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English Soccer Team Joins Cross-Sport Numbering System

[Deputy Editor’s Note: With Paul now on his August blog-cation a couple days early, today we have a lede from our own Jamie Rathjen, who takes a look at cross-sport numbering systems. I’ll begin my August run starting tomorrow. — PH]

Last week, a fan of English soccer team Bradford City wrote a column in The Guardian about a project he worked on to add small “heritage numbers” to the team’s shirts below the crest. The numbers are permanently assigned to players in the order that they first appeared for the team in a competitive game. For example, as the project resulted in the assignment of 1,278 numbers, the next player to debut for Bradford City would have No. 1,279 appear on their shirt for all competitive games they play with the team.

While Bradford appear to be the first soccer team to start wearing these permanent ID numbers, the practice is quite common in, and seems to have originated from, the Test teams comprising high-level international cricket. In cricket, the numbers are often called “cap numbers” in reference to the caps cricketers receive for playing for national teams. While the numbers may appear on the caps, they are also worn below the crest (shown below), similar to Bradford City’s practice.

Former Australia captain Steve Waugh is credited with coming up with the idea for the numbering system in 1999, while England were apparently the first team to wear the numbers on their shirts in 2001.

Today, 10 of the 12 Test teams wear cap numbers below the crests on their shirts. The two exceptions are currently Bangladesh and the West Indies, neither of whom wore the numbers when they last played Tests in March, though both have in the past and the West Indies wore numbers on players’ caps instead. The two somewhat active women’s Test teams, England and Australia, both wear cap numbers on their shirts as well. The practice of wearing cap numbers could help to identify players before this year’s introduction of conventional numbers and NOBs to Test cricket; we’ve also had Ticker items in the past where players were wearing someone else’s shirt and thus sported the wrong number.

Cap numbers in cricket are generally three digits, with England, who are approaching 700, having the highest numbers. However, two-digit numbers can be seen on newer Test teams such as Zimbabwe, and even single-digit numbers can be seen on the two newest teams, Ireland (shown below) and Afghanistan.

Lists of cap numbers have been compiled for teams in other sports, even for teams that don’t wear the numbers on their shirts. The other two kinds of cricket, One Day Internationals and Twenty20, have separate cap-number lists, meaning cricketers can have three different cap numbers, though they generally appear not to be worn on the shirt outside of Tests. However, some players on the West Indies did recently wear cap numbers in a fall 2017 One Day International.

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Teams outside of cricket that wear cap numbers include the three most prominent national teams in rugby league: Australia, England, and New Zealand. On New Zealand’s shirts, the numbers are placed on the lower front of the shirt and have also appeared on the sleeve when not replaced by ads. Australia also wear the numbers on the wearer’s right side, not the left, while England wore cap numbers on the collar when they last played (shown below).

At rugby league’s club level, where shirts are often crowded, cap numbers seem to be less frequent. Two teams that do wear them regularly are English clubs St. Helens and Wigan Warriors. In Australia, the Queensland and New South Wales teams in the annual State of Origin series both have unusual approaches to cap numbers. Queensland calls them “FOG numbers,” for “Former Origin Greats,” even for active players, while New South Wales players wear two numbers: the upper number appears to be the player’s overall NSW cap number, while below the crest is the player’s number when counting from the beginning of the State of Origin series in 1980.

Cap numbers are much less common in rugby union than in league, though one international team that wears them is Wales’s men’s side.

Cap numbers have also spread to field hockey in the past five years or so, when Hockey Australia added them for the country’s men’s and women’s (shown below) national teams as the result of a research project. The federation publicly keeps track of its cap numbers on spreadsheets, something not every team mentioned in this piece appears to do.

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While it remains to be seen whether cap numbers will catch on in soccer — equipment regulations are generally very specific in what may be displayed on kits, and The Guardian‘s column mentioned that Bradford City had to get permission to add the numbers — in other sports they serve as a creative reminder of each player’s place in their team’s history.

