What Constitutes a Kit Clash? Revisited

  • This is a guest post by Nathan Patrick

In 2012, MOJ owner Denis Hurley tackled the kit clash debate in an article for True Colours Football Kits, and after several reads of that article and a number of questionable decisions by the Premier League and other footballing bodies since then, I feel that I want to try and articulate my own opinions on the kit clash debate by reiterating some of Denis’ points and also adding a few more of my own.

As always, this debate can often get heated as there are so many different factors as to why a kit is chosen to be worn in a football match, so I only wish to ignite the discussion regarding kit-clashes.

FIFA’s Law 4 states that:

the two teams must wear colours that distinguish them from each other…..

which is a very vague definition so different footballing bodies have different interpretations of this ‘law’. For example, UEFA competitions such as the Champions League and the Europa League take this to mean that the shirt, shorts and socks are each distinguishable from one another, whereas the Premier League and the FA Cup are much more lenient on the issue, permitting short clashes and (rarely) allowing sock clashes.

The Premier League’s reasoning for allowing short clashes has often been because you cannot commit a foul with a part of the body that shorts cover (which is a moot point anyway as sleeve clashes are allowed despite handballs being one of the most contentious decisions in football). Regardless, short clashes can be problematic for officials when the players are grouped together, i.e.at dead ball situations.

I like shorts-clashes to be avoided unless changing shorts causes a phenomenon named the ‘overall clash’. This is when a clash occurs because each team has a large amount of two shared colours, even if each element of the two kits didn’t clash. For example, Huddersfield wore their navy third kit at Wembley this season against Tottenham who wore white shirts, navy shorts and white socks. It would’ve been counterproductive for Huddersfield to have changed into white shorts, so in this case I would permit a short clash.

There are some instances where I believe a team should modify their kit when at home to avoid an overall clash and West Brom’s kit this season is a perfect example of that: navy shirt with white stripes only on the front, white shorts and white socks.

When Chelsea went there in November, they had a conundrum as their home and third kits both clashed and their away kit would cause an overall clash whatever combination of shorts and socks they wore with it. They decided to wear it in its intended form of silver shirts, silver shorts and blue socks which was a terrible overall clash.

My proposal would have been for West Brom to change into navy shorts and socks and for Chelsea to have worn white socks.

The most controversial aspect of the kit clash debate is partial clashes, and I have identified the five most common of these: White vs sky blue, royal blue vs sky blue, claret vs black/navy/dark, sleeve clashes and stripe clashes. In all cases,

I believe that they should try and be avoided if possible (so I despise seeing Chelsea play in blue at Man City when they have a perfectly good black third kit) but sometimes these partial clashes are the only option to be worn, as shown by the West Brom vs Chelsea example.

Sky blue vs white is acceptable for me if there are dark shorts and/or socks on show for either side. This is the reason I could accept Man City vs Shakhtar Donetsk this season at the Etihad, but I had far more problems with the reverse fixture. Similarly, City vs Stoke this season was an eyesore despite Stoke’s red stripes, whereas the red socks helped enormous amounts last year.

Royal blue vs sky blue only works for me if the royal blue kit has dark shorts and socks and the sky blue kit has light shorts and socks. For example, Man City vs Chelsea at the Etihad in 14-15 was fine, whereas the return leg at Stamford Bridge presented difficulty watching on television.

I dislike claret kits versus teams in other dark kits, even with the aid of lighter coloured sleeves, shorts and socks. I would even prefer clubs to risk a sleeve clash, for example I wanted Arsenal to wear their away kit at West Ham rather than their dark grey third kit. I also believe red is more distinguishable against claret than navy is.

Sleeve clashes make handball decisions so much more complicated than they need to be so I would advise to steer clear of these unless there is no better alternative. One of my biggest pet peeves was when Arsenal would wear their home kit at clubs who play in white (Swansea, Fulham, Leeds etc.) when we had a perfectly good yellow/blue change kit to turn to.

One of the only situations where I always permit a sleeve clash is the North London derby, as this is one of the most traditional derbies in Europe and it is a shame when one of the clubs is forced/decides to wear a change kit.

Stripe clashes don’t bother me as much as sleeve clashes as they do not massively complicate any decision the officials may have to make. However, I think that stripe clashes start to become an issue for viewers when coupled with clashing shorts.

In recent years, clubs have increasingly worn change kits when there is no clash with the home kit, and this has fairly often created a clash that was not present if the home kit had been worn. I do not mind if clubs change unnecessarily providing there is no clash created, but when a clash is created it is simply unacceptable in my view.

In conclusion, I believe a kit should be chosen to be worn based on how much contrast it has to the opposition’s kit to make the game more aesthetically pleasing for the players, officials and spectators. I do not think that kit choices should be based on whether the colours are traditional to the club or whether the club needs to sell a few more of those shirts, as this would eliminate most of the partial clashes.  For those borderline clashes, my thoughts as mentioned earlier would make those matches far easier to watch.

