Do Manchester United and Manchester City Have a Slavery Symbol on Their Club Crests?

Do Manchester United and Manchester City Have a Slavery Symbol on Their Club Crests?

Manchester United and Manchester City are two of the most recognisable football clubs on the planet and have shirts that are worn by millions of fans across the world. These shirts proudly house each club’s respective crests on the front which are a staple of both institutions.

While to many they simply look like a typical sports crest, featuring the colours and names of both teams, a new report by the Guardian has uncovered an uncomfortable truth about both crests which may prompt a change in the near future. While both clubs’ crests have been redesigned on several occasions over the years, the ship has been a mainstay on both.

According to the Guardian’s investigation, the boat pictured on both of the club’s famous badges has a sinister link to the slave trade. The ship has historically always been thought to represent Manchester’s relationship with free trade and the city’s ship canal. However, accordion to the Guardian, the ship could have some grim symbolisation.

How the ship relates to slavery

According to the article in the Guardian, the ship is a symbol of the wealth and success that the City of Manchester benefited from in the 1800s. The City was “thriving” thanks to trade deals with businesses and merchants who were heavily involved in the slave trade in the USA. By the 1850s, Manchester was known as “Cottonopolis” due to the rising number of cotton mills that popped up in the city as a result of this trade.

Slaves were tasked with picking raw cotton in the Americas, the Caribbean and Brazil before being shipped to British ports where they were turned into goods at these mills in Manchester. The ships we see on Manchester City and Manchester United’s badges are reminiscent of the types of ships that would be used to bring this cotton to our shores.

While some people will argue that the slave trade had been abolished by the 1850s, which is of course true, and was even further in the past when both football clubs created their badges, which again is true, it’s difficult to get away from a difficult fact – the city was still benefitting from the labour of slaves even after the abolishment of the industry.

The ship in question is also featured on Manchester’s coat of arms. As part of the investigation by the British news outlet, they spoke to Member of Parliament, Graham Stringer, about the issue. He said:

“I don’t think there is any evidence that the ship on the Manchester coat of arms is anything to do with slavery, and I think the campaign of the Guardian is besmirching a rather proud history of radicalism that Manchester has got, right up to the present day, in terms of being way ahead of the game in terms of all sorts of anti-discriminatory policies.”

Where do the clubs go from here?

On Manchester United’s club badge, the ship features directly above the red devil while on Manchester City’s badge, the ship is even more prominent taking centre stage. While both clubs may just ignore the report from Guardian or take a similar stance to Stringer, there is also the possibility that they make a stand by removing the ship.

Manchester United fans have long been after a redesigned badge so that the words “football club” are reinstated while Manchester City last redesigned their badge in 2016.

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