Sydney FC have lodged a formal complaint to Football Federation Australia in response to an application from Melbourne Heart's new owners to rebrand the A-League team as a franchise of Manchester City, including a change of their playing strip from red and white to sky blue.
Melbourne Heart as we know them may have already played their last game as Fairfax Media has been informed that their new owners submitted a request to the FFA to make the club's name, logo and playing colours synonymous with the English Premier League giants. Under the application, the club will be renamed as Melbourne City, have a new logo and play in a sky blue jersey with white socks and shorts.
Man City giving Melbourne Heart the blues?
What is the price of being showered in petro-dollars? The answer for Melbourne Heart seems to be the colour of their strip. Their fans and Sydney FC are not impressed.
However, the proposed changes have not gone down well with the sky blue half of Sydney, with Sydney FC chairman Scott Barlow lodging a formal complaint to the FFA due to the clash of identities. Barlow is unhappy with Heart's bid to play in a similar strip to Sydney FC, who have become so renowned with the colour that "Sky Blues" has become their nickname.
"Sky blue is much more than just a colour for Sydney FC, it's central to our identity. Sky blue represents our club, our harbour city and is the traditional colour of NSW," Barlow said. "We're extremely concerned about the proposed use of sky blue by Melbourne Heart, and we've made our concerns very clear to the FFA."
Manchester City's bid to change the identity of Melbourne Heart is yet to be approved by the FFA, which owns the trademarks of all 10 A-League clubs. It's understood that the FFA is open to the possibility of the rebranding of the Heart, just as they were with Newcastle Jets changing their shirt colours from gold to red and blue following the takeover by Nathan Tinkler in 2010. Any move will be met with fierce resistance by Sydney FC, who are unwilling to share their colour and identity with another club in the A-League.
"In a competition with only 10 teams, the idea of two teams wearing sky blue is nonsensical especially when sky blue is so closely associated with NSW. I believe it's critical to the integrity of the A-League that clubs have identities that are also in representation of where they come from," Barlow said.
There has been a mixed response from Heart fans over the proposed name change to Melbourne City but a change of colours from red and white stripes to sky blue has been met by widespread protest including large-scale banners displayed at games. Heart's current strip was inspired by the colours of the flag of Melbourne, and banners reading "Keep Melbourne red & white" were on display at the final game of the season against Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday.
"In football, club colours are sacred, and they should represent where a club comes from and not the identity of its owner," Barlow said. "Melbourne Heart fans understand and value the history as to why the club wears red and white, and understandably they would want to protest that."
It's not yet known what the new emblem will look like although Manchester City have shown their willingness to give fans some voice with other football investments, such as their MLS club, New York City FC. The New York club will make its debut in 2015 and play in a strip identical to Manchester City although fans were given the choice to select their new emblem which was recently unveiled and incorporated symbols of the city such as the five boroughs and the subway token.