How football badges have changed through the ages

How football badges have changed through the ages (and the meanings behind the emblems of Britain’s most famous clubs)

They are iconic images that go hand in hand with historic football clubs across the country.

Club crests and badges are a source of pride for fans and prominently featured on club-branded clothing, while some supporters are so dedicated they even get them as tattoos.

The first crests of many clubs paid tribute to the history of the town or city and its prominent industries or landmarks. 

Most clubs initially only wore stitched crests on their kits for big occasions, such as cup finals, and they were frequently just reproductions of their town or city’s coat of arms.

But by the 1960s teams began regularly displaying bespoke designs on their kits. 

Some fans may be unaware at how present day badges have changed over the decades and differ greatly from their original design.

The meaning of crests of more than 200 clubs from 20 different leagues is covered in new book World Football Club Crests published by Bloomsbury, exploring the design, meaning and symbolism of the game’s most famous club crests to reveal why the badges look as they do.

Here MailOnline looks at how crests of prominent clubs have changed over the years: 


Chelsea’s crest was originally designed in tribute to the Chelsea pensioner, veterans who lived at the nearby Royal Hospital Chelsea.

It featured a bearded pensioner in uniform on a blue circle, and remained in place from inception in 1905 until the early 1950s.

But when Ted Drake became manager in 1952, he saw the crest as outdated and ’embarrassing’, and ordered a new design.

Chelsea’s original crest featured a Chelsea pensioner, left, in 1905, but it was ditched in favour of a lion from the borough’s coat of arms in 1953, right, when new manager Ted Drake felt the old badge was outdated.

In the 1980s Ken Bates introduced a new, more realistic lion, left, on top of the club’s initials as a new crest but it proved unpopular. The current badge, right, created in 2005, is a modern reflection of the 1950s crest featuring red roses and footballs

The club took inspiration from the lion on the coat of arms of the Metropolitan Borough of Chelsea, placing it in the middle of a blue circle alongside three red roses, to represent England, and two footballs, alongside the club name.

When Ken Bates became chairman in the 1980s, he ordered another crest be ‘modernised’ after it was found the club could not trademark the lion.

Instead a new design was made of a more traditional lion perched on the club’s initials.

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But the badge changed again following billionaire Roman Abramovich’s takeover, after fans clamoured for a return to the historic lion crest ahead of the club’s centenary in the 2005/2006 season.

A special centenary badge was designed, which has since been slightly modified to become the present day version. 


Liverpool’s crest is another that looks much different to its original design and has gone through many iterations over the decades, although they have often been based around a shield theme.

The club’s first badge was made in 1892 upon the club’s founding and featured the Liver bird, the emblem of the city, alongside maritime symbols including a merman and a trident to represent Liverpool’s status as a successful port.

The imaginary Liver bird, a cross between an eagle and a cormorant, was created in 1207 as a seal used to confirm Liverpool’s city status when granted by King John.

The original Liverpool badge from 1982, pictured, featured the Liver bird alongside maritime symbols to highlight the city’s successful port

Liverpool’s crest has always been based around the fictional Liver bird, from the Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley era design, left, to the 1980s version first introduced in 1987, centre, and the more modern badge, right, introduced in 1999 which also referenced the Shankly gates while paying tribute to the Hillsborough disaster victims with two eternal flames

Liverpool’s crest has been redesigned several times but the Liver bird has always featured whether the modern simple badge alongside the clubs initials or on complex shields under a picture of the Shankly Gates at home ground Anfield, built in tribute to legendary manager Bill Shankly in 1982.

The words ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, previously sat atop the badge in reference to the supporters’ famous song, while today’s Liver bird has seaweed in its beak in a nod to the ‘pool’ part of the city’s name.

Eternal flames were also placed on either side of the shield in its centenary version to remember the victims of the Hillsborough Stadium crush disaster which killed 96 people in 1989.


Manchester United’s iconic crest has undergone a massive change since it first appeared.

