups, teams weren’t allowed to clash with them. As a result, Wimbledon wore white and Wednesday had to wear a yellow fourth kit.

In the 2000 FA Cup, Newcastle were drawn away to Tranmere Rovers, whose home kit was very similar to that Wednesday third shirt, and only had to change their shorts.

Later in 93-94, Blackburn Rovers had to switch when hosting Manchester City (cheers to Michael Dilworth and Ian Herbert for bringing this to our attention):

The previous season, City had worn their purple away kit kit with yellow socks (perhaps the inspiration for the current monstrosity?), but it was far from an acceptable solution:


City did have a third kit for 1993-94, but it was white, and so this perfect storm caused Blackburn to accommodate them in December ’93.

In 2003, Newcastle were again involved in an instance of a home team changing but this time the Toon were the offenders when they travelled to play Fulham. While they had a perfectly good black away shirt, they decided to travel with their third, which was an inverse of that, black with grey. Referee Barry Knight wasn’t happy with the contrast between that and Fulham’s white, however, so the hosts had to dig out their away as they went 2-0 up only to lose 3-2.


Aston Villa unwittingly gifted their claret and blue colours to West Ham United, so there was a certain irony to the 2008-09 episode that saw the Villans have to deviate from their home strip when the London side visited them.

West Ham had an all-sky blue away strip that season and brought that with them, having been given the go-ahead by the league. Officials tend not to like sleeve-clashes, however, and referee Rob Styles wasn’t pleased with the set-up. The solution was for Villa to wear their 2007-08 white away shirts, with a blank set numbered by merchandising manager John Greenfield and his staff at a half-hour’s notice. Emile Heskey put Villa ahead in this shirt…


…but while the first half was ongoing another set was being prepared, with the logo of club partners Acorns being affixed.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Aston Villa v West Ham United - Villa Park

West Ham equalised in the second half and the game finished 1-1. Villa manager Martin O’Neill was unhappy with the result and the sartorial shenanigans, something he expanded on in his notes in the programme for Villa’s next home game, against Hull City:

You will be pleased to know we will be playing in our traditional claret and blue shirts tonight.

I’m sure you were surprised to see our players coming out in an all-white kit for our last home match against West Ham a couple of weeks ago, so perhaps I should explain why it happened.

Essentially, the referee was unhappy because the sleeves of West Ham’s all-blue away kit clashed with the sleeves of our shirts, and I had some sympathy with him in that respect. But the Hammers didn’t seem to have any other kit with them – and the ref was adamant the game wouldn’t go ahead unless the clash was resolved.

Reluctantly, we agreed to change, which meant we had to get our third choice white shirts from the Villa Store warehouse. The ironic thing is that the Barclays Premier League had approved West Ham’s change kit but the referee was unhappy on the day. Quite simply, something had to give, or there would have been no game.

For the sake of all the people who were at Villa Park eagerly looking forward to the action, we decided to change, even though the onus is on the away team to provide alternative colours. I have to say, though, that it was an incredible situation, and one I had never previously experienced, either as a player or a manager. It’s certainly something which should have been sorted out days in advance.

Should such a situation ever transpire again, we’d like to see sanctions in the form of the guilty team having to change the next time the two teams meet. This happened in American football in 2003 after an episode involving the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos.

NFL rules allow the home side to choose whether they wear their dark or light uniforms, with the opposition going for the opposite. With a few exceptions, most clubs are dark at home but teams in warmer climes do often plump for white in early-season games to counteract the heat.

That’s what the Chargers decided to do for the game at home to the Broncos but the visitors only showed up with their white uniforms and pleaded ignorance or forgetfulness. The league weren’t buying that though and fined them $25,000 as well as giving the Chargers the choice of what to wear for their trip to Colorado later in the season. They availed of the option to wear their usual blue.

4 comments on “Away kits at home in the Premier League era

  1. Matthew

    Wasn’t there a case with Coventry wearing a different strip in the mid 90’s (a red/black check one?) at home? Or was that an Away team wearing the home teams kit?

  2. Andy Flintoff

    I remember that Newcastle/Wednesday game. The Wednesday 3rd strip was more grey with black pinstripes than white, which is probably why Tranmere (who were white with black pinstripes) were considered not to clash with Newcastle’s black and white, but Wednesday were. That fourth strip Wednesday wore for that FA Cup game v Wimbledon appears to be a one-off – notice that Wednesday weren’t wearing squad numbers!


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