Please respond to this article whether you agree or disagree as I would happily argue about kit clashes all day!

11 comments on “What Constitutes a Kit Clash? Revisited

  1. Hendrik

    Not really following the sleeve clash. A handball is a handball, seems to me that cases where it’s unclear who committed it are super rare.

    1. Nathan Patrick

      But if we can make the officials’ decisions as easy as possible, why not change? Also, sleeve clashes play a major part in offside calls

    2. Andrew Rockall

      Rob Styles had an issue with sleeves when West Ham played at Villa Park in April 2009, he made Villa switch to their white third shirts, which left Villa in white,white sky blue versus West Ham in sky blue,sky blue,white

      1. Nathan Patrick

        Indeed this is one of the worst overall clashes I’ve ever seen, very similar to Man City vs West Ham in the League Cup in 13-14.

        In this instance, I believe a sleeve clash would be better than the overall clash that prevailed. Villa even had claret change shorts and socks that year that I’m sure they would’ve preferred to wear rather than their change kit.

        An even better solution would’ve been for West Ham to wear their white third kit, which they carried over from the previous season, with sky blue shorts and white socks.

  2. Andrew

    You know what annoys me? The word “clash.”

    In sports, a “clash” means the colors match.

    In all other contexts, a “clash” means the colors don’t match.


    1. Nathan Patrick

      I have always had this thought in my mind aswell, girls often say “those colours in your outift clash” and I’ll be thinking “they’re totally contrasting!”

      Obviously clash is primarily a negative word so I think that is the reason why

    1. Nathan Patrick

      I mentioned that particular Man City game in an early comment, before that I was of the belief that it each component didn’t clash with their opposition’s respective component then there would be no clash but that game changed my opinion as it was impossible to watch.

      The kit clashes of South and Central America are so common it’s ridiculous. I think it’s because they tend to keep the same colour palette for each of their kits, for example Santos usually have a white kit, a black kit and a white and black striped kit. This means for games against white and black striped teams they have no suitable options.

      I’ve also noticed that there are quite a few obvious clashes in La Liga, as Barcelona have worn their all blue kit against countless royal blue and blue/white striped teams this season and last.

      1. Jon

        Totally agreed about some of the ridiculous kit clashes in South and Central America.

        Brazil especially, and Santos are one of the worst offenders, with having an all-white home kit, and a black and white striped away kit, where more often than not, there is a higher percentage of white on the striped kit than black. They have had third kits introduced particularly in recent times, but only seemed to wear them when there was no clash, but when such a need would have arisen for using a third kit, they wore either the home or away. Suddenly you realise the third kit isn’t actually functional, but merely a marketing ploy.

        Necaxa from the example above were quite notorious for causing kit clashes in Mexico, in that normally they wore a red and white striped home kit, though white was more prevalent, especially on the back where there would be a huge white patch to house the number (typically in green) and a few sponsor logos. Now, you would think if they had a higher percentage of white on the home shirt, that the away shirt would be more contrasting for starters.

        And what did Necaxa typically wear for a change shirt in the 90’s and 2000’s? White, often with flashes (literally!) of red. Whilst it was somewhat functional for matches against teams in red, they’d end up wearing the home kit against teams wearing white, causing a pretty bad clash. But there’s worse – whenever they played Guadalajara (also in red and white stripes), they’d wear the away kit.

        Passable if it was just plain white perhaps, but quite often the change kit had a fair bit of red in it too, making it useless. This example from 1998 spells it out.


        But that isn’t even the worst case of it. In 2003, Necaxa had their home kit in the usual red and white stripes, though from the back it looked almost plain white, with the huge patch for the shirt number and sponsor logos, and white sleeves.


        So what did they do for the away strip? Err, this……


        And again, no third kit. So when they went to play at Guadalajara, whose striped shirts looked like this (note the lack of sponsor logos spoiling the shirt that season!)…


        Necaxa turned up in the away kit, with white shorts and socks. The result? One of the worst kit clashes ever seen. I’m surprised the referee allowed it to go ahead, and anywhere else in the world no doubt a referee would have made one of the teams wear different shirts for differentiation. However it seemed to be noted because not long after that, Necaxa started using black or grey as a change strip.

  3. Simon Ståål

    I need to get a Twitter account, but here goes.

    During the last couple of seasons I’ve noticed that goalkeepers ever so often often wears a kit that can be quite similar to the opposition’s kit.

    Watching Derby and Leeds at The moment and Scott Carson is wearing a purple kit and Leeds are in their navy away kit.

    A couple of seasons ago Hugo Lloris wore a light blue kit, rather than the bright orange alternative for that season, against Chelsea. And there has been several more situations with various clubs

    It makes the goalkeeper a little hard to pick out in a crowded box at first glance, and I wonder if that’s the point.

    1. denishurley Post author

      I’ve noticed this too, Simon, especially in the Football League. Surprising that it has been allowed to become so rampant


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