The initial badge was derived from the city council’s coat of arms, including an antelope and lion wearing the red rose of Lancashire alongside a gold chain in reference to the city’s engineering industry and a castle crown in tribute to the Roman Castlefield settlement. 

Like Liverpool’s badge, it referenced Manchester’s port with a ship at the top of a shield and three black lines on a red background underneath, a symbol of the Grelley family who ruled the land for 300 years after William the Conqueror’s invasion in 1066. 

Manchester United’s badge has remained a similar shape since the 1960s, left, when it bizarrely contained two Yorkshire white roses alongside a ship representing the canal trade and three lines in tribute to the Grelley family who ruled the area in feudal times. By the early 1970s a red devil was added, and in the early 1990s, centre, the lettering was changed to gold. A controversial move followed in 1998, right, when ‘football club’ was dropped from the badge

But Sir Matt Busby’s arrival at the club in the 1950s led to him adopting the Red Devils nickname of nearby rugby club Salford and sparked the design of a new badge.

Initially in the 1960s the shield and ship remained alongside the name in a red and white design, bizarrely featuring the white rose of Yorkshire.

By the 1970s it became a red and gold design and the devil took its place underneath the ship, where it has remained to this day, clutching a pitchfork.

In 1998 the club controversially became the first to drop the words ‘Football Club’ from the border around the shield in what was criticised as a move to make it ‘more marketable’.


Arsenal’s badge has always followed the team’s nickname – the Gunners – and the club’s origins in the Borough of Woolwich. 

Founded there in 1886 by workers at the Royal Arsenal in south London, the club moved north to Highbury only in 1913 and so the badge borrowed the familiar cannon symbol from the Metropolitan Borough of Woolwich coat of arms.

This reflects the long military tradition in Woolwich, which is also home to the Royal Artillery Regiment. 

Initially, three cannons appeared on the crest, but they were changed into one in the 1920s. 

Arsenal initially used the Woolwich coat of arms as its badge from its founding in 1886, left, and kept the cannon theme when the club designed a new badge in 1949, centre, alongside the Latin for ‘Victory grows out of Harmony’. The modern badge, right, from 2002, keeps the cannon in place but has been simplified to just include the name and colours of the club

At this time, the logo didn’t appear on the Arsenal shirts but was reserved for club stationary and the matchday programme.

In 1949, a shield version was unveiled, featuring the Latin motto ‘Victoria Concordia Crescit’ or ‘Victory grows out of harmony,’ the club name in bold lettering and the Borough of Islington’s coat of arms.

Later versions introduced the familiar red background and at the start of this century, the cannon was made gold.

The club made the decision to modernise the crest in 2002, as bosses prepared to move to a new home at the Emirates Stadium in 2006.

During the 2011-2012 season, the 125th anniversary of the club, gold laurel and oak leaves were introduced, along with the word ‘Forward’, although they only remained in place for one year.


Manchester City also used Manchester’s coat of arms until 1964, when an original crest was created in a circular shape, with the club name surrounding a central shield bearing a ship in the upper half representing the Manchester Ship Canal the bottom was three diagonal stripes to signify the three rivers that flow through the city – the Irwell, the Irk and the Medlock.

Tweaks were later made in 1973 replacing the stripes with a red Lancashire rose. 

The first Manchester City badge was created in 1964, left, featuring a ship to represent the canal and three stripes to signify the Irwell, Irk and Medlock rivers. In 1973, the badge was tweaked to add a red Yorkshire rose, right

By 1997 the crest, left, underwent a complete overhaul, adding a golden eagle motif complete with decorative gold stars and the Latin for ‘Pride in Battle’. But following a fan vote in 2015, it was changed back to its traditional style, adding the year of its founding

A redesign followed in 1997, adding a golden eagle, three decorative gold stars, club initials and the Latin motto ‘Superbia in Proelio’ which translates as ‘Pride in Battle.’ 

In 2015 the club returned to the circular version, dropping the motto and simplifying the design by adding 1894, the year it was founded, to the edges and retaining the ship, rose and stripes.


