clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Why Burnley's badge is the best in the Premier League

New, comments

Keep your devils, save your eagles, and stable your seahorses. The best badge in England's top flight has a lion, a goose and an inexplicable egg.

Julian Finney/Getty Images

Burnley's elevation to the Premier League has brought many wonderful things to the top flight. Sean Dyche's voice. Kieran Trippier's overlapping. Scott Arfield's occasional belters. But perhaps their biggest service to watchers of the Eee Pee Ell -- and the reason they have SB Nation Soccer's total and unthinking support in their struggle against relegation -- is their badge, by some distance the most fascinating in the league.

burnley badge

Look at that wonderful thing. Look at how much is going on there. From bottom to top: a ribbon with the club name in an excitingly chunky font; a lion, rampant; some kind of ziggurat; a couple of accompanying diamonds; a raised hand flanked by bees; and, finally, the crowning glory that is a goose with some feathers in its mouth, standing on a claret-and-blue barber's pole, trying to shake an egg off its foot.

(Anybody looking for a name for their progressive metal band, do help yourself to A Raised Hand Flanked By Bees.)

What does it all mean? As usual with badges, crests and coats of arms, it's a collection of visual puns, local references and animals standing in uncomfortable positions. That lion, for example, apparently refers to the fact that Burnley's Turf Moor was the first stadium visited by English royalty; in 1886 the grandson of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert Victor, visited the town to open a hospital, then attended a friendly against Bolton Wanderers.

The hand and the bees -- or, if you speak heraldry, "a dexter hand erect couped at the wrist between two bees volant" -- can also be found on the old Burnley County Borough coat of arms. The bees represent the industry of Burnley and Padiham, as well as providing a cute pun on Turf Moor's old Bee Hole End, while according to the (sadly apparently defunct) website The Beautiful History, the hand is a reference to the town motto, Hold to the Truth.

And that goose? A stork, apparently, even if it looks a little ... chubby for a stork. All to do with local families of historical prominence, this one: the stork is a pun on the Starkie family. Those feathers in its mouth might represent the Lacy knot, the badge of the DeLacy family which features on the borough crest, though if that's the case then it's been slightly chewed. That's not a barber's pole either; that's a hill surrounded by cotton plants. Apparently. Rather delightfully, nobody seems to have any idea why that stork-goose has got an egg stuck on its foot.

Incidentally, the ribbon at the bottom used to carry a Latin tag, "Pretiumque Et Causa Laboris". This translates as the rather admirable "the prize and the cause of our labours," a worthy sentiment that was, according to at least one tale told on a forum, at one accidental point debased by the club. One slight mistranslation -- "the prize is the cause of our labours" -- made the good people of Burnley sound like complete glory hunters.

There are many styles of badge in the Premier League, and football clubs change them every now and then, for different reasons and with mixed results. In 2002, Arsenal dumped their ornate crest -- which featured the coat of arms of Islington and the slogan "Victoria Concordia Crescit" -- in favor of a sleek outlined cannon and an excitingly curved shield; this, apparently was inspired not just by a desire to "embrace the future and move forward", but also because the old one couldn't be copyrighted.

In 2013-14, Everton junked most elements of their crest, including their motto "Nil Satis Nil Optimum," though public outcry forced an immediate part-reversal. And in 2016-17, West Ham will ditch their castle and adopt a pair of hammers that, while apparently popular with the fans, does rather look like something Konami might have knocked up for Pro Evo's East London. And it would be remiss of us not to mention Manchester United's decision to remove the words "Football Club" from their badge. Arguably the defining moment of the Premier League.

But among them all, modern and traditional, minimal and busy, Burnley's stands out as the strangest. Even knowing what the components mean -- industry, royalty, cotton, history -- can't detract from the fundamental oddness of the thing, and after much consideration, we think we've cracked why. Animals in funny positions -- sorry, heralds, in "attitudes" -- are to be expected. Here, though, there seems to be something else going on. Perhaps this is only visible if you've been looking at it for too long, but does it a bit look like the goose, or the stork, is sort of copying the lion? Sort of, taking the piss?

Ooh, look at you, with all your strutting. Ooh, I'm so royal. Ooh, get me, I'm a big scary lion. Roar, roar, roar ... oh, damn, I've trodden in an egg.

We think that's it. This badge contains within it the small yet perky mocking the high and mighty. And as such, it is a metaphor for Burnley themselves and their role in the Premier League; small, unfancied, here to inconvenience. That stork-goose is Arfield whapping one in from 25 yards against Chelsea. It's a massed defense ruining Angel di Maria's debut. It's George Boyd and Ashley Barnes stealing a point from Manchester City. It's the little ones mocking their theoretical betters. It is, quite simply, beautiful. Long may it hover just above the relegation zone, egg on its foot, feathers in its mouth, honking at the aristocracy.