The story of the Liverpool FC crest

The crest of Liverpool Football Club is known worldwide. One may wonder how it came into existence and developed through time to become what it is today. One of the club's followers, who calls himself "Ajjam" has studied the history of the crest and agreed to share it with us.

I still possess the plaque which is a cheap and a worn piece of plastic, yet it is also to me a priceless, sentimental piece of personal history. It is a version of our club crest that was used from around 1970 until our centenary in 1992. I have never seen a version of our club crest of the time that exactly matched this plaque, so it was a little bit of a mystery as to how “official” it was. My search into this matter would provide me with one surprising discovery that would bring a smile to my face. More on that later on...

This is the first crest that appeared on our team shirts: a Liver bird, on a pedestal or perch of some sort, in an “elegant” shield. Now here’s the thing: this crest does not appear on our team shirts until post-WWII. Here it is on this team pic from the 1953-1954 season.

So what did the original crest look like and how many were there before the 1950s? Was it simple or elaborate? Was it in a shield of some sort or on its own? Did it look like the one used by Liverpool Council? (which has recently changed to a simpler style).

What use was there for the Liverpool club crest before it started to appear on our team shirts? Was it used on official documents, stamps or seals, pennants, if anything? Was there any merchandise or official club clothing with it on? I wanted to fill that 50-year gap in my – or our – knowledge.

A Liverpool crest of some kind is first mentioned by reported Field Sport on 19 September 1892 in Liverpool's inaugural season. "A new man - beg pardon, a flag - floated on the old staff, bearing the letters, L.F.A. surmounted with the liver. Right proudly did it wave over the field of battle and seemed to beam on its patrons with a hopeful smile.“

The club crest, as you may very well know, is based upon the city's coat of arms where the Liverbird is prominent. The Liver bird is a subject in itself, and is essential to our crest's history. To keep that brief, the following text and image are taken from The Heraldry of the World web site:

"The arms were granted in 1797 and show a cormorant with a piece of seaweed in its beak. The cormorant also appears on the crest. The supporters are a Triton and Neptune, the God of the sea. They hold banners with the cormorant and a ship. The arms shows the importance of the sea to the city of Liverpool.

The cormorant is often referred to as the Liver Bird, and is used widely in the city. Liverpool was founded in 1207 by King John. He needed a new port to ship his troops to Ireland and to control the Irish Sea. The new town adopted King John's seal as its own. The seal showed the eagle of St John holding a sprig of broom in its beak. The broom, or planta genista was the symbol of the royal house of the Plantagenets.

In 1644 the seal was lost and a new seal was made. For some strange reason the eagle was replaced by a cormorant, a more familiar bird in the area. It is likely that the artist mistook the eagle for a cormorant. The piece of broom was replaced by a piece of seaweed. The cormorant became later known as a mythical liver bird.

The motto can be translated as "God has bestowed these blessings on us", and is taken from Virgil."
Other translations I have seen of the motto DEUS NOBIS HÆC OTIA FECIT is "God has given us this tranquillity" or "God hath granted us this ease." It's apparently taken from Virgil's epilogue (Epilogue 1,6) and, in context, is a eulogy of the idyllic country life.

Above could be the first club crest. This is an image of a medal that was given to Tom Robertson when he won the League title with Liverpool in 1901.

The Liver bird is at the forefront on Liverpool's banner from the 1921-1922 championship season: Text with picture: "To-day we are able to give an exclusive picture of the Liverpool Football Club's new flag. The old one has become torn and tattered in the exigencies of the service and was more like a big shirt, the tale of which was told and the "tail" shredded. The new flag tells the world at large that Liverpool were champions last season and on two other occasions. There is quite a prospect that the flag will have to be brought down and another honour added to it as the result of this season's work. In between the three, how would the words "Winners of the English Cup 1922-23" fit? Very well, we think."

Above is a club crest used on the cover of Liverpool FC's programmes from September 1935 in the first season after Everton and Liverpool stopped sharing the programme.

The ‘break’ that WWII imposed upon the official league programme of fixtures, from 1939-1946, seems also to have been when the club crest first changed, but I have not been able to pin down exactly when. What I have found out is that it appears to have been a reluctant change. It seems that the City Council either refused to give continued permission for the city’s crest to be used or perhaps permission may have never been given in the first place.

I glean this from the fact that on 13 December 1961, The Liverpool Echo reported that Liverpool City Council had turned down a request from Liverpool FC to use the city's Coat of Arms as its club crest. It was turned down by the "Finance and General Purposes Committee" before the decision was confirmed at a full Council meeting. The Club directors were reported to be "surprised and disappointed" at not being allowed to follow the likes of Newcastle United (amongst others), who wore the "coat of arms of their municipality." The board felt that the club could do more for the city by wearing the Coat of Arms in games in England and abroad. The club crest became something other than the city's crest, with a life and development very much of its own.

The 1947 merchandise crest reminds one of a certain club crest that might make you want to spit, but it appears to have been our official club crest on programmes and documents until 1970 although it was still used by the club, in some regard or other, until 1974. One isolated use of it after that date was on the cover on the 1981 European Cup Final programme.

Depictions of the subsequent crest, used from 1970 until 1992, varied considerably. During the 1970s in particular, differing versions appeared on official tickets, documents and programs, overlapping each other's usage. One particular depiction of the crest though, found on club tickets as early as the 1972-73 season, appears on slightly later documents as a Registered Trade Mark, suggesting it was 'the one' (see the text under the crest at the bottom of the letter, below). 


However, as the variations of the crest were all slight enough so that they could be described and therefore considered as 'the same' crest, they would have been protected under that same Trade Mark Registration. In other words, they were all official. This would perhaps partly explain the apparent 'laissez-faire' attitude of the club towards the various crest depictions that appeared and their inconsistent and over-lapping usage: So long as it was close enough to that design, it was OK.

When checking the current state of words and images that are registered as Trade Marks by the club, I received my pleasant little surprise.

I was not too surprised with what the club has currently registered (which you can check for yourself through the Intellectual Property Office web site), and indeed they still have one of the varieties of club crests used between 1970-92 registered. The pleasant surprise for me was which one.

It was not the one that was so prevalent and appeared on official documents; nor any of the ones that appeared on club programmes; but the exact same crest as depicted on my old plastic plaque! Check it out for yourself: go to the IPO site and look for the Trade Mark under reference 1099121.

It is likely, although old records no longer exist to confirm this, that this was merely the last one of several Registered Trade Mark images in the 1970s, as whilst it should cover the various ones used, the Club probably registered more than one version in order to be safe. The others would have been left to expire over time and when the crest changed in 1992, the last one remaining registered by the club was kept current in order to continue to protect its interests, with regard to “retro” style clothing and other merchandise, such as replica kits with this crest on, from 1987-1992.

Examples of crests used from 1970-1978 (left), 1971-1979 and 1979 -1984 (right)

An end to the apparent division between the shirt and merchandise crests started to come about in 1987 when the shirt crest (aside) was altered to match the merchandise and ushered in the beginning of a more co-ordinated approach in the use of our club crest. This shirt crest still retains the Liver bird look that seems to have evolved over time on our shirts, probably because of the nature of embroidery. Our current Liver bird appears to have come about as a 'merger' between the printed or merchandised versions, and the appearance that a stitched or embossed design on the team shirts gave.

When the crest was significantly altered for the 1992-93 season, to mark our club's centenary, this historic and symbol-ridden change led to a 1993 post-centenary version, with more symbolic changes, before the crest was changed to our current crest, c1999.


Copyright - "Ajjam"


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