Away colours are a choice of coloured clothing used in team sports. They are required to be worn by one team during a game between teams that would otherwise wear the same colours as each other, or similar colours. This change prevents confusion for players and spectators. In most sports it is the visiting team that must change – second-choice kits are commonly known as away kits or change kits in British English, and road uniforms in American English.
In most cases, a team wears its away kit only when its primary kit would clash in colour with that of the home team. However, sometimes teams wear away colours in home games by choice. At some clubs, the away kit has become better-known or more popular than the home version. Replica home and away kits are usually made available for sale to fans. Some clubs also produce third-choice kits or old-fashioned throwback uniforms.
Some sports leagues mandate that away teams must wear an alternative kit, while others simply state that the team's colours should not match. In some sports, conventionally the home team has changed its kit (such as in rugby union and early association football).
In American sports, road teams usually wear a change kit regardless of a potential colour clash. Further, almost all road uniforms are white in American football (NFL, NCAA football) and the National Hockey League, while in Major League Baseball they are typically grey. In the US, "color vs. color" games (e.g. blue jerseys vs. red jerseys) are a rarity, having been discouraged in the era of black-and-white television.
National Football League
The home team has first choice of colors for its players in NFL games. Most teams choose to wear jerseys in their main team color at home, with the road team changing to white in most cases. The road team might instead wear a third jersey.
White road uniforms came to prominence with the rise of television in the 1950s, with "white vs. color" being easier to follow in black-and-white. According to Phil Hecken, "until the mid 1950′s, not only was color versus color common in the NFL, it was actually the norm", but the use of white jerseys has remained since then. The NFL rules now require that the home team's jerseys must be "either white or official team color" throughout the season, "and visiting clubs must wear the opposite". If a team insists on wearing its home uniforms on the road, the NFL Commissioner must judge on whether their uniforms are "of sufficient contrast" with those of their opponents.
The Dallas Cowboys were one of the first NFL teams to primarily wear their white jersey at home as well as away, as it was not an official rule that teams should wear their colored jerseys at home. Until 1964 Dallas had worn blue at home, but the use of white jerseys was instigated by owner Tex Schramm, who wanted fans to see a variety of opponents' colors at home games. The Cowboys still wear white at home today.
White has also been worn regularly at home by the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, and several other NFL teams. Teams in cities with hot climates often choose white jerseys at home during the first half of the season, due to the perception that light colors are more cooling than dark ones. Every current NFL team has worn white at home at some time in its history, except for the Seattle Seahawks.
During the successful Joe Gibbs era, the Washington Redskins chose to wear white exclusively at home in the 1980s and 1990s, including the 1982 NFC Championship Game. Since 2001 the Redskins have chosen to wear white jerseys and burgundy jerseys roughly equally in their home games, but they still wear white against the Cowboys.
The Cowboys' blue jersey has been popularly viewed to be "jinxed" because of defeats at Super Bowl V in 1971 (when they were forced to wear their blue jerseys as the designated 'home' team), and in the 1968 season divisional playoffs against Cleveland Browns, Don Meredith's final game as a Cowboy.
Super Bowl rules later changed to allow the designated home team to pick their choice of jersey. Dallas's only victory in a conference championship or Super Bowl wearing the blue jerseys was in the 1978 NFC Championship game at the Los Angeles Rams.
Occasionally, teams playing against Dallas at home wear their white jerseys to try to invoke the "curse", as when the Philadelphia Eagles hosted the Cowboys in the 1980 NFC Championship Game, and their November 4, 2007 meeting. Other teams followed suit in the 1980s against the Cowboys, with the St. Louis Cardinals one of the first teams to try. The New York Giants wore white at home against the Cowboys for a time, and the Carolina Panthers, who came into existence in 1995, attempted the gimmick until 2006. In 2008 the 1–4 St. Louis Rams chose to wear white at home, upsetting the blue-shirted Cowboys 34–14. On October 16, 2011, the Cowboys wore their road blue jerseys against the New England Patriots; the Patriots defeated the Cowboys 20–16. The Patriots had worn silver (which is a light color and treated as a white jersey) in their 2003 game at home to Dallas, and white in 2011.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick made the decision to wear white against the Cowboys. He was on the New York Giants coaching staff for some of those years in the 1980s when the Giants bought into the curse. The originator of white home jerseys in the NFL at Dallas, Tex Schramm, said he did not believe in the curse.
