Liverpool v Aston Villa, 1993 – an impromptu referee kit-change

When the Premier League began in 1992, one of the notable new initiatives was the change to referees’ kits.

Whereas black had been used by officials for as long as anybody could remember, now green shirts with black pinstripes were favoured, with the shorts reversing the design. It was used from 1992-93 until the end of 1995-96:


One side-effect was that goalkeepers, who had used green for so long, were now forced into a variety of different hues:

While referees did take precedence over goalkeepers, they remained below outfielders in the shirt-preference priority list. As a result, a traditional black shirt (the opposite of the new green) was kept in reserve for games when Liverpool wore their green away.


In the summer of 1993, Aston Villa switched from Umbro to Asics, and their new away featured green and black stripes, outlined in red.


Away to Arsenal on November 6, that kit was worn with the referee, Martin Bodenham, was in the normal kit. Distinguishable, but not ideal (one might also argue that Mark Bosnich’s kit could provide more differentiation to, but it was the 90s).


Three weeks later, Villa travelled to Anfield to face Liverpool. They went into the game unbeaten away from home, but found themselves on the back foot early on. As The Times put it:

Liverpool had started brightly, but by the half-hour mark there were mutters of discontent from the main stand and Graeme Souness, the Liverpool manager, was moved to diversionary tactics, complaining that the referee’s shirt clashed with Villa’s change strip.

We’re not sure if referee Alan Wilkie had a black shirt with him, but even if he did, it’s arguable that the was as much of a clash with the Villa strip as the green one. A temporary compromise was that he was given a white jumper, bearing the USA 94 logo, and wore it inside-out for the rest of the first half. The game was shown live on Sky Sports – which is why it’s so frustrating that there is just one clip – of less than 90 seconds – on YouTube, so you’ll have to trust us on the finer details.


Both of Wilkie’s linesmen (as we could still call them back then) remained in green, but for the second half all three were in white short-sleeved t-shirts.


If, for some reason, you have the full recording at home, please don’t hesitate to get in touch to help us provide some clearer images. As far as we can ascertain, Villa’s away kit wasn’t considered problematic at any stage over the rest of its lifespan – at Anfield in 94-95, for instance, it was worn along with the normal referee’s kit, though by that stage Roy Evans had replaced Souness as the Liverpool manager.

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