The Mysterious Case of the Birmingham City Away Kit

Posted by John Devlin

Aside from the one-season cycle, I think the biggest threat to the current state of play when it comes to football kits is the increase in poorly conceived away/third kits. Newcastle’s rather superfluous current black third kit has come in for some criticism and is a typical example of a change kit crafted from a colour (or at least a shade of a colour) that features prominently on the home and subsequently provides very little colour clash options. Another example in the Premier League is WBA’s pale blue away kit (supposedly as a viable change option to their navy and white striped home design) which I’ve been informed has only been worn once, with their red third kit being preferred.

birmingham-11-12-kits

But the most prominent example I’ve encountered is in the Championship with Birmingham City. Pre-season the club launched a new all-blue home Xtep kit (and very nice it is too) with an away strip of dark grey and teal/blue stripes. My initial thought was that although it was a smart design, did it really give the club a suitable away option against teams playing in blue? Clearly I wasn’t alone in this thought as checking through the club’s fixtures this season it appears this away kit has NEVER been worn in a competitive fixture. Instead Birmingham have opted for their much more sensible yellow third kit every time a clash occured (eight times so far this season at the time of writing). Ironically, this third kit is officially entitled the ‘Europa League Kit’ (which also highlights another piece of nonsense, re-naming third kits for purely marketing purposes, but that’s a post for another day) yet its seen plenty of action in the league.

Checking on the Birmingham online store, the black/blue striped shirt is still being sold as the away kit with the third, oh sorry, Europa League, kit nowhere to be seen. Its madness!

What’s happened? Have the club abandoned the away kit realising that its design will never work against a blue-clad opposition? Or are refs vetoing at every game? Or is their another reason the kits not been worn? There is a rumour that supply issues have thwarted its on the field appearances but I have a feeling, given that a number of supporters have bought replicas, that this may be a smokescreen.

If the reason is due to its lack of ample colour differentiation, it proves that this away kit is simply not fit for purpose and is therefore, pointless. You have to ask how the design ever got rubber stamped.

Also, a quick search online reveals two versions of the away kit; one with stripes on the sleeve and one without. Which is the official, final design? Difficult to tell seeing as its never been worn.

As an aside, I’ve also noticed that Birmingham wear an all-blue ensemble at home, but away from home in the league opt for white shorts if possible. This curious move indicates that they are clearly “kit aware” when it comes to away fixtures so why make such a mistake with their choice of official away kit.

So whats the answer? There’s no denying that the three examples I’ve mentioned above are all fine looking kits – but are they really viable change options? Wouldn’t they be better of being marketed as leisure shirts? The problem is clubs are losing sight of what the purpose of an away/third kit is – namely to provide an effective alternative colour option should there be a colour clash. Its that simple. If clubs persist in releasing these unnecessary outfits (with ever increasing price tags) I fear a backlash amongst supporters may occur.


68 Responses to “The Mysterious Case of the Birmingham City Away Kit”

  1. Jonny Says:

    Looking at these home and away kits, there’s not a huge difference between this set and Chelsea’s current first and second kits. Chelsea have worn their black strip on many occasions with no problems…

  2. John Devlin Says:

    If colour is the reason its not been worn, I think its due to the fact that the dark ‘slate’ grey and the curious shade of blue on this away are visually combining and creating a clash with blue. With Chelsea’s its a solid black (apart from the chest design)

  3. Steve gamlin Says:

    I presume there must be league rules on kit colours, not sure that I would have sanctioned the change option, they have some really good red away options in the past why not red and black stripes, this would have made more sense!

  4. Jon Says:

    I know the Football League are a bit more stricter on colour clashes than their Premier League counterparts (even down to shorts colours), but I remember when these kits got unveiled I thought the away kit was going to be problematic.

    I’d have thought Birmingham would have worn the teal/black kit as an alternative for away games, as some clubs have done with change strips to get an “airing”, but sure enough they haven’t done.