The first Everton logo was adopted in 1922, featuring the club’s initials on a blue shield, although this was not been used on the plain shirts of the time. 

At the end of the 1937-1938 season, club secretary Theo Kelly was tasked with designing a new club tie and came up with the idea of incorporating local landmark ‘The Beacon’ into the crest.

Located on nearby Everton Brow, the tower was opened in 1787 as an overnight ‘lock-up’ for local drunks and criminals.

Everton’s club crest has gone through many different designs over the years but has often contained the ‘Beacon’ landmark, a tower used as a lock-up for drunks and criminals. Pictured left is the badge used between 1983 and 1991, and right the version used between 2000 and 2013, which included the Latin for ‘Nothing but the best is good enough’

In 2013, a new version was produced which dropped the Latin, left, and was roundly criticised by fans, leading to a new badge, right, being made a year later restoring the phrase and adding laurels as a symbol of success

It remains there today, a grade II listed building, and has been the centrepiece of the club crest ever since. 

Mr Kelly also included laurel wreaths, a hallmark of victory since Roman times, and the Latin motto ‘Nil Satis, Nisi Optimum’ which means ‘Nothing but the best is good enough.’

The logo was a little too complicated to be stitched on to the club jerseys initially, so a bold ‘EFC’ was preferred until the 1980s. 

A new edition made in 2013 was criticised by fans because it omitted the Latin inscription, and after a fan vote the words were reinstated a year later.


The common theme throughout the history of Aston Villa’s badge has been the Rampant Lion of Scotland, in reference to the key role Scotsmen William McGregor and George Ramsay has in founding the club.   

McGregor, from Perthshire, served the club for 20 years as president, director and chairman, and played a pivotal role in the establishment of the Football League.

Ramsay, from Glasgow, was secretary and manager of the club between 1884 and 1926, overseeing the most successful period of its history, winning six league titles and six FA Cups. 

Aston Villa’s badge has always featured the Rampant Lion of Scotland in tribute to the Scotsmen involved in the founding of the club. Pictured right is the version used in the 1970s and 1980s. The design was changed to a shield by the 1990s, centre, with the word ‘Prepared’ added. Then in 2007, right, the colour scheme was changed and a white star added to represent the club’s 1982 European Cup win

The ‘Prepared’ motto, which has been part of the crest for most of its history, could originate from Glasgow Rangers, who have the word ‘Ready’ on their logo and a near identical lion. 

The first badge was simply a red lion, until it became a shield which has been changed numerous times but has always featured the claret and blue colours of the club. 

In 2007, the club redesigned the crest, adding a white star to signify its 1982 European Cup triumph, while prepared was removed from beneath the lion.


Tottenham Hotspur’s crest has been associated with a cockerel since the 1921 FA Cup final.  

It references Sir Henry Percy, aka Harry Hotspur, after whom the club is believed to have been named, who fitted his fighting cocks with spurs, which are visible in the logo.

In 1909, a former player called William James Scott made a bronze cast of a cockerel standing on top of a football and ever since it has been the club’s main symbol. 

Between 1956 and 1983, Tottenham wore a heraldic shield featuring lions on either side from the coat of arms of the Northumberland family, of which Harry Hotspur was a member.

Tottenham Hotspur’s famous cockerel and ball symbol first appeared in 1909, left, when it was made in bronze to sit atop a stand at White Hart Lane. A badge was created in 1956 featuring a shield containing lions from the coat of arms of the Northumberland family, Bruce Castle, located near White Hart Lane, and trees representing the Seven Sisters

In 1983 the badge was reduced to the cockerel and lions, but kept the Latin ‘To dare is to do’. In 2006 it was simplified further to the cockerel and ball above the club name

It also featured Bruce Castle, located near White Hart Lane, and trees representing the Seven Sisters.

Latin motto ‘Audere Est Facere’, which means ‘To dare is to do’, was written underneath the shield.

This was reduced to the lions, cockerel and Latin motto in 1983 and then to just the cockerel and the ball in 2006.

