• Adam Stubbings

What’s in a Name? For the EFL, Commercialism & Selfishness

As I won’t be able to attend this weekend’s Rovers game away at Blackpool, I thought I’d take a brief look at yesterday’s announcement from the Football League that they will be ‘re-branding’ from next season as the ‘EFL’. Only where football fans are concerned could the addition of one word cause such a stir in such a short space of time.

The Football League has been known as such since it was formed in 1888. The name very simply embodies what it is all about, and was the first of its kind in existence. This is part and parcel of the fabric of English football, and we have always been extremely proud to be the originators of the beautiful game in its’ modern form. Indeed, the English influence can be seen spread across the world, with people from these shores having a monumental impact on the growth of the game worldwide, particularly in places such as Brazil and Barcelona that have been lauded for producing the greatest footballing sides of all time.

Since the days of the ‘Invincibles’ of Preston, the Football League has been the heart of the sport at club level, and fans of dozens of clubs up and down the country share in their love of the competition every Saturday afternoon so to see money, time and effort being put into a seemingly pointless re-brand rankles with many fans. Why waste time on matters such as this when the true benefit will likely be quite minimal, and the amount of ill feeling generated will probably end up being much larger?

The fans, who as always are the most important body of people in the sport, are the ones who will once again be the ones disregarded, and made to feel unimportant. Well over a century of tradition and history thrown in the bin in order to meet the needs of the dreaded ‘commercial sector’. We shouldn’t be surprised by this because it happens with alarming regularity, but that doesn’t mean we should just come to accept such short sighted decisions.

The opposition view, surely only argued from the corporate headquarters of the organisation itself, will point to the new unique individuality that the re-brand and new logo (only the fourth incarnation of a logo for the Football League in 127 years) will apparently bring to all 72 member clubs. In the press release announcing the name change, it states that “each club will be presented with its own bespoke version in its individual playing colours, ahead of the new season, for it to retain in perpetuity”, which suggests that, far from disregarding the fans and individual members, this re-brand will in fact enhance the clubs on a personal and individual level.

The words “in perpetuity” contained in that quote are laced with irony too. Attempting to claim that any element of this proposal need be something that continues forever is a slap in the face of the history of the Football League and its’ members, since Shaun Harvey and co. clearly care not a jot about the importance of something continuing forever. Every few years there is a bizarre need by the top dogs to play around with the identity of the league, be it through sponsorship changes, division name changes or now, even a whole brand change for the league itself.

Furthering that insistence that importance of individuality is paramount to the new EFL, the press release also explains the method behind the madness of the new generic-looking, uninspiring logo. “The EFL name will be accompanied by a stunning new visual identity featuring a dynamic circular arrangement of 72 balls in three swathes of 24, representing each of the League’s member clubs and the respective divisions they play in.”

Shakespeare-esque guff aside, these tiny, pointless blue dots coming together to make an equally pointless circle suggest what we all know already – that my club, your club and every other club you will see in the EFL next season, is as unimportant and faceless to the governing body as each other. Sure, this lifeless circle will be decked out in red and white when printed on the back of Doncaster Rovers’ match day programme next season, but ultimately it is irrelevant, just like the clubs and fans are to the people behind this re-brand.

Many detractors have already been quick to point out that renaming the competition to point out the English base of it is counter-productive and insulting particularly to two clubs currently plying their trade within its’ divisions. Cardiff City and Newport County both hail from and play in Wales, just over the Severn Bridge for those of you who may be reading this possessing the same lack of geographical knowledge as the directors of the EFL. These teams, along with Swansea City of the Premier League and Wrexham of the National League, have competed in England’s league system since their inception, and can now argue that they are cared about even less than the other 70 faceless blue dots in the EFL. Perhaps their dots can be shaded red on the main logo in time for next August?

The final paragraph of the press release lists a plethora of organisations and bodies allegedly consulted on this re-brand. They are listed as “the Football Association, the Premier League, the Professional Footballers Association, the Football Supporters Federation, the League’s competition sponsors (Sky Bet, Capital One and Johnstone’s Paint), its broadcast partners (Sky Sports, Channel 5 and Pitch International) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.” I would be curious to know what level of consultation was used for each body here, especially as I have already seen an assertion that the Football Supporters Federation was not actually consulted at all. What odds the twice name-dropped Sky corporation had a key influence in all of this? That is where all of these nonsensical attempts to innovate brands and logos ultimately come from; the massive, Hulk Hogan-like corporate arm of the sporting world, whilst we fans, clubs and democratic groups get pushed to the background to avoid mucking up the pursuits of commercial and financial domination afoot at the head of the game.

In the end, I’m sure that next season we will all continue to call ourselves members of The Football league, whether or not a bright new brand and shiny (or, not so shiny as it turns out) logo are plastered all over our match days. One day they may see through the pound signs to what really matters, but I won’t hold my breath that it’ll be any time soon.

Thanks for reading as always, and for those Rovers fans wanting something a bit more Donny-centric this weekend, may I please direct you to my match preview for the VSC website of this weekend’s trip to Blackpool in League One.


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