In this regular feature, we examine the history, origins and meaning of club crests around the world. First up is the distinctive escudo of Valencia Club de Futbol.
Valencia Club de Futbol was formed in 1919, in the inauspicious setting of a city-centre bar with a coin-toss deciding the club’s first president, Octavio Augusto Milego Díaz. Football had arrived in Valencia thanks to a citrus fruits export company who travelled regularly to England, and although there were several teams in the area, none represented the city itself. It is no surprise then to see the city colours as being a constant in the crest design, such are the club's relationship and shared history with the city.
The original also includes the most distinctive feature of the present-day Valencia crest – a black bat, which gives the team the nickname of Los Murciélagos. The bat also appears on the city’s coat of arms, and there are several theories for its significance. According to legend, when King James I came to re-conquer the city from the Moors in 1238, a bat landed on the top of his flag which he took to be providential. Needless to say, when the city had been re-claimed, the bat was added to the coat of arms. A similar story states that a bat woke a sleeping night-watchman as the city was about to be attacked.
The crown that also features on the original club crest is also taken from the city coat of arms. This earlier crest is in fact an unofficial club crest, with the first official club crest still similar to the modern-day version.
By the time the club settled into its permanent home at the Mestalla stadium, the crest had been updated with familiar features from the original. With a capacity of 17,000 and the project overseen by architect and future president Francisco Almenar, as well as the builder Ramón Ferré, also a member of the club, Valencia CF were bidding to join the newly formed national league with a new home and a new crest. The football that formed the original shield was still incorporated, this time over the yellow and blood orange city colours. Despite the strong colour themes, the team played in a strip of white shirt with black shorts and socks – the club’s home kit to this day. Valencia played their first league match in February 1929 sporting the new shield-based design.
This design was modified through the years but essentially remained the same. The main change has been the shape of the shield and the bat design that tops the crest. Note also the slight variations of the club name in the blue banner, eventually abandoning the English-style “F.C.” in the 1980’s with “Valencia C de F”. This was also the first crest that featured additional detailing of the bat logo.
As the crest developed, so too did the club. The 1940’s saw a stadium capacity increase, and more importantly the first piece of silverware in the 1941 Copa del Rey, followed by their first league title the following year.
The Mestalla later hosted matches in the 1982 World Cup and is regarded as one of the country’s finest stadia. European competition was now a regular occurrence at the ground, with Fairs Cups as well as Cup Winner’s and Super Cups having made their way into the trophy cabinet. Ronald Koeman led the club to their last Cup success in 2008, beating Getafe in that year’s Copa del Rey final.
In a threat to the club’s crest, November 2014 saw DC Comics file a lawsuit against the club, contesting the use of bat symbols in protest at a Valencia CF clothing line which featured a bat with raised wings. The club scrapped the modification, although DC Comics were sufficiently distracted to destroy two perfectly good superhero reputations with the release of Batman Vs Superman.
For football fans, the bat symbol will always mean one thing – a proud and historic club on the eastern coast of the Iberian Peninsula who aren’t afraid to fly in the dark.