From precariously balanced, load-bearing elephants to padlock clutching falcons, there is a remarkably diverse array of iconography in the crests of second tier clubs. If Steve Claridge were to carefully consider the myriad of crests stuck on a Perspex panel behind his desk on the BBC’s Football League Show, his head would surely implode from the dizzying plurality of symbolism on display.
What began as an attempt to stave off the close season’s ennui for, say, half an hour, has mutated into a near-definitive* assessment of the aesthetic appeal, ease of recognition and efficient impartation of regional idiosyncrasy of crests in the division.
Here’s a reverse order league table of Championship club primary logos, from worst to first.
*Any such list is ineluctably subjective, this is all ultimately a bit of fun, there’s no point going in a massive radge about our assessment of a unicorn’s pelvis. You can of course comment at the foot of the article. I’m sure some will accuse us of being partisan, but they need to be big enough to admit that Leed’s crest really is baba.
If any team is crying out for a rebranding exercise it’s Southampton, who’ve only ever had this one awful crest appear on their shirts. It has been amended once, changing the ball to a more ‘modern‘ design, a move intended to combat counterfeiting but succeeding only in making it look dated more quickly.
The scarf looks daft, a ball with a halo is kitsch at best and childish at worst, and the basic shape of the badge is unwieldy. There are enough basic elements in here to create a new, simpler crest that works, tree and river motifs have been used to brilliant effect by Nottingham Forest for three and half decades for example.
The recent Peru-esque St. Mary’s throwback kit was simple and devastatingly beautiful, a simplified crest would have made it better still, instead it featured this convoluted and outdated monstrosity. Some changes are done just for the sake of it, usually after a changing in ownership (take QPR, they had a fine, readily identifiable badge that has been discarded in favour of a drab, supposedly more affluent looking affair) but others are done for the better (West Brom’s for example, basic elements retained but discreetly altered to sleek, sexy effect). A change is overdue for The Saints.
For 2011-12 only, Coventry are using a 70’s programme image as the shirt crest, while retaining the regular crest as the club symbol.
They need to rethink this policy immediately, the simple shirt crest of an elephant, ball and castle is a thousand times better than the cluttered mess they normally use (even if the castle looks like a candlestick).
The regular badge just has too much going on, as does the civic crest it borrows from.
There‘s an eagle on one side, a phoenix on the other, the latter supposedly illustrating how the city rebuilt after heavy wartime bombing, though a concrete tower block would be more fitting. Then there is the Coventry Castle bearing elephant stood on a sky blue and white football that looks very much like a ten bob swerver. The elephant (the centrepiece of the city’s coat of arms) is supposed to represent Christ dying to redeem mankind, though the logic of that is beyond anyone who doesn’t regularly use LSD.
You don’t need to use the full civic crest to honour the city, just an element (the elemental elephant, hoho) will do, it‘s still recognisably Coventry-esque. Plus, it’s the difference between upper mid table and almost bottom of the Championship Club Crest League Table. Make the heritage badge permanent. Do it!
The Clarets celebrated elevation to the Premier League with a crest switch, dusting off a logo used in 1960 when Burnley were Football League Champions. A rather bizarre affair, it contains an abstract claret chevron, two diamonds, two bees representing industry in Burnley and Padiham, a severed hand and an egg clutching stork. As you do.
The 2009 version had ‘Pretiumque et Causa Laboris‘ or ‘The prize is the cause of our Labours‘ in the banner, but this was changed to Burnley Football Club a year later.
Honouring a title winning side upon promotion to the top tier is a nice touch, but let’s face it, it’s an ugly badge, it looks like a level on Jet Set Willy on the ZX Spectrum.
Donny fans campaigned to have the familiar cloaked Viking motif restored when it was replaced in 2000 and not only got their way with the crest, but with the kit too, having traditional red and white hooped shirts make their comeback after a lengthy absence.