Tottenham briefly changed the badge again in the 2017/2018 season to add a shield around the cockerel, meant to represent the protection of the club after it moved to Wembley while the new stadium was being built.

Although the club is still playing games at Wembley this season due to construction delays, the shield has been dropped. 


Like many other clubs, Newcastle wore the city’s crest on big occasions but it was slow in creating an official crest, which was not unveiled until 1969 for the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Final win over Hungarian side Újpesti Dózsa. 

It featured a castle motif dating to 1080, when Robert Curthose, the eldest son of William the Conqueror, ordered a ‘New Castle’ to be built on the current site of the city.

Two seahorses were placed either side as a reminder of the prosperity of Newcastle’s sea port. 

Newcastle’s first bespoke badge was made in 1976, featuring a magpie in front of the city’s Castle Keep and the River Tyne. In 1983 it was changed to a simple design of the clubs initials above a magpie, before changing to its current iteration in 1988, featuring two seahorses, a royal lion and the pennon of St George to reflect the successful port trade and the city’s Royalist traditions 

The royal lion and pennon of St George at the top of the crest reflect the town’s Royalist tradition during the civil war and its resistance of attack from the Scots in the 14th century, while the Latin ‘Fortiter Defendit Triumphans’ means ‘Triumphing by Brave Defence’.

During the 1970s, as was the trend at the time, Newcastle employed a simpler design of the club’s initials in bold worked into the shape of a football with a magpie, from the nickname, at the bottom.

Another featured the magpie in front of a sketch of the castle, with the name round the outside.


The original West Ham logo was simply a crossed pair of rivet hammers, which were common tools in the local iron and shipbuilding industries, introduced in the 1923 FA Cup final.

The club itself was founded in 1895 as the team of the Thames Ironworks, leading to the nickname ‘The Irons’. 

Another long term part of the crest was Boleyn Castle, which once stood where the club’s former ground Upton Park, aka the Boleyn Ground, was before they left in 2016.

West Ham’s first crest was the iconic crossed hammers, left, used in the 1923 FA Cup final. It was updated by 1998 to add the Boleyn Castle, which once stood where the club’s former stadium Upton Park was. In 2016 the current badge was unveiled after a fan vote, and simply features the hammers, the club name and London

It was the manor here Henry VIII is believed to have courted Anne Boleyn, whom became his second wife and gave birth to Elizabeth I before she was executed. 

The castle could also refer to the adoption of local side Boleyn Castle FC as West Ham’s reserve side in 1904.

The original peaked rooves on the tower were removed in a 1997 redesign, with just the turrets remaining. Some of the ‘cruciform’ windows were removed too.

Then in 2014 fans were asked to vote on a new design and chose to remove the castle altogether.

The current badge was unveiled in 2016 and features the hammers, the club name and ‘London’, and was created to coincide with West Ham’s move to the former Olympic Stadium in Stratford.


West Bromwich Albion were one of the earliest clubs to adopt an official crest although once again it did not feature regularly on its kit until the late 1960s, with the coat of arms used in several FA Cup finals.

The club is thought to have chosen the ‘throstle’, or song thrush, in the 1880s and originally it was perched on a crossbar.

It was later changed to sit on a hawthorn branch in 1900 when West Brom moved to The Hawthorns ground.   

West Bromwich Albion have been very consistent in their use of crest, with the ‘throstle’ bird on a hawthorn branch, left, used since 1900, although it did not appear on kits regularly until the 1960s. In 2006 the crest, right, was updated to include the team name

The West Bromwich town arms were worn in the 1931, 1935 and 1954 FA Cup finals, with the Latin motto ‘Labor omnia vincit’ or ‘Work conquers all.’

In the Sixties and Seventies, the throstle was used, with ‘WBA’ also added by the Eighties. 

Unusually, West Brom did not feature the club name on the badge until 2006. 

The current logo combines the club’s name, the throstle and the hawthorn branch inside a shield of the club’s blue and white stripes.


