Football League announce the new EFL

No, it’s not a new far-right “patriotic” splinter group, but the new identity for 72 of England’s football clubs.

The Football League have today announced the new identity and branding by which the second, third and fourth tiers of the English game will soon be recognised.

The English Football League, or EFL as it will be known, was introduced with a video (above) highlighting the new dynamic logo, featuring 72 balls – representing each of the member clubs – segregated into three groups of 24 – representing the three divisions in which they play. Each club will be provided with a unique version of the logo in their own colours.

Introducing the EFL, the Football League’s Chief Executive, Shaun Harvey, said:

The new EFL name rightly emphasises the central role our clubs play at the heart of English professional football.

One wonders how Welsh clubs Cardiff City and Newport County (assuming they survive this season) – and indeed Swansea City if they lose their Premier League status in May – feel about a new emphasis on English football. That said, the Football League were keen to point out that the change of name follows a wide consultation “that included detailed surveys, interviews and focus groups with clubs, stakeholders, commercial partners and more than 18,000 football supporters” and that those consulted “included the Football Association, the Premier League, the Professional Footballers Association, the Football Supporters Federation, the League’s competition sponsors, its broadcast partners and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport”.

Mr Harvey continued:

In an increasingly challenging global sports market, it is absolutely essential that sports properties can project a modern identity that not only resonates with their regular audience but is also easily recognisable to a broader audience of potential fans, viewers and commercial partners.

We believe the EFL name and brand will give our competitions an identity that is new and distinct, while at the same time retaining our unique heritage. As such, it will be something that all fans can identify with – whether they be young or old, at home or abroad.

The current division titles of “Championship”, “League One” and “League Two” will remain under the new brand as, according to Mr Harvey, these “have proven popular with fans since their introduction in 2004.”

The new EFL name does, however, sound ominously like a cross between the United States’ National Football League (more commonly abbreviated to NFL) and the far-right anti-Muslim organisation English Defence League (more commonly abbreviated to EDL) – which, incidentally, partly evolved from football hooliganism.

I’m sure the Football League were fully aware that such a potential confusion might arise when they were considering and consulting on their new identity…

Medway Messenger: Friday, 17 May, 2013

Good reason for no Gills parade

I HAVE been a Gills fan for more years than I care to remember, and I well remember standing in Gillingham Park as the Division Two Play-off Final success was celebrated from the balcony of the Municipal Buildings more than a decade ago.

That is why I can understand Mr Sengelow’s sentiments (Letters, May 10) regarding a victory parade following the Gills’ extremely successful centenary year. The club has not always had an easy relationship with Medway Council, but it is important to note that the council is always keen to allow all residents the chance to celebrate the club’s success and has, in the past, accommodated victory parades.

Unfortunately, this time the club was unable to take up the council’s offer, which has provoked a mixed reaction from fans.

I am not too concerned about the fact that a victory parade will not be taking place this year. Unlike the play-off finals, the League 2 championship was won and the trophy presented on home soil, in front of a capacity crowd. This allowed the team to celebrate the success in Gillingham, without the need for an additional local celebration.

Gillingham Football Club is one of the best Football League clubs for involving fans, and Martin Allen has put the fans at the forefront of everything the team has done this year. From inviting them on to the team coach at away matches and into the dressing room, to opening up training sessions and ensuring players do not leave without signing autographs and posing for photographs, the fans have always been held in high regard by the club, management and players. The fans have even been asked to choose next season’s kit.

The decision not to hold a victory parade was, therefore, clearly not taken with the intention of disappointing the fans, although I accept that there may be a few who were unable to attend the match against AFC Wimbledon who may be disappointed. I am therefore happy to accept the club’s decision and look forward to another successful season, albeit this time in League 1!

Alan Collins
Goudhurst Road, Gillingham

The power behind the Gills

The fairy tale of Gillingham ended, like all good fairy tales, in dramatic fashion.

The blue boys, playing in red as they have done throughout their centenary season, only needed one point to secure the nPower League Two trophy but, after less than 23 minutes the thought of a draw was far from the minds of players and fans alike.

Veteran striker Deon Burton opened the scoring for the Gills early on with a strike that seemingly came from nowhere before former Don Danny Kedwell doubled the Gills’ lead heading in Chris Whelpdale’s cross.

