The LFC Crest – A History

The animated club crest (left) is based on a small plastic plaque (right) that I have had since I was a boy in the 1970s. The crest itself is an early version of our club crest used between 1970-1992, a crest that had many variations during that period.

Sometime in about 2008/2009, I saw an image online of a rounded Liverpool FC club crest that I did not recognise. My first thought was that it was a joke. It looked too much like that one used by our evil Mancunian rivals. However, it was no joke. It was proven to be our crest during the 1960s.
Slowly, distant memories rose to the surface. I had seen that crest before, but it was so long ago in the 1970s that I had forgotten it.
I still possess a plastic plaque from the early 1970s, which is when I became a Liverpool fan. It is a cheap, 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 c1970 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. As I was also now aware that there was at least one earlier version of the club crest to that, my mind was made-up to find out how many there have been and what they all looked like – and if possible, why changes were made. My search would provide me with one surprising discovery that would bring a smile to my face.
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, and our FA Cup Final runners-up season of 1949-50.
So what did the original crest look like– and how many were there before 1950?
What colours were used? Was there a primary one? Red, white or even green, like the ones on the Royal Liver building? Was it multi-coloured? Was it simple or elaborate? Was it in a shield of some sort or was it on its own?
Did the Liver bird look like the one used by Liverpool Council? (Which has recently changed to a simpler style; an older version can be found here). This in turn is like the red one on The Paisley Gates.
 
What use was there for the Liverpool club crest in the almost 50-year period 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.
These days, with The Internet, we have some wonderful resources at hand that provide information about anything, let alone football club histories. In this particular regard, we have, of course, LFCHistory.net, as well as the Historical Kits site. Our own club’s shirt history, which ties-up with the club crest, can be found on this page. Additionally, we have the Liverpool Shirts Museum site, and Liverweb.
I have also utilised Peter Crilly’s “Tops of The Kop” about LFC kits from 1892 – 2007. I have also checked out forums on LFC.tv, as well as the likes of RAWK, which led me then to do searches for images of things like club programmes, and check my own old ones.
I have also gone through the likes of Getty images online for pictures of Club officials of the past. Why? To check their blazers and ties, that’s why.
I have searched through information from the official site, particularly here, as well as exhibits in the museum. The site is where we find the first mention of the origins of the club crest. It is on the first page of the time-line and refers to John Houlding and the foundation of Liverpool football club:
Unable to keep the Everton F.C. name he then thought bigger and finally acceded to his secretary’s proposal, and named his club after the entire city rather than one of its suburbs, even adopting by 1894 the City’s colour of red for the playing shirts and by 1901 the Liverbird as the crest.
An additional source is Anfield Rising – Liverpool: the First Decade, by Brian Belton, who adds that in 1894;
“…the club adopted the city’s red and yellow colours…”
Yellow! That explains that colour being used on kits – but there is no obvious reason for the use of the colour green!  I have learned however that this colour has been around the club longer than Carlsberg, so that’s one myth dispelled, at least.
Below is a time line of (some) slightly stylised clubs crests indicating how they have appeared on shirts and on merchandise since WWII.
Shirt crests
Merchandise crests
There were several versions of the crest used on programmes and other merchandise between 1970 and 1992, which varied in style considerably, although they were all more or less the same one. More about that later…
It is interesting to note that our crest first appeared on the white away kit and was worn at Wembley in the 1950 FA Cup Final defeat to Arsenal, although that may not have been the first occasion it was worn that season. Do you know when it was first used? Was it in the Cup Final?

The club crest, as you may very well know, is based upon the city’s Liver bird emblem. The history of 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 is 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 bird also appears in the arms of Liverpool, Australia.
The motto can be translated as “God has bestowed these blessings on us”, and is taken from Virgil.”
Virgil is a Roman poet. Other translations I have seen of the motto DEUS NOBIS HÆC OTIA FECIT is “God has given us this tranquility” ,or, “God hath granted us this ease.” It is apparently taken from Virgil’s epilogue (Epilogue 1,6) and, in context, is a eulogy of the idyllic country life.
You may care to check out other sources about the history of the Liver bird, e.g. Wikipedia, as well as Liverbirdology and this BBC page.
So, according to two sources (above), the club adopted a crest in 1901. It is perhaps no coincidence that 1900-01 was the first season that we won the league title.
The Anfield museum has one of those championship-winning medals in its collection, and whilst you can only see it from one side in the museum (the image on the left), I believe I have found images of both sides of it, with the colour disparity down to there being separate sources.
 The Championship side of the image (right) is taken from the official site here. The medal in the museum belonged to Tom Robertson.
The Liver bird is depicted on its own on the 1906 Championship medal (aside – apologies for poor photo quality), but when we won the League for the third and fourth times, and twice in a row, between 1921-1923, the club held lavish commemoration dinners, with event programmes depicting the crest.
Here (left) 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 match programme.
Here also (right) is how the club crest appeared on club programmes, in 1937.
The ‘break’ that WWII imposed upon the official league programme of fixtures, from 1939-46, seems also to have been when the club crest first changed, but I have not been able to pin down exactly when.
Here are club programmes from the 1947-48, 1949-50 and also the 1969-70 seasons.

