How badges reveal hidden stories behind football clubs

A University of Brighton alumni  is publishing a book about the history of football club badges – over 20 years after he completed his undergraduate dissertation on the same topic.

Martyn Routledge, who studied Graphic Design at the university from 1992 to 1995, found his old dissertation while clearing out his loft one day.

He begun to work on the essay once more, editing and updating certain sections, before submitting the study to renowned Worthing-based sports publishers Pitch Publishing, who jumped at the chance to print it.

The resultant book, The Beautiful Badge, will be in shops on August 23, days after the start of the new football season.

Martyn, who runs his own creative design agency, Mr., worked on the book with friend and long-time collaborator Elspeth Willis.

“When I found the dissertation, I read it back and thought that it actually seemed more relevant than ever,” said Martyn.

“Having a look around I soon realised there still hadn’t been anything published that really delved into the subject and brought to life all those stories hidden behind the badge.”

Martyn described himself as a “lapsed football obsessive” and said that working again on the project reignited his interest in the beautiful game and what it means “far beyond the gloss and money of the Premier League”.

He hadn’t considered the design of badges before he started researching his dissertation. It was the histories behind the badges that captured his imagination, such as the origins of Brighton and Hove Albion’s ‘Seagulls’ nickname and how the enormous seagull at the Amex Stadium continues a tradition of clubs marking their territory.

Martyn said: “I’d never really thought too much about the meanings behind the badges and what they represent, but once I started uncovering the stories, it became something of a passion.”

In the pre-internet age, Martyn wrote letters to every professional club in England – as well as supporters’ groups – requesting information about the history of their badges.

Responses ranged from fanzine editors offering pages of insight to formal responses from clubs stating “we don’t know much about it and don’t think our fans are that bothered”.

Martyn believes The Beautiful Badge will fill a gap in the market and said the power and intrigue of a club badge should not be underestimated.

“In an area no bigger than a red card, a football club badge gives you a mini-lesson in history, geography, art and many other things in life,” he said. “It can tell you how the club began life, what the main industry of your town was, or capture a memorable event in the region.

“From the Roman Eagle of Colchester United, once the capital of Britain, to Plymouth’s Pilgrim Fathers sailing off to the New World, to the mysterious devil-like imps hiding in Lincoln Cathedral and the long-lost shipbuilding industry of Sunderland, most badges have something to say.”

And, in this age of astronomical transfer fees and the ever-increasing commercialisation of elite football, The Beautiful Badge places emphasises the pivotal role of the match-going fan in the histories of their clubs.

Martyn said: “The book does have a real focus on the fans; the fans who have often designed the badge, the fans that adapted their club badge and created their own unique version for the supporters club, the fans who have the badge tattooed on them as a lifelong show of support.”

Martyn has worked in graphic design since leaving the University of Brighton. He lives in Essex with his wife, daughter and dog. He supports Preston North End.

For more information on The Beautiful Badge follow @BeautifulBadge on Twitter and Facebook. You can buy the book on Amazon via the link below

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