Football, a sport that dates back to the mid-19th century, was once seen as a gentleman’s game before becoming accessible to the working class. As a result, it became a popular form of mass entertainment that captured the heart of British culture. For many fans, it is more than just a sport; it’s a way of life. One element of football that has captured the imagination of fans over the years is its mascots. From living animals to modern-day costume characters, mascots have evolved and become an integral part of football culture.
This article will explore the history and evolution of football mascots, their impact on players, and why they are so beloved by fans.
Football Mascot History
Football clubs across the U.K. brought live animals to games to entertain fans and intimidate opponents. However, by the mid-twentieth century, the use of live animals decreased due to concerns about animal welfare and safety. With the rise of The Muppets , live animals were replaced with animal costumes.
The first animal costume introduced to the football World Cup was Willie the Lion in 1966, representing England. Lions have been a symbol of Britain since the late-12th century. Placing Willie the Lion in a football kit with the colours of the British flag connected the team with the country that was all behind them.
The character was thought to have brought England luck, for they had won their first and only World Cup.
Ironically, ‘mascot’ comes from the French word ‘Mascotte’, meaning ‘lucky charm’. Many fans relied on football mascots to bring luck to their side and give them good results. This belief also helped boost players’ morale, enhancing their mental and physical performance.
Mascot Grand National
Between 1999 and 2010, up to one hundred mascots from sports teams and corporations participated in an annual Mascot Grand Nation Race at Huntingdon Racecourse, which then got moved to Kempton Park Racecourse in 2012 and 2013.
As part of the fun race, participants donated their entry fees to charity, dressed in their costume mascot, and jumped over low hurdles at about 40 cm.
Although popular with spectators and attracting a younger audience to horse racing, the Mascot Grand National no longer takes place.
Famous Football Mascots
Kinsgley – Partick Thistle
Unveiled as the Scottish club’s new mascot in 2015. Some have likened Kingsley to the “physical embodiment of nightmares” due to his spikey appearance and rather aggressive facial features. He is, however, a firm favourite with the club’s fans and recently placed in third position on a list of the world’s top sports mascots.
Cyril the Swan – Swansea
Despite being a controversial mascot due to incidents such as ripping off the head of Millwall’s Zampa the Lion and drop-kicking it into the crowd, Cyril was voted Best Mascot by readers of the BBC Match of the Day magazine.
Gunner the Dinosaur – Arsenal
The Gunnersaurus was created by 11-year-old Peter Lovell, who won a competition in the early 90s to design a new mascot character for Arsenal.
Gunner the Dinosaur has been a famous Premier League mascot ever since.
Impact Football Mascots Have on Game Day
Football mascots significantly impact game day by creating a positive and entertaining atmosphere for fans and players.
Not only do they boost team spirit, but they motivate and encourage the crowd to participate by leading chants, waves, and dances, building up the stadium’s atmosphere.
Mascots are regarded as friendly, approachable, and amusing, making them excellent brand ambassadors who attract positive attention. If your sports team is considering adopting a mascot, the best place to start is a specialist costume maker who can support you with design ideas and help ensure the costume is practical for the wearer.