The first Fulham crest, adopted in 1898, featured the crossed swords of St Paul adopted from the arms of the Diocese of London, whose bishops had held the Manor of Fulham since the end of the seventh century.

In the 1930s, the badge featured a black and white sketch of home ground Craven Cottage. 

This was dropped after the war, with Fulham adopting the crest of the local borough on a red and later white background. 

The original Fulham crest, left, was created in 1898 and featured the crossed swords of St Paul, taken from the coat of arms of the Diocese of London. The badge was then changed to copy the arms of the borough of Fulham in 1945, right

The badge was updated by 1995, left with wavy blue line to reflect the River Thames, before it was completely simplified to just the club’s initials in 2001, right

A Danish galley on that badge related to the band of Viking pirates who assembled at Fulham in 827 after sailing down the Thames.

Its replacement in 1971 couldn’t have been any more different, consisting of just ‘FFC’ in a black monogram. 

By the 1995, elements of the Borough logo were restored, including the wavy blue lines to indicate the River Thames, which runs at the back of the ground.

To coincide with Fulham’s first Premier League campaign, in 2001, a black and white shield was designed with the club’s initials in red lettering.


Sunderland’s first crest featured a black cat sitting atop a gold-coloured football on a red and white shield, capped with an ancient ship in black, a nod to the town’s export of coal which became a prosperous business.

In 1937, Sunderland beat Preston North End in the FA Cup final and, as was traditional, wore the town’s coat of arms on their shirts as a badge, which the council actually asked to be unstitched and returned.

By the 1970s, simpler emblems using the club’s initials featured on shirts, sometimes with the red and white shield and in the 1973 Cup final with Leeds, the lettering took on a curly effect and was slanted diagonally.

The original Sunderland crest, left, was based upon the local coat of arms and was used in the early 1970s. In 1977, a shield-shaped badge, centre, featuring the ship and a football on a red, white and black background was designed and stayed until 1997, when the current badge, right, featuring nods to local landmarks, was introduced

In 1977, a shield-shaped badge featuring the ship and a football on a red, white and black background was designed and kept until the team moved from Roker Park to the Stadium of Light in 1997.

The current design is more elaborate and influenced by local landmarks. 

The central shield is divided into quarters, with the bottom right depicting the Wearmouth Bridge that links the north and south of the city and the top left showing the Penshaw Monument, a well-known local landmark. The other two quarters are the club’s colours in red and white stripes.

At either side are two lions, borrowed from the city’s coat of arms, while the colliery wheel situated at the top marks County Durham’s strong mining heritage and references that the Stadium of Light is built on land that was once Wearmouth Colliery. 

The Latin inscription ‘Consectatio Excellentiae’ means ‘In pursuit of excellence.’


The Leeds United club crest is one that has undergone many variations over the years since it was founded in 1919.

Initially the club featured a blue owl in a circle in the 1960s, which could be confused with Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday.

It was actually a reference to the city’s coat of arms, which contained three owls, but this was changed to a simple initials crest for the 1972 FA Cup final for an unusual reason. 

The first Leeds badge, left, featured a blue owl and could have been mistaken for Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday. It was dropped by manager Don Revie in 1972 who believed the birds were bad luck, and replaced with a ‘smiley’ badge, right, until 1981

In 1984 a football set inside the white rose of Yorkshire, left, was introduced as the badge after a fan design competition was run and then it was changed again in 1998, right, to a yellow and blue shield featuring the white rose

The manager of the club at the time, Don Revie, was very superstitious and he dropped the owl after being told it was unlucky.

A year later Revie was persuaded by marketing worker Paul Trevillion to revolutionise the image of the club. 

This included the use of the iconic ‘smiley’ badge – a yellow circle with two lines across at the top, which saw a number of iterations used up until 1981.

The club briefly used the image of a peacock on it’s badge, introduced by the then kit manufacturers, Umbro, to reflect an early nickname given to the club.

