Shield Shirkers – #01
This Ayr United badge redesign is the first in a planned series of Scottish football clubs. If you don’t understand why I’ve started with Ayr then read up on fitba badges in the firing line.
Ayr United Football Club formed from a merger between Ayr FC and Ayr Parkhouse in 1910. One theory about their badge is it’s a ‘neutral’ image both sides could agree on. I’m not sure when or why it came about but the saltire and shield shape come from Ayrshire’s original coat of arms (if not its colours).
I had always wondered why the Scottish saltire was so prominent in Ayr United’s badge. I suppose it’s not that different from Turkish clubs using their country’s crescent moon. Since working in the Public Sector I can’t help associating Ayr’s badge with the Scottish Ambulance Service (insert your own joke here!).
To be fair, Ayr have a few national connections. Their nickname, The Honest Men, is from a poem by the ‘national bard’, and proud Ayrshireman, Robert Burns. Ayr also have a strong link with former Scotland manager Ally MacLeod. If you visit Somerset Park you can’t miss the slab of concrete named after him (there’s a wee hint of 1978 optimism in calling it a ‘suite’). MacLeod finished his playing career at Ayr and managed them to promotion in the late 1960s and early 70s. Around that time the team started wearing a version of the current badge on their shirts.
Nail your colours to the mast
I think the top of the badge is a reference to rope used on boats and Ayr’s harbour. The red ball might be a similar vintage to the one shown in the Tottenham Hotspur badge. The ‘A’ and ‘U’ hanging out the sides of the rope were one thing I wanted to sort out in the redesign. Also, the fact Ayr play in black and white but their badge is mostly red and blue. Blue seems a bit odd as it’s the colour of their biggest rivals, Kilmarnock FC.
Then there’s the Lord Lyon ruling that threatens Ayr’s badge. The crucial point is whether or not it can be ‘described heraldically’. Heraldry is basically a kind of code that tells you what to draw in a coat of arms. It uses very old jargon that can be difficult to pick up. I’ve attempted to describe Ayr’s current badge, below (except the letters – no guarantees it’s correct!). I’ve shown the heraldic ‘tinctures’ in their respective colours to try and help decode them. The first colour always describes the shield background colour. After that it describes the lower part then the upper rectangle (‘in chief’)…
Azure a saltire argent, in chief argent, a roundel gules wreathed argent.
Any port in a storm
I took inspiration from an overlooked part of Ayr’s history. According to the fascinating Historical Kits website, Ayr United wore a stylised anchor badge either side of WW2. It was quite unusual for football clubs to wear any badge in the 1930s or 40s – most had plain shirts. I can’t help seeing the anchor as a face with brow, nose and mouth. The sharp angles somehow make it look smiley and mean at the same time.
Ayr United badge redesign
The idea for the redesign came once I realised that adjusting the angles at the top of the anchor made it fit in with the saltire. I had to make the anchor slightly longer to allow spaces at the sides (the original has roughly equal width/height). I like how the sides of the saltire look like even bigger hooks. Also, the top circle fits the position of the loop at the top of a traditional anchor. I wasn’t sure about the style of the ball but settled for the simple pattern as it matches the braid in the rope. Ayr Utd were founded in 1910 so I used a typeface from that period for the text (News Gothic).
It’s standard practice in logo design to do a black-only and white-only version (especially for printing on plastic products). It’s important that Ayr’s badge works on both light and dark backgrounds as it can never appear inside a shape (or it could be considered heraldic again).
Kit and other applications
Since black and white are Ayr’s colours, I think the black version could work quite well on their home shirt. Single colour shirt badges can be cheaper to produce. They’ve also been in fashion at many big clubs, especially in the English Premier League.
Going on the colours from the old Ayrshire coat of arms, I think it could also look good in a black and gold away strip. I like the fact ‘AU’ is also the symbol for gold (I remember it because of the James Bond baddie, Auric Goldfinger).
The simple block of text can be scaled up and aligned to the side of the anchor for use on stationery or signage.
Tackling heraldic issues:
- The redesigned badge has openings at the side. Since it’s not an enclosed shield, it can’t be described heraldically.
- There isn’t a complete Scottish saltire in the new badge – the anchor covers it.
- Anchors in heraldry would usually be positioned within a shield or above it, as a crest (like Airdrie’s cockerel). The modern style and position would be difficult to describe.
- The previous ball could be described as a ’roundel’. Making it clear it’s a football helps as they weren’t invented in heraldic times.
- The triangular segments in the middle of the badge might be described as ‘gyrons’ in heraldry. However, the way they join and overlap can’t easily be described (it’s not a traditional ‘gyronny’ pattern, like the Campbell coat of arms, for example).
The unfortunate thing about all this is it’s not just an exercise. Since late 2015 there has been a real threat hanging over Ayr United’s badge. I’ve put this together as a Scottish football fan trying to make some kind of contribution. I think all Scottish clubs should be able to keep their traditional badges – I understand no-one wants to be forced to change. The above design is just one option in case the worst comes to the worst (as it did with Airdrieonians, Formartine United and others).
According to an Evening Times article: “Ayr United have been granted special dispensation to continue using their crest until June 2017, although they will be forced to adopt a new badge from the 2017/18 season.” This explains why Ayr Utd kept their existing badge on their 2016/17 kit. Airdrie and Formartine were also given a ‘grace period’ when they were told to change.
Ayr United held a competition and chose a new badge design in April 2017 – see the update on my Ayr Utd badge – runners & riders post.