    It’s not the only superfluous away kit of this season, that award surely has to go to Celtic’s nonsensical white shirt with green sleeves effort, worn just the once at Peterhead in the Scottish Cup (and they didn’t need to change!), but the more functional yellow third kit has been used numerous times.

    I reckon an article on “most pointless away kits ever” coming on, and I think I’ve got about 10 examples already!

  5. Adam Says:

    I’m a Birmingham fan, so it’s nice to see something to do with my club on this great website!

    I think the reason why the away kit hasn’t been used is simply because of the amount of blue on it.

    When the kit was revealed I knew it wouldn’t be used, as since the mid-90s, we have only wore a change kit when there is a clash, and the amount of blue on it means it can’t really be used against teams in blue.

    I thought it might have been used against Man City in the Carling Cup, as maybe their blue is so light, it could have been used? Instead we chose the yellow kit. On a similar note, maybe it might be worn against Coventry away in a few weeks? We’ll have to wait and see.

    I think it’s just a poor decision by Xtep, to have so much blue on the kit. Maybe it could be used against teams in blue, I personally don’t think so, but I think it’s just a headache for the kit man, so they just take the yellow third kit to avoid any issues.

    Actually, when the kit was revealed on the clubs official website, they said that the players had helped choosing the kit!

    If it was up to me, I’d wear the grey/blue kit in an away game, against say Barnsley or Doncaster, just so it’s been worn once and the fans who have bought the shirt can see that it has been used and that they haven’t been “ripped off” for lack of a better phrase.

    As for white shorts being used with the home kit away from home, yeah we’ve worn white shorts (which are actually the third kit shorts) at every away league game, as long as the home team don’t wear white shorts.

    I think this is probably a personal preference of the kit man, maybe as blue shirts, white shorts and blue socks are what is most commonly associated with Birmingham, and maybe that’s what he prefers? I mean, if you look at the last 15 years, we’ve only had worn had an blue kit once before this season, in 1999/2000.

  6. John Devlin Says:

    Jon – thats a great idea! I’d forgotten about the Celtic shirt. Post your votes here and I’ll illustrate them in a feature…

  7. Neil Says:

    @Jonny: I know what you mean, but it could be said that black is the main colour of the second kit. That’s why there doesn’t seem to be any clash problems e.g., when we wore it against QPR it was very distinct from their kit. A big difference from the navy away kit from 2009-10 in which we won no competitive matches! That was a very bizarre colour for a change kit! Mind you, I think it may have been worn more than the white third kit that season…

  8. Andrew Rockall Says:

    Chelsea wore the 2 tone navy away kit a couple of times in 09/10. The lost at Villa Park in it from memory. I think the stat was they never won in it.

  9. Denis Hurley Says:

    Portsmouth’s 03-04 away kit surely qualifies as the most pointless?

    Real Betis once had this http://www.subsidesports.com/uk/images/product/large/RealBetisHEuroSS0506.gif as an away, though tbf it was possible to use against teams in white

  10. Azzy Says:

    River Plate had an away kit which was white with three painted stripes on the front and back (two red, one black). Seeing as their home kit was the usual white with red sash, this kit was utterly useless. Suffice to say they wore the black third kit whenever there was a colour clash.

  11. ciaran Says:

    A very strange choice of kit alright.especially when there are 9/10 teams in the championship with blue as a home kit.

    Xtep are fairly new to english football so were perhaps unaware of the problems pouring a fair amount of the home colour into the away strip so I would forgive them for that.those who approved of it in birmingham city should really have known better.

  12. Denis Hurley Says:

    The biggest scandal is using white shorts and socks with the yellow shirt!

  13. Jay29ers Says:

    Celtic had a Third (“international”) kit in 06-07 which was all white with a gold/green stripe down one side. Not to mention the choice of extra white shorts and socks, I can’t even remember it being worn other than against Man United in a friendly/testimonial.

