The FA’s launch of its new England Football brand ended up being dominated by the fact that it had re-interpreted the country’s Three Lions badge to be more inclusive: by featuring a lion, a lioness and a cub.
There were many who wilfully misunderstood this to be the FA changing its logo from the traditional Three Lions to something overly ‘woke’ and delighted in mocking the process.
But these critics missed the point – this wasn’t the FA changing the Three Lions, it was creating a new logo for a new project, England Football, and it needed its own, England-themed logo.
A lot of the talk around the logo therefore missed the point of the very important work the FA had done to launch a piece of work aimed at consolidating grassroots and participation programmes under one name.
England Football is also about showing how inclusion, volunteering and fans’ voices can make the country’s most popular sport thrive in the modern world.
It took marketing and advertising news gatherer The Drum, to speak with the FA’s commercial and marketing director Kathryn Swarbrick and establish what the FA felt it could achieve through England Football.
After a traumatic year for football at all levels of the game – from grassroots clubs being under threat of permanent closure to a proposed breakaway European Super League which died almost soon as it was born – now seemed an opportune moment for the FA to launch England Football.
The project has been 18 months in the planning but, says Swarbrick, it is a perfect moment to deliver.
Swarbrick explained to The Drum that the original plan was to launch England Football ahead of the planned Euros last year. “But I didn’t think we had enough substance,” she said. It would have been really a branding exercise. We needed to buy the time to make sure that this is not a vanity project.”
Swarbrick says that the extra year they have been given has meant she was able to unearth all the myriad work that was going on at the FA, much of which she wasn’t even aware of.
The result is EnglandFootball.com, which she describes as “one-stop online hub across all levels of the game”, giving people the chance to play, coach and support football at all levels – as well as giving information about FA programmes, learning resources and admin tools.
Swarbrick’s team has also developed Find Football, a tool designed to help parents find playing opportunities across all age groups and a rewards program, My England Football, that will support England fans, grassroots players and volunteers.
The FA will use EnglandFootball.com to speak to the public while the FA will continue to deal with all administrative/governance.
So, as Swarbrick says, It’s so much more than a logo. “Driving change through any organisation can be hard. You’ve got to show enough proof as well. So you’ve got to do the research and jump through the hoops to prove it works, that takes time.”
The new site also helps commercial partners too with more exposure given to grassroots programmes supported by McDonald’s, Snickers and Weetabix – as well as BT, whose Playmaker entry-level courses are another great example of the work the FA is doing to grow the game.
Stars such as Harry Kane, Lucy Bronze and Marcus Rashford all appeared in the launch video produced by Copa 90, the football fan platform, which had the stated aim of showing that football is for everyone.
And England Football does that. The adaptation of the logo from Three Lions to a lion, a lioness and a cub was just a part of that message.
“We made it a bit more accessible, a bit more informal, and took the inclusivity idea and pushed it along a bit,” says Swarbrick.
“We’ve got a massive opportunity, especially coming out of Covid-19, where people maybe have lapsed out of the sport, generally. We need to engage communities, push the mental and physical wellbeing of the sport. We need to use this opportunity to get people back up and running.”