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Home advantage starts in the dressing room

Submitted by on May 26, 2014 – 5:51 pmOne Comment


By The Colonel

After visiting some grounds around Europe I have seen how the design of the away team dressing room is used to try and gain a psychological edge.

Some of the most extreme designs are found in College American Football.  The most controversial is Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium where everything in the visitor’s locker room is painted pink. The walls are pink. The floors are pink. The toilets are pink. It’s pink everywhere. 

The pink locker room was the brainchild of Coach Hayden Fry, a psychology major at Baylor University, who claims he read that the colour pink can have a calming effect on people and painting the locker room pink would calm the opponent’s teams. 

Fry talks about the weaknesses he can see in opposition sometimes as a result “When I talk to an opposing coach before a game and he mentions the pink walls, I know I’ve got him. I can’t recall a coach who has stirred up a fuss about the colour and then beat us.”

The plan has been controversial and some Iowa law professors and students protested the locker room on the grounds that it reinforced stereotypes of women and homosexuals as weak. They charged that by having the pink locker room, Iowa was endorsing discrimination of those groups.

Other colours that could have a negative effect on the away team are Yellow, too much of it, or the wrong tone in relation to the other tones in a colour scheme, can cause self-esteem to plummet, giving rise to fear and anxiety.  Or how about Black?  It stimulates feelings of oppression, coldness, menace, heaviness, not what you want before walking out to play.  Finally we could go with Purple, which creates instability and uneasiness, as some countries relate this colour to death. 

The home dressing room should of course be Red, which is stimulating, and excites the brain. Red is related with alertness, vitality and excitement and (hopefully in a controlled way) with aggression and violence.

But we don’t have to look across the pond for ideas, some European Football Teams have got a few tricks up their sleeve as well.  Anzhi Makhachkala had some surprises for Tottenham when they played in Russia last year.  Instead of a state-of-the-art dressing room and facilities, Spurs’ squad had what can only be described as early 20th century individual leather armchairs to relax on before the game, separated by metal railings to hang their suits. 

Benfica have decorated the away dressing room with pictures of a packed Estadio do Luz and the Benfica fans to show the away team the ‘Red Hell’ that they are about to face.  The last thing a player walking out a Sporting Lisbon sees before the tunnel to the pitch is the sign ‘Aqui Mandamos Nos’ which is a challenge similar to Liverpool’s ‘This is Anfield’.

The Anfield banner isn’t the only ploy Liverpool use, the floor at Anfield is thoroughly polished before a big match – so immaculately shiny that visiting players have to literally tip-toe on their boots to avoid slipping on it.   Liverpool aren’t the only English team to try this kind of mind games.  In fact they were moaning last month that they were the victims of Big Sam inspired shenanigans at Upton Park. 

Despite getting 2 penalties, Gerrard still found time to complain saying the Hammers ‘tried everything’ to unsettle them, including forcing the team bus to park a mile away from Upton Park, turning up the heating in the dressing room and keeping the pitch dry to disrupt Liverpool’s passing game.  Shame it didn’t disrupt their diving game more.

Across London, Chelsea also have a reputation for dressing room scheming.  The away dressing room is small with only two massage beds in the middle and a number of obstacles designed to disrupt the visitor’s pre-match preparations.  Shirt hangers are hung very high up while players’ lockers are small and low.

As a result, the visiting footballers are forced to stretch up with their arms or bend down low, maximising the stress on their backs, ankles or knees. The two simple tables in the room are also worn. And there is only one shower and four toilets. 

A board for the team manager is installed on the wall next to the room’s only door, which doubles as a fire exit and needs to be kept open. This makes it difficult for the manager to explain tactics to the players on the board without revealing all the plans to Chelsea spy’s in the corridor.  Another “powerful weapon” aimed at the enemy team, is a mirror near the door that makes people look slimmer than normal.  One team goes a step further and has installed mirrors on the inside of toilet doors to unnerve players who have to watch themselves on the lav before kick-off.

Middlesbrough decided that tinkering with fixtures and fittings wouldn’t give them enough of an advantage and went one step further when they designed the Riverside stadium.  The away team’s dressing room is shaped in the letter ‘L’.  Not only does it represent the word ‘loser’, it also makes it difficult for the manager to make eye contact with his players when he delivers his talk.

Music is another battleground in dressing room wars.  Wimbledon’s crazy gang were well known for intimidating opponents.  One of their favourite tricks was to turn on the ghetto-blaster full blast whilst turning off the heating.  They left their dressing-room door open and dared anyone to complain. If opponents didn’t have the guts to complain about the music, the thinking was they would roll over on the pitch as well.  Nowadays, most teams will turn up with music and some clubs have tried to turn this to their advantage by removing all plugs from the away team dressing room making it hard for their opponents to play their music and get into the zone.

What is perhaps the ultimate in away team terrorisation practised by Louisiana State University.  Known as the Fighting Tigers their mascot Mike the Tiger, is kept in a pen in the back of the stadium. Before home games, he’s placed in a cage near the visiting team’s locker room to intimidate as they enter the field.

One Comment »

  • […] Team sports in the UK, and football especially, take the home advantage very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that these factors are even come into play during a stadiums development. We’re talking features like uncomfortable seats, a significant reduction in available luxuries on game days, with Liverpool’s Anfield Stadium even fitting Hall of Mirrors style mirrors into the Away Team dressing room. […]

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