Few roars of approval as football’s Three Lions get a ‘woke’ makeover

·4 min read
The medieval crest, left, is echoed in the Three Lions logo, centre. The new Football Association design, right, will instead feature a cub, a lion and a lioness
The medieval crest, left, is echoed in the Three Lions logo, centre. The new Football Association design, right, will instead feature a cub, a lion and a lioness

It is a symbol of national pride that has endured for eight centuries, as well as 55 years of hurt. But a decision to change England’s Three Lions crest to promote diversity in football has failed to rouse roars of approval from fans.

Bosses at the Football Association announced on Thursday that the traditional Three Lions would be replaced on a brand new logo by a lion cub, a lion and a lioness.

The FA said the move would give the medieval crest a “fresh purpose” that would symbolise “inclusivity at all levels of football”.

“A cub, lion and lioness unite to form the new England Football crest with no boundaries; representing everyone at every level of football across the country,” a spokesman explained.

“It symbolises progression, greater inclusivity and accessibility in all levels of the beautiful game; from grassroots to elite.”

England’s senior football teams would continue to wear the traditional Three Lions badge worn since the first international match in 1872, the FA added. The new crest will be used to promote England Football, a new part of the FA overseeing grassroots football.

However, the announcement was met with bemusement and dismay from traditionalist England supporters on social media, with some suggesting that the branding was “PC nonsense”, and others asking: “Who’s offended by a lion?”

Many fans suggested that the famous Baddiel and Skinner anthem Three Lions, written for the Euro 96 tournament, would need a hasty rewrite. “A cub, a lion and a lioness on a shirt, Jules Rimet still gleaming,” was a common, if less-than-catchy, suggestion.

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Another supporter, with tongue possibly in cheek, questioned whether the new logo was in fact diverse enough. “Why can’t it be two lions with a cub, or two lionesses? This is not inclusive of alternative wildlife lifestyles. Do better,” the fan wrote.

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Another fan asked: “If the new crest ‘symbolises progression, greater inclusivity and accessibility in all levels’, then why are the Lions all the same colour?”

Some fans responded positively to the new look, however. “Absolutely love it. Beautiful piece of design and a great idea,” one wrote.

The FA is understood to have paid Matta, a London design agency, to come up with the new design, which took around 18 months. The cost of the rebrand is unclear.

Football chiefs asked the agency to re-imagine the Three Lions in order to promote diversity and capture the “hearts and minds” of supporters across the country.

In an interview last month, Kathryn Swarbrick, the FA’s marketing director, said the new logo had gone through several iterations during a difficult redesign process.

“We made it a bit more accessible, a bit more informal, and took the inclusivity idea and pushed it along a bit,” she said. “It’ll give you goosebumps.”

The new England Football logo will be used for popular grassroots programmes – including McDonald’s SuperKicks, Snickers Just Play, and Weetabix Wildcats. It will appear on the FA’s England Football website as well as literature and branding associated with children’s football and coaching classes.

Leading players Harry Kane, Lucy Bronze and Marcus Rashford feature in a new film promoting the England Football project, alongside portraits of grassroots heroes nationwide to “demonstrate the true diversity and fabric of football in England”.

Mark Bullingham, chief executive of The FA, said before the launch: “This is a significant change as we unite all our grassroots initiatives and programmes under one banner. England Football will harness the unique ability of the England teams to inspire future generations and positively impact participation at all levels of the game.

“Kids want to be the next Steph Houghton, Harry Kane, Nikita Parris or Raheem Sterling. As well as inspiring future generations, England Football’s digital tools will help us to create more opportunities to play, coach and support the game, nationwide.”