    Also remember l’OM only taking their away kit in 07-08 to Auxerre, despite being told earlier in the week that the pale blue and white tribute to the Albiceleste (beloved by the fans) was too similar to the home side’s white with blue detail. The result is below:

    http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/auxerres-georges-daniel-niculae-vies-with-marseilles-doudou-news-photo/76959313

  14. Denis Hurley Says:

    Another needless Celtic kit, 94-95 third http://images.mirror.co.uk/upl/dailyrecord3/feb2009/5/9/5AD63A89-F8A7-96CF-87581E47E82920CD.jpg

  15. Jay29ers Says:

    Re this season’s Celtic Away shirt (which I love and own), I would guess (sorry, can’t cite) the thinking is that 1) as a kit it’s predominantly green rather than the Home’s white and 2) despite having grey and white Hoops, these are not obviously visible so is a de facto solid colour torso’d shirt.

    This means, for example, if Celtic were to play Partick Thistle’s 1999-00 side (http://bit.ly/AxTPMb), although they have very different colours, The Bhoys couldn’t wear their Home kit (dark/light hoops with white shorts) but perhaps could wear the Away.

    So there you have it. Nike are pioneers in time travelling football. Take It To The Next Level indeed.

  16. Jay29ers Says:

    You say needless, Denis, but I often say how much I need it in my life.

  17. Jay29ers Says:

    Oh, another thing which has possibly been touched on elsewhere, but does anyone have any information on football authorities stipulating that consideration should be made towards supporters’/viewers’ colour blindness? I mean other than stripes vs stripes or light vs dark (which also hark back to the era of black and white tvs) and perhaps geared towards the most common (red-green?) forms.

  18. Al Says:

    @ Dennis Hurley re Birmingham’s white shorts and socks. They have Yellow change socks as seen here v. Chelsea reserves. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZ3UyIpl4tY&list=UUaNBABkTJg2rFu4U32u19Ww&index=2&feature=plcp

    This is probably what they’ll wear against Chelsea in the FA Cup this weekend.

  19. Denis Hurley Says:

    That looks even worse, really needs to be all-yellow!

  20. Andrew Rockall Says:

    Can’t think of many teams who’ve worn Yellow White Yellow. Bristol Rovers did at Spurs in 1977, but they did lose 9-0!

  21. Al Says:

    The only yellow/white/white I can think of is Newcastle around 2004/5/6

  22. Andrew Rockall Says:

    I thought that European kit was Yellow/Black/White? Might be wrong though

  23. Denis Hurley Says:

    Arsenal often did it in the late 80s/early 90s away to Southampton/Sunderland/Sheffield United

  24. Jay29ers Says:

    Wearing the home socks aren’t they?

  25. Denis Hurley Says:

    It is of course arguable that Birmingham changing to blue socks caused more of a clash

  26. Adam Says:

    I’m a Birmingham fan, so it’s nice to see something to do with my club on this great website!

    I think the reason why the away kit hasn’t been used is simply because of the amount of blue on it.

    When the kit was revealed I knew it wouldn’t be used, as since the mid-90s, we have only wore a change kit when there is a clash, and the amount of blue on it means it can’t really be used against teams in blue.

    I thought it might have been used against Man City in the Carling Cup, as maybe their blue is so light, it could have been used? Instead we chose the yellow kit. On a similar note, maybe it might be worn against Coventry away in a few weeks? We’ll have to wait and see.

    I think it’s just a poor decision by Xtep, to have so much blue on the kit. Maybe it could be used against teams in blue, I personally don’t think so, but I think it’s just a headache for the kit man, so they just take the yellow third kit to avoid any issues.

    Actually, when the kit was revealed on the clubs official website, they said that the players had helped choosing the kit!

    If it was up to me, I’d wear the grey/blue kit in an away game, against say Barnsley or Doncaster, just so it’s been worn once and the fans who have bought the shirt can see that it has been used and that they haven’t been “ripped off” for lack of a better phrase.

    As for white shorts being used with the home kit away from home, yeah we’ve worn white shorts (which are actually the third kit shorts) at every away league game, as long as the home team don’t wear white shorts.

