Western Sydney’s new A-League team: What’s in a name?
107 Have your say
A-League fans of west Sydney, as a Canberran I’m currently feeling a great deal of jealousy of you and all the excitement surrounding your shiny new unnamed A-League club.
You have many exciting times ahead. Derbies, goals, rivalries, big games laced with heartbreak and elation. These are some of the things that help forge a club’s identity over time, but there’s more to it than that.
The FFA has taken the decision to delegate the naming and team colours of this new club to the fans, and with this decision comes great responsibility. A team’s name is its identity, and if chosen well should represent the values, history and people of the represented region.
I write this blog as I’m a little concerned with the way this decision is heading.
While new names will still be given consideration, a short-list of five has been drawn up after the series of fan forums undertaken by the FFA in the west Sydney region. These names are: Athletic, Wanderers, Strikers, Wolves and Rangers.
I ask, what do any of these names have that represents the people and region of Sydney’s west? Anything? Or have fans just scoured the lower divisions of British football for names to tack onto the end of ‘Western Sydney’?
I think it would be a mistake to choose any of these names. It’s a dilution in brand value that leaves behind the one chance this club will get to create, rather than recycle, an identity.
I’m not from western Sydney, I don’t know what makes the region tick, but I do think the Americans do sports branding best.
Sticking with football, take a look at what they’ve done at Philadelphia Union, using the history and values of the city to drive the club’s branding. The result is a team name fans feel is theirs, they have a connection to it.
Seattle has done well, too. The name ‘Sounders’ might sound stupid at first but it obviously resonates with the city (it was chosen in a fan vote not dissimilar to this west Sydney one), and is now synonymous with Seattle in a way a recycled name never could be.
‘Galaxy’ is the same. When you hear that name, every football fan in the world thinks of LA. ‘Rangers’ or ‘Wanderers’ will never do that for you.
What people need to get past is that every original name will sound questionable at first, but offers better club identity in time.
Think about Gold Coast United. Last season if you had overheard two guys in a Gold Coast bar talking about the “United game”, would you assume they were talking about Gold Coast? Manchester? Or some other United?
However, if you’re in Melbourne and overhear two people talking about the Victory game, you know exactly what they’re referring to.
While obviously there are a lot of other factors at play, I felt part of the reason Gold Coast United went under was that they chose poor branding with weak identity.
Where the AFL Suns have it right and get crowds even while consistently losing (again with many other contributing factors).
So choose wisely people; you’re only going to get one shot at this, and I for one would be disappointed to see this club make a bad decision based on fans that can’t separate football culture and England.
It’s not too late to have a rethink, but it’s getting close, and a bland homogenous identity looms on the horizon.
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