White road uniforms were also used in the World Football League (WFL) during its short period of existence in 1974-75, and college football teams must base their road uniform around a white jersey.
In England in 1890, the Football League, which had been formed two years earlier, ruled that no two member teams could register similar colours, so as to avoid clashes. This rule was later abandoned in favour of one stipulating that all teams must have a second set of shirts in a different colour available. Initially the home team was required to change colours in the event of a clash, but in 1921 the rule was amended to require the away team to change.
It is normal for individual competitions to specify that all outfield players on a team must wear the same colours, though the Law states only "The two teams must wear colours that distinguish them from each other and also the referee and the assistant referees". In the event of a colour clash, the away team must change to a different colour.
Away kits were often worn by both teams in English FA Cup matches. Until 1989-90, its competition rules stated: "Where the colours of the two competing clubs are similar, both clubs must change unless alternative arrangements are mutually agreed by the competing clubs". Clubs sometimes needed to find makeshift third kits for their players. Many FA Cup finals were played under these rules, the last being the 1982 Final and replay. In European competition, the 1968 European Cup Final was played under similar rules.
The old FA Cup rules, with almost identical wording, are still used in semis and finals by many county and district football associations in England.
It is not unknown for teams to opt to wear their away colours even when not required to by a clash of colours. England sometimes play in red shirts even when it is not required, as this was the strip worn when the team won the 1966 FIFA World Cup. Many professional clubs also have an official third kit, ostensibly to be used if both their first-choice and away colours are deemed too similar to those of an opponent.
In some title-deciding matches, a team has won the game wearing its away kit, but changed to home shirts for the trophy presentation – most notably when Spain won the 2010 World Cup final in their dark-blue away kit, but changed to red home shirts to lift the trophy.
FIFA World Cup
At international level it is common for one or sometimes both teams to be made to wear their away kits. FIFA rules state, "In exceptional cases, both teams may be asked to wear different Colours" by the referee or match commissioner. This is most likely to happen in World Cup matches with large numbers of black-and-white television viewers, so that the teams' kits also differ in tone (light and dark). In 1957 Scotland borrowed home team Switzerland's white away shirts for this reason.
In 1970 England and Czechoslovakia were allowed to play in sky blue and white respectively, causing confusion for black-and-white viewers and England manager Alf Ramsey, before England reverted to red shirts against West Germany. Before the 2014 World Cup FIFA decreed that Spain's all-red and all-black kits were not sufficient, and forced the team to produce an all-white third kit. Meanwhile, for the 2014 opening game against Brazil, Croatia were allowed to wear red-and-white checked shirts, instead of blue, but only after appealing against FIFA's original decision. England, in Group D, were not allowed to wear red away shirts due to an apparent clash with officials' uniforms.
Major League Baseball
Originally, Major League Baseball teams were primarily distinguished by the colors of their stockings. In 1882, the National League assigned different stocking colors to the member clubs; the league also assigned jersey and cap colors, but by player position rather than by club.
By the end of the 19th century, it became common for teams to wear white at home, and gray in road games. Some teams used road uniforms of solid dark blue or black. An early example of this is the Brooklyn Superbas, who started to use a blue pattern for their road uniforms in 1907. Both the home and away teams' uniforms also contained trim in the team colors.
In 1916, on the New York Giants' road uniforms, purple lines gave their uniforms a tartan-like effect and another kind of road uniform was a solid dark blue or black material with white around this time. The Kansas City Athletics home and road uniforms were changed by Charles O. Finley in 1963, to the colors of gold and green. Some teams used light blue for their road uniforms from the 1970s to the early 1990s.
Aside from the obvious need to distinguish one team from the other, conventional wisdom held that it was more difficult to properly launder uniforms while on a road trip, thus the "road grays" helped to hide accumulated soil. This convention continued well after its original premise was nullified by the issuance of multiple uniforms and the growth of the laundromat industry.
Typically, home uniforms feature the team’s nickname, while away uniforms feature the name of the team’s geographic designation. Currently, the Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Philadelphia Phillies, St. Louis Cardinals, and Milwaukee Brewers are the only exceptions to this rule, although the Brewers reintroduced "Milwaukee" on their alternate away uniforms in 2010. These teams feature the club nickname on both the home and away uniforms. The full word "Philadelphia" has never appeared on a Major League jersey in 165 seasons since 1900, including the Athletics' presence in the city from 1901 to 1954.
