The announcement of the re-branding of the Football League from next season was not met with the level of startled responses one would hope for. Rather, what followed were responses resigned to what many deem to be both an inevitable and irreversible trend in football towards something branding and marketing driven.
If anything, our lack of surprise at the announcement tells its own story. It is evocative of the state of football, the direction it currently finds itself in, and the route which many now dread might destroy the remnants of the football we have grown to love. Football should never be about the money, the business deals, and sponsorships behind so many of our clubs. It ought to detach itself from this before it alienates the very supporters who make the game the great spectacle it is.
The Football League has undergone two revamps over the last two and a bit decades – the most recent of which occurred in 2004 when the Championship, League One, and League Two were established in their current guises. A rebranding also happened more drastically in 1992 when the Premier League broke away from the Football League. Money in football has had its upside, revolutionising the game and expanding its audience. Yet it has also stripped it of its core, its soul, and created a climate where football is seen as more than just entertainment, but a business and money making venture.
Changing the logo and the name to The English Football League from the 2016/17 season may not seem like such a massive change. However, it is not just the name change and the new logo which resembles something more akin to an energy company than a football league, it symbolises a trend that has been growing for some time. While supporters are increasingly priced out from attending games and supporting their teams, TV deals are now astronomical and money in football has become so unstable that clubs everywhere are increasingly playing a dangerous game of spending to excess for short term gains without a care for long term stability.
This re-brand highlights where the priorities lie. It is a makeover designed to draw in as much revenue as possible from sponsors and from a supposed bigger corporate awareness. In all honesty, this should not come as a surprise but it is a concern nonetheless.
Sometimes change is beneficial, but change for change’s sake is not. It is clear the Football League is endeavouring to apply the model that the Premier League has had for years, but the Football League does not need to increase its brand awareness. Its position as the oldest professional football league in the world is assured, and having been around since 1888, it is well renowned both domestically and abroad. One only has to look at the fact that the Championship, both in attendances and from those tuning in every week, is the most watched second division of football in the world.
This decision, which allegedly occurred after consultation with 18,000 supporters, is another disgraceful reminder of how the powers at be are more concerned with profits and money than they are about reputation. They are seemingly willing to sacrifice its proud history and be complicit with the likes of the Premier League. The re-brand may seem small and its implications superficial but this confirms that the supporters are very low on the agenda. The emergence of the EFL brand can only be described as an overspill from the Premier League, occurring at a time when many hoped the Football League would avoid such a decision.
In truth, it is unavoidable. But that does not mean we should not condemn this move. The culture of football has been altered to such a degree that we will see more decisions like this one. We can only hope then that football can salvage itself before it is too late.
Photo courtesy of EFL Publicity