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The Ticker
By Lloyd Alaban

Baseball News: Marlins C Bryan Holaday wore the team’s throwback helmet instead of their current helmet Monday night (from @CaliGlowin). … Seems like we had a couple of rarities in both leagues last night: There was a traditional white vs. grey matchup in Cleveland, and the Dodgers wore their “Los Angeles” script road unis. In recent years, they’ve eschewed the “Los Angeles” script greys for the “Dodgers” script (from Chris Mayor and @TrueBlueParten). … recently had a picture up of 2B/SS Johnathan Villar for an article about 1B/OF Trey Mancini potentially getting traded (from Michael Biggins). … Starting at about 2:45 in this video, Yankees P CC Sabathia talks about how he wants his Yankee cap in the Hall of Fame (from James Gilbert). … Here’s the Padres Uni Tracker through July. … The Indianapolis Indians, Triple-A affiliate of the Pirates, will be wearing Incredible Hulk-themed jerseys this weekend in support of a local children’s foundation (from @btownmoose). … Philadelphia 76ers PG/F Ben Simmons was seen wearing retro Phillies shorts at practice this week (from Blake Fox). … Sports Illustrated used P Nolan Ryan’s No. 34 for a P Noah Syndergaard mockup (from Ignacio Salazar). … Satirical newspaper The Onion claimed (satirically, of course) that Brewers P Jordan Lyles is the first major leaguer to wear an irrational number (from many readers). … Reds SS Jose Iglesias made a bet with his teammates: If Iglesias hit a home run, he would dye his hair purple. He hit a home run on Monday, and true to his word, he appeared before reporters yesterday with purple hair (from @WilySnowPena).

NFL News: The Steelers have announced the dates they will wear their Color Rush and throwback uniforms (from @redbuppy). … From @PanthersUnis: Yesterday, we reported that the Panthers got rid of the team logo on their pants. At yesterday’s team practice, P Michael Palardy was the only player wearing the old pants . … Palardy’s teammate, CB James Bradberry, is wearing pants with the logo covered up. … Patriots SS Patrick Chung was wearing a different number font than what the team usually wears at practice this week (from Benjamin Billington). … Cowboys RB Alfred Morris is wearing No. 23 with the team. He wore No. 46 during his previous stint in Dallas (from @ThatRodneyGuy). … Anyone know why Eagles RB Josh Adams has circular cutouts on the shoulder yoke of his jersey? Is this a thing with all practice jerseys (from @richlavjr)? … Heinz Field might be getting a new advertiser (from @Slimathee). … Gamers have pointed out a few glitches in the Madden NFL 20 video game. One of the more uni-related ones involves the ball sticking to players’ helmets, causing unpredictable results.

College Football News: New helmets for Rutgers (from Peter Kirchner). … Iowa State has new 3D helmet bumpers (from multiple readers). … Here’s the CFB 150 patch on two of Virginia’s jerseys (from our own Jamie Rathjen). … Here are some Auburn uniform concepts based on the school’s other sports uniforms (from Clint Richardson).

NBA News: Reddit has leaked the Warriors’ new uniforms (from many readers). … It isn’t clear what exactly the Sixers are announcing on Thursday, but it looks retro. Perhaps it’s a throwback uni from the 1970s? … Cross-listed from the baseball section: Sixers PG/F Ben Simmons was seen wearing retro Philadelphia Phillies shorts at practice this week (from Blake Fox). … For the latest on new uni number assignments, head to Etienne Catalan‘s feed.

Soccer News: New kits for New Mexico United of the USL Championship (from @MadisonCXIV). … German club SV Babelsberg is giving their front-of-shirt spot to Seebruecke, an NGO that rescues migrants at sea. €5 from every shirt sold will go to the group (from Ed Zelaski). … West Ham United has signed F Jacynta Galabadaarachchi. Here’s what her 16-letter NOB looks like (from Matt French). … A few things from Josh Hinton: The military-themed MLS All-Star Game warmup shirts have leaked. … Here are the leaked warmups for some of the clubs in the 2019-20 UEFA Champions League. … For the latest on many more kit unveilings, head to Josh‘s Twitter feed.

Grab Bag: New kits for Italy men’s for the Rugby World Cup. They’re going all-blue instead of wearing their traditional white shorts (from Josh Gardner). … Reader Chris Whitham recently participated in a short sports logo quiz. It looks like he did pretty well! … Here’s how Starter jackets became a collector’s item (from Willie Gabel). … This 1978 photo shows the South View Tigers cheerleaders of Fayetteville, NC, using Disney character Tigger as their logo (from Gerry Dincher). … The City of Frederick, Md., will scrap its new logo after backlash from residents (from James Gilbert). … The US Navy has updated their popular uniform app. … Delta Air Lines is rolling out name bars that identify flight attendants who know American Sign Language.

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Comments (26)

    Two awesome things I learned today: The cap number thing, which absolutely should spread to American sports; and that Ireland has a test cricket team. Thanks for the awesome report, Jamie!

