The four badge options (plus current version) for Barnsley FC fans to vote on
Having written about Everton’s decision to rebrand on the CR blog, writes Craig Oldham, I tempted fate in seeking private solace in my beloved Barnsley FC seemingly being set on the town’s coat of arms as their crest (opinions on that one aside). But I was way off – the club is next in line for a public vote ‘brand refresh’…
The work was announced by our recently appointed ex-Manchester United, Cantona-kick-defending, chairman Maurice Watkins, and sure enough, and suspiciously quickly, came the unveiling at bebarnsley.com of the above four options on a ‘refreshed’ crest (plus built-in abstain) seeking their vote from the Oakwell faithful.
My first reaction was “Interesting move (for a club that seems perpetually settled)”. My second was a sigh and a rub of my furrowed-enough brow. I couldn’t possibly repeat my third, but, to paraphrase – “So that’s what it feels like.”
As I touched on in my previous post, gone are the halcyon days of community pride and local relevance in football. What we have now is [Your Brand Here] Stadium, official savoury snack providers, and 2:05pm kick-offs.
But whilst I understand and appreciate that modern football business operates quite differently – and most certainly in different circumstances – we are still indeed talking about a Football Club. Which again led me to think about branding processes employed in such emotionally-charged projects.
Everton’s 2014/15 season crest is shown top right; the other two options fans voted on are shown bottom left and right. Rejected badge (2013/14 season) shown top left
As the Everton crest plight highlighted, fans felt alienated and rightly demanded a say. Their crusade led to a turn-around from the Club, from the take-it-or-leave-it stance to the voting method, similar to the one in which I now find myself with Barnsley. The thing is, I have to admit I don’t think either club is in a better position.
These voting processes appear, to me, to be one of mock inclusion of the fans by apparently offering a choice when the reality is more akin to the Henry Ford “any colour so long as it’s black” illusion.
Rather than involving and interrogating what supporters feel is important and best represents and symbolises their club, we’re presented with permutations of some predetermined elements, all of them identical and pilfered from the amalgamation of previous crests, just chucked in different shields.
It’s flower arranging. It’s like Ainsley Harriot tipping out the contents of the Ready Steady Cook carrier bag… “Oooo let’s see what we can do?!” It’s like being undecided on your favourite colour, so lobbing your top five in only to emerge with brown.
Previous Barnsley FC badges
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for a fresh start every time, but certainly a fresh approach.
Whilst I personally applaud Barnsley for instigating a process of change which aims towards positive reinvestment in a club that so desperately needs it, I cannot help but feel there must be a more open and inclusive process to employ when broaching a change of crest. An issue I’m sure no one would contest is one of the most emotive parts of every Football Club’s identity, and that surely goes for every Football Club.
When he announced the plan, Watkins went on to mention that he sees the Barnsley FC as “an integral part of the social fabric of the community” but wants to “truly connect” and become “the hub of all things Barnsley”.
Perhaps one way to do this would be to engage comprehensively with supporters and the community: before, during and afterwards. Then concentrate on the causes, needs, ideas and ambitions that actually mean something to the people who matter.
Who knows, this may even find alternative ways into maximising on commercial and financial opportunities for their brand which doesn’t involve even touching the crest.
In my eyes, it’s only after true immersion and involvement of supporters that any new representation of a Football Club actually have a chance of bringing in real value. Because box-ticking, in every sense, is just not good enough.
Craig Oldham is the founder of The Office Of Craig Oldham and has worked with numerous football clubs. His previous projects include the Democratic Lecture and the Hand.Written.Letter.Project and football poster-themed exhibition Glory Glory. He is a Barnsley fan and has indeed cast his vote (voting closes on November 25).