Football Badges – A Lost Tradition
A recurring theme that is often debated amongst football fans is the battle between the traditionalists and those of a more modern persuasion. These debates are often, but not always, linked to the generational gap between an average fan base that tends to encompass all spectrum of the age of man. You tend to see the young merchandise-loving kids who have been brought up in a sport dominated by capitalism and corporations and whom don’t relate or remember the “good old days” of sportsmanship and community that older heads profess to miss.
Your average teenage fan may not care about the nightclub excursions of a football superstar or be particularly bothered by the enigmatic foreign winger who wears gloves with short sleeves, but you can bet your season ticket his grandfather next to him will be questioning the masculinity of such behaviour and bemoaning the nouveau riche arrogancy of today’s stars. After all, Sir Stanley Matthews never fell out of taxis intoxicated with a glamour model in gaudy underwear. This continuous battle between old and new is indeed a common occurrence in grounds and homes across the country.
One major bone of contention, primarily with the elder generation but also increasingly with the younger working class fans, is how the clubs are seemingly losing their touch with the communities they are meant to represent. Just how in touch with the people of Salford are the global conglomerate that is Manchester United, a company that is increasingly marketed to target audiences across Asia and the Americas? Has the controversy over foreign ownership even further decreased the feeling of the local population’s rapport with their clubs as their feelings and wishes get ignored in preference for the dollar? Whilst it can be accepted that this is the price a club needs to pay in order to challenge at the top, it is nevertheless galling to the paying-supporter of a lower-league club who adopts this marketing method to increase their income.
At what price does a club do away with their unique persona simply to increase revenue? This cleansing of identity is best displayed in the recent phenomenon of doing away with historic and traditional club badges in favour of new market-friendly and easily-merchandisable abominations. Badges have been occasionally tweaked or changed on a rare scale throughout football history however the changes tend to be few and far between. The recent splurge in new badges is strictly financially-driven however, hidden behind statements about “ambition” and “moving forward”. Is this new found craving for success (financial rather than sporting?) yet another dagger through the heart of the traditional working-class support in favour of the new middle-class “prawn sandwich” brigade in the executive boxes?
Recent clubs who have shed their historical badges in favour of new designs are many. The majority of the traditional badges had symbols linked to the geographical area the clubs represent, parish monuments and local council crests added to the club name to give a sense of belonging and emotional attachment to the fans who also belong to the same area. Arsenal’s historic and famous club crest incorporate the origins of the club name with the Cannon emphasising the Gunners’ heritage whilst also displaying the council emblem of the area they represent. That was replaced with a simple, digitised design in 2002 as the club rode a wave of success under the club-transforming leadership of Arsene Wenger. Their North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur also went down the same route, casting aside their detailed and visually descriptive badge in favour of a stripped down and basic modern design that no doubt could be easily replicated on any kind of merchandise. Aston Villa are yet another major club to attempt this change whilst other clubs such as QPR and Cardiff have redesigned their emblems to embrace a new corporate identity, namely rich and Welsh respectively.
Whilst it may be expected that larger clubs who operate as multi-million pound corporations would be foolish not to cultivate and enhance their brand at the expense of heritage, the issue has become a bit more absurd recently, with lower league clubs who’s very existence is dependent on community loyalty also joining the act. The advent of the current 2010-11 season saw Cheltenham Town and Morecambe amongst others change their badges in favour of horrendous cartoon-like offerings. Personally I have never given the issue much thought however the issue has taken a step too far by a COUNTRY’s badge being changed. As an organisation famously tight-fisted and cheap, its astonishing that the Football Association of Wales has swiped away its history and adapted a computerised rendering of its famous badge. The badge that John Charles wore in Wales’ only World Cup appearance in 1958 has been consigned to the dustbin and that’s that. Money made modern football the great thing it is today yet it is also the single entity that will kill off our passion if it continues to evolve the game beyond the working-class heart that helped the game prosper in the 100 years before million and billionaires turned up. Here’s to tradition and heritage.