The campaign was a triumph not only for fan power but for a Rover car dealership too. It’s said that in 1972 a sponsorship deal with a local dealer was struck and part of the deal was the club adopting a Viking logo (Rover’s mark was a Viking longship).
Prior to 1972 the club had used Doncaster’s civic Arms, a shield featuring the medieval Doncaster Castle supported by lions with white roses precariously balanced on their noses (at least that’s what it looks like). The Viking logo is an amateurishly drawn thing as it is, but if the crest was really just an advertising ploy to advertise Rover P6’s then the whole thing stinks o’ poo.
The White Shite’s crest is weird, it doesn’t look like a football logo at all, more like the grille badge of a tractor. Leeds have a somewhat curious crest history, from crowned owls and hanging sheep, the acid house smiley LU, the preening peacock (that nickname and identity has been airbrushed away, leaving only a pub near the ground as evidence it existed), a simple monogram to a white rose with ball at it’s centre.
It’s as if there’s an identity crisis at work at Elland Road. This crest has some elements from past marks, the white rose with ball and monogram, but what it’s contained in is utterly charmless jenk. Fitting then.
Used on shirts since the mid Nineties, the Robin’s crest is a simplified version of Bristol’s civic coat of arms, a ship and castle on a shield, supported by unicorns. Above a plated armour helmet is a pair of arms emerging from clouds, one holds a snake, the other a pair of scales.
Though it does honour the city of Bristol, the crest doesn’t say ‘Bristol City’ as much as the badge it replaced, a robin sat on a football, with the Clifton suspension bridge in the background. The simplification of a convoluted Arms is understandable, but it has been overdone, the unicorns look more monged than magical.
A recent Viz top-tip read “Experience Paris after a nuclear bomb strike by visiting Blackpool.” This has nothing to do with the Seasider’s crest but is amusing nonetheless. We associate Blackpool with the colour tangerine nowadays, but until they settled on it in 1923, they’d played in red, royal blue and white, sky blue and navy, maroon and yellow-red-black hoops.
They are another team who have bucked the trend of logo simplification and gone from a functional crest to adopting a complex looking civic coat of arms, though they‘ve tangerined it up a bit.
The town of Blackpool’s crest is a shield of black and gold waves (tangerine waves in BFC’s case) to symbolise the town name and it’s golden beaches, atop them is a gull, synonymous with a seaside town. Sat on the escutcheon is a plate armour helmet, above which is a tower and windmill sails around a Lancashire red rose.
As far as instant identification goes, the image fails, without the accompanying text only the colours and gull suggest Blackpool. In the 80’s Blackpool used a simple line drawing of the town’s most famous landmark, the tower, perhaps an updated version would represent the club better.
Mining Mutt Toby Tyke is sadly no longer the centrepiece of Barnsley’s badge (not that he ever appeared on the club’s shirt, they used a white rose graphic instead), he was replaced around 2003 by the town crest of a miner and a glassblower supporting a shield with all manner of guff on it, a padlock holding falcon, two boars heads, two weaving tools, cups with lids on and more. Sat on the shield is a gryphon with the Nike swoosh for a tongue.
Most teams who’ve changed crests have simplified them in the last decade, especially those who used civic emblems, Barnsley have gone the other way, though in the last couple of years the Tykes placed the badge in one of those bulging shields made popular by Arsenal in 2002. The current Barnsley badge is a bit formal and stuffy compared to the daft fun of a stubbly dog in a football kit or the gracious simplicity of a white rose.
After briefly using a bluebird against the flag of St. David in a shield, Cardiff went back to their more familiar crest in 2008. At the top of a blue shield, in their own boxes, are some daffodils and a red lion, symbols of Wales, underneath and inside a white circle is the bluebird in flight.
Flanking the shield are two footballs and banners bearing the legends ’Cardiff City FC’ and ’Bluebirds’ unfurl above and beneath. It’s alright, but nowt special.
The move to the Madejski Stadium in 1999 prompted a new crest for Reading, who for much of the Nineties used a drab shield with sky blue, dark blue, yellow and white stripes.