The crest depicted on these programmes, the one that I referred to up top at the start as being too like one from East Lancs, was in use by the club from at least 1947 until the early 1970s.
As stated, I have not been able to confirm exactly when the crest was adopted, but all the indications are that it appeared post WWII. If anyone knows more than that, I would be delighted to know more myself.
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 objected, and 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.
I have not been able to find any further (or for that matter, earlier) requests of this nature between club and city council, which suggests that this request was not repeated (or if it was, it was not so well reported), so this refusal in 1961 to allow Liverpool FC to use the Coat of Arms – just prior to promotion back to the top flight – would seem to be very important to the future development of the club crest.
As with the Liver bird itself, the club crest became something other than the city’s crest, with a life and development very much of its own. Why that separation occurred remains a mystery.
This post WWII crest also appeared on an official match programme as recently as 1981…and on no less than the 1981 European Cup Final programme (Paris, of course)…and in full colour .
One wonders if the full-coloured version of this crest explains why green has been used by the club on kits and on our current club crest. Perhaps it was there since this crest was adopted, but we didn’t know or realise it at the time because of it usually appearing to us in two-tone colours. Perhaps it was because of the seaweed?
Whilst this crest was used as recently as 1981, it was from 1970 that the club gradually replaced it on programmes, tickets and official documents.
Ticket Books for Director’s boxes at Anfield, for example, did not reflect the change until 1972, whilst club programmes flitted between this crest and various versions of the subsequent club crest until 1974, when, apart from this 1981 programme, this crest essentially disappeared from official club use.
Next are some examples of the subsequent club crest as it has appeared on merchandise from 1970. They demonstrate how the crests used varied considerably in style. They also show how these crests overlapped with each other, apparently due to inconsistent and un-coordinated use.
This crest (aside) from a 1970 programme appeared on programmes until 1977-78, but it was not alone during this period…

1978-79

This is where it gets a little bit confusing.
The crest (right) from 1978-79 official programmes, appeared on such as early as 1971-72 and was also used on the 1974 FA Cup Final programme. It may also depict the Liver bird style used in the first “This is Anfield” sign.
It also appears on the 1989 Liverpool v Celtic Hillsborough Disaster Appeal match programme, and in 1982 on an official annual.
These following two crests (re-created from programmes, the latter from a scan) overlap each other, as well as the crests above, in their usage.

The crest on the left can be found on 1979-80 and 1980-81 Anfield programmes, as well as the 1984 European Cup Final Programme (Rome, of course), whereas the crest on the right can be found in both the 1981 League Cup Final and replay programmes (as well as in the ones for 1982, 1983 and 1984!).
The latter (right) crest was indeed prevalent on official merchandise throughout the 1980s, including away game programmes. So which one of these was the official crest?
Tickets and documents from the early 1970s indicate that this crest came into being in 1970 and was presumably our official crest from then.
The crest on official tickets from 1972-73 (the earliest I can date this exact version, aside) appears on later documents that show it is a Registered Trade Mark. As the club used a variety of similar crests from 1970, all of which would be considered as generally the same crest, and protected under that same Trade Mark Registration, this indicates that there was a laissez faire attitude to the accuracy of its use: so long as it was close enough to that design, it was OK. They were all official crests, therefore, even if the one aside was the one used on headed paper and specifically noted as being a Registered Trade Mark.
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 variety of club crests used between 1970-92 registered, which as I say, should cover any and all such used. 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 this one:
My one! 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.
This brings us to a period that signalled the end to the apparent division between shirt and merchandise crests, which had never been one and the same. In 1987, the shirt crest (left), which had for many years been a Liver bird over the legend, “LFC” was altered to match the club crest on merchandise, and ushered in the beginning of a more co-ordinated approach.
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.
To demonstrate what I mean, here are the covers of the 1989 Hillsborough 45rpm single, as well as a 1991 Official Annual.

Both are obviously slight variations on our ‘usual’ crest of the time, with the one on the annual appearing on a number of annuals around that time.
The Hillsborough single cover, however, depicts a unique Liver bird. It is probable therefore that it is a specially created and unofficial version of our crest (not that anyone was likely to complain about it, given its purpose), which effectively merges the look of both the shirt crest and the official merchandise crest, and for our Liver bird, was a sign of things to come.
With the shirt and merchandise crests now more-or-less the same, subsequent crest changes became more co-ordinated and standardised.

When the crest was significantly altered for the 1992-93 season, to mark our club’s centenary, this historic change (now incorporating the Shankly Gates) led to a 1993 post-centenary version, with more symbolic changes (the eternal flames), before the crest was changed to our current crest, c1999.