    I think this is probably a personal preference of the kit man, maybe as blue shirts, white shorts and blue socks are what is most commonly associated with Birmingham, and maybe that’s what he prefers? I mean, if you look at the last 15 years, we’ve only had worn had an blue kit once before this season, in 1999/2000.

  27. Adam Says:

    Sorry to post that again, it’s just I thought it may get lost after everybody else had posted, as my comment was under consideration…

    Anyway, I’m surprised to hear that we have yellow change socks to go with the third kit, as worn by the reserves. As when we played Man City in the Carling Cup, we wore the home socks, like today against Chelsea.

    http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/mario-balotelli-on-manchester-city-is-challenged-by-guirane-news-photo/125819223

  28. Sean Churchill Says:

    With regard to the WBA away shirt, they have even opted to wear the red shirt on occasions where the pale blue kit was surely acceptable. Fulham away being the obvious case.

    Also, after the January signings of Ridgewell and Andrews the two players were paraded holding the home and third kits. It doesn’t make sense and is a shame really as I think the blue kit is rather nice.

    Anyway, bring back green and yellow!

  29. Stuart Says:

    I thought i read somewhere (football grounds guide – message board) that west brom felt the light blue kit was unlucky and hence teh refusal to wear it. Would explain teh ridiculous clash at Stoke.

  30. Adam Says:

    One more thing, as for which is the official away kit, with stripes on sleeves, or not?

    In the Birmingham online shop, and in the promotional photos of the kit, there are no stripes on the sleeves, so I would say that one…

  31. Philip Marriott Says:

    Interesting Birmingham kits! The away design is definitely for sales purposes. As for Newcastle black and white 3rd, it was worn at Bolton and Spurs causing a shorts clash, where the orange away would have been better! Its not unusual for teams to have superfluous kits in an age where they change every year however. Remember Crystal Palace having red on the home and away pre premiership? Or Newcastle Inter Milan style 3rd in the Championship? The focus of kits should be to avoid clashes, however there is money to be mate so useless kits are introduced. Everton and Bolton have introduced uneccessary 3rd kits this year too.

  32. Denis Hurley Says:

    I actually have little or no problem with ‘shorts clashes’ and I feel that Newcastle wearing the third at Bolton and Spurs is preferable to the away, as the white shorts on the away would be more of a problem due to the opponents’ white shirts.

    When we look at games, we look at the ‘whole’ of a player rather than as something that has horizontal layers, for example blue shirts/white shorts/blue socks against all-white is better than blue/white/blue and against white/blue/white.

  33. Paul Conner Says:

    I thought i would also like to add that the Man City 11/12 3rd shirt also known as last seasons away shirt was used minimally last season, i think maybe 4 times (Spurs, Dynamo Kiev, Fulham, Blackburn) and once this season against Aston Villa which is a shame as i think it’s pretty damn good, it’s so frustrating for a fan when they spend £40 for a shirt that’s hardly ever worn even over two seasons.

  34. Adam Says:

    Interesting to see Marseille wearing their white home kit against Inter.

    I always thought they wore their third kit in the Champions League. I was expecting them to be in orange tonight.

    As an aside, Mandanda, the Marseille goalkeeper, is wearing the outfield orange third kit.

  35. Jay29ers Says:

    I think it’s probably a light vs dark argument as, yes, the orange kit is supposed to be the first choice in Europe.

    Perhaps it’s referencing the victory over Inter in ’04 on the way to the UEFA Cup Final, when we wore the home kit, obviously.

    Looks so much better, whatever the reason.

  36. Adam Says:

    Interesting stuff, Jay29ers, thanks the reply.

    I’ve always had an interest in Marseille kits, for some reason.

    I was looking around on GettyImages and it seems Steve Mandanda, the goalkeeper, has worn six different kits this season!

  37. Denis Hurley Says:

    @Jay,

    I doubt it’s the light v dark thing as Arsenal wore their away at Marseille earlier this season, and that’s fairly similar in colour to Inter. Weirdly, the trim colours on the Marseille kit seemed to match perfectly

  38. Jay29ers Says:

    @Denis

    How do you mean “the trim colours on the Marseille kit seemed to match perfectly”?

