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Airdrionians are latest club to fall fowl of ancient heraldic law. 

Just like three years ago when I first heard about this law I thought that it was a prank. I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that was again true but with April Fool’s Day being last month part of me hoped that it was just a prank. However, if it wasn’t so serious it would be funny because like Formartine United, SPFL side Airdrieonians are being forced to change their badge – because it breaks a law dating back to the 16th Century.


IMAGE: How the Daily Record reported Formartine’s “illegal” badge. Airdrionians have now been taken to task over their club crest. 

The case is almost a mirror image of what United experienced when they were taken to task for using their badge ”illegally” for 52 years. Like Formartine the SPFL League One club were stunned to receive a letter telling them that their crest has been deemed to be a heraldic device.

And also like Formartine the office of Lord Lyon King of Arms has warned the Diamonds face prosecution if they continue to operate with the badge which is illegal as it contains letters within the ‘shield’.

Diamonds chairman Jim Ballantyne, who informed fans of the news at a meeting recently, has signed an undertaking promising that the club won’t use the badge beyond September 1st of this year.

But once again I would stress that if this was to be rolled out across the length and breadth of the country hundreds if not thousands of clubs, companies and organisations could be breaking the historic rule.

A Scottish Parliament Act passed in 1592 gives the court of the Lord Lyon – which has its own procurator fiscal – responsibility for prosecuting anyone who uses unauthorised arms.

However, the Airdrieonians’ Supporters’ Trust have submitted a petition to the Scottish Parliament with the aim of protecting all Scottish football club badges from the Lord Lyon’s remit.

Committee member Colin Telford joked: “We’re 1-0 down going into the last minute of the game and the petition is the equivalent of sending the goalkeeper up for a corner. It’s obviously disappointing as the badge is part of our tradition and identity which we would like to maintain. This has been our badge from at least 1950 and it’s a bit of a shame that we’re going to lose it. We’re a bit shocked by the absurdity of it all but these are the rules. There is a bigger picture here and we’re trying to not to let emotions cloud that.”

Airdrie are unable to register the crest with the Lord Lyon’s Public Register of Arms as it has the letters AFC running through the middle of it.

Heraldic devices cannot have letters or numbers forming part of their shield element.

It’s believed an attempt by a mystery third party to trademark the Diamonds badge saw the UK Intellectual Property Office alert the Lord Lyon to a potential heraldic breach. Formartine United were also subject of a mystery complainant and the Lord Lyon pointed out at the time, he is not interested in pursuing anyone with an illegal badge. However, if a complaint is made he is obliged to take action.

United were forced to lose the saltire from their badge although much of the original design was retained. We were able to negotiate the retention of a number of the original design features and won the argument over two details which formed part of the complaint. We were told at the time that we were not allowed to have our motto in Latin lettering to which we politely pointed out that “Sans Puer” is actually French!

We were also told that we couldn’t display the Lion Rampant. Again we politely advised the Lord Lyon that the beast on the Formartine badge was a Winged Lion and not a Lion Rampant. Despite all this the cost of changing the badge still cost the club several thousand pounds.

I wish Mr Telford well in his attempt to serve his petition on the Lord Lyon but given that he has more power than the police I suspect I know what the outcome will be.