If you know your ‘istory: Charlton Athletic’s Badge (part 2 – Live by the Sword)

Jon Laysall continues in his quest to reveal the History of CAFC's badge in this second and final installment - Live by the Sword

We left Part 1 of this article in 1963, with Charlton getting a new nickname, The Valiants, courtesy of a fan competition.  And shortly after that a new badge, the sword, courtesy of the City of London crest.  Next year will be the 50th anniversary of Charlton using the sword as its emblem.  In Part 2, we explore how the sword badge has developed.

Everywhere and Nowhere

Everywhere you look around Charlton Athletic you will see the sword badge.  It appears, on all three kits worn by the players; not just on the shirts, but on the shorts too.  At various times the sword has even put in an appearance on the socks.  There's a six metre high badge on the back of the Covered End in Harvey Gardens, whilst the other three stands all have rooftop badges facing the pitch.  Tickets, letters, advertisements and the club website all carry the brand, even the corner flags are smartened-up with the famous badge.  If you look in a typical match-day programme, you are likely to see some 30-40 images of the crest.

You might think that with this level of ubiquity, the badge has always been this important to the club.  The truth however is quite a different story.  It actually took quite some time for the badge to become established.

Saunders SmallStart Me Up

The 1964-65 season is the first time that the Charlton team took to the field with swords on their chests.  The kit that season (and the next) being quite a change from the traditional one; for only the second time in history the home shirt wasn't all red.  Instead it was predominantly white with a red panel over the shoulders.  Its badge, a red sword on a white background enclosed by a single white circle.

This was a pretty significant change and you might imagine that the club would make a bit of a song and dance about it.  Well, not really.  This is what they said in the programme:  Nothing.  That's right, for a whole season of league programmes, not one comment was made about our new badge or our new kit.  The only written proof of any change is on the team sheet page which for every match carried a bland description of what the team would wear that day.  Presumably in those days, before there was any money to be made through the sale of replica kits, the club felt no need to mention it.  It would be interesting to know what Charlton fans of the time made of the change; if anybody thought to ask though, they certainly didn't record the answer.

Charlton's use of the badge on team shirts was very sporadic in the early days.  In some seasons there was a sword in a circle, some years just a sword, in four seasons the badge was dropped in favour of initials and in another three seasons the shirts were completely bare.  It wasn't until as late as 1980 that the current unbroken run of wearing the sword on every shirt was started.

Not only was there no consistency with the use of the badge on the shirt, but there was no tie-in with other items either.  For example, 1967-8 was the first season that the sword badge appeared on a programme cover [Fig 2B], it also appeared that year (possibly for the first time) on the front of the handbook [Fig 2A] and returned to the team shirt following a year's sabbatical.  This seems quite consistent use, until you consider that the badge on each item was a completely different design. The sword on the shirt was red on a circular white background.  The handbook and the programmes both went for an etched design with the nickname of the day, The Valiants, written across the centre - however each publication had a different sword design!  It's easy to see why there might be a difference in the shirt badge and the printed badge because the technologies of the day were limited (at least at a reasonable price).  Consequently, what could be printed onto paper could not necessarily be embroidered onto material and vice-versa.  It is rather more difficult though to explain having different swords in the programme and the handbook.  Whether it was due to indifference or perhaps some internal club duel over which sword would become our Excalibur, perhaps we shall never know.

The following season's programmes, 1968-9, featured for the first time a badge which was essentially the same as the one we had today [Similar, if not the same, as in Fig 2C].  Still the only consistency in the club's use of the badges though was its inconsistency; the home kit was completely red with no hint of another colour on it and no badge whilst the handbook used the same old etched badge as the previous year.

Sign O’ the Times

The 1968-9 programme version had a new design element as well as the sword:  Red and black roundels with the club's name set into the outer ring.  From this time onwards the familiar version of the badge with the roundels became the dominant one.  It has been tweaked and developed at regular intervals, but it is always instantly recognisable as The Charlton Badge. Each time it has been developed it has got a little more modern and better looking to the eye of the age. The drivers behind such updates are likely to be the same as any for other business:  To keep the brand looking fresh and in vogue, to maximise the potential of new display technologies, to keep people interested, to stamp club ownership onto its assets.

Develepment of CAFC Badge v2

There are two exceptions to this story of positive development.  In the early 1980s a version of the badge was produced that quite simply didn't look as good as the versions before or after [Fig 2D] ; the proportions were not quite right, the gauntlet had a withered look and the typeface bearing the club's name was incorrect.  I have never seen an explanation for this, but can only guess that the original '68 designs must have become lost and that someone hurriedly put together a new inferior one. If anyone knows the true story behind this, I'd love to know.  Luckily by the mid '80s things were restored to their aesthetic best, except in Junior Reds magazine which for some reason or another stuck to the inferior design for many years after.

In 1992 [see Fig 2F] a new addition started appearing on the badge, the letters™. This symbol marks the badge as an unregistered trade mark.  Its job was to protect it as an asset of the club as there were worries regarding unofficial merchandise bearing the club's official designs.  Whether the extent of such piracy was really sufficient enough to make such a change or whether the club had heightened awareness of the issue because the Trade Marks Act of 1994 was being drafted at that time is uncertain. Either way this blot was to stay on the badge for many years.

The symbol 'TM’ "has no legal significance in the United Kingdom", so it may have been employed just as a warning to any pirates that this was the club's treasure.  In the new millennium, steps were taken to officially register all badges and logotypes and so the TM symbol lost its purpose altogether.  Following advice from the Club’s trademark lawyers, then commercial director Steve Sutherland decided to drop its use.  In 2008 the club reverted to an unsullied version of the badge.

The latest change to the badge came in 2009 [Fig 2I] when the sword was given a 3D effect.  There are almost certain to be upgrades in the future. These are unlikely to be massive step changes.  What we'll probably see, as we have to the past forty years, is a gradual improvement so that the badge stays modern.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?


foolishbadgesThere have been 'debates' on the internet concerning whether the badge should be changed (indeed there was once an April fools article suggestng completely new badges that caused a bit of a stir - see left).  Should we drop the roundels?  Should we drop the sword?  Should we add a crown to reflect being part of a royal borough?

To my mind making any major changes like this would indeed be foolish. The badge is a part of our club.  It's been around for a long time now.  Let’s face it, unless you're drawing your pension, you probably won't remember a time when we didn't have the sword in one form or another.  The image is clean and clear, it is easily recognised and over years of use has become ingrained in our collective psyche. I know that I am biased, but I genuinely believe that we have the best badge in the league. It may no longer match the club's nickname, but to me it is every bit as much of our heritage as red shirts, Addicks or The Red Red Robin.




With thanks to Ben Hayes, Gordon Jago, Jason Potter, Steve Sutherland, Richard Wiseman and Matt Wright.