What’s in a crest? Waterford FC, Three Lions and history

As you walk down Colbeck Street in Waterford,  with The Mall to your left and Parnell Street to your right you may notice the waterford city arms crest on the corner building.  This comes from a hotel which was previously on this site called the Waterford Arms Hotel.


As you can see from the photo the Waterford civic arms contain two main motifs. On a red field there are three lions representing the United Kingdom and below it on a white field,  three ships – the now recognised symbol of Waterford city.

Waterford’s coat of arms, and the city’s motto urbs intacta manet watefordia were gifted to the city for its loyalty to the English monarch Henry VII who faced opposition from two pretenders to his throne in the late 16th century.

I mention this because there was some comment made on social media about the newly unveiled crest of newly rebranded Waterford FC. Much of it focused on the inclusion of the three lions into the crest.

Many saw this as being too close to the three lions coat of England’s football and cricket teams. It sparked a certain amount of knee-jerk armchair (or is it keyboard) republicanism.

The newly unveiled Waterford FC crest which takes the 1930 crest as it’s inspiration.

Of course, the three lions derive from the same source but their inclusion into the new Waterford FC crest reveals something far more interesting than simple West Britonism.

Aside from the link with the Waterford city arms, the use of the three lions and the other elements of the new crests are one more element of the curious nostalgia rebranding of the club under its new owner, Swindon Town chairman Lee Power.

The most important of these includes the dropping of the United from the club name. The club, which until then was Waterford FC, became United in 1983 when it was reforned as a new limited company.

After a decade of poor results and dwindling public interest in the club, the choice to rebrand the club under new ownership to a name from a more successful period in the club’s history is deliberate.

There has also been a trend for some years now in England for club crests to be redesigned in one of twos ways: either hyper modern with contemporary font styles or,  more prominently, hyper retro versions of the club crest with nods to storied pasts. Think of Tottenham Hotspur or Everton. The processes under way  with Waterford FC are the same. There is a certain extent to which this taps into the idea of many fans, especially strong in League of Ireland  circles, of being “Against Modern Football”.

In a city where the past decade has been forgettable on a sporting and civic front, with the city reeling from the effects of recession, deindustrialisation,  youth unemployment and emigration, it is a smart move on the part of the club’snew owner to evoke a more prosperous and successful period for Waterford as part of the preparations for the coming season and new dispensation of Power’s ownership.  The three lions on the new crests then are less a symbol of latent West Britonism, or British royalty , but speak instead to a desire to return to a time when soccer was king in Waterford.

Football Objects: The Turnstile

Gainsborough Trinity-5

Before you get up to your seat to watch a game of football, you have to enter the ground, cranking through the turnstile as you hand over your money. Football as it exists today, could hardly exist without the turnstile. It is fitting that such a revolutionary object, itself revolves as you pass through it. Continue reading “Football Objects: The Turnstile”

Football Objects: Cigarette Cards and Sticker Albums

Growing up, one of my favourite diversionary pursuits on the playground was collecting and swapping Premier League stickers. There was almost nothing quite like getting the packet in Pat’s shop, opening it up to find a shiny club crest nestled in among the Southampton players that would almost immediately find their way into the ‘swapsies’ pile. The familiar words all around the playground were ‘have, have, need, swap’. These stickers were effectively a kind of playground currency, along with pogs (remember them?) and conkers . Today kids don’t collect stickers, but instead more solid cards called Match Attax produced by Topps, but long before any of these came the humble cigarette card…

Continue reading “Football Objects: Cigarette Cards and Sticker Albums”

Football Objects: The Scarf

Football, as we’ve noted here on The True Ball before, has a great material culture – the sport abounds with items from its history. In this short little series, we are going to take a look at some of this material culture. In the days before choreographed positioning of coloured cards to create a design like that seen recently at the Celtic Barcelona game at Parkhead, or the almost ubiquitous wearing of some piece of replica kit, colour was brought to the football match by fans through a medium that was both functional and fashionable: the scarf.

Continue reading “Football Objects: The Scarf”

Football Objects: The Cap

Hughie Connolly's cap, programme and jersey from Ireland's victory over Germany in 1936.
Hughie Connolly’s cap, programme and jersey from Ireland’s victory over Germany in 1936. Source: internationalcaps.web.com.

It is easy to forget sometimes that football is an old game, and as with many old things, it has its quaint traditions. One of football’s most peculiar old traditions is that of the cap. Although caps are usually only thought of in terms of being a figure of speech these days, usually how often one has been ‘capped’ for one’s country, the cap is not just figurative but it is a real and living football object. Continue reading “Football Objects: The Cap”