    Only three tests in the bag for Ireland so far, and three losses including a heartbreaker just last week when Ireland pretty well destroyed England’s batting but then crumbled themselves chasing a very makeable total.

    Coolest thing though is that this means William Porterfield – as Ireland’s first test captain – gives us a glimpse of a number 1 shirt out in the wild on a semi regular basis.



    Two other cricket items I found that did not make it in:

    -The cap numbers worn by South Africa on their shirts only count post-apartheid players, so they differ from any list you may find.

    -The guy who got No. 357 for Australia link because he appeared first in the batting order in his debut before another guy (the tiebreaker is usually alphabetical by last name), so he got a tattoo and a license plate for his Ferrari with 356, only to learn that it was wrong. He eventually switched with the other guy, which creates a perpetual asterisk in Australia’s list.

    Another cool thing about cricket- as far as I can tell, you can not buy one of the actual cricket caps the players wear. There are definitely fashion caps with the cricket crest on them, but the test caps themselves, you have to earn.

    Additionally, as a matter of pride, many players do not change their caps for their career- having a battered, worn cap is a sign of prestige and seniority- it means you’ve been selected for a lot of international games.

    that heinz article was hysterical.

    1 Heinz is failing and missing #s. I wonder if it is because they waste 3 million a yr on a stadium.

    2 the appearance the team gives of giving a crap who the company is before slapping the name on the stadium.

    3 the author tried to imply fans give a crap what the name is and even had a poll to measure results. ask fans if they would be cool with THREE RIVERS STADIUM or ROONEY STADIUM.

    fukking corporate buttholes

    It has to be someone who makes mustard so it matches the Steelers colors … black and mustard yellow … NOT gold no matter how much Pittsburgh sports teams and their fans want it to be.

    RE: Grab Bag-

    IIRC, Hallahan Catholic Girls High in Philadelphia is the only school in the nation that’s been granted permission by Disney to use one of their characters (namely, Mickey Mouse) as a mascot.

    As the uni tracker shows, the Dodgers certainly wear the “Dodgers” road grays more than the “Los Angeles” ones these days, but it was still the 10th time this year that they wore the latter. Seems strange to report this particular instance as news

    Southview High School is actually in Hope Mills, NC, the home town of Cal Koonce who pitched for the 69 Mets. He ended up as the HS baseball coach there for a spell after his career ended. He tragically died from lymphoma at age 52.

    In cricket I didn’t know they assigned the players a (serial) cap number, but I do know they often refer to a players cap number in reference to the number of matches. So they use the same term for both things.

    I’m sure it’s 100% due to my age and them being the must have item for any 12 year old sports fan, but when I read and/or hear “Starter Jacket” I don’t think of the satin button-up jackets. To me, a Starter Jacket will always be one of these bad boys.


    I had a Niners one that I wore the hell out of in elementary school. But growing up, I always associated the satin button-ups to be “cooler” than the pullovers (that I had) because my 11-year-old self (and friends) perceived them as looking “more expensive?” Which is why my mind always jumps to the button-up jackets when I hear “Starter.” Was that actually the case in the 90s? Or were they all relatively the same price?

    Looks like Atlanta United may be rolling out a camo-kit so that supporters can dress up as players dressing up as soldiers.

    Gotta love the marketing tease for what is allegedly “honoring heroes.” #eyeroll


    CC Sabathia may have finally convinced me that no one should go into the Hall of Fame with the cap of their choice. He’s been in NY longer but his Cy Young and greatest success came in Cleveland. The Hall should decide on the cap or do away with it.

    I laughed WAY too hard at The Onion’s Irrational Number article ;-)

    Can it really be true that nobody has worn pi or e for something like Players Weekend?

    I am happy to announce that since Paul has found full-time employment, is fully insured, is selling a variety merchandise, and appears to have many new members via Uni-Watch members, I will now no longer have to see the ads on the sides on this site as I will happily use ad blockers.

    I believe the circles on Eagles practice jerseys are where impact sensors are sewn in. What your seeing is the circular stitching.

    England’s caps also have their cap number on the back of them.

    To add another little thing, players get presented with a new cap per 25 appearances, and the 25/50 etc is shown under the badge on the cap.

    Not all players chose to wear them, some preferring to keep their original cap.

    Another cricket note, historical note, actually. Today marks the beginning of the 71st Ashes Test series between England and Australia, however, it is the first time any international Test team has had NNOB of their jerseys.

Comments are closed.