Leeds United: A club crest is more than an image; it's an identity

Leeds United: A club crest is more than an image; it's an identity

The outrage sparked by Leeds United’s new badge would no doubt have shocked the club’s hierarchy. They had spent more than six months in the design process, with the intention of creating a modern crest that also reflected their proud history. They failed spectacularly. Such was the scale of the criticism that within two hours of the logo being revealed, nearly 16,000 people had signed an online petition to demand it be scrapped.

It features a footballer in a white shirt with his arm across his chest, depicting the ‘Leeds Salute’, above the words ‘Celebrating fans at the heart of our community’. By any reasonable judgement, it is underwhelming and has been universally ridiculed, likened by some to crests found in computer games. Other comments are simply unprintable.

The biggest issue is it is such a departure from the current incarnation containing a white rose – emblematic of the county of Yorkshire – the club’s initials and the colours yellow and blue, which are synonymous with Leeds United. In comparison, the new version is positively futuristic and devoid of any tradition. It’s revolution, not evolution.

Leeds said they had consulted 10,000 people before designing the new badge, which was unveiled to commemorate their centenary year in 2019. In a statement, they said it “represents the passion and unique identity that runs through the club.” The reaction showed how far they had missed the mark. Many were left wondering which 10,000 people had been spoken to, since you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who would describe it as a success.

What has become abundantly clear in this episode is exactly how important to supporters the badge is. It is not just an image on a shirt; it is a symbolic representation of the club’s identity. It is not only world-renowned outfits like Manchester United and Liverpool who can be recognised simply by their crest, but those much further down the pyramid as well.

Leeds fans are among the most passionate in English football. Even after their fall from grace and relegation to League One a decade ago, which came as a consequence of financial mismanagement, Elland Road was often packed to the rafters. Leeds are a sleeping giant; a Premier League club in all but status. Could this be the year they finally return to the top-flight after a 14-year absence? They would certainly be a welcome addition.

Football fans are a stubborn bunch and resistant to change. Five years ago, Everton were forced to backtrack after a new badge they had proposed was similarly panned. Cardiff owner Vincent Tan was also condemned for changing the club’s home shirt from blue to red, in an attempt to make the club more marketable in Asia. After more than two years and much to supporters’ relief, Tan finally bowed to the pressure and the club reverted to blue.

For Leeds’ long-suffering fans, who have endured a fractious relationship with the powers-that-be in the recent past, this new crest was seen as another insult. To the club’s credit, they have already admitted they will rethink the new design, in light of the backlash. They’d be foolish not to. Even in this commercial age, supporters remain the lifeblood of a football club. As Leeds’ have shown over the past couple of days, their collective voice can still have an impact.

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