It’s fair to say that football and design have never exactly gone hand in hand, but who succeeds and who fails when it comes to club badges? Selecting examples of good or bad design in this field is more difficult than you may imagine when you’re a football fan yourself. Knowing a little about the story behind some of the badges, or having a strong dislike for certain teams, results in a certain level of bias when it comes to providing a rational and fair critique. To counteract this I’ve selected 12 examples of badges that I particularly enjoy, for whatever reason, whilst I’ve left it to the designer who sits opposite me, Mark, to run an eye over each one. As Mark himself will admit, he knows absolutely nothing about football, so who better to provide some objectivity?
1. Ascot United
CB: My first choice takes us to the depths of the 9th tier of the English football league system and Ascot United FC of the Uhlsport Hellenic League Premier Division (quite a mouthful). There’s little information to be found except that the club was founded in 1965 and, should the existing badge have been in use since then, you could say that it was ahead of its time, given that it looks like a very basic video game from the early 80’s. But let us not belittle the efforts of the brave soul, armed only with some Clipart and an idea, who made a valiant effort to honour the town’s illustrious association with the sport of kings.
MA: “My five year old could do better” is what I might say if I had any children. But not to judge, someone, somewhere will be proud of their five year old for giving it their best shot.
2. Cheltenham Town
CB: Now for Cheltenham Town, currently playing in the National League (although I’ll always refer to it as the Conference). For a team nicknamed ‘The Robins’ the old club badge consisting of the town’s coat of arms wasn’t really up to the job, so in 2010 the club rebranded with a more contemporary and simple design to leave nobody in doubt as to their proud nickname. Their Chairman Paul Baker said the new branding heralded in the dawn of a new era, so we’ll gloss over their relegation last season from League Two which saw them drop into non-league oblivion…
MA: The new Nissan Swift logo definitely stands above the others. As a fan of clean, simple, minimal design, for me this is ahead of the crowd.
3. Fisher FC
CB: Bermondsey, South London, home of Fisher FC from the Southern Counties east League (9th tier). The club was formed in 2009 when the original Fisher Athletic Football Club was wound up in the High Court. Founded in 1908, Fisher Athletic was named after the Catholic martyr Saint John Fisher, executed by Henry VIII. Despite extensive research, I’ve not come across any historical representations of the good saint that depict him as some sort of angry fish monster, so we can only assume that the clubs badge represents Bermondsey’s location in London’s Docklands.
MA: Who doesn’t love an aggressive prawn for a logo? This is going to fit perfectly as a patch on my biker jacket.
4. Hereford United / Ibstock United
CB: They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and nowhere is that more evident than in non-league football. Take, for example, Kent Football United FC who have clearly adapted the badge of AC Milan to suit their means. And why wouldn’t you strive to emulate a club that is at the top of its domestic and European game, known and loved the world over?
Which makes the case of Ibstock United FC all the more beguiling. Of all the teams that you could have plagiarised we have to ask ‘why Hereford United’?! A team who’s most famous moment came on a cold February day in 1972 and a 30 year screamer from Ronnie Radford. At least Kent Football United had the decency to adapt their design and to change the colour scheme, whereas the extent of Ibstock’s effort was to merely replace the names. To further complicate matters Ibstock itself is a former coal-mining community in Leicestershire with no famous breeds of cattle in sight. Did no one in the entire county of Herefordshire ever stumble across the audacity of those at Ibstock United? A strange one indeed.
MA: When you decide to plagiarise a logo, do it right. Do it better than the original. Albeit only slightly better, an improvement on typography adds legibility but how they got away with it is beyond me. These teams must also love their livestock, I just hope they bring them along to the home games.
5. Matlock Town
CB: Bravado is not in short supply at Matlock Town FC of the EVO-STIK Northern Premier League (7th tier). Very few teams, and certainly not anyone playing at a similar level, would be so confident as to wear a badge that makes no reference as to who they are and what they represent. But not the case with Matlock Town, a team who is proud to display their town’s history and the role they played in the English Civil War by employing one of Cromwell’s Roundheads as their sporting symbol of choice. At least that’s what I assumed upon seeing the club crest of Matlock. Unfortunately, the history books make no mention of Matlock’s role in the civil war, and it turns out that that the club’s nickname is in fact ‘the Gladiators’. So special mention in this list goes to Matlock Town for having quite possibly the worst representation of a Roman warrior seen across the sporting world.
MA: When the committee of Matlock Town FC were deciding what to use as their logo, there was only one logical choice. The founding father, Mr Matlock, saviour and shield bearer. Legend says he saved the town single handedly from the invading supporters of Manchester United.
