WHY A CLUB’S BADGE MATTERS
Fans at a League One club are fighting for their historic badge and against generic corporate branding. The Chairman’s none too impressed…
Having finally gained promotion from the basement division after a 15 year wait and with a solid enough 4 points on the board as we embark on life in League One, you’d expect we Shrewsbury fans to be a happy enough bunch.
Well, yes and no.
A row has been brewing since pre-season that has seen traditionalists among our fanbase at odds with chairman Roland Wycherley . Not over transfer policy or dodgy off-the-field dealings, but over the club’s badge.
Seldom has the phrase ‘at loggerheads’ been more fitting.
For the uninitiated, ‘the Loggerheads’ is the heraldic term for the three leopards’ heads on a blue shield that comprise Shrewsbury’s coat of arms. The design dates back to the fifteenth century and first adorned our shirt as early as 1907.
Sure, a few other badges have been used since then – including some variations on the Loggerheads theme.
There was even a period during the mid eighties/early nineties when a line drawing of a shrew replaced it – to similar levels of disdain and derision.
In many ways the campaign to restore the Loggerheads is an echo of the excellent A Large Scotch fanzine’s efforts to oust ‘The Shrew’ over twenty years ago.
Happily the rather feeble looking rodent was eventually replaced by the Loggerheads, which again took its rightful place on the shirt for the 1992-93 season.
And that was that, we all thought. The squiggle of a shrew had been consigned to a rather embarrassing footnote in the club’s history and sense had prevailed.
However, five years ago, with our move to a new out-of-town stadium imminent, a new badge was foisted on an unsuspecting Salopian public.
It was hailed by then Chief Executive Steve Wellbeloved as a ‘clear, strong and clean’ design, by ‘top designer’ and (alleged) Shrewsbury fan Tony Brooks.
But once it was unveiled many of us could not believe our eyes when we saw what we were about to be lumbered with.
A generic ‘roaring lion’, reminiscent of Milwall and Chelsea’s crests, with no link to either our club or our town.
If you ever visited Gay Meadow as an away fan you may also recall having a drink at a nearby boozer called ‘The Old Lion Tap’ that has an identical image hanging outside it.
And if you munched on a Lion Bar en route from pub to ground…
It’s still difficult to believe that Tony Brooks is really a Town fan. How could anyone with any feeling or affinity for the club produce something so bland?
If a bunch of local school kids were set the task ‘design a new badge for Shrewsbury Town Football Club’ as homework, this is the sort of thing the most disinterested member of the class would turn in.
Worse was to follow when it was almost immediately outed as a piece of clip-art on fans’ forum the blue and amber messageboard.
The Lion was less than affectionately christened ‘Clippy’ by those of us who want a badge that acts as a symbol of our club and town – that says something about our identity and history.
After the initial proud boasts of the new logo, the club’s rebuttals and defence of ‘Clippy’ have been on the spurious grounds of ‘copyright protection’.
In this country copyright applies automatically from when a work is first created up until 70 years from when the original artist dies. Being several centuries old, the Loggerheads in their traditional ‘coat of arms’ setting are clearly well beyond the scope of copyright law.
But it seems it would be possible to copyright a custom designed logo which incorporates the historic Loggerheads crest, thus protecting the club commercially and retaining our historical identity.
The ‘copyright defence’ is even weaker in view of the knock-off tat sold during the team’s promotion parade through the town centre, with seemingly no legal action taken. Ditto stuff that occasionally pops up online.
The reason for this is obvious: despite the corporate pretensions of the club since the move to Oteley Road, we’re not Manchester United or Chelsea. We’re not an international ‘brand’, and never will be.
Without wanting to get too ‘Tubbs and Edward’ about it, we’re a club that depends on attracting and fostering a loyal local fanbase.
Suggestions that the club would have lost significant revenue had they not adopted ‘Clippy’ seem even more tenuous than the copyright defence – a number of fans refuse to buy any merchandise emblazoned with the leonine imposter.
Despite the chairman’s obvious irritation with the still bubbling discontent (leading to an ill tempered official statement in which he accused those still making an issue of the badge as ‘curtailing and demeaning our promotion’), the campaign to restore the Loggerheads has continued to gather momentum.
With the new season just getting underway some of the leading critics of Tony Brooks’ design launched the website www.bringbacktheloggerheads.co.uk. It’s an impressive, well written resource of fact, opinion and activism (including fans’ alternative designs) that’s well worth a visit.
It should be acknowledged, though, that not all Shrewsbury fans despise the new badge and support the campaign to bring back a design based on the historic crest.
There are plenty of the ‘who cares, it’s only a bloody badge’ types, who have made no secret of their disdain for the traditionalists’ campaign.
It’s difficult to find anyone who claims to actively like and prefer the new badge, and can mount a good argument for retaining it, though. Probably for the simple reason that there really isn’t one.
And despite the passion occasionally spilling over into anger and invective, this isn’t a case of ‘fans against the club’. These are supporters who love the club and can’t stand by while its history is discarded on tenuous commercial grounds.
It might be ‘just a badge’, but in an era when players seldom stick around for more than a couple of seasons or so (last season’s skipper Ian Sharps, as well as other key men Shane Cansdell-Sherriff and Nicky Wroe have all departed), a strong club identity matters more than ever.
Bring back the Loggerheads and Floreat Salopia!
31 August 2012