With regard to club kits, our current crest initially appeared in two-tone on the green away kit of 1999, and also in two-tone on other subsequent kits (including our historic 2001 treble kits), until a full-colour version finally appeared on kits in 2002. Although its colour scheme on away shirts has varied since then, the crest itself has not altered.

Other LFC Club Crests.

There is of course another very well known LFC crest:
I do not know exactly when the This is Anfield (TIA) sign appeared above the tunnel at Anfield, and would be interested in hearing from anyone who does. I know it was in Shankly’s time, and probably about the same time as the crest changed (c1970).
I understand that there may be some stories associated with it…
As the two images (above) indicate, the Liver bird has also evolved and changed within the TIA sign over the years, in line with the other club crests, but otherwise the TIA sign is quite literally part of the furniture.
There have been a number of other unique club crests over the years, mostly shirt specials for Cup Finals (e.g. the 1965 FA Cup Final, aside) and other one-off matches, including, a couple of crests produced by Crown Paints in the mid-80s. You can find one on Liverweb, plus there are examples on merchandise here.

After becoming European Champions for the fifth time in 2005, we became entitled to a multiple winner’s badge.
This gave the club plenty of opportunity for merchandising, hence our crowned “Champions of Europe” Liver bird.

Mystery Crests

It was noticed in an online football forum that in a 1973 picture of Bill Shankly, our legendary manager appears to have a unique club crest on his blazer. Another image of Bill Shankly from 1964 with this (or a similar) blazer can also be found here.
Also, from Peter Crilly’s “Tops of the Kop” book (page 64), there is an image of Shanks in what seems to be this blazer, which is from c1959-1962.

There is also this image (below) from the Anfield Museum, plus a re-creation of the crest, originating from http://liverlogos.blogspot.com.

So where did this come from?

The Club Museum also has another blazer crest.

The card reads: “CLUB BADGE.

An unusual and rare club badge, worn by Bill Shankly on a club blazer. The exact date is unknown. We are seeking any pictures of him wearing this blazer.”


Was it simply commonplace for crest designs to be left open to artistic interpretation, and were these perhaps something that Shanks’ ‘tailor’, or some other such person created?
This is why I started searching through old images of club officials for blazers and ties. It seems our first blazer crest was commonly worn by players and team officials during the Shankly era, and indeed appears to be on the club blazers worn when they returned from the 1971 FA Cup Final, when Shanks gave his famous “Chairman Mao” speech.
It seems that there are a number of unique or not well known versions of our club crest, perhaps appearing in colours that we didn’t usually see them in, and were custom made by individuals, or for club officials.
Pictures that I have found of Chairman, John Smith, c1980, and several club directors (e.g. Syd Moss), show a contemporary style of crest, but full-coloured, with the moss or seaweed in the Liver bird’s beak looking distinctly green in colour.
Do you know of or recall any Liver bird, and whatever it has in its beak, on an official club crest, that was anything more than one colour?
Actually, I can think of one.
That Liver bird in turn reminds me of the gold crest on gates around the ground…
I’m not suggesting that there is anything terribly wrong with club officials having their own versions of the club crest on blazers or ties, but if full-colour versions of our club crest were exclusively available to club officials, particularly at a time when club crests tended to appear to the rest of us in one colour or in two-tone, then I would at least be interested in seeing what they looked like. For example, is that crest on the 1981 European Cup Final programme a true, full-colour representation of our post-war club crest for over 20 years?
How many more are there from our past?
If you know anything about the gaps in knowledge here, particularly if you have some form of evidence, then I would be happy, if not delighted, to hear from you.
I end with a time-line of the crests.
1901
1923
1935
1947
1950 (Shirt)
1955 (Shirt)
1969 (Shirt)
1970 – 1992
1976 (Shirt)
1985 (Shirt)
1987 (Shirt)
1992
1993
1999
2005
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Comments

  • Kyle Latremore  On October 12, 2011 at 4:29 am

    I wanted to know what the Latin phrase is on the crest in the 1923 and 1935?

  • ajjam  On October 13, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Kyle, thanks for the interest.

    As the Crest at the time was the one belonging to the City of Liverpool, the phrase is therefore the same on both the 1923 and 1935 crests, and throughout the period that it was used by Liverpool FC as the club crest (from 1901 until sometime around WWII).

    The exact style may have varied slightly, but as you could say about the many variations of the 1970-1992 crest, it was really the same one in both 1923 and 1935. It was the City’s crest, but ‘with a twist’.

    The Latin phrase is therefore DEUS NOBIS HÆC OTIA FECIT, the origins and meaning of which appear in the blog, several paragraphs above/before the crests that you refer to.

    Cheers,

    ajjam

  • Ms Mart  On November 27, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    The fundamental approach. Lot of work, hard work.Titanic! Very informative, thank you very much.

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