The current crest, a roundel, features the club’s blue and white hoops in two of the quarters, the other two are red and contain the Maiwand Lion (a war memorial at Forbury Gardens in Reading) and a crown (the club’s nickname, The Royals, is based upon the town being in the royal county of Berkshire).
A ball is at the roundel’s centre and on the outside are the words READING FOOTBALL CLUB, Est. 1871. It’s a decent enough mixture of local symbolism and modernity, but hardly exciting.
The civic crest of Peterborough is a shield bearing keys crossed inside a mural crown. This shield is supported by lions with eagles’ wings who stand in front of a banner reading ‘upon this rock‘.
The Posh make use of the Peterborough coat of arms, but have simplified it and encased it in a blue roundel which makes it more aesthetically palatable than most civic crests used by football clubs.
A lion rampant, taken from the town crest, has featured on ‘Boro shirts since 1971, the first year a motif of any kind was added. The lion was contained within a roundel after the club was saved from liquidation by Steve Gibson in 1986, a year noted in the new crest a year noted in the crest adopted that year.
A 2007 revamp dispensed with the roundel, placing the lion in a shield, and instead of noting the year the limited company was formed, the original 1876 founding is listed on the banner. If the point of the exercise was to recognise 1876 as a more significant year than 1986 in the grand scheme of all things Middlesbrough FC, then changing the year on the roundel would have been the better way to go, that crest was far better than this one, which looks like it was thrown together in someone’s lunch break.
Middle of the table seems fitting for Leicester, who’s roundel logo is a functional, clean piece of design, but one that does little to inspire. I can’t even be bothered to describe it for fox sake.
There are so many entities with lions as a motif; countries, car manufacturers, insurance firms et al, that the inherent danger of such a nickname is a crest that looks likes a knock off. Millwall have done a fairly good job under the circumstances, creating a reasonably distinct crest with a lion that doesn’t look like a Sri Lankan breakfast cereal mascot.
Avoiding using a side view and the typical stances (rampant, couchant, passant etc.) of emblematic lions helps, Millwall’s king of the jungle is stood almost erect with paws raised ready to claw some prey to death. This logo can often be seen on the lapel of Dragon’s Den venture capitalist Theo Paphitis, former Chairman at The Den.
Portsmouth’s crest is a single element of their city’s coat of arms, a complex affair featuring mer-lions and mer-unicorns, freaky maritime versions of the beasts that are supporters on the Arms of the current monarch.
Pompey’s shield contains an eight-pointed star and crescent moon symbol that in recent decades has become synonymous with Islam and Arab nationalism, though it hasn’t always carried that connotation. The motif is likely borrowed from the first seal of Richard I, who granted Portsmouth a charter in 1194.
The king, known better as Richard the Lionheart, is said to have taken on the star and crescent moon after conquering Cyprus, whose ruler Isaac Comnenus used the symbol to show family links to the former Byzantine emperor Manuel I Comnenus.
Variations of the design have featured on Portsmouth shirts since 1913, it was most recently tinkered with in 2008 when the yellow became gold, shadow effects added a 3D look, and the escutcheon became of the bulging variety that has become de rigueur for post Millennium badge changes. Though not wildly exciting, the celestial imagery makes it a very distinct and fascinating club mark.
I could never figure out why a team called ‘The Hornets’ had a great big red moose on their badge, but I’ve since discovered that it isn’t a moose, it’s a hart, representing Watford’s home county of Hertfordshire.
Despite nickname/crest creature disparity, Watford’s crest can’t really be confused with any other club, the red outlined hanging pentagon with yellow and black halves is rather distinctive, and in some cases distinctiveness works as well as aesthetic concerns.
Brand new for 2011-12, Brighton’s crest is an updated version of the roundel used by the Seagulls in the 70’s and 80’s. The gull has been streamlined, given a yellow beak and it’s orientation changed so it’s flight is left-to-right.