A controversial new badge, pictured, featuring the ‘Leeds salute’ was created earlier this year but immediately ditched after outrage from fans who called it ‘tacky’ and likened it to something from an old computer game. A new badge is set to be revealed next year

In 1984 a football set inside the white rose of Yorkshire was introduced as the badge after a fan design competition was run. 

This was used until 1998 when it was changed to a shield containing a white Yorkshire rose above the club’s initials and several yellow stripes.

That remained in place until earlier this year, when the club caused an uproar by unveiling a new ‘salute’ crest that featured a man in a white shirt with his arm across his chest.

It was described as looking like it came from an old computer game and after a petition was launched against it, the club decided to halt the redesign and ask for ideas from supporters, with a new badge set to be decided upon next year.


Southampton’s crest, like many others, borrowed elements from the city’s emblem, which was used until the 1970s. 

The first bespoke crest was designed after a public competition was launched. 

In the 1960s and 1970s Southampton borrowed elements from the city’s coat of arms to create basic badges, left and centre, before the current design was created following a competition in the 1970s

Rolland Parris won, and his logo included a halo in reference to the Saints nickname, a red and white scarf for the team’s colours, a tree to signify the nearby New Forest and a river for its maritime connections.

The white rose is borrowed from the city’s crest, but there’s no place for the Tudor-era ships. 

The football at the top was updated from a 60s-style design in the mid-Nineties.


Leicester’s Club crest is one of the most consistent in the country and has always featured a foxes head since it was first designed in the 1940s.

The club is nicknamed The Foxes because the county was popular with fox hunters for generations.

Since 1992, Leicester City’s crest has featured a fox’s head surrounded by a cinquefoil flower, although it has undergone occasional colour tweaks, pictured left right and centre. The current crest is pictured right

A first badge featured a fox and the club initials, before crossed hunting whips were added in the 1950s and remained until the 1980s.

They were subsequently dropped and in 1991 the badge became a fox’s head surrounded by a cinquefoil flower crest.

It has stayed the same ever since aside from an occasional tweak in colour of the foxes jaws from orange to white, and a gold tint for the club’s 125th anniversary in 2009. 


Celtic is well known for its ‘lucky’ four-leaf clover badge surrounded in a green and white circle, referencing its Irish heritage.

The design has remained fairly consistent over the years, although alternatives have included a celtic cross and a three-leafed shamrock.

Celtic’s badge has remained very consistent over the years, featuring a four leaf clover since it was adopted in 1977, changing to use a celtic cross for its centenary in 1988 and then adding a border and star for the 125th anniversary

Initially the clover was surrounded by the club’s formal title, ‘The Celtic Football and Athletic Coy. Ltd’ and was formally adopted on shirts in 1977.

The celtic cross was used in its centenary season in 1987/1988 and again in 2013 to mark 125 years of the club. 

A gold star also features above the badge to mark the club’s European Cup win against Inter Milan in 1967 in Lisbon.  


Rangers have used a simple design based on the club’s initials for much of its existence since it was founded in 1872, with the logo stamped on tickets in the 1881/1882 season.

The badge underwent a redesign in 1959 and was replaced with a lion, very similar to the one used by Aston Villa, on leather football above the word ‘Ready’.

Glasgow Rangers first crest was originally the club’s initials and marked on tickets in 1881. The badge was redesigned by 1959, pictured, adding a lion on top of a football. In 2003, the club reverted to its initials, adding five white stars to mark 50 league titles won, right

This crest continued in various forms, while the initials were added to players’ shorts from the 1978/1979 season. 

In 1997-98 the Crest was placed in a shield to mark Nike’s first year in partnership with the club.

A more significant change followed in the 2003/2004 campaign after Rangers secured their 50th league title, with the club adding five stars above the crest, one for every 10 titles won. 

The meaning of more than 200 crests of clubs from 20 different leagues is covered in new book World Football Club Crests published by Bloomsbury, exploring the design, meaning and symbolism of the game’s most famous club crests to reveal why the badges look as they do.

For more information, click here.

New book World Football Club Crests, pictured, explores the meaning behind badges of 200 clubs from across the world

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