Friday, 15 June 2012


So, you can either take my word for it or, better still, do the research for yourself, but for this piece I went through every division of every league across the world, primarily using this website and the following 10 were the best club badges I found. Yes, the best; the crème de la crème. How I arrived at this judgement is far too complicated a process to explain, but it involved the conception of various algorithms and absolutely no whimsicality whatsoever. I’m so sure of these results that I didn’t even bother to speak to anyone who knows anything about design, just to see if their frankly unscientific take on things accorded with the facts, as established, as I say, through rigorous scientific method. So, without further ado, here are the top 10 club badges in world football:

I don’t know how many octopi are caught off the coast of Albania (not that Lushnjë is even on the coast), but whatever the reason for having a red octopus as their badge, this is wonderfully bizarre: alien head with eight sucker-less tentacles drawn on. Lev Yashin, the ‘Black Octopus’, didn’t play at the Albanian club (maybe he’d had enough of everything being red in USSR) but they did once have Mario Kempes as coach (I shit you not), so they have to be pretty cool on that basis alone. I only hope they managed to sell a few replica shirts on the back of the brief fame of Paul, the ‘psychic’ Octopus from the 2010 World Cup.* 
I was very tempted to go with Bari or Doxa Katokopia; maybe next year...

When it comes to cool football crests, clubs from the former Soviet bloc have a distinct advantage: Cyrillic inscription. I have only bought one replica shirt in my life – FC Cherno More (ПФК ЧЕРНО МОРЕ), from Varna, Bulgaria – and did so on that basis alone. The Minsk crest looks like many from the westernmost republics of the USSR, a corona-like shape enshrining a single D for ДИHAMO that looks, ironically enough, like one of the initial letters one might see in the cap or jersey of a Major League baseball franchise. Anyway, there’s nothing especially outstanding in any of the individual elements of this crest and I couldn’t really put my finger on why it works so well – it does, doesn’t it – but it just pips its close cousin, Dynamo Kyiv*, to a place in the top 10. It reminds me of chocolate.  
* Yes, this is the universally accepted spelling among my #europeanfootballexpert amigos, even if Iceland persist in calling them Chicken Kievs

Another monochromatic design, this time centred around a single large red star (now where have I seen the connection of that symbol with fitba before?) flanked by the club’s name in both Roman and Arab script – the latter’s intrinsic, font-transcending beauty attested to by thousands of hastily conceived tattoos on the arms of people who probably think that all people from Islamic nations are jihadist psychopaths; the former’s presence justified by the fact that semi-francophone Tunisia was also once a stronghold of the Roman Empire (Hannibal, lecteur?). Based in Soussa, Tunisia’s third city, Étoile were the first club to win all the competitions organized by the African Confederation (only Juve - in Europe, of course - have also managed this feet) so deserve a badge that conveys potency, and nothing conveys potency like a big star. Apart from a fist. Or a hammer. Oh, they're also nicknamed the Red Devils, though quite why a Maghrebian club would have a Viking for their mascot is beyond me... 

There’s an elaborate, Baroque quality to this crest, very much in step with the wonderfully ornate yet still elegant Islamic architecture of the first half of the last millennia. This is perhaps surprising, given that the club is only twenty-two years old in present form, having metamorphosed from the footballing caterpillar that was the municipality’s water distribution company team. They have come a long way wuickly, however, and now compete in the Süper Lig while playing their home games at Turkey’s biggest stadium, the Atatürk, 76,000-capacity scene of Liverpool’s Six Crazy Minutes™ in 2005. Anyway, the copper and blue colours work well together, I feel, but the real killer, and that which sets it above its major city rivals (the ‘Big Three’ of Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş), is the incorporation of the minarets of the Hagia Sophia, Istanbul’s most famous landmark. (Author’s note – they could well be generic minarets. I giveth nary a fuck.)

There’s a simple design rule when it comes to animals on the crests of sports clubs: the more representative or naturalistic the image, the worse it’s likely to look, with the possible exception of eagles. Naturalistic or not, I do like a good bird of prey – Seattle Seahawks, for instance, although that could be a Frasier thing – and the Sheffield Wednesday owl (designed by Jarvis Cocker, Prince Naseem Hamed, Peter Stringfellow and Roy Hattersley) is beautifully rendered. It’s positively funky. Perhaps an ornithologist might tell me which breed it is: tawny, barn, snow or teat?

Simplicity: the eternal key to design (and plans, according to what Walter Sobchak learned in Vietnam). It’s like those round glass ashtrays with equidistant grooves at north, south, east and west – it cannot be beaten, it will outlast all fads, it should be embraced as the zenith and subsequent design energy should be expended elsewhere. So, football crests that look like they’ve come from the heraldry of some bogusly important family are not at all appealing to me. In fact, they are as likely as anything to breach my psychopathy hymen, but that’s another yen. Anyway, quite why a team from Prague have a green kangaroo as its emblem, lord only knows. I guess they’re just being, y’know, bohemian. Well, they’ve succeeded.  

