Whitehawk FC have made a U-Turn on their plans to change the club’s name with over 1400 fans signing a petition against the change to Brighton City.
In December 2015, Whitehawk began talks to change the team’s name to Brighton City, to ‘widen the profile of the club’. The east Brighton based club’s board members believed that the name change would appeal to the vast majority of the public in Brighton. Apart from a few sentences of explanation in a statement made by the National League South club, the fans had received no consultation or explanation from the club about the change of name.
It is a move that confused many neutrals. Hull City chairman, Assem Allam, surely would have relished the opportunity for such a unique team name like Whitehawk, with his many failed attempts at renaming Hull City to Hull Tigers, showing his almost americanised view of team names.
With Whitehawk’s individual identity and over 70 years of playing history in the lower tiers of English football, it seemed an odd move by the club to suddenly want to rebrand its character, especially after their FA Cup run this season, where they reached the second round and only narrowly missed out on a third round trip to the Premier League’s Everton, formerly known as St Domingo’s.
Following the petition, chairman John Summers, made a point to join the Whitehawk Ultras in the terraces in their recent 4-3 loss to Chelmsford. Despite the fans understanding that the club needs to embrace the city, the dislike of the name Brighton City was abundantly clear.
Whether the club continues to try and rebrand remains unclear, with names such as Brighton Whitehawk and Brighton East End now being put forward.
The British football fan is a stubborn one, having a great loyalty to tradition with name changes few and far in between. However that was not always the case, in the late 19th and early into the 20th Century, football teams would change their names and colours continually. Clubs which were founded as factory teams grew in popularity and stature within local communities which subsequently led to growth and rebranding.
If they had kept their original names, Leicester Fosse would currently sit on top of the Premier League, with Ardwick, Dial Square and Hotspur FC considering themselves title contenders.
But since those days, major change has been rare. The most notable being the dramatic uprooting and renaming of Wimbledon FC to Milton Keynes Dons FC, leaving a group of supporters to found a new club, AFC Wimbledon in the ninth tier of English football.
Unlike in American sports, where teams change names and homes at the wish of the owner, there seems to be an unwritten rule in British football, that you just can’t change a team’s name.