The shield it replaces wasn’t bad, but the red outlined right-to-left gull wasn’t as well defined and the font spelling the club name not as ‘clean’. It’s a change for the better. Simple, effective and recognisably Brighton.
They may have the shittest nickname in the Football League (they went from ‘The Blues’ to ‘The Tractor Boys’ pretty much because the inane buffoons at Soccer AM told them to), but Ipswich have a reasonably good crest that fuses several regional references into a single, well thought out crest.
The turrets of the Wolsey Gate (a remnant of a 16th century college founded by a local cardinal) encase the words ’IPSWICH TOWN’ above a ’Suffolk Punch’, a workhorse used on farms throughout the region. Waves symbolise the rivers Gipping and Orwell which lead to the North Sea.
The overall design was created by a fan in 1972, and given an update in 1995. The yellow became red to better reflect colours used in the kit and the horse was given a more muscular, steroid attained appearance, allowing it to trap the ball better than it had on the old badge.
The most impressive thing about the Hammers’ crest is that the towers of the castle have been recreated in the exterior of the West Stand of the Boleyn Ground.
The area around West Ham’s ground may be a little insalubrious, but the stadium itself has real character, which makes you wonder why the club would so willingly trade it to play at the soulless and uninspiring Olympic Stadium.
The crossed hammers of the crest alone are enough to identify this as West Ham’s mark and act as a reminder that the club descend from ‘Thames Ironworks FC’. They stand in front of local landmark Boleyn Castle. A well designed, readily identifiable badge.
The Brummies’ globe and ball wrapped in a ribbon bearing the club name was first designed in 1972, but didn’t appear on shirts till 1976. While looking very Seventies, it is quite distinct.
It looks like no other football team’s badge which means it does it’s job of quickly identifying BCFC most effectively, even if it’s not the most visually appealing.
As with kits, we’ve had some shocking crests. The teddy bear tiger used on programmes in the Twenties, the ration emaciated tiger on post-war shirts, the hideous goatee-bearded owl of the thankfully short-lived Hinchliffe crest.
The tigers head used from the 70’s onward was great (even if it does look like its laughing nervously), but it has benefited from being encased in a shield, as happened soon after Adam Pearson bought the club out of administration in 2001.
It works, it may not be the best crest in the land, but it adequately and attractively identifies a club known as The Tigers for over a century. CEO Mark Maguire recently hinted that the club might change the crest. He can foo koff with that idea.
The Croydon club was nicknamed ‘The Glaziers’ until manager Malcolm Allison rebranded them ‘The Eagles’ in the mid-Seventies.
Since then an eagle perched on a ball against the Hyde Park structure that gives the club it’s name has adorned Palace shirts, though in three different formats. Both elements work well together, and this handsome crest is recognisable even with text removed.
Having a simple, clever crest is an effective first step towards creating a solid, recognisable visual identity (the second is an iconic playing strip).
Of course It helps when Brian Clough takes your previously unheralded club to a league title and European trophy contention, permanently etching that crest into the nation’s footballing consciousness. That’s the case with two Championship clubs, East Midlands rivals Derby County and Nottingham Forest.
Derby’s line drawing ram is brilliant, and needs no embellishment, shame then that the club have placed it in a roundel the last few years. Presumably this is for ease of applying it to a shirt, you can heat bond a circular patch but a ram alone would need stitching into the fabric. From a recognition point of view this is completely superfluous, County’s white 70’s shirts had just the ram and that’s all that was needed. If a football fan doesn’t know who the club is from that and needs accompanying text then frankly they’re a rubbish football fan.
Designed over thirty-five years ago, Forest’s ‘tricky tree’ is as fresh looking now as it was in 1980 when it embellished the adidas Europa track top of Brian Clough at the European Cup final in Madrid.
It is beautiful in it’s simplicity, the outline of an oak tree above the waves of the River Trent. The ’FOREST’ text underneath, though tastefully done, is ultimately superfluous, the tree and Trent alone tell you who this club is.
Possibly the best crest in England, let alone the Championship.