Before the pandemic cynicism and consumer apathy of us postmoderns took root, there came an era that believed deeply in the transformative (political) power of culture (or art, as they preferred to call it). Indeed, one of the common claims of modernism (which probably died sometime in the late 1960s) across the various visual arts was that design could ennoble and civilize. Perhaps the quintessential expression of such utopianism was in the architecture of men such as Le Corbusier, whose famous Unité d’Habitation building in Marseille conflated form and function in an ideal of modern urbanism. Or something. And perhaps it is apt, then, that one of the great badges of world football is also found in France’s rough-and-ready southern maritime metropolis, on the famous shirts of the country’s only European Cup winner (whence the star), L’OM, who call home the imposing, raucous Stade Vélodrome. “Straight to the Goal” indeed…

False 9 is partial to football badges that resemble the labels of designer beers or the stamp of quality cheeses and, with all due respect to Heineken-esque Étoile du Sahel, the best of these is without doubt Polish fourth division side Orlęta Łuków, a crest in which the town’s possibly un-PC symbol, the dancing bear, is encircled by the O of an eagle, in a design that would not look out of place on aforementioned overpriced hops-based libation.

When it comes to design elegance, Paris already has something of a head start on, say, Rotherham. Or Cluj. Even so, if you’ve conjured a football club into being in 1970 from the merger of two pretty unsuccessful ones, and you are looking for an iconic structure to incorporate into your logo, then it probably merdes all over everywhere else (New York, Rio, Cairo and one or two others maybe have a shout), including Istanbul. Sorry, Buyuksehir… Beneath the Eiffel Tower is, apparently, a fleur-de-lis and the cradle of Louis XIV, the Sun King, symbol of Saint-Germain. Anyway, when it comes to swank it has until now been more style than substance; however, where PSG once had a midfield featuring Ronaldinho, Jay-Jay Okocha and Mikael Arteta (I’ll take that style any day, ta), they’ve now been bought out by some money jizzers from Oilville and are probably only going to get a whole lot cooler and better. So, quick: add them to your list of hipster clubs whose shirts you’ve got to buy, if only ‘cos their crest’s a whole lot swisher than Athletic Bilbao or Borussia Dortmund, ja?  

One of the very, very few football crests that wouldn’t look totally shit as a tattoo, Forest’s ingenious tree-and-river design is the quintessence of simplicity, to an almost infantile degree (wavy lines = water), while also ticking the design box marked monochromatic and even being confident enough to throw in a lower case ‘e’ among the capitals. Back in the day when football shirts were unadorned with players’ names, sponsors’ names, or even manufacturer’s names, Forest’s white emblem on red shirt looked cool-as, especially during their romp to back-to-back Big Cups. And for those pious souls among you who like to fetishize the badge or the shirt as some sort of eternal or immortal representation of the identity of the club, get this: it wasn’t the original crest (but I guess you already knew they didn’t do design like this in the 1860s, right?). Yes, that’s right: they changed it, the heartless corporate bastards. They ripped the very essence of the club out and wiped their arses all over it…

20 near misses 

And one that didn’t make the final longlist… 

AS Beauvais Oise (France) 


  1. Nice selection. Would add Heart of Midlothian and Coventry City. Special mention to the old Q.P.R badge as well.

  2. Yeah, Hearts was in the mix. QPR was quite cool, too, but definitely not Cov, though. The 'algorithms' didn't like that one

  3. Bohemians went on a tour to Australia in the 1920s. The club was then known as Vrsovice after the Prague suburb in which they play but that wouldn't have sold as well in Australia hence the name change. They were given a live kangaroo by their hosts and brought it back to Prague. Kept the name, gave the kangaroo to the zoo and put an image of the kangaroo on the badge.

    The club's nickname in the Czech Republic is the Kangaroos.

    Unfortunately, this season a catastrophic run saw them win one of their last 18 matches and relegation.

  4. Wow! Thanks very much for the info. Great stuff.

  5. Forest badge is definitely the best , good shout .

  6. Just to add about the Forest badge is that it was designed by a kid and then neatened off by a graphic designer. There are eleven curves to the tree to signify 11 players and the wavy bit is the River Trent that flows but metres away from the ground. No idea why the R's tail goes like that or the lower case e. Who cares, still proud to wear it even over the past few doldrum years :)

  7. No love for TOT SC?

  8. So an upturned bogbrush is the best club badge in the world?

    Not biased by any chance are you?

  9. The lower case e and the R going under it is for purely aesthetic reasons :)

  10. what about FC union Berlin? they are worth a mention for the art deco style badge shape & colouring? Stuttgart Kickers are simplicity itself,as are Schalke 04 and Wolsfburg(German efficiency?)-even as a Wednesday fan in my humble opinion the octopus should have been number 1

  11. Mentions for hearts above, but their Edinburgh rivals Hibs have pretty neat crest too. A good example of a crest which compactly and successfully sums up everything about the club while remaining aesthetically pleasing.

  12. Regarding the Forest badge, apart from the wavy lines for the water, there are 11 shapes representing the foliage of the tree representing the team. If I remember rightly it was designed by a supporter who entered a club competition.

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