  39. Denis Hurley Says:

    With the Arsenal away colours!

    http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/alex-song-of-arsenal-breaks-past-andre-pierre-gignac-of-news-photo/129673205

  40. Jay29ers Says:

    Ah yes! Hadn’t noticed that. A shame Alex Song had to spoil it with clashing tape on his socks.

    Another fantastic caption by Getty. It’s Lucho, not Gignac.

  41. Denis Hurley Says:

    Not sure what the deal is with the Arsenal sock shinpad-keeper-uppers.

    Hard to see here buy Clichy has his number on them http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/gael-clichy-of-arsenal-runs-with-the-ball-during-the-uefa-news-photo/73520691

    and then he had an away set
    http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/news-photo/gael-clichy-of-arsenal-in-action-during-the-fa-cup-news-photo/72940838

  42. Tardisblue Says:

    On the subject of keepers wearing outfield strips, like Marseille’s; Bury’s keeper wore their black away shirt at Rochdale a few weeks ago.

    If Bury had chosen to wear the away kit, as they often do at Spotland for some reason, there would have been a slight clash but Belford in the Shakers goal got away with it.

  43. Lee Says:

    Im a birmingham fan and the reason for the yellow kit not being for sale is that it was a limited edition kit (another marketing technique!)

  44. Andrew Rockall Says:

    What kit are Leeds wearing today? Last years Royal Blue one? Why not the Black away kit?

  45. John Devlin Says:

    Just said something similar Andrew!:

    http://www.truecoloursfootballkits.com/articles/2011-12-premier-league-kits#comments

  46. Andrew Rockall Says:

    I thought as this page was about a Championship side I’d post it here!

  47. Jon Says:

    I’d have thought Birmingham would have worn a change kit at Coventry yesterday, whether it be the yellow kit, or even the “we won’t wear that one” kit.

    But no they wore blue instead.

  48. Simon Says:

    As a Luton Town supporter, may I offer our 1993-94 third shirt up as one of the most useless ever? We had a white home shirt, a royal blue away shirt and a delightful (ahem) salmon and purple striped third shirt. Back then, the away shirts and third shirts only came out when there was a genuine clash of colours, so the home shirt saw a lot of action and the away shirt came into play if we were at places like Derby. That only left one opportunity to display the third strip, so on New Year’s Day 1994, we were due to go to West Bromwich Albion. Now, they wear blue and white, so the obvious choice was to bring out the third strip for what would be its only game… except it didn’t even get that. The ref decided that the no, the colours didn’t clash but yes, the stripes definitely did, so at the last minute DMF had to quickly run up an orange variant of our home shirt as a replacement. Aside from the Guinness Soccer Sixes tournament (I think), the only time anybody ever saw the third shirt in numbers was hanging on the racks in the club shop.

  49. Harry Says:

    I own the away kit, and the colours are nowhere near the home kit. We could have easily worn it for coventry, or chelsea away. The blue is minimal on the kit, and the charcoal, very shiny, almost a mix of black and gold. At least next season’s away kit is very different!

  50. EricGeneric Says:

    Has the away kit for next season been leaked, Harry?

  51. Jay29ers Says:

    Simon, if you can find a picture of that Luton third being worn in the Guinness Soccer Sixes then you would undoubtedly win the internet.

  52. Denis Hurley Says:

    Simon, I don’t suppose you’d know where I’d find a picture of Luton v Arsenal from March 1975?

  53. ciaran Says:

    #50 – Heard that Burrda are making Birminghams kit next season Eric.

  54. EricGeneric Says:

    I thought they were only two years into a five year deal with Xtep?

  55. ciaran Says:

    No written confirmation yet but I spotted this recently on twitter Eric.

    https://twitter.com/#!/BURRDA_SPORT/media/slideshow?url=pic.twitter.com%2FIewboEsq

  56. EricGeneric Says:

    Interesting stuff, ciaran, thanks.

