What is it with logos and rebrands? They cause such unnecessary stress. Some poor, pleasant bloke with a beard and a massive pair of headphones quietly arranges a few artwork files, adds some copy and reveals it to the world – it triggers the default seven day hysteria zone of anger, debate and piss-taking in social media.
At first glance it appeared that the English Defence League had re-branded under the leadership of Michael Dawson and Stephen Warnock, but having put that to bed, there is a lot to be intrigued by the move. Now that the hysteria window has closed, I think it’s time to give the lads at Futurebrand a break.
The English domestic game is in rude financial health, and the EFL should take great pride in developing a league with the fourth largest attendance in the world. There is talk in the press release about global identity, stakeholders, focus groups, having meetings with Johnstone’s Paints about it – but the heart of it is the opening quote.
"The new EFL name rightly emphasises the central role our clubs play at the heart of English professional football,” says Shaun Harvey. Quite right too.
We like leaving our houses and watching football in the fresh air with our own eyes. Can we do it at Rochdale on a Tuesday night? Unequivocally yes. Football clubs are at the heart of local communities, supported by local people. There is pride, a shared identity, a warmth from simply being together in the English Football League that is to be cherished. The heart of English professional football is a lovely, and accurate turn of phrase.
Of course though, it’s hard not to discuss the English Football League without bringing the Barclays Premier League into the fold. As a Queens Park Rangers fan, I feel highly qualified to comment on the club’s relationship with both.
Here we have a club with a fanbase essentially stretching in a thin strip from Ladbroke Grove to Heathrow, and a crowd of 18,000. Fans of the club are at their happiest when the team is passing the ball, playing attacking attractive football, the players are smiling and the shirt has a clear, broad blue hoop. That is it. With that approach they won the Championship in 2011, and that strip of West London smiled. A local joyful experience that had nationwide moment in the sun.
Yet the promised-land is the global multinational Barclays Premier League, where clubs are owned by oligarchs, sovereign funds and betting firms that happen to be located in Leicester or Stoke. As those clubs become global commodities, they risk a fraying of ties between fans and communities, something the Premier League are acutely aware of.
The more money gets made selling shirts in Malaysia, the more disingenuous the ‘clubs in the community’ initiatives can appear. Without depth and graft, they have all the faux-empathy of a community pinboard in your local, global conglomerate, Starbucks.
Roughly 35 chairmen will use the phrase “take our rightful place in the Barclays Premier League,” in their programme notes; mistakenly thinking fans only care about success. We want to win. We want to be on Match of the Day each weekend. It’s nice to have the grandeur and the status. But it is not as important as the shared identity and love of the club, wherever it finds itself.
But you can’t fall deeply in love without the highs and lows. The heart of English football pumping vigorously through the English Football League makes all of football’s vital organs function better – so flat caps off to them, and good luck.