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August 16, 2013
A funny coincidence: while David was musing in his recent post on the rather incoherent metamorphosis of the PSG logo, VfB Stuttgart was forced by its own supporters to move back to the club’s traditional logo before management ‘modernised’ it in 1994. At the General Assembly held on 22 July an overwhelming 79,9% of the 2,600 members present voted in favour of the motion ‘Pro Altes VfB Wappen’ submitted by the supporters club ‘Schwabensturm’. The celebration chants after the announcement of the vote are not only a touching example of the joys of grassroots democracy – after three years of active campaigning – but also an irrefutable vindication of David’s theory of the essential conservativeness of football supporters.
So what was the excitement all about? The differences between the traditional crest and the one that was used since 1994 are not really striking. The marketing people who had decided to replace the foundation year 1893 with the city’s name Stuttgart, to (kind of) modernise the old typo and (sort of) simplify the three deer antlers that stood for the (then) Kingdom of Württemberg, had justified their move by the necessity to improve the lisibility of the crest abroad. Their talk of targeting the ‘Asian market’ was of course ridiculous rhetoric – as if the VfB had the vocation to compete with Manchester and Barcelona (or PSG, for that matter) for fans in Thailand, Singapore (or Qatar, for that matter)…
The supporters basically argued that there had been no reason to change the logo, that claims it had improved the club’s visibility lacked any evidence, and that tradition was a value of its own, best expressed by the foundation year and a profession of faith in the club’s roots.
In other words, the Stuttgart supporters demanded the very opposite of the Qatar Investment Authority’s strategy for the visual identity of PSG. They even managed to have the use of the traditional logo anchored in the club’s statutes, which will make it extremey difficult to change for any future club management.
It is likely that PSG supporters would argue and act along similar lines. If they were given the opportunity. But PSG is a Societé Anonyme Sportive Professionnelle (SASP), a public company, while VfB is an old-fashioned sports club which is owned by its 45,000 members and whose professional football team has so far not been spun off from the rest of the club. This is not a blog of ‘football romantics’, and an up-to-date football club with European ambitions no doubt needs more professional management structures and less emotion-driven decision-making than chanting fans at the General Assembly. On the other hand: looking at the new PSG logo, the VfB supporters finally may not have done such a bad job in turning back the clock.