What did you do over the summer? Maybe you watched some cricket, or did the garden or perhaps if time and money allowed you headed south in search of one or more of the fabled 4S's. Me? I spent the summer looking at every football badge in the world, in order to see just how unique the Charlton badge is and to see if my belief that it is the best badge in football is correct. Have I really looked at every badge in the world? Well, OK probably not, but I have looked at over 12,000 of them so I do feel that I've done enough research to comment.
Swords of a Thousand Men:
As emblems go for football teams, the sword is not a very common one. If it's common you want, you need to go looking for eagles and lions which it seems are latched onto be any club that's devoid of originality or imagination; there are literally thousands of them. Swords however have quite a low take up. I found just 120 other clubs using sword emblems. Of these, over a third come from England, although when you discount the clubs of Essex and Middlesex who almost without fail seem to incorporate the three seaxes that represent those counties, the number drops considerably. Other countries where the sword is used include Spain, USA and Australia.
Different parts of the world tend to use sword images in different ways. In Europe they are mostly used, as in the case of Charlton, to draw a link with the coat of arms of the city or town a club comes from. In the New World they are used to add some cut, thrust and excitement and to stress the fighting spirit of club, typically with no reference to any history. In developing countries, swords are used mainly by police or army teams where the sword is used to signify force, power or control.
The biggest clubs to have swords on their badges are AEK Athens and FC Porto. However their swords are tiny and are not a major part of the design. The biggest clubs with prominent swords are ourselves and Sheffield United.
Without a doubt, the Charlton sword is the most prominent of all the badge designs I've seen. Many, if not most, badge designs featuring swords use it as part of a bigger design, often showing it carried by a knight, a pirate or a king. Few use the sword as the main feature. In many instances the sword is shown as part of a crossed pair rather than a single item.
You Spin Me Round:
The second element in Charlton's badge is the roundel. In numerical terms, the circle is probably second only to the shield in terms of overall badge shape. And putting circles within circles is a very easy way to get a visually appealing design as well as establishing some gestalt closure to the image. What's striking is that when a group of badges with roundels are seen together they look much more congruent than a group of badges with swords.
Hello, I Love You, Won't You Tell Me Your Name:
The third and final element is the name. The vast majority of football clubs take their name from their place of origin. Most put their name on their badge. However given the vast number of place names and the scope for different second names, almost all clubs have monikers that are quite unique. There is a Charlton Rovers near Cheltenham, there used to be a Charlton United in Oxfordshire, and for a five month period in 1905 the Metropolitan Borough of Greenwich used to boast two clubs called Charlton Athletic. But names that similar are generally few and far between. On an international level, top marks to this Peruvian side for having a name closest to Charlton.
An End Has To Start:
Putting the elements together, the club with the badge closest to ours is probably Sheffield Utd. Even that feels quite different though with the colour reversal on the roundel, the twin blades and the fact that theirs is sullied by a white rose. Even the swords on their one look quite alien compared to our traditional sword. Chinese club Chengdu have a badge that's the dead spit of The Blade's badge. In fairness though, this was because the Chinese club was once run as a franchise of the Yorkshire one.
I started out this article with questions about the uniqueness and the quality of the Charlton badge. Having looked at so many thousands of other badges, I can safely say that there is no other quite like it. There are other badges that share certain elements, but none is quite the same, and none looks as good either.
One thing that did strike me though as I looked at all those thousands of badges, was how there seemed to be certain design traits that are peculiar to different countries and regions. For example, South American clubs nearly all go for a shield shape and usually decorate it with stripes. Spanish clubs frequently go for the regal look whilst cramming every little detail they can think of into the design. Whilst in Croatia, a badge isn't a badge if it isn't decorated with the gingham-kitchen style check pattern that they love so much. African badges tend to be tiny (at least on the internet) with poor quality designs and in South Korea nothing is more popular than a Pokemon-style cartoon to represent a club's history and traditions. So to end with, just for a bit of fun, here's how the Charlton badge might have looked if we'd graced a league in another land. I'm so glad we've got the badge we have. (With Thanks to Ben Hayes)