16th Century legislation forcing 21st Century clubs to change identity


Just when you thought Scottish football had enough problems to deal with, a 16th century piece of legislation is continuing to strip our clubs of their long held identities.

Legislation that was made law FIVE centuries ago, when Charles II was on the throne, is being used to strip League One side Ayr United of their identity at a time when finances for most clubs are being watched very closely. But if United are forced to rebrand themselves due to an archaic law controlled through the Court of the Lord Lyon, then it could cost them several thousands of pounds – if not more.

The court of Lord Lyon, which was informed of Ayr United’s ‘rule breach’ by a member of the public thought to be a rival fan, has demanded that the Somerset Park side redraw their badge and strip themselves of the Saltire – in a move that is identical to that of Highland Football League side Formartine United who were forced to remove the Scotland flag from its club badge in 2010 – which had been ‘proudly displayed’ on the club crest for 53 years.

Speaking at the time, Formartine club secretary Martin Johnston, said: “It will be a sad day when the badge is completely removed from all items inside the ground. It was designed over 50 years ago and it represents everything about the club – but it’s been taken away from us.

“We are very proud of our badge and heritage and it’s only when we’ve been told to change it that we’ve realised how much we’ll miss it. We lost the saltire which we were most disappointed about as we are staunchly Scottish.

“The person who complained has never come out of cover to explain themselves. It’s ridiculous, you look everywhere and Scottish Premier League clubs have shield badges. As do bowling clubs, tennis clubs – even lorries have them with saltires.

“We thought there’s no way we’re going to roll over and accept this, so we drove for a compromise and we’re delighted we got one.

“But it’s had a massive impact on our club, the badge is seen everywhere, whether it be on stationery, shirts or crockery in hospitality and we’re having to spend a lot of money to change them.

“We are allowed to sell the current branded stock till the end of this season and I imagine some of the goods will become collector’s items.”

It also mirrors that of Airdrieonians who were forced to change their own identity, which we reported back in April this year, after using it for over 60 years.

If Ayr United refuse to comply with the notice to replace their club crest then by law all branded items can be confiscated and the club could face a hefty fine.

A petition has been started, in a similar fashion to the one that Airdrie fans started but ultimately failed with as the club backed down, you can sign the Ayr United fans’ petition here – http://www.thepetitionsite.com/364/777/137/save-ayr-united-fc-badge/?taf_id=18130136&cid=fb_na#

So who is the Lord Lyon?

The Lord Lyon is the sole King of Arms in Scotland. He is Head of the Heraldic Executive and the Judge of the Court of the Lord Lyon which has jurisdiction over all heraldic business in Scotland.

On ceremonial occasions the Lord Lyon is accompanied by Her Majesty’s Officers of Arms, all of whom are members of the Royal Household. They are at present Rothesay Herald, Snawdoun Herald and Marchmont Herald, Ormond Pursuivant, Dingwall Pursuivant and Unicorn Pursuivant.

An Act of the Scottish Parliament of 1592 gave the Lord Lyon responsibility for prosecuting as a criminal offence anyone who uses unauthorised Arms. The Court has its own Procurator Fiscal, an independent official prosecutor.

In 1672 a further Act of the Scottish Parliament authorised the creation of the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland. This Register is maintained by the Lyon Clerk and Keeper of the Records and contains an official copy of every Coat of Arms granted in Scotland since 1672.

Only a few clubs have actually registered their club crests to the Court of the Lord Lyon, which cost them between £3,000 to £4,000.


Other archaic laws that still stand today:

  1. Carrying a plank along a pavement
  2. Flying a kite or sliding on ice or snow whilst in the street
  3. Entering the Houses of Parliament in a suit of armour
  4. Dying in the Houses of Parliament
  5. Keeping a pigsty in front of your house – unless duly hidden
  6. Erecting a washing line across any street
  7. Beating or shaking any carpet or rug in any street. However, beating or shaking a doormat is allowed before 8am
  8. In London, riding the bus (knowingly) with the Plague
  9. Handling a salmon in suspicious circumstances
  10. Being intoxicated and in charge of a horse or cow
  11. Wilfully and wantonly disturbing people by ringing their doorbells or knocking at their doors
  12. Firing a cannon within 300 yards of a dwelling house
  13. Jumping the queue in the Tube ticket hall
  14. Gambling in a library
  15. Removing a dead whale found on the British coast – since it automatically becomes the property of the ruling monarch
  16. For a pub landlord, allowing drunkenness in their pub
  17. In Scotland, turning someone away if they knock on your door and require the use of your loo
  18. Allowing your pet copulate with any pet from the Royal House
  19. Importing into England, potatoes which you suspect to be Polish

The SPFL and the Scottish FA failed to do anything to help Airdrieonians and they will continue to be impotent in Ayr United’s fight against Lord Lyon, as the FA had to adhere to the Lord Lyon legislation for their rebranding.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “A football club’s badge is part of its history and we understand fans’ frustration. The Lord Lyon provides advice and assistance to help avoid issues arising.”


About Author


Andy Muirhead is the Editor of Scotzine and the Scottish Football fanzine FITBA. He is the Scottish Football columnist for The Morning Star and has written for a number of other publications including ESPN, Huffington Post UK, BT Life's a Pitch and has had his work featured in the Daily Record, The Scotsman and the Daily Mail.

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