'Scottish club badges under threat'

By Jonathan SutherlandBBC Scotland
Ayr United are seeking community help with a new badge design
Ayr United are seeking community help with a new badge design

Ayr United are calling on fans to help design a new club badge since the current crest breaks heraldic law.

A complaint from a member of the public has led to the Procurator Fiscal for the Court of the Lord Lyon ruling that the emblem contravenes ancient rules.

Airdrieonians changed their badge this seasonexternal-link for the same reason.

And an Airdrie-supporting lawyer has told BBC Scotland up to 25 other Scottish clubs could fall foul of the centuries old legislation.

"I feel the law is unnecessary," said Colin Telford. "This only applies in Scotland where for some reason heraldry is still governed by criminal law.

"In England, it would just be done by the copyright register. So multi-million pound companies like Manchester United, Manchester City would just protect their football badges by registering them as trademarks and that gives them the protection that they need."

The major issue for Ayr United is that the badge, which they have been using since the 1950s, contains a saltire.

"We could have gone down the registry route but the fact that we have a saltire in our crest was the stumbling block," explained operations manager Tracy McTrusty.

"They wouldn't have been able to register as a coat of arms because we have the saltire and we are not a national institution - we couldn't have represented Scotland. So it was a no-go to register as it is and keep it as it is."

'A law worth preserving'

The Lyon Court is Scotland's oldest court, and enforces the Scots Law of arms. The Procurator Fiscal for the Court of the Lord Lyon, Alexander Green, says the issue is not uncommon.

"They are not alone," he said. "A lot of organisations produce a badge, it looks heraldic and it can be described heraldically. And if it can be described heraldically if you want to use it in Scotland, it must be first granted to you by the Lord Lyon King of Arms.

Ayr United have been using a saltire on their crest since the 1950s
Ayr United have been using a saltire on their crest since the 1950s

"Scotland probably has the best heraldry in the world. It is very pure. It is a wonderful example of something that has cultural importance for Scotland. I think it is something that is worth preserving."

Green is committed to working with the Somerset Park club to finding a solution, aimed at mitigating the cost of the alterations.

The Procurator Fiscal says while prosecutions are virtually unheard of, there are potential penalties for offending clubs.

"The main punishment is confiscation," added Green. "You forfeit the arms.

"Let's say you had some merchandise like club shirts, they would be confiscated because they bear the offending arms on them."

Shield, saltire, lion rampant

Although the rule only exists in Scotland, the law would need to be changed at Westminster and to start this process it would require at least 10,000 people to sign a petition.

And Airdrie fan Telford believes football fans should rally to protect their club history.

"If the badge has a shield and certain symbols within it - lion rampant, saltire... your club is likely to be in trouble," he added.

"I'd say about 20-25 badges [of senior Scottish clubs] could face the same sort of issues. The dreaded letter could arrive and they could be where Ayr United are at the moment."

As for Ayr United, the League One leaders are seeking local help.

"We will be looking at budding designers, or schools perhaps," said McTrusty. "We are just in discussion about it now. It's a community club so we would very much like some input."