The first numbered jerseys in football were worn by Australian clubs Sydney Leichardt and HMS Powerful in 1911. One year later, football numbering will be become required in New South Wales. Other states follow suit and the practice becomes widespread.
Their use was encouraged by the Football Association to make it easier for officials to identify players. Before this time, each club used a different color jersey for their team photos, which made it difficult for referees to distinguish players. The first number on a football shirt was assigned to Sydney Leichhardt and designed by J. Leitch. It was red with white stripes and had black shorts.
Two years later, in 1913, Harry Lockett's sideman H. A. Jones came up with another design for Sydney's National Soccer League (NSL) team. This one was blue with yellow strips and included numbers starting from 1 for offense, 2 for defense, and 3 at random. The NSL was an amateur league who's teams wore plain white shirts without any markings.
In 1914, the NSW government requires all professional teams to wear numbers on their shirts. This applies to both men's and women's games. In addition, there are rules about what colors can and cannot be used for numbers (red is not allowed).
Jersey numbers were created to assist fans and officials in identifying and distinguishing the position a player plays on the field. Sheffield and Arsenal of the English Premier League were the first to win numbered jerseys in professional football matches in August 1928. The numbers were assigned by an independent committee and other clubs followed suit.
Numbering players has been popular among fans since the early 1920s, but it wasn't until after World War II that it became common for all players on a team to have unique identifiers. Before then many players were known only by their uniform number or name. Numbering players was designed by H.G. Wells with the intention of improving the quality of play and attendance at soccer games. He hoped that identifying players would help fans follow the action more closely and also allow them to recognize outstanding performers.
Wells' idea was not new at the time; it had been suggested before him. In fact, it was originally proposed by the French footballer Charles Renard in 1872. But what made Wells' idea so innovative at the time was his plan to use numbers instead of names to identify players. This is how he described his concept in a book he wrote in 1922: "I propose to each player a number, which will be painted on his chest in red ink."
On April 5, 1973, the National Football League introduced a jersey-numbering system. The system allocated certain number ranges to each player's position, from which the player may pick. Here are the original 1973 numbers. By adding or removing two digits from each number, it is possible to generate all uniform combinations starting with that number.
The original plan was for each team to use only one set of uniforms during their first season in the NFL. However, several teams have continued to use alternate sets of uniforms since their founding. These teams include the Baltimore Colts (original), Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins.
Each team now has a unique color pattern associated with them, except when they use alternate jerseys. These are called "throwback" jerseys because they resemble the original design of the NFL uniform program.
Teams are allowed to wear different colored socks but not shoe colors. If a player wears black shoes, they must also wear black socks.
In 1972, the NFL banned players from wearing numbers other than 1-59. This rule was later rescinded in 1973. From then on, players were free to choose any number within the range of 60-99.
In 1974, the NFL prohibited players from wearing names on their jerseys.
For the 1999-2000 season, the Football League made squad numbers mandatory, and the Football Conference followed suit for the 2002-03 season. Since their different leagues established squad numbers, English clubs have worn the traditional 1-11 numbers on occasion. The number 12 has been used exclusively by foreign players since the European club market opened in the mid-1990s.
In America, all National Football League (NFL) teams wore numbers 1 through 99 during spring training in 1934. The first regular season game played by an NFL team was on September 21, 1934, with the Chicago Bears defeating the Chicago Cardinals 7-3 at home stadium Wrigley Field. The Cardinals' radio network had a broadcast agreement with La Salle University in Philadelphia, so they used the students as announcers for most of their games that season. During World War II, football activities were suspended, and when play resumed in 1945, only four teams appeared to be active. These were the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, New York Giants, and Washington Redskins. By 1948, all teams except the Redskins had added new players and changed their names. The original eight teams are considered founding members of the NFL, while the Redskins are only recognized by the league as having joined in 1950.
The modern era of NFL numbering began in 1959 when the league introduced the uniform number 15 for each player.
The numbers behind the jerseys in cricket were first introduced in the World Cup in 1999. Before then, players used to just wear their initials on the back of their shirts.
Cricket is a fairly recent sport and wasn't particularly popular until the late 19th century. When it did start to catch on, people seemed to like to associate themselves with one player as his "legacy". So George Bailey started wearing number 11 when he returned from his injury spell and took eight wickets in an innings. This is how the bowlers were assigned numbers at that time.
As cricket started to grow in popularity, so did the need for commercial support. To meet this need, the sport's governing body, the ICC, came up with a plan to generate revenue by selling advertising space on the players' uniforms. So now we know why everyone wears number 11 during world cups - it's because this is where all the greats have worn them before.
Number 12 has been quite popular among fast bowlers since its introduction in 1899. It's usually given to young fast bowlers who haven't yet established themselves - so John Youngman, Arthur Mailey and Fred Morley all began their careers with this number.