English Football Clubs with Ships on their Badge

Team badges are interesting features of any club. How did they come about and why are certain items shown regularly on many different crests?

In this roundup, we’re going to be looking at English sides with ships on their badge.

English Football Teams with Ship Logos

Plymouth Argyle F.C.

Situated on the south west coast of England, the city of Plymouth is heavily linked to the sea and to shipping. The club’s nickname is the Pilgrims, after the group that left Plymouth for America to find the new world.

Because of this connection, the ship that is shown on the Plymouth Argyle club badge is a representation of The Mayflower, the vessel used by the group to make their pilgrimage. The story is an important part of the area, and the club proudly carries that with them on their crest.

Tranmere Rovers

Tranmere Rovers are based in Birkenhead, on Merseyside, and there is a long history of shipbuilding in the area. Their badge is a colourful one, with many different features and, towards the top, a ship sits in the middle.

The vessel in question is a warship, and this was a common construction in the region. While the badge design has changed over the years, the current crest has been in place since 1962. Once again, this is a situation where ships are an important part of the local area, and that’s why Tranmere Rovers’ badge has that nautical theme.

Manchester United

There is some controversy surrounding the badges of the two Manchester clubs, with suggestions that both teams are highlighting a connection to the slave trade. In the case of Manchester United, the current club badge features a ship with three sails in yellow, on a red background.

Below the ship is a red devil, which is one of the nicknames for the club. There is that suggestion that the ship has unpleasant connotations, and some have hinted at a possible link to slavery.

However, others have indicated that the numbers just don’t add up. The city of Manchester first adopted the ship as an emblem in 1842. At that stage, slave trading in the British Empire had been outlawed for 35 years.

The story continues to tell us that the real reason for the use of a ship in the city’s crest, is because of the Manchester Ship Canal. When Manchester United were formed in 1878, they simply began to adopt the ship as a nod to the canal, and for no other reason.

Quick Badge Quiz

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Manchester City

Once again, there is a suggestion that the existence of a ship on the Manchester City club badge is a link back to the slave trade. On this club crest, City have a golden ship which sits in a shield, above a red rose, and the words Manchester City appear around the outside.

The official story, as with Manchester United, is that the vessel is a reference to the Manchester Ship Canal. At the time when the two clubs were formed, the canal was an important artery and it was pivotal to the development of Manchester as a city.

Manchester has long been known as an important industrial area and, in those times, the canal would have brought raw materials into the factories. In return, the finished products left by the same channel and towards their final destination.

Therefore, the official story is that the club badge of Manchester City features a ship because of links to waterborne transportation, and not for any sinister reason.

Grimsby Town

Grimsby Town’s nickname is The Mariners, and everything about the club’s set up gives a nod to their location. They are based on the north east coast of England, and Grimsby itself has always been synonymous with the British fishing industry.

The club’s current mascot is The Mighty Mariner, while the predecessor was a character called Harry the Haddock. As for that badge, it is mainly in black and white to reflect Grimsby Town’s home colours. The outline of a fishing vessel is in red, while there are three red fish beneath it.

With such a strong connection to the fishing industry, it was inevitable that Grimsby Town would feature a ship on their badge.


Barrow’s club badge features a submarine. While there may be some debate as to whether this qualifies as a ship, it’s certainly an ocean-going vessel. Barrow AFC are located in the north west of England, and this is another case where the area has a strong connection to the shipbuilding industry.

Barrow’s most notable product in this sector is the submarine and that’s why we see this vessel sitting proudly on the football club’s current badge. The positioning of the submarine is similar to other team badges on this list. It is close to the top in the centre, while other decorations slot in below.

The remainder of the Barrow badges is interesting. There is a bee with an arrow to represent b-arrow, and there is also a football, together with a red rose to symbolize the county of Lancashire.

Barrow AFC Badge

Final Thoughts

It’s been an interesting look at why these clubs use a ship on their badges. Some are coastal towns and cities so the link is obvious, but other clubs are landlocked, many miles from the nearest ocean.

In the case of Barrow and Tranmere Rovers, both clubs use their vessels because of local links to the shipbuilding industry. Other teams use the emblem because they are near coastal waters and the link to ships continues in the present day.

We do have those conflicting stories about the two Manchester clubs and why they have ship emblems on their shirts. We should obviously be careful about historical links to slavery and no-one should be linked to this awful practice in the present day, but the dates indicate a more innocent reason.

Hopefully, the ships will remain for years to come and all of the teams involved here continue to acknowledge their nautical pasts.