Being in the south of the Principality, football came relatively late to the Swansea area, the non-handling code of soccer being overwhelmingly unpopular in this hotbed of rugby. Always in the shadow of rugby the lack of public knowledge was such that in 1894 a local paper felt obliged to publish an outline of the rules and a sketch of standard pitch markings.
It is generally accepted that the current football club was started around 1900 when a number of ex-schoolboys abandoned their rugby traditions and set about forming a number of sides which led to the creation of the Swansea and District League. By 1909 a number of these players got together with the intention of forming a senior team. A number of open areas were used, notably the Recreation Ground. Eventually, in 1912, a patch of land was secured by the name of The Vetch Field. Children would play on this dirt ground which had vetch growing on it. This was a cabbage like plant cultivated for cattle feed.
By 1911, the field became available for rent as the owners of the land, the Swansea Gas Light Company, had failed to use a Parliamentary sanction to utilise it for the installation of a gas plant. A committee of the Swansea League, which had been formed in the same year, rented the field and subsequently the present football club, then Swansea Town, emerged. The first competitive match was, appropriately, against Cardiff City on September 12th 1912 ending in a 1-1 draw. Swansea’s first season at The Vetch, playing on a clinker surface, was a great success, finishing 3rd in the second division of the Southern League and also lifting the Welsh Cup. The Vetch Field will see it’s swan song when the club moves to a purpose-built stadium at Morfa, a couple of miles out of town.
Whilst ‘The Swans’ is classed officially as the nickname of the club, the term “Jacks” has long been associated with the people of Swansea, as well as with the football club. It is derived from a black labrador named Jack, who lived on the seafront in Swansea in the Thirties, who actually saved the lives of over 30 people in rough seas. Obviously long gone, he has lived on in the memories of Swansea people. There is a monument on the promenade erected in his honour, and also a pub near the seafront and the ground named “The Swansea Jack”, and the sign is of course a picture of Jack. The name “Swansea Jack” has become a generic term for all Swansea people over the years, known throughout Wales. Cardiff City fans have changed it in a slightly different version.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery Swansea City should be pleased. For many years the Swans (of goodly hue, so purely white…to quote Spense), having adopted the same all-white strip as their rivals in the other code, were the only team in the Football League playing in one colour from top to toe. Swansea favour their traditional white. However, a point which may have escaped even their longest devoted fans, is that when League football was resumed after the last War, Swansea were not strictly all-white a la Real Madrid!!. According to the League’s official list of club colours for 1946-47 Swansea wore stockings displaying black and white rings.
Their first emblem was the coat of arms, granted in 1922. The original device of Swansea seems to have been an osprey, now used as a crest in the arms. Prior to the granting of the arms the Corporation used insignia said to have been bestowed on it in 1306 by William de Braose, Lord of Gower, who is recorded as having issued the following instructions to his herald: the arms of my Borough of Swansea shall be a castle with two towers and a portcullis; on each tower erect a banner charged with my lion rampant; and to prove that it is a town of some standing place its ancient arms, the Osprey and Fish, on a shield in the chief.
Well, the arms preserve the main features of the old ones. The castle is that which Henry de Beaumont erected in 1099, around which the town grew up. In 1203 this castle passed, together with the lordship of Gower, to the De Braose family and which is commemorated by the lion. The dragon, its symbolism accounted for in the chapter of a certain rival, is both the Welsh emblem and a supporter of the arms of the present Lord Swansea.
In the Eighties and the majority of the Nineties Swansea City’s emblem was a duck-like swan, spreading its wings and perched on Henry de Beaumont’s castle, with the sea in the background. In 1998 the club adopted a new badge, inspired by the new crest of the newly formed local authority – the City and County of Swansea. What we see is a simple ideogram, resembling a swan. The original maroon badge was changed to red when the council changed its crest to red, seen as a more vibrant colour.
When the club changed ownership at the start of 2002 one of the first things that the new board did was to change the club colours back to white with a black trim. The board kept the club crest but to the delight of the fans decided that the colours should return to their rightful black and white.