  57. EricGeneric Says:

    I just looked at picture again, ciaran, and it does say a deal with Birmingham Ladies.

    Could it just be a deal for the ladies team? Just looking at some photos and before the deal with Burrda, the ladies team wore the same kit as the men’s team but curiously without the Xtep logo.

  58. EricGeneric Says:

    Has anybody seen this?

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2121513/Chris-Hughton-risks-backlash-dumping-40-Birmingham-top.html#ixzz1qPUVm9y3

    It even quotes our John!

  59. Denis Hurley Says:

    Good spot Eric. Am I the only one sceptical about the ‘unnamed’ Brum fan?

  60. John Devlin Says:

    Good grief – thanks Eric! I never knew they’d taken that from the site! Blimey…

  61. EricGeneric Says:

    To be honest, you were lucky John, the Daily Mail completely ripped off the England Football Online website section about kits.

    The guy who runs the site was not happy about it, and rightfully so.

    http://www.englandfootballonline.com/RipOff.html

    Back on the subject of this Birmingham kit, what have they done? I mean, it was a poorly designed strip, and not the first change kit to go unused, why bring attention to it and make themselves look bad? It also gives people who hate football kits the chance to bleat on about “getting ripped off”.

    They should have just let the whole thing drift out.

    Actually, why didn’t they just wear it for one away game? Barnsley, for example. Just so the fans who bought the kit could see their team wear it, and then make sure Xtep don’t come up with such superfluous colour combination in the future?

  62. Denis Hurley Says:

    They lifted the quotes from here? I just presumed that they’d rung you. Very slack.

  63. Denis Hurley Says:

    Yeah that piece on the England Football Online site was good, though let’s not forget the invaluable service that the Mail provide with their occasional ‘worst kits ever’ features

  64. John Devlin Says:

    Yep, first I heard of it was when Eric posted the link. I was aware of the England Football Online issue from one of the guys from the site. Away from that though, it was interesting to hear that it was the manager’s choice to wear yellow. Funny how though the boss sometimes doesn’t have a say in what kit the team wears.

    I met a chap who used to work for adidas and he told me a bit behind the hideous navy/orange/green NUFC away kit. Seems the kit was ‘designed’ to some extent by someone very senior at boardroom level of the club. Apparently when Keegan first saw the kit laid out he rubbed his chin and said “they’re not effin wearing that”! But they did….

  65. Denis Hurley Says:

    Interesting the way it varies from club to club John, I’d be almost certain that Arsenal opting to use white socks this season, despite red ones appearing in the promos, was down to Wenger.

    Of course, manager influence on the kit at Arsenal is nothing new, apparently in 1993 George Graham vetoed adidas plans for a black away kit, while the famous white sleeves were down to Herbert Chapman.

    What’s less well-known is that another manager’s power also played a role. The Daily Mail cartoonist Tom Webster played golf with the Chelsea chairman while wearing a blue sleeveless over a white polo and the Chelsea chairman thought it’d be a great idea for them to wear. The manager refused, though, and when Webster was telling Chapman about what happened, Chapman decided it was a great idea!

  66. EricGeneric Says:

    Apparently the Birmingham kits this season have all been designed by people at the club.

    I know somebody who said he asked an executive on Twitter, I think his name is Wayne Cowen, who confirmed that he had been apart of designing the kits this season.

    Apparently, somebody there was a bit of trouble between Birmingham and Xtep as one of the designs for the Birmingham kits, was used on the Villareal away kit, or something.

  67. EricGeneric Says:

    That is pretty much a “guys on a message board” type of thing, so take that for what it’s worth.

    I think the “manager prefers yellow” thing is a bit of a non-issue, really. It seems not so much down to personal preference from Chris Hughton, but he prefers the yellow kit because the away kit clashes – so it’s a bit different really…

    It’s not like the away kit is, say, red, and it hasn’t been worn because the manager prefers the yellow kit.

    Am I making any sense? :P

  68. Stephen Says:

    Birmingham have now dropped the away kit – so they wont use it – they never wore it! now the 3rd kit is the away kit

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