The Gills kept pushing until the second half, when they returned from the dressing room playing like they’d OD’d on valium. AFC Wimbledon, fighting for Football League survival for the first time in their short history, saw their chance, with Jack Midson bringing them back into the game after the hour and Jon Meades levelling the scoring with less than ten minutes to play.

Every Gills fan knows that supporting the club is not easy, and were nervously watching the clock as referee Andy D’Urso seemed to drag out stoppage time. In the end, it need not have concerned Gillingham whether they won, lost or drew, as Port Vale dropped points at home to Northampton, securing the Gills’ League Two title as the sun shone on the MEMS Priestfield Stadium.

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In times of success, it is fashionable to congratulate those who made it happen – and it went without saying that on Saturday the Chairman, Paul Scally, the Manager, Martin Allen, the Assistant Manager, John Schofield, all the backroom staff, Captain Adam Barrett, the whole playing squad and, of course, the loyal fans, were all mentioned in dispatches.

Also worth giving thanks to, though, are the sponsors – those who, along with paying fans, fund the football club and have allowed such a successful squad to be built. To Medway Mowers, sponsors of the 37 goals scored at the MEMS Priestfield Stadium. Ah yes, to MEMS, who sponsor the club and the stadium, and whose logo has been seen across the country side-by-side with that of the Football League sponsors nPower (the irony of which I will let you research yourself). And to all those whose advertising space can be seen in matchday programmes and advertising boards around the ground.

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There is now just one game of the season to go and Martin Allen may look to play those who have spent much of the season warming the bench. He is keeping his selection under wraps for now, but the Medway Messenger are reporting that Mad Dog is approaching the final game of the season differently.

Who knows, even Tommy Forecast might get his first league start for the champions before he returns to Southampton…

The Gills are going up!

The classic fairy tales, the ones everyone remembers, are those with an idyllic backdrop, a heart-warming story, a villain which must be tamed and an ending which encourages pride in the authors.

The idyllic backdrop to this fairy tale, which will be told for generations to come, was Priestfield Stadium, bursting with 7,423 Gillingham fans hungry for promotion. The villain was a Torquay United team battling to avoid relegation, yet the only team to beat Gillingham away in 21 outings so far this season – the only team putting a stop to an unbeatable club record – occasionally being urged on by their 151 travelling supporters.

The heart-warming story is of a local lad, a life-long Gillingham supporter, finally realising his dream of playing for his home team; a lad, now a grown man, working hard to earn the trust and support of the audience and make them proud.

And so, on 6 April, 2013, Gillingham Football Club knew that, should they win and other results went their way, they would finally lay to rest two seasons of narrowly missing play-off places and secure automatic promotion to League One.

It was tight and nerve-wracking, but doable.

In the end, one goal was all that Gillingham could muster, before their fate was decided by other results. And that one goal, shortly after half time, had to be scored by the local lad, the life-long Gillingham supporter. Only Danny Kedwell could have scored the vital winning goal which tamed Torquay and gave his beloved Gills the vital three points.

And then came the news. As if every deity of every major religion was smiling over Priestfield that day, not only did results go Gillingham’s way, but convincingly so. To secure promotion, no more than two teams should be able to catch their points tally – with some drawing enough to hit the target but with others needing to lose.

The deities had their own plans.

Second-placed Port Vale had battered fifth-placed Burton Albion 7-1 the night before. Third-placed Northampton Town lost 1-0 to Bradford City; fourth-placed Cheltenham Town lost 2-0 to Plymouth Argyle; sixth-placed Rotherham United lost 2-1 to Morecambe; and, for good measure, seventh-placed Exeter City lost 1-0 to Dagenham and Redbridge.

That meant only one thing, and the fans knew long before the announcer came over the tannoy. The jubilation on the staff and players’ faces as they took a slow lap of honour said it all. The joy in the chants from the stands said it all. Only Port Vale could now reach Gillingham’s points total.

Gillingham were promoted from League Two, for the first time on home soil, in their centenary year, thanks to a goal from the local lad. And they loved every minute of celebration that followed…

But this fairy tale is not quite finished. The authors still have a little ink left for their quills. There are still three games left to play in League Two. 270 minutes left of fourth-tier football before they make the jump. And in those 270 minutes, our heroes could write the happily ever after and finish the season as champions.

