Ever wondered why London’s Premier League football teams wear the badges they do? We know the score.
Arsenal’s club badge famously features a cannon. Why? The team started out in 1886 as Dial Square FC, a group of munitions workers at Woolwich’s Royal Arsenal factory. With their first crest in 1905, the club borrowed heavily from the coat of arms of the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich — in this first incarnation, three gun barrels stuck out the top of three lions’ heads, looking like an early attempt at a weapon of mass destruction.
The logo, of course, also explains the club’s nickname as ‘The Gooners’, a derivation of ‘Gunners’.
The team went through a few names changes: Royal Arsenal, then Woolwich Arsenal, and eventually plain old Arsenal. In 1913 they shifted northward, and wound up with an area of London and a tube station named after them (jammy so-and-sos), but by that time the associations with munitions was indelible.
As with many football teams’ badges, Arsenal’s current incarnation has stripped away former frills — think scrolly, leafy bits and bobs, plus the motto ‘Clamant nostra tela in regis querela’ (‘Our weapons clash in the King’s quarrel’).
A Dial Square F.C. team was reformed in 2020, by disillusioned Arsenal fans (although is there any other kind?).
After learning how Arsenal came about, you’d like to think the founding members of Brentford FC were apiarists on a mass honey manufacturing plant. Sadly, that’s not why the club is nicknamed ‘The Bees’. The truth is a little more random; during the 1894/5 season, students from Borough Road College came to a Brentford game, cheering on their pal Joe Gettins with the college chant “Buck up, B’s” (The B’s in question presumably Brentford or Borough). The chant was misreported by the press as ‘Bees’, the club shrugged its shoulders and went with it. Still, it wasn’t till the 1960s that the badge first featured a hive, and 1972 when the crest first prominently starred a bee on it.
The current badge was revealed for the club’s 20017/18 season, following a consultation in which they decided to get rid of all the faff, including the the Middlesex coat of arms.
Think Chelsea and you think a fearsome lion; the club’s motif takes its cue from the Cadogan coat of arms — the Cadogans being a powerful family who own Cadogan Estates in Chelsea. (Charles Cadogan, 8th Earl Cadogan, also chaired the football club for a very brief spell in 1981-2.) The scarlet roses on the badge represent England, and the footballs represent, er, football.
But here’s the thing: that lion only roared into action in 1953. Chelsea’s original club badge featured none other than… a mutton-chopped Chelsea Pensioner. A respectful nod to the area’s heritage, sure, but perhaps not the dynamic association you want for a team of young lads — especially when your fans are calling you ‘The Pensioners’. Football’s sensiblest rebrand.
In Crystal Palace Park, you’re more likely to come across crows than eagles. Still, it’s the latter that boisterously spreads its span on the south-east London football team’s crest. Why? Taking their name from Joseph Paxton’s glassterpiece, the Crystal Palace, the Penge-based football team were originally nicknamed ‘the Glaziers’. That stuck until 1973, when then-manager Malcolm Allison decided to give his team an avian rebrand, borrowing the nickname of Benfica, ‘As Águias’. (The revamp also involved switching the kit to the red and blue stripes we know so well today.)
The eagle perches on/sinks its talons into (?) a football, which itself is worked into the design of the splendid Crystal Palace — a motif that has been on Palace’s badge from the time it was revealed in the late 1940s.
From 2010-2020, an eagle called Kayla was a regular home fixture appearance at Selhurst Park, giving a little more credence to Palace’s nickname. Maybe it’s better they ditched the ‘Glaziers’ nickname, seeing as it sounds a bit too similar to the troubled owners at Man United.
When it comes to club crests, Fulham F.C. have been decidedly undecided. The team has been through a slew of rather different designs, with combinations of crossed swords, a knight’s helmet and a Viking ship (all of these were taken from the coat of arms of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham). In 2001, the club ditched all of these motifs, switching to a heavily stylised ‘FFC’, which wouldn’t look out of place in the 1930s.
In 1931, by the way, the club briefly incorporated the Fulham Cottage of their ground’s namesake into the badge. It looks so crumbling and derelict, all it’s missing is a wrecking ball making a swing for it.
In the vein of Crystal Palace’s motif, Tottenham’s crest features a big bird balancing on a football. The cockerel has been on the badge since 1921, and it started doing balancing tricks on the ball in 1972.
Before that, says Logos World, the team’s emblem was simply a red ‘H’. Why so? Sir Henry Percy aka ‘Harry Hotspur’ is said to have lived in this region many moons ago, with his descendants owning land here. The team is named after Hotspur (himself said to have earned the nickname by being a fan of sticking sharp things into horses when charging into battle), and their use of spurs on the club badge evolved into a cockerel (known for wearing spurs during cock fights).
As with all these club badges, there have been fussier designs through the ages (including ones bearing the Spurs motto ‘Audere est facere’ (to dare is to do), but the current design is very much minimal.
A bronze sculpture of the iconic rooster on display at the Spurs ground has some suspect dents in it; apparently these are from the time Gazza had at it with an air rifle. Standard Gazza.
West Ham are famously known as ‘The Hammers’, a nickname that stems from the club originally being made up of workers at the Thames Iron Works and Shipbuilding Co in Blackwall. The hammers on the logo represent the riveting hammers that’d have been used to fasten together the parts of a ship.
For many years, a castle appeared on the badge too — this was the ‘Boleyn Castle’, aka Green Street House, which sat next to the club’s former ground at Upton Park. It disappeared from the badge in 2016. If we go way back to the foundation of the club in 1895, the club’s logo was a kind of Sunlit Uplands Union Flag kind of affair.
The actual shape of the current badge has great significance, too. We learned on a walk around Blackwall with guide Rob Smith, that the crest is shaped like the bow of HMS Warrior, the first armour-plated, iron-hulled warship built and launched at the Thames Ironworks, in 1860.
As for the claret and blue colour palette? There’s a story that suggests a runner by the name of William Dove challenged a load of Aston Villa players to a race, won, and received a shirt in lieu of money. He then passed the claret and blue Villa shirt onto his son Charlie, an Ironworks player, and the colours were adopted by the team, who soon became West Ham. Smashing tale if true.