A third way

      4 Comments on A third way

By Jay Mansfield

Towards the end of the Covid-19-interrupted 2019-20 Premier League season, Chelsea played Crystal Palace while wearing their new sky blue away kit. While that match was ongoing, news came through that the Premier League had decided that neither of Burnley’s sky blue or dark green alternate kits were suitable to wear against West Ham the following evening, so the Clarets commissioned an emergency fourth white shirt from Umbro. 

From a kit-nerd point of view, an emergency strip is always exciting (MoJ has published articles previously on both Chelsea and Manchester City’s misadventures in generic Umbro teamwear in the late 80s/early 90s). However, this does raise questions about continuing colour-management in professional football. 

As I’m sure I go on a lot, the enjoyment of partially-sighted and colour blind fans is given more consideration these days, and this is part of the reason behind Burnley’s green kit being an issue against West Ham; red/green colour-blindness is the most common of a range of colour perception issues, but it seems a bit strange that clubs are continually allowed to register daft selections. Fifa and Uefa have attempted to address the issue in the past with mandated dark and light kits, but that sometimes clashes with clubs’ heritage colour schemes. 

From my point of view, I have a definite issue with clubs launching away shirts that contain a colour from the home shirt, or are broadly similar in tone – Chelsea’s home and away kits both being light blue; Burnley’s away kit being sky blue, the same as the sleeves on their home kit; Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Newcastle, and Southampton all had kit choices that bordered on impractical. Sometimes this is due to the long development lead-in time for new kits and not knowing who else is going to be in the same division due to promotion/relegation not being finalised, but most of it just seems a bit lazy. 

Ideally, for me, no club would be allowed to have an away kit that had a body or sleeve colour or shade that was present on the home shirt. Out of this season’s kits, around a quarter of clubs would fail that test.  But if that’s a bit much, how about each Premier League club has a yellow third kit?

Every club in the 2019-20 Premeir League has had a yellow change shirt at some stage – and there were some crackers at that. Logic underpinned most of the choices – with a yellow option, there was almost no chance of a third kit being required. I particularly liked the template that both Chelsea and Everton adopted in 1990.

It could work like this – each club can do what they like with their away kit, but they must have a yellow third shirt. They are allowed trim, but it must be the primary colour of the home shirt (or perhaps a nominated secondary colour instead) or black. Shorts and socks can either be the primary colour, or yellow depending on the club’s general preference. Chelsea’s 2018-19 away kit is a good example of how this would work in practice, with yellow shorts and blue socks. Liverpool, on the other hand, might want to go with all-yellow. 

But what about teams whose first choice kits are yellow or gold? They would have a blue third kit: again, Norwich, Watford, and Wolves have all had blue away kits in the past. You might think this all sounds a bit reductive, and while it’s a bit of a kit reverie for me, I think it’s a practical solution to ongoing horrible kit clashes caused by short-sighted trendy colour correction.

In any case, for some reason I really like simple yellow away kits; the Chelsea one mentioned above. Barcelona’s away kit this season. Liverpool’s classic 80s strips. I can’t see any way it wouldn’t work. Well, not unless Norwich launch a yellow away and third strip…

4 comments on “A third way

  1. David Breach

    Quick question: why would teams who play in yellow need a blue third kit? They could wear their yellow ‘home’ kit for most games, and their away kit against others who play in yellow (or gold, or light orange etc.). Indeed, if we just said that all teams had to have an all yellow away kit, then we could do away with third kits altogether – unless the Premier League suddenly allows Partick Thistle to join. Or is the premise that we’ve grudgingly accepted that third kits are a regular thing that clubs can’t commercially do without, so we may as well make them more practical? (My view is that third kits should be the de facto ‘cup’ shirt of the respective team – means they probably get used more to hit contractual obligations, and means home fans get to see their own club play in a different shirt for once.)