The Gills currently have 82 points. 87 would seal the championship. That’s one win and two draws. Anything less would hinge on Port Vale’s performances. Anything more would be an added bonus.

The championship can only fall to Gillingham or Port Vale. And this fairy tale seems destined to see its heroes crowned champions on home soil on 20 April, with one game to spare.

Make sure you have your seats ready. And a box of tissues. Because it’s going to be one hell of a party!

Gillingham promoted (but not as champions)?

It is a headline that strikes fear at the heart of Gillingham supporters, but one which, in pre-season, was only conceivable in their wildest dreams.

At the outset of the season, our sights were trained on promotion, whether that be automatically or via the play-offs, following two seasons of missing the play-offs by a whisker.

However, right from the start of the season, we have seen a Gillingham side unknown for years, full of fire, aspiration and determination. For the majority of the season we have occupied the coveted top spot and set the pace for the chasing pack.

In recent months, our home form has been, to say the least, wavering, but it is rare that a club in the modern era will win or draw every game. Losses are important in building the character of a team, and the belief that only three points will do is the hallmark of greed; the greed of a small section of fans highlighted when the losing team at home to Oxford were booed off the pitch, despite being top of the league.

Barring a minor disaster, it is likely that Gillingham will end this season occupying one of the top three positions. Every fan will acknowledge that it would be nice to end the season as champions, but will we have failed if we finish second or third?

I can recommend a good psychiatrist for anyone who answers “yes”.

Let us be clear – this is our record-breaking season. The best start to the season (where we didn’t lose a league game until our ninth matchday, at home to Rochdale) and the best away record, both in terms of away wins and our current unbeaten run.

In 18 league outings, we have won 11 and drawn six; we have lost just one game (when we visited Torquay in October) and picked up at least one point from each of the eleven away games since. We have conceded just ten goals whilst netting 36, giving us an away record unrivalled in the Football League; the next best coming from Sheffield United in League One, with two losses and twelve goals conceded – 36 points away from home compared to our 39.

Our home form, though fluctuating since November, is not to be sniffed at either. We have lost more home games than seven of our League Two counterparts, including struggling Barnet and our season-end showdown opponents Burton Albion (who, incidentally, have the best home record in League Two), however, we have still picked up 31 points (from nine wins and four draws) and equalled our away goal difference of 13 – giving us the best goal difference in League Two (jointly with Port Vale), and second best in the Football League (Championship side Leicester also have a goal difference of 26), some way behind League One Swindon’s 32.

This lengthy stat-attack (well done if you’ve kept up!) is important, because it emphasises why we deserve to be where we are in the league – and what we have already achieved this season. However, our last nine games are not going to be easy:

Morecambe (A): mid-table, but tough to beat on their home soil; first result: 2-1 win for Gillingham;
Rochdale (A): mid-table, with mediocre form; first result: 2-1 win for Rochdale;
Accrington (H): bottom of the table, have won just one in their last ten games; first result: 1-1 draw;
Fleetwood (A): pushing for a play-off place, could be a tough challenge; first result: 2-2 draw;
Rotherham (H): promotion chasing, another tough challenge; first result: 2-1 win for Gillingham;
Torquay (H): hovering above relegation zone, but only team to beat us away; first result: 2-1 win for Torquay;
Cheltenham (A): play-off contenders, have only lost twice at home; first result: 0-0 draw;
Wimbledon (H): mid- to low-table, slowly pulling themselves up the table; first result: 1-0 win for Gillingham;
Burton (A): second in the league, best home record in the league; first result: 4-1 win for Gillingham.

I believe our toughest challenge will be on the last day of the season and, depending on events between now and then, that could be the game which decides who wins the league. That is why it is imperative, if the top spot is our goal, it is settled by the end of our last home game of the season.

If we do see the above headline, I will be disappointed, naturally, but I will not be upset. Our boys have given us more than enough to be proud of this season and promotion is the icing on the cake. Winning the league? That’s the ribbon and bow on the front – it looks nice, but it’s not essential.

Promotion is – and has always been – our priority, and I will be happy whether we finish first, second or third – or even if we (heaven forbid) have to slog it through the play-offs to Wembley, though somehow (and you can hunt me down if I am forced to eat my words) I can’t see that being necessary.