Last week I was one of hundreds of Evertonians invited to Goodison Park to take part in a consultation with fans over the design of the club's new crest, which will replace the current version from next season. I had applied online a few weeks ago and was delighted to receive the email telling me I had been randomly selected to take part. If nothing else this would be an opportunity to go and see some of the innards of Goodison which I may not have seen before, to meet some Evertonians, and to contribute to a significant moment in the club's history.
I arrived early and was directed to the Captains Table Room in the Park End. Its walls are decorated with pictures of clubs captains from years gone by, right up to our present skipper. I wandered round like an arty type in a gallery, and reflected on the familiar and unfamiliar faces before me. It was a timely reminder that things change. Before long around 25 blues had arrived and we were welcomed by two men from Kenyon Fraser before being split into two smaller groups. Kenyon Fraser is a local agency hired by Everton to consult with the fans and design a number of crests, which fans will then vote on to select a winner. The whole process is scheduled to be completed by the end of October.
Our group leader Richard, the CEO of Kenyon Fraser, led my group to a separate suite and we were seated around a long table. Before we started there was a horrible moment when I dunked one of the complimentary biscuits into my cup of coffee, and half of the biscuit broke off and sank to the bottom of the mug. I was left with no option of course but to drink the evidence. Thankfully I don't think anyone noticed me chewing the last couple of sips.
Most in the group were local, however there were two fans who had travelled from Leeds and Anglesey, just for this meeting, reminding me that not only are we blessed with a fan base spread across the country, but we have out of town fans who care enough about the club to make a long journey to Goodison on a work night, just to have their views heard. Having the fans' views heard is of course the whole point of this exercise. My understanding is that this is the biggest consultation with fans over the design of a club crest ever, in any sport, anywhere in the world. Our club is often criticised by fans, and quite rightly too, for making what sometimes appear to be quite basic management mistakes, the current crest being an example. But credit where it is due, they have sought to correct the mistake and hopefully the appearance that they are getting the process right will not prove to be deceptive.
During the next hour or so Richard took us through a series of questions - the same questions which have appeared in the online survey on the official site. The point of these focus groups, we were told, was to gather some opinions and views which would be lost in a purely digital survey.
Most of the questions in the survey triggered interesting debates. The first asked us what we believed Everton stands for. A couple of viewpoints stood out as being almost unanimous. In particular, the view that the tag of 'The People's Club' has had its day. Some, myself included, felt that at the time when David Moyes coined this phrase it was good, however we have moved on from him and from that period. His recent and disappointing comments are all the more reason to leave that phrase behind. We can be the People's Club without referring to ourselves as such.
A discussion on the crests from a selection of other clubs followed. My personal favourite is Tottenham's. It manages to combine simplicity with symbols of historical significance. Some crests are shocking, such as Bolton's. The Wolves crest is too simple. The Hull crest is too intricate. It is a difficult thing to get right, which is all the more reason why it is great to involve fans in the process, and to offer a selection which we will be able to vote on.
It is crucial of course that our new crest retains elements from our crests of the past. Indeed, one of the questions raised divided last season's crest into its parts - the shield, the motto, the tower, the wreaths, 1878 and the club's name, and asked us to discuss their relative importance. This gets to the very heart of the task at hand. Ideally I would want all of these things in our new crest, however I am beginning to accept that it was perhaps too busy, and it is time for a change. Our crest has been modified a number of times over the years, for practical reasons as much as any, and it is primarily for practical reasons that last season's crest may be trying to fit too much into one badge. Simplicity has a greater impact. With that in mind I would be open to the new badge containing, for example, only the club's name, the tower, and the wreaths. No shield, no motto, no 1878. This might look similar to our badge from the mid eighties, with the addition of the club's name beneath it (for marketing reasons). Components such as the motto (which I love and have tattooed across the back of my shoulders), can still be an important part of the club. We could replace 'The People's Club' on the Main Stand with it, for example, and continue to sell merchandise with the motto printed on it.
The main issue I have with the new badge is the depiction of the tower. Its lines are too thick and it looks like something from a Warner Brothers cartoon or a Nintendo game. I have no objection to the tower's new shape, which is of course a more accurate reflection of the actual tower. One of our earlier crests, from the thirties I believe, did have a tower of this shape, but it was a far more artistic depiction. I also think that either the wreaths or the motto have to stay, and overall the new badge just has to look like more time and thought has gone into it.
All in all I really enjoyed the meeting, and was impressed by much of what Richard had to say. He convinced me that there are no hidden agendas, and that they have been given no brief other than to produce something which the fans at large are happy with. The club is frequently slammed by supporters for one reason or another, but in this case I think and hope that they are getting it right. I look forward to seeing the candidate crests when they are released next month and expect at least one of them to strike a chord. Surely whatever we end up with will be an improvement on the crest we are currently having to endure. And for those who are wondering, the biscuits were absolutely top notch.