From 1973 to 2008, the Baltimore Orioles were part of this group - the omission of the city's name being part of a largely successful effort to attract fans from the Washington, D.C. area - before returning "Baltimore" to the road jerseys in 2009, by which time their neighbor 38 miles (61 km) to the south once again had a team of its own.
National Basketball Association rules state: "The home team shall wear light color jerseys, and the visitors dark jerseys unless otherwise approved. For neutral court games and doubleheaders, the second team named in the official schedule shall be regarded as the home team and shall wear the light colored jerseys". Most teams' home uniforms are white, with some exceptions, such as the Los Angeles Lakers, who wear yellow at home (although in 2002, to honour Chick Hearn, Jeannie Buss had a white jersey introduced as the third uninform, worn at home). But, according to this rule, road uniforms are required at every game in the NBA. "Dark" colors worn in road games vary widely between teams.
In college basketball, the home team almost universally wears white uniforms while the visiting team wears colors. There are exceptions, such as the University of Michigan, which often wears yellow for home games if it sufficiently contrasts with the visiting team's uniforms.
Away kits are a recent development in cricket, which has been played in all-white clothing for most of its history. The first professional match played in coloured clothing was in World Series Cricket in Australia in 1979. The first Cricket World Cup to use coloured kits was the 1992 tournament.
Australia, however, has a separate green ODI home kit, yellow ODI away kit, and black T20 kit. The home kit is the same colour as the famous "baggy green" cap traditionally worn by Australian Test cricketers, but the yellow away kit is often worn by the Australian team in home matches.
National Hockey League
In the NHL each team is currently required to have two uniform designs: one with a white base (or sometimes historically, a light colour), and one with a darker-coloured base. From the 1970-91 season to the 2002-03 season, NHL teams wore lighter colours or white at home and the darker colours on the road. When the Third Jersey Program was introduced in the 1995-96 season, some teams wore third jerseys at home, thus requiring the road team to wear the white. This problem was rectified at the start of the 2003–04 season, as NHL teams started to wear the dark colour at home and the white for road games; there are occasional single-game exceptions. The only element allowed by NHL rules to be interchangeable between the two uniforms is the pants.
Away colours are used by Jamaica and Australia, two strong international teams who both have yellow home kits. Jamaica's change kit is all-black, Australia's is all-green. When the teams meet, one usually changes its kits but there have been games such as a 2011 Test where each team wore predominantly yellow, with Jamaica in black skirts.
It is traditional in rugby (as it was in association football prior to 1921) for the home team to change in the event of a clash. This stems partly from teams touring overseas; it was easier for the home side to get an alternate kit. The IRB rules for tours do not state this outright: it is the responsibility of the IRB CEO or representative "to resolve the matter", but "in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, the Host Union shall be entitled to wear its home kit." In English RFU level 3 to 5 competition, if there is a clash the away team must change.
At Rugby World Cups, colour clashes are decided by a coin-toss for first choice of kits. In the 2007 quarter-final between France and New Zealand, the recently redesigned French kit was dark blue and black, and clashed with the All Blacks' kit. The toss went in favour of France, and New Zealand wore silver shirts in the game in Cardiff. However, in the 2011 Rugby World Cup Final between those teams, France won the toss and chose to play in its white away kit. France's team manager Jo Maso said this decision was because of “the welcome they’d received from the people of New Zealand, the faultless organisation of the tournament and the honour and pleasure of playing... [at] Eden Park”.
England used an all-black second kit at the 2011 World Cup, which caused controversy in the host nation, as black is the home colour of New Zealand. England wore the kit in one tournament match, against Argentina. Critics in England in 2010 said the team was changing away kits unnecessarily and too often as a "marketing ploy". Australia, on the other hand, has rarely worn an away kit except against Romania; a white jersey would have been worn in 2011.
In international rugby, the need for second kits arises most often in the Six Nations, where Scotland, France and Italy all play in different shades of blue. Each team's change kit is also white. The tournament takes the form of a single round-robin with home advantage alternating each year, meaning that every year each team will play one home game in its white jersey.
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