CB: I’m not going to argue that Millwall’s badge pushes the boundaries in terms of design and creativity as it clearly doesn’t; it’s two colour, it’s round, it looks like nearly every other club crest in world football. But for a club known the world over for being the spiritual home of football hooliganism, supported by hardened nutters wielding their very own ‘Millwall Brick’, what better way to represent yourself than with an angry lion, snarling and ready to pounce on you as soon as you sing the lyrics ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles…’
MA: What shape should our logo be? Footballs are round, lets use a circle! Looks like Millwall have taken their cues from the Fisher FC logo. The prawn has been upgraded to a silver lion, +3 for aggressiveness. Use of blue, -2 for originality. Final score: 4/10.
7. Newcastle United
CB: There’s something about the Newcastle United badge that I’ve always loved. During the 1993/94 Premier League season, the shiny Newcastle United sticker was the most prized asset in my Panini album. I think there’s just something about a splash of cyan with black and white. However, that’s not my reasoning for including Newcastle on this list. During my one and only visit to Newcastle I was shocked to discover that it was inhabited by perma-tanned ladies and men with nothing but t-shirts to protect them from the cold, and not the strange half-horse, half-fish creatures that I had expected to see roaming the city centre. The badge is taken from the city’s coat of arms, which leads me to question whether anyone on Tyneside has ever actually seen a seahorse?
MA: I used to live in Carlisle, and the only time you saw the Riot Police team were when Newcastle played away. For risk of bodily harm I reserve to pass judgement.
8. Nottingham Forest
CB: The Nottingham Forest badge; not only ahead of its time, but it’s withstood the test of time. It’s the quintessence of simplicity to almost infantile proportions (wavy lines = water). Hailing from a time when football shirts were classy enough not to display players’ names, sponsors’ names, or even manufacturer’s names, Forest’s white emblem on red shirt looked fantastic, especially during the heady days of the Clough-era. So confident of themselves were they at this time they even threw in a lowercase ‘e’ in the uppercase ‘Forest’. It’s one of the very, very few football crests that wouldn’t look completely awful as a tattoo (although it’s worth bearing in mind that having your team tattooed on any part of your body makes you equal to any grown man who sports a full replica kit as a fashion statement).
MA: The 90s called, they want their logo back. I do hope this is simply a logo that has been tried and tested. My only criticism? Why is the tree in an ocean? Oh, and red? Surely a forest is green?
CB: Whilst the fortunes of Portsmouth FC have taken a turn for the worse of late (currently plying their trade in League 2), the quality of their badge certainly hasn’t. The current iteration was introduced earlier this year after positive feedback from the clubs owners, the fans themselves. However, the basis of the design (the star and crescent) pre-dates the club itself, harking back to the time of King Richard I. It is said that Richard granted the city “a crescent of gold on a shade of azure, with a blazing star of eight points” which he himself stole from the Byzantine Emperor’s standard of Governor Isaac Komnenos, after capturing Cyprus. So today Fratton Park can proudly boast a badge that is modern in its design but rooted in the city’s history.
MA: I presume Portsmouth is now located in the Middle East. A good well balanced logo, but what it’s for is beyond me.
10. Sheffield Wednesday
CB: I love the theme that runs through the Wednesday badge and as to why they’re affectionately known as the Owls: they’re located in the Owlerton district of Sheffield, their Latin motto of ‘Consilio et Animis’ translates as ‘By wisdom and courage’ and their matchday owl mascot is known as ‘Ozzie’. The generally accepted rule is that when it comes to animals on football badges (or any sport for that matter) then the more representative or naturalistic the image, the worse it’s likely to look. Fortunately Wednesday’s owl is nicely rendered. Sadly though, I have been unable to find any hard facts to support the myth that the current owl was jointly designed by famous sons of Sheffield Jarvis Cocker, Prince Naseem-Hamed, Peter Stringfellow and Roy Hattersley. Shame.
MA: Owl? Check. Classic shield? Check. Good typography? …to be desired. I have to hand it to them, they have a copyrighted logo, good luck to whomever copies it.
11. Wolverhampton Wanderers
CB: Unlike Matlock Town, Wolves are a big enough name in club football not to need their name on their badge. And take note Matlock, it’s plainly evident that it’s a wolf. Its simple and stylised design has made it one of the most recognisable club badges in English football. And whether you’re a Wolves fan or not, everyone has to agree that their colours of gold and black are some of the best in any league (although West Brom fans may not be willing to concede that). The gold and black allude to the city council’s motto ‘out of darkness cometh light’ with the two colours representing light and darkness respectively. Plus their stadium is called the Molineux, which I’ve always thought was fantastic name. I tip my (imaginery) hat to you Wolves.
MA: This is probably the only team logo I recognise (without reading). Orange and black is always a strong combination with the perfect reason to have a ‘wolf’ in the logo too.
12. Wycombe Wanderers
CB: This is my blog post and they’re my team, end of. And before anyone asks it’s quite clearly a swan.
MA: It’s not exactly groundbreaking now is it? But what can I say about a swan, duck…goose? that has a penchant for gold chains. Also, what is it with blue football logos in circles?
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