In whatever area of today’s internet driven business world, the corporate logo can be central to everything. This is true whether for the motor car industry or the local coffee chain.

Equally in the footballing world, the logo (badge or crest) is vital for to the club’s identity, promoting its cultural heritage and foundations.

In modern times logos of any kind have a rich symbolic significance.  For example, the emblem of a red cross on a white background is seen as a sign of protection under the Geneva Convention.

For most football fans the home colours and the club crest are a key aspect of club symbolism. These colours and that badge are expressed in a shared passion from the moment of club incorporation. Weekly it is expressed by fans whether via scarf, badges, rosettes, nickname, songs or flags.

The Football Crest  

Colours and symbols played a key part in the first ever international football match between England and Scotland which was played at Hamilton Crescent in 1872. 

Scotland in blue, faced off to England who played in white. 

Moreover, the Scots wore a shirt with a single lion (connected with the Scottish King) while the English emblem had a crest with three lions (indicative of the seal of Richard I) – each lion representing the Kingdom of England, Duchy of Normandy and the Duchy of Aquitaine.

History

The first football teams traditionally took to the field in a plain set of mixed cotton colours normally of two different shades.  The emblem (badge) of a club historically only presented an argument on a playing shirt after the period from 1900 onwards. 

The club badge in the early days of football was more often than not almost always composed of words, symbols and pictures.  It was often a tripartite composition consisting of a brief motto in Latin or the english language alongside a picture in a shape (often with maritime, heraldic or industrial significance).

The shape of the badge was more often than not circular in design.

The first crests of many clubs paid tribute to the history of the town or city and its prominent industry or significant landmarks.   Some clubs by the 1890’s initially wore simple stitched crests on their kits or initially for big occasions, such as cup finals or team photos.  Where badges did become more descriptive they were frequently just reproductions of their city’s coat of arms.

By the 1960’s teams began regularly displaying bespoke designed traditional crests on the playing kit. 

As playing kits started to become mass produced and sold by global sportswear firms so the iterations of the badge design have developed and changed becoming tailored into the often branded somewhat simplified colour logos we see today.

The Modern club Badge

Most club crests these days still present an argument composed of words and pictures which tell a story about the club’s history, locality and success.   In more modern times the common addition of ‘stars’ to the upper part of crests (see Nottingham Forest, Celtic or Aberdeen) hints at wider success in the realm of European football.   

Despite a Latin motto often being central to a club’s history and identity more often than not these messages have been dropped from crests since the 80’s. This has been done towards placing clubs in a global marketplace. 

What the modern badge does not do is make political, social, ethical, and religious commentary.

In the case of Tottenham Hotspur, the modern badge is simply a cockerel on a ball with the Audere est Facere motto now gone altogether. Notable logos do though still appear on the back of the playing shirt – such as is the case with FC Bayern ‘Mia San Mia.

The modern crest more often than not is then based on the concept of mass shirt production often seeing a movement away completely from a traditional design. It expresses mostly meaningful symbolism with a combination of textual or visual messages.

You will hear the term brand identity mentioned quite regularly where club colours are mentioned these days.    In the case of the biggest clubs (like Manchester United) the club badge is now more or less a trade mark with copyright rulings written into club merchandising policies.

Top 5 iconic club Badges

Despite the evolution of the club badge over the years and numerous iterations some crests have barely changed in colour, shape or style from the original badge design. 

Here I take a look at 4 clubs who have retained a traditional crest design since foundation. I then finish by looking at one club West Ham United who have moved onto a more modern style of badge branding while retaining a hint of its traditional club logo.

FC Barcelona

While the Barcelona kit takes on what seems a yearly change in style and aesthetic appearance the iconic crest has largely stayed the same since 1910. 

The current style was chosen after a competition was set up to find a new style for the club.

The winner of that competition was a man called Carles Comamala, a Catalonian medical student, footballer and cartoon illustrator.   Comamala drew influence from the original club badge but he disposed of the heraldic bat (now more commonly associated with Valencia) and instead incorporated a more football feel.  

The top area of the badge contains the St. George’s Cross – representing the patron saint of Catalonia – and which is also present in the coat of arms of the city of Barcelona. Next to this is the Catalan flag (the Senyera).

The bottom quarters contain the red and blue colours of the club; the club initials (all be it FCB and not the original CFB) and a football, which is central to the crest.  

FC Basel

It would seem foolish to mention the tradition of the FC Barcelona crest without going onto explore the identity of a club so implicitly crucial to that of Barcelona.

In 1899 a former FC Basel player Joan Gamper founded FC Barcelona. 

And, while many Barcelona club historians have denied such commonality as being fact, it is accepted by many that the Swiss club’s rotblau colours did inspire Barcelona’s now classic blaugrana claret and blue jerseys.  

Basel’s logo has always had the shape of a shield, the left half red and the right half blue. The shield is outlined in gold and in the centre in gold letters it reads “FCB” just like FC Barcelona. 

Currently the badge also contains the now common ‘star’ which symbolises that the club have been Swiss champions 10 times.

While the FCB acronym differs in shape on both club crests the addition by the 1990’s of a ball on the FC Basel crest also hints to the Barcelona badge.  

The ball added to the Basel crest is starkly similar and indeed virtually identical to the football on the FC Barcelona badge.  

1.FC Koln

One monument dominates the crest of German side 1.FC Koln and this is the Kölner Dom.  At 515ft, the cathedral is currently the tallest twin-spired church in the world.

Founded in 1948 from a union of two previous city sides FC Köln or the Die Geißböcke was selected as one of the original 16 teams to play in the German Bundesliga.  

Alongside the silhouette of the world famous cathedral the crest displays the Number 1, a German tradition signifying “erster Fußballclub” i.e. the first elite football club in town.

Generally the badge has stayed the same since foundation in 1948 apart from one significant addition – the goat.  The symbol of a goat has turned into a mascot of luck for the club after a goat named Hennes was handed to the club by a visiting circus in the 1950’s.

Olympiakos

In 1925 the Greek club Olympiakos was founded in Athens. 

One image stands out on the club emblem to this day and that is the image portraying the face of a young athlete wearing a wreath of olive leaves.  The leaves were traditionally awarded to winners in the ancient Olympic Games.

Minor changes to the badge have occured throughout the years. Red and white meanwhile were chosen as the colors of the crest; red for the passion and victory and white for the virtue and purity.

The four stars represent forty league titles for Olympiacos F.C

That male image symbolises strength, morals, sportsmanship and the Olympic ideal.   Red colours meanwhile was chosen to convey courage and passion. Finally white represents innocence and morality – all themes of ancient Greece.

West Ham United

For nearly 100 years London side West Ham United have been represented by two rivet hammers.  The symbolic representation of the hammers is a hint towards the club’s original foundation in 1895 as Thames Ironworks FC; a club for the areas heavy industry. 

The period from the 1960’s saw the addition of the local Green Street House or Boleyn Castle to the crest. This was a stately home in East Ham located in Newham, East London near where Upton Park was located.

But West Ham have made some distinct changes to its traditional badge over the last decade. After the 2012 Olympic Games (held in East London) a decision was made by the West Ham United board to move away from its traditional home of Upton Park and move to the former Olympic Stadium vacated after the games.

To coincide with the move away from Upton Park the symbol of Boleyn Castle was removed from the club badge and instead ‘London’ was added – a hint towards a more global era for the club.

The shape and visual style of the badge meanwhile has become more modern in look and feel but with key pointers to Thames Ironworks FC.