Teams England face at World Cup should see red, says study

Adding a splash of red to the England goalkeeper’s kit could give the team an advantage during a penalty shoot out. Welcome to the first of what is likely to be a shameless litany of World Cup PR stories claiming tenuous links to the real thing.

Sports psychologists at the University of Chichester says whoever puts on the goalie’s gloves for England during the World Cup should wear red.

The reason? Players are more likely to miss penalties when faced with the colour red than if the keeper wears a blue, green or yellow shirt.

How did they find this out?

Apparently 40 university footballers fired dozens of penalties at a single keeper who regularly changed his strip between the four colours.

While 54 per cent of kicks went in against the red-clad keeper, success rates against yellow, blue and green shirts were significantly higher at 69, 72 and 75 per cent respectively.

The man behind the study says red can distract people and cause them to believe they are somehow in danger.

Iain Greenlees, reader in sports psychology at the university, said “We have evolved to strongly associate red with danger, dominance or anger and at times of great stress we pay more attention to threats in our environment.” he said.

While he thinks it’s probably too late to change the whole goalkeeping strip to red, he recommends “the manager should think about integrating red into part of the kit, in the gloves or boots for example.”

Now I don’t have a problem with this concept at all. It sounds scientific enough to me, and there are inevitably people out there who understand these things far better than I ever will.

However, I can also see some serious flaws here.

One, England’s outfield players may wear red shirts at some stage during the World Cup, meaning the keeper will have to choose from yellow, green or blue.

I don’t care what anyone says – the boys doing all the running around are not playing in yellow, green or blue so the keeper can put his scary red top on. That isn’t going to happen.

Two, while we may be culturally conditioned to see red as a danger signal, there’s actually no evidence that wearing red has a negative effect on the penalty taker’s performance during actual football matches.

OK, you can probably find examples when a keeper wearing a red shirt saved a pen, but much the same could be said of keepers wearing white, black, yellow, blue, green, grey etc.

By contrast, the evidence favouring the argument that tall agile keepers who can keep their nerve and guess correctly will save more penalties is overwhelming.

Besides, I played football at university. Regardless of the colour of the keeper’s top, there were some days when I was so hung over I could barely kick a ball, let alone take a penalty.

That’s probably what happened here. A posse of half drunk unwilling volunteers feeling the effects of the previous evening’s Chicken Madras and ten pints of Merrydown Cider were dragged from their beds to punt a series of wayward and occasionally accurate shots towards a goal they could barely see. Not exactly 1994 in the Los Angeles Rose Bowl, is it?

So go for red on the goalie’s gloves or socks or whatever if you think it might help. Personally I’m hoping Fabio Capello has something more credible in mind.

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