The Club Crest Evolution
Badge, crests, logos, however you define them, they've always provoked strong emotional reactions.
These are the unique elements that define a club and are proudly stitched onto the club shirts up and down the land. Over time they have become associated with different eras but recently we've seen a consist pattern emerge as football enters a new global and digital era.
Whilst some clubs are reverting back to crests of old (Man City), others are taking a bolder future-thinking approach like Juve, who've done away with their historic badge for a relatively simple 'J'. Change is happening all around us. Remember when Leeds unveiled a disturbingly generic new badge in 2018? It resembled something from the classic game Football Manager. Twitter lit up with fury before the club quickly reversed the decision.
As football clothing enters the mainstream pop culture offline and expands its content and reach online, clubs are adjusting their crests accordingly as they battle to not just survive but thrive. The game has truly gone global and clubs want to make themselves seen and heard on the international scene. Larger clubs, especially those consistently performing in Europe, want a global brand and their crests are key to instigating this change.
Tradition and consumerism are at a cross roads in the game and naturally fans have been paying a close attention to these modifications, especially since the turn of the millennium.
We've selected five European clubs that have refreshed their crests to meet the demands of the new global and digital landscape. We start with the La Vecchia Signora, who raised eyebrows back in 2017, brace yourselves!
On January 18th 2017, Juventus president Andrea Agnelli unveiled Juventus' new badge and branding. The iconic shield which had been used for over 100 years was cast aside for a modern 'J'. Juve were looking to the future, he said. The current badge was too messy, and unfit for digital content, as well as unsuitable for apparel.
The bull of Turin, which featured within the crest was lost, alongside the use of the yellow colour which featured on and off in recent modifications. It was a firm and forward-thinking statement. The letter J isn't used in the Italian alphabet and Juve wanted to capitalise on this and make J synonymous with the club. A few years later and Juventus have unified the J museum, J hotel, J medical centre. It's all part of a wider plan to building a brand bigger than football.
The initial reaction, as you can imagine, wasn't too kind. A proportion of fans were already angry after the club raised ticket prices and decided to finally step in and manage the Curva Sud and their ultras better. A ticket scandal with club officials and the Ultra groups was exposed and went to court, causing a toxic relationship between both parties (that still isn't fixed to this day).
As the club broadens its appeal and merchandising revenues shoot up, it looks like the club made the right call, even if it alienates the club's hardcore local supporters. The club are trying to compete with the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, PSG and Bayern Munich, not Sassuolo or Lecce. The new badge is only part of a bigger brand and development plan, with the idea of a European Super League at the front of president Andrea Agnelli's mind.
Just at the time of writing this article, Juventus made a further change, dropping the text 'Juventus' above the crest. This was the planned version 2 of the crest, once fans had got used to the 2017 switch. It's another signal that the club are thinking ahead and pushing their brand into new non-football territories (think of the NY cap so famous around the globe).
This East London side are a proud working-class club, well known for their FA cup exploits in the 60s and strong ties to the national side.
For over a century, there badge has been represented by two hammers, a nod to their original founding name, Thames Ironworks. The area was dominated by the docks and shipbuilding industry. Their badge has been a fair reflection of their local area and over time the Boylen Castle was incorporated into it.
Over the past twenty years, London have boomed economically, alongside with the rise of the Premier League. London-based sides have been keen to capitalise on this and West Ham have made a serious effort to attract a new foreign fan base (specifically in Asia).
The club felt that the Boleyn ground was stunting their growth so they eventually moved into the London Stadium (formerly the 2012 Olympic Stadium). Not only did the ground accommodate more fans (34,000 to 62,000) but it gave the Hammers an opportunity to refresh their brand, and image, and more specifically their crest.
Gone was the Boleyn Castle, and the words 'West Ham United' were dropped for simply 'London'. The shape of the crest changed too, inspired by the British navy frigate HMS Warrior, which was built in 1860. Now on face value there doesn't seem to be a huge contrast but by replacing the club name with simply 'London', this shows what kind of direction the club wants to take. They want to make waves on the international stream and take advantage of the cities popularity (especially being situated on the site of the 2012 Olympic Games, which was an excellent advert for the city).
