Quite recently, I have read John Foot’s excellent book on Italian football, titled “Calcio – A History of Italian Football”, a book I would highly recommend if you enjoy learning about the history of football or Italian football as a whole. Within Foot’s excellent tome, a large section of the early part of Italian football is dedicated to Genoa CFC (one of Italy’s oldest clubs having been founded by English immigrants as the Genoa Cricket and Football Club) and how they have won nine league titles in their illustrious history. However since the 1930’s, the Ligurian side have been agonisingly failing to claim their significant tenth league title, and thus unable earn themselves a ‘golden star’.
In Italian football (and also in a considerable number of other European countries), it is possible for clubs to add a star above their badge to indicate when they have won ten league titles in their history. Such clubs can continue to add a star when they win their twentieth, thirtieth, etc. The significance of such a star above a club’s badge is an important indication of that club’s past glories, and importance within the history of Serie A.
In terms of Italian football, only three teams are allowed to display such ‘honour stars’ above their respective badges, having won ten or more league titles throughout their histories. The most successful team, Juventus, have won thirty-four (official) league titles, whilst both Milan sides have earned such a privilege. AC Milan have earned 18 Scudetta whilst bitter city rivals Internazionale have 18 titles also. All which have displayed golden stars above their respective crests in recent times. Inter Milan and AC Milan displaying a single star above their badges whilst Juventus have three stars above their stylistic “J” logo on their shirt this season.
Seeing such a small, yet significant ‘honour star system’ in place got me thinking…could it be something that could be introduced into Welsh football, and the Welsh Premier League?
Honour stars displayed above badges in British club football do indeed already exist, but not following the same rules as in Italy and other European countries, and tend to be more ad hoc. Clubs like Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa and Celtic have naturally adopted stars into their badges / logos to indicate their significant European Cup victories, which seems a logical step to celebrate such historical occasions in winning European club football’s biggest prize.
However there are such clubs like Huddersfield Town, who have a trio of stars above their crest to signify the three consecutive league championships won under the management of Herbert Chapmen in the 1930’s. Whereas Bury have a couple of stars to honour their FA Cup triumphs, Yeovil Town have theirs to promote their 20 years in the Football League, whilst Forest Green Rovers added stars to their kit to indicate their promotion to the Football League and subsequent desire to reach the Championship. A decision. which was certainly unique and newsworthy for an ambitious club, was derided by certain corners of the football community. Clearly there is no defined system on these islands and stars seem to be added to badges for any reason that a club seems worthy.
It also varies slightly in Germany and the Bundesliga, which is a younger national league to Serie A, having being only established in 1963. They too have employed a star allocation system, but uses a different system to the standard of ‘ten titles equates to one star’ applied elsewhere on the continent. German football applies the following honour star system:
- 1 star = After the 3rd Bundesliga win
- 2 stars = After the 5th Bundesliga win
- 3 stars = After the 10th Bundesliga win
- 4 stars = After the 20th Bundesliga win
By using this system, a German club side can only achieve a maximum of four stars above their badge. This means that FC Bayern München, Germany’s most successful club and winner of 28 Bundesliga, cannot earn any further stars than the four they currently display. In comparison, Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Moenchengladbach only have two stars each, whilst Hamburger SV only have one star (although they don’t look likely to add to it anytime soon with Die Rotenhosen currently residing in the Bundesliga.2).
With such a system working on the continent, and with the Welsh Premier League now into its twenty-sixth season, would applying such an ‘honour system’ in Welsh league football be a good thing? If the Italian standard was applied to Welsh clubs, only the currently WPL champions, The New Saints, would benefit from it as their twelve WPL titles would allow them to add one gold star above their crest. However if the German standard was applied, then more WPL clubs would be affected:
- TNS: 13 WPL titles = 3 stars
- Barry Town United: 7 titles = 2 stars
- Bangor City: 3 titles = 1 star
It could be possible to adopt a Welsh equivalent whereby an honour star would be awarded after every fifth WPL league title won, so one star for five league championships, two stars for ten, and so on. If that system was applied to the current teams, TNS would only have two stars awarded with Barry Town United being the only other side, with just the single star awarded.
Another alternative to adding stars to a club’s badge would be allowing a club to wear a specific sleeve badge on their respective shirt. This is currently done in the UEFA Champions League where certain clubs can wear a “badge of honour” on one of their sleeves, and is awarded to a club when they either win the European Cup three years in a row, or five times in total, and thus wins the right to retain a full-sized replica of the trophy.
Perhaps this could be used as an alternative to the honour star system by allowing teams to wear a “badge of honour” to display their past achievements, and perhaps adding the stars onto this permanent sleeve badge rather than adding stars to the club’s logo. This could certainly be also applied for the Welsh Cup, which has the greater, longer and more illustrious history in comparison with the young national league. If it was applied for the Welsh Cup, and using the Champions League model as an example, five sides currently playing in the Welsh leagues would be entitled for displaying such a badge of honour – Bangor City, Cefn Druids, Barry Town United, The New Saints and Chirk AAA.
Whilst I appreciate that there are other issues with Welsh football which need to be addressed first, or have more focus on for change, the establishment of some kind of honour system either in the form of awarded stars on the club’s badge, or sleeve badges of honour would be a nice way of recognising the history of teams and celebrating past performances. Surely it could become something that both clubs and supporters would wear with pride if they were achieved by the club. Perhaps both systems could be applied with the honour star system could be applied for just league victories, and a “badge of honour” awarded for just Welsh Cup victories??
What are your opinions about this idea? Do you think it is a good idea to acknowledge Welsh Premier League victories or Welsh Cup victories with some visual identification on a club’s shirt? Also do they need to be stars, and should they be another symbol? I would be interested in reading your opinions and feedback on this suggestion?