Back in 2005, in order to get some content onto the Sportnetwork site during a Six Nations break, I wrote an article examining the issue of the Falcons’ name.
This was partly inspired by my experiences of football in the former East Germany, where teams are still often referred to by supporters by their Communist-era names. For example, Chemie Leipzig rather than the current Sachsen Leipzig. At their games, even the announcer calls the club Chemie.
VfB Leipzig were the first German national champions in 1903, and went bankrupt slightly over 100 years later. During the Cold War they were named Lokomotiv Leipzig, and when the club was reformed in the summer of 2004, the Lokomotiv name was chosen.
My point was that were the Falcons a German team, they would still be called Gosforth by us fans.
I consider Newcastle to be an integral part of the club’s name, perhaps because I am a Geordie born and bred, but also because I believe a club should have a regional identity, and that is expressed through its name.
I write this now because in the season ticket info that was sent to us from Kingston Park this week, ‘NEWCASTLE’ has been subtly removed from the logo.
I find this disappointing. Perhaps it is aimed at attracting spectators from elsewhere in the North East and Cumbria, but we already have plenty of non-Newcastle-based fans who aren’t put off.
We will still be a Newcastle-based club, but will presumably only be called ‘Falcons’ (as indeed the programme for the 1999 Tetley’s Bitter Cup Final called us). Newcastle will always be integrated in our history, since the club grew out of the original Gosforth FC, which was founded and played in Newcastle.
If the term Newcastle is so threatening, I could just about get used to ‘North East Falcons’ or ‘Northern Falcons’.
But just ‘Falcons’ gives rise to the idea of franchises, artificial constructs like many of those in professional sports in North America. But at least they still have place names too.
I know professional rugby is a business now, and that the priority is making money, with success on the pitch important only to that end. But to supporters it is so much more than that, it is something that gets us emotional, something we care about. Our club’s identity, our being able to identify with them, is a key part of that, and the best way for clubs to build up a loyal following.
I’ll still go to watch the Falcons if the ‘Newcastle’ is dropped. But I hope the club continue to recognise their regional identity.
(Follow The South Stand Choir on Twitter: @SouthStandChoir)