The crest appears more clean and simple, dropping the old school crest outline for something more easy on the eye. The new badge (which was introduced in their opening season at the London Stadium) was actually voted for by the fans however some were unhappy at the removal of the castle, which had been in place for over half a century.
As the club puts it themselves on their website, 'The claret and blue colours remain prominent, with a new, modern, digital-friendly typeface and the addition of the word ‘London’, in reference to both the club’s move to the Olympic Stadium on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and its growing global standing.'
Paris Saint-Germain was relatively late to the party, having been founded in 1970 through a merger of Paris FC and Stade Saint-German. For a city as big as Paris, it's always been rather baffling that they never had a strong side able to compete in Europe. That of course, all changed when Qatar Sports Investments bought the club in 2011. They've since become the driving force in French football, losing the league title on only two occasions (the first seasons since the takeover went to Montpellier and Monaco pipped them to the title in 2017).
Prior to the latest modification in 2011, the crest had important city symbols embedded within, such as the Eiffel Tower, the fleur-de-lis and the cradle of King Louis XIV inside the circular crest. The cradle is a rather odd insertion to outsiders, having been chosen because Louis XIV was born in St-Germain-en-Laye in 1538 whilst the lily above it to the left is deep rooted in french culture and history.
The latest iteration saw the cradle and the reference to the club's founding year (1970) was dropped, the text 'Paris' doubled in side and 'Saint-Germain' was moving to the bottom of the rounded badge. This was clearly an attempt to improve the club's draw as a global brand, with 'Paris' now the element that draws you in most. The colours also changed, with the dark blue becoming lighter and the white replaced for the most part with silver.
The club faced discontent from the fans over the iteration, as they felt their history was being phased out as the club aimed to go global. Popular French newspapers stated at the time that 'what the logo gains in simplicity and aesthetics, it loses culturally and historically'.
When Pallotta took bought the Giallorossi in 2011, he had bold aims to bring the club into the 21st century and capitalise on its potential. Roma is a world-famous location, with over 9 million tourists visiting annually.
The club has historically been underwhelming in the silverware department, with only three league titles (scudetti) and the most recent coming in 2001. Pallotta knew that the key to un-tapping the Eternal cities favourite team was a new stadium. As part of their strategy, a re-brand was underway to make the club more appealing to foreign markets.
On first glance, the two more recent crests look relatively the same. The outline hadn't changed and the statue of the she-wolf that nursed Romulus and Remus was slightly enlarged and looked cleaner. It's only when you notice that the old 'ASR' text had been watered down to simply say 'ROMA' with the year's foundation underneath, you notice the pattern.
Former exec Italo Zanzi stated ;the launch of our updated brand is aligned with our vision for the future - one that combines heritage and aggressive global growth'
The move was met with fierce criticism from fans, who felt that dropping 'ASR' (which has been a constant theme in its history) hasn't been copied and it was all a cynical capitalised move that summed up what's wrong with modern football.
Depending on what side of the fence you sat on, either newcomer Pallotta was erasing the clubs past or taking the logical next step in Roma's quest for European and global expansion.
We've saved the best till last. The most obviously and striking example in recent times of a club throwing history and tradition out of the window in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience.
Enter Vincent Tan, a successful Malaysian businessman who took over the reins of Cardiff back in 2012. He wasted no time in becoming public enemy number one in the Welsh capital and decided on changing the club colours and the badge to attract Asian fans.
Cardiff had proudly worn blue for over a century and its logo has always feature the blue bird. Tan believed switching its colours to red would be more appealing, as red is a lucky colour in Asia and the dragon is synonymous with both Wales and the Orient. A dragon has been associated with the club but had never been a prominent feature until now.
The fans reacted immediately, protesting against the changes and eventually forced Tan to revert the club colour changes and amend the crest. The end result was a mixed bag, with Tan keeping the dragon, albeit smaller in size, with the bluebird returning to the centre stage. The red colour adored by Tan so much is also still visible around the edges of the crest.
Written by Richard Tester
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