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Durham University

Durham University News


Red is a winning colour

(27 May 2005)

Durham University academics from the Department of Anthropology received worldwide coverage last week of the paper they published in “Nature” outlining their research that athletes who wear red are more like to emerge victorious.

It gave true meaning to the cry "Come on you reds!" which is often heard the length and breadth of football grounds in Britain. It came out that those dressed in scarlet need less encouragement from fans than has always seemed.

Russell Hill and Robert Barton studied four one-on-one disciplines in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games-boxing, tae kwon do, Greco-Roman wrestling and freestyle wrestling-in which combatants were randomly assigned either red or blue clothing or body protectors. Those wearing red, but otherwise matched in ability to their blue-wearing opponents, were more likely to win, they reported in a Brief Communication in last week's Nature.

The researchers point out that red coloration is associated with high testosterone, fitness and aggression in animals-an effect that might also operate in humans and subconsciously put an opponent on the back foot.

Sports related results since have all been analysed under this premise, and it has come under sever scrutiny whenever the result was not in favour of the side in red.

Nevertheless, the extreme dominance of teams with red shirts in the football leagues both in England and in other countries does testify that there is truth in their assertions.

And after Liverpool’s nail-biting win over AC Milan on Wednesday, even the worst sceptics will have been converted to firm believers.

For more information, please contact Robert Barton, Department of Anthropology, Durham University, Tel: +44 191 374 2851; E-mail: