Whitehawk Football Club confirmed their decision to withdraw their application to change names on Sunday afternoon, deciding against the switch to ‘Brighton City FC’ as the wishes of the club’s fans were taken into account after over a thousand people signed a petition against the proposal.
The board’s first attempt to change name was refused by the Football Association ahead of the 2013/14 season and following a second application in December 2015, the club has now decided against the idea and will remain as Whitehawk FC for the foreseeable future.
Fans of the club were angered by the board’s interest in changing the club’s name that had stood since 1960, having previously been known as Whitehawk & Manor Farm Old Boys. Plans of a second application arose following the club’s successful run in the FA Cup, which ended agonisingly short of a money-spinning third round tie against Everton at Goodison Park.
If there was ever a time to change the club’s name, the end of Whitehawk’s cup run was arguably it. Playing live on television in their second round replay against Dagenham & Redbridge, the club was highlighted for its achievements and enjoyed exposure across English football.
Competing in the shadow of Brighton & Hove Albion, non-league clubs within the surrounding areas struggle to gain attention, therefore making Whitehawk’s flirt with the FA Cup all the more important as they seek recognition on the south coast.
The FA Cup performance showed potential and belief, a step in the right direction for a club that competes in the National League South. Chairman John Summers looked to jump on the opportunity of expanding the club whilst the attention was hot, strengthening the club’s geographical link with Brighton in search of progress off the field.
Unlike American sports, where franchise’s change name and move thousands of miles for financial benefit, English sport has a stronger recognition of local pride amongst supporters, especially at non-league level. Of course, the dream for every non-league supporter is to watch their club climb up through the leagues and reach the top of the pyramid, but at what price?
If Liverpool changed their name to gain sponsorship money and won the Champions League as a result of this financial benefit, do you really think the fans of the club would celebrate their accomplishments under a new name? Years of history ripped apart for the sake of money and fake success. Of course not, pride is too strong. Money will always be money, no matter the quantity. A football club on the other hand, will always mean a whole lot more.
Whitehawk’s progression may take a quicker route under a different name, however respecting the club’s roots and achieving success under their current name will taste a lot sweeter for Whitehawk’s faithful supporters, who wouldn’t change their club for the world.
For many supporters, it’s not all about the big wages and attendances, the simplicity of watching their team on a Saturday afternoon is all they really want. Money can buy success but it also sells originality. Sometimes the longest journey is the most rewarding, and for Whitehawk’s loyal supporters, no shortcuts are to be taken as they accept their team for what it is, Whitehawk Football Club.
121 people voted on Bjournal’s Twitter poll concerning Whitehawk’s name change, with 79% voting against it and 21% were in favour.