Civic Identity

My column published in Bradford City programme on 21 November, 2017 v Scunthorpe United:

On 31 December, 1907 the city of Bradford was granted a formal coat of arms which remained the civic crest of Bradford until the formation of the metropolitan district in 1974. It comprised the red/blue Bradford shield with three bugles, a boar’s head on top with a ram and a goat on either side. Its replacement (which is still used) was derived from an amalgam of characters from the constituent parts of the new authority, the most obvious change being the stag of Keighley and a knight’s helmet.

In 1908 the Bradford arms were featured prominently on the new Midland Road stand. Across at Park Avenue, the grandstand constructed in 1907 incorporated the traditional Bradford shield on the two end gables. Both clubs were eager to portray themselves as representatives of Bradford and in 1909 the coat of arms began to appear on the BCAFC club shirt, famously worn when the club won the FA Cup in 1911. Avenue similarly adopted the badge (although not on shirts).

The Bradford coat of arms remained the official club crest at Valley Parade until 1966 when it was replaced by a boar’s head atop a shield containing a BC-AFC monogram. In turn that was retained until 1974 when replaced by a modernist graphic that lasted only 7 years. Anxious for a fresh image, chairman Bob Martin revived the club’s historic bantam identity in December, 1981 and with the exception of a revival of the boar’s head (with the BC-AFC shield) between 1985-91, a bantam has continued to be the main feature of the club crest ever since.

Despite the boar’s head (without a tongue) being a traditional emblem of Bradford, derived from the legend about the killing of the wild boar in Cliffe Wood (on the hillside opposite Valley Parade) in the 14th century, it is no longer used by either of the city’s two senior clubs, City or Bulls (the latter who relaunched itself in the Super League in 1996 with a new identity).

Bradford City is not the only club to have spurned a civic identity. The traditional crest of Scunthorpe United was similarly the civic coat of arms, the central feature of which was a chain of five links representing the constituent villages that formed the town. Desperate for a makeover, Scunthorpe United advertised a competition for a new crest in the club programme for the fixture with Bradford City on 3rd October, 1981 and the following season it abandoned its all-red strip for claret and blue whilst also introducing a radically different badge.

That new emblem was the so-called ‘Unity fist’ that incorporated the chain of the old crest in a clenched gauntlet with the epitaph ‘unity’. The club retained the design until 1990 when it was dropped in favour of the current style of badge that features an iron girder. I understand the ‘Unity fist’ was abandoned on account of being considered unsuitable as a family brand but was revived in 2014 on the club’s third shirt following a campaign by Scunthorpe supporters for a return to a ‘traditional’ design.

What Scunthorpe fans might not appreciate is that I was the person who designed their ‘Unity fist’ badge and that it was sketched on a sandwich wrapper en route home to Bradford on a supporters’ coach. It spoke volumes about amateurish branding in 1981 that Scunthorpe should rely upon my efforts but I am flattered that the design achieved popular acclaim and its place in the history of our visitors today.

  • Thanks for visiting my blog. Scroll down for details about my books in the BANTAMSPAST History Revisited series which tell the history of sport in Bradford – and in particular football. The books seek to explain why things happened as they did instead of simply recording what occurred and readers may be surprised at the extent to which they contradict many of the myths and superficial narratives that have circulated previously. You won’t get fancy graphics but you will find substance and historical accuracy in the content! Tweets @jpdewhirst
  • If you are interested in Bradford sport history visit VINCIT: www.bradfordsporthistory.com

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