  2. discodavid26

    Jay during the 3/4 years of the late 80s going to into the 1990s (before the premier league started and sky/ the modern medias idea of football history started ahhhhhhhhhh!) virtually the top 40-50 teams in England all either had a yellow away or 3rd shirt/kit….only notable exceptions i can recall……….
    1.the big 2 man united and Liverpool
    man u red home white away and blue 3rd shirts with interchangeable shorts and socks cover all bases so no yellow needed.
    Liverpool basically got rid of mid 80s white away kit and yellow 3rd and merged them into one kit and instead brought in the classic adidas grey with red trim look a rare case of a grey outfielders kit that works so understandable and like man u covered most bases
    2.West ham ….at the time had 2 classic away looks (since joined by the 3rd look the Thames ironwork’s all navy look on an almost yearly new kit rota basis’s) either all light blue with 2 claret hoops kit (a rare case/exception perhaps of your rule of home and away kits should not have same colour sleeves? and/or the all white (fa cup 1980 look) kit ….both change kit colours cover all bases unless Burnley and Aston villa away games come into play sometimes an “overall clash” problem occurs.
    3.Fulham and Nottingham Forest……….both had white and red kits as home/away pairs so both presumably did not have problems against teams in red and white stripes…….. fulham had earlier had the odd game in a sky blue or yellow shirt before and forest later had a green 3rd kit (inspired by mr Clough?) followed by blue ones later on.
    4.Ipswich………….the one team in England who could never be allowed by its home fans to ever put on a yellow shirt! (think about it) unless its a goalies 3rd emergency kit however at the time they had an all orange with black trim kit doing essentially the same job as an all yellow kit and that was switching between away and 3rd kit duty’s with an white one that was exact opposite of home kit colours……at other times a pair of white and red change kits with the blue home cover all bases.
    5. the home yellow/gold 3 …Norwich,Watford and Wolverhampton all should in my opinion be able (and/or limited) to live on two kits (h and a) instead of the normal 3 for most clubs….at the time all had simple white away kits…. Norwich will sometimes go green instead, Watford all red sometimes and Wolves sometimes have an all sky blue away instead.
    6.Leicester home blue… away white ….had an all red 3rd kit which did the same job as an all yellow 3rd kit which they had before and after this timeframe. all bases covered.
    Then in my opinion when the fa premier league started in 1992 it made a mistake by making refs having to wear green in 99-100% of league matches. Yes it was the start of a new dawn and things needed freshening up but it forced most teams to drop there traditional green goalies top to 2nd and/or 3rd choice ( for fa cup duty only) meaning most went for a “international old school choice” of yellow goal keepers shirts even Arsenal whose away yellow is almost as popular as its home red and white kits went for a blue goalies top in the league for 1st season or two but even they did a similar thing with the 1st Nike kits with a yellow top for goalkeeper and an all blue/navy away kit in the 1st year of that deal. The knock on effect of all this is most teams used yellow much less as an away/3rd colour and more as an goalie colour only.
    Had the league started with the now modern practice of which both themselves ( and fifa do for current world cups) of having 4-5 different ref shirt colours with black as 1st choice in all matches possible and if there is any colour clash the ref can chose from 3 or 4 different (equal 2nd choice) colours of red,yellow ,blue and green,Then i feel we would of still had much more yellow kits still as aways/3rd kits and also would been spared of the far too many all black change kits that came afterwards/since (which in my opinion only suit……….or be limited to……..
    1. AC Milan 3rd kit away vs red and white teams.
    2.New Zealand national team as home or away kit
    3.Newcastle/Juve/notts county etc teams as away/3rd kit away vs teams in all white shirts/kits
    4.At a absolute push- man united as a 3rd kit to give blue a once a decade rest for a season or two max.
    5.ussr/russia goalkeeper/ italy maybe Austria and Germany 3rd kits and/or gk kits on “grandfathered rules” only at a push also.)
    So to recap my mad theory is its the reason so many English teams cannot even get a set of 3rd different coloured kits (to say nothing of the 2/3 gk kits added on top) together to cover all colour clashes/possibilities in a sensible way.. (no matter if they mix and match kits or not) is an direct hangover of that fa premier league decision back in “92” and is also behind the slight death of the all yellow change kit in exchange of the all black kit which for most teams doesn’t look as good and once both keepers and ref colours are needed to be chosen after both home and away teams normally causes more problems then it solves………Hence why your idea of most teams having an away or 3rd all yellow kit would work more often then the current situation(S)………Rant over ! cheers.

  3. discodavid26

    Points i forgot to mention above
    1.my Spurs is a good example of a team that used to wear all yellow a lot more pre 92 but now use it far more often as a goalie kit/colour. even on the odd time when it was used since 92 it was often not all yellow kit but a yellow and navy shirt “paired” with the home/euro alt white shorts and the alt 2nd choice white or navy home socks
    While i far prefer navy or sky blue as spurs away shirt/kit/colours (maybe due to spurs having navy blue shirts as” homes” before it became the famous “lilly”white and/or the ease of short and socks mixing and matching options with home kits/euro nights) and was slowly won over by the Bale black and grey halves kit (despite normally hating all black and all grey change kits 90% of the time maybe because it was neither yet both with a tiny bit of yellow trim) and i might of even preferred/could live with the odd semi purple effort i still feel spurs should have an all yellow 3rd kit that is only for playing teams away in blue and white stripes and Chelsea (all blue with white socks) and sometimes Newcastle game also
    2. i Should of put Wolves as my 6th occasion of when im ok with teams wearing black provided its in seasons when they do not have an all white or sky blue away kit and as long as it has gold trim and is interchangeable with home kit as this past seasons super Adidas effort was. im 50/50 wither i add a number 7. of Spurs grey and black halves with yellow trim kit to my “grandfathered list” of allowed black kits.
    3.Liverpool of the 1970s/pre Adidas years had a cool thing of having a yellow top with red trim available as a rare 2nd goalie top (worn with standard red shorts and socks) when playing teams in green and/or equally used as often as outfielders 3rd kit (with its own yellow shorts and socks) when red and white shirts/kits would not do.. i believe modern examples of teams having dual goalie/change outfielder shirts/kits are Hibernian and Fiorentina.


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