Club History 5 - By David Stoker

Last updated : 27 July 2004 By Dov
Club History 5 - By David Stoker
Meadowbank Stadium
The Story of Livingston FC

Part Five - What's in a name?.

Scottish football in 1974 was generally against sponsorship of any kind. For example, no shirt sponsorship was permitted and none of the League's own competitions were sponsored by outside companies. It would be the tail end of the 70s before this freeze thawed and the avalanche of product placement and endorsement we know today came about.

The obvious answer to this problem would be the club changing its name although in the immediate aftermath of the AGM, manager John Bain made his own opinion on the subject abundantly clear, when he spoke to George Harkness of the Evening News, May 30th 1974:

"There has been some talk about us changing our name to Edinburgh Ferranti FC or Edinburgh City FC, but as far as I'm concerned we're still Ferranti Thistle.
"We told the Scottish League that we would be willing to change our name if they thought we would be advertising the company. Sponsorship is still a nasty word to some people but we've heard nothing from the League and we'll be able to keep our identity."

Regardless of Mr Bain's rhetoric, the Scottish Football League were unconvinced. By the end of June it had become clear that Ferranti would be required to adopt a new identity or lose the chance of League football. Overt commercial sponsorship of any kind was unacceptable. Bain was unconvinced: "After all, the SFA accepted us as Ferranti Thistle when we qualified for the last two Scottish Cups. If they can do it why can't the Scottish League follow suit" he reasoned.

On the 24th of June, perhaps the single most significant event since the AGM came to pass, almost unnoticed. In a small Evening News article on Ferranti's name change, George Harkness revealed that Ferranti had came to an agreement with Edinburgh Corporation (Council) to play their home games at state of the art Meadowbank Stadium which was built for the 1970 Empire Games.

In the wake of the news that Ferranti needed a new name, the Evening News kicked off a "Find a Name for Ferranti" campaign with the readership asked to suggest suitable monikers.

The suggestions came thick and fast. They ranged from the unlikely (Edinburgh Dynamo) to the bizarre (Itnarref Thistle - geddit?) to the possible (Edinburgh FFC or Edinburgh City FC). The numerous possibilities were finally boiled down to three which were submitted to the League on July 8th.

Meadowbank Thistle (first choice)
Edinburgh United
Ferry Thistle

Messrs Bain and Mill tried their best to ensure these suggestions never made it to the public domain ahead of the League Management Committee meeting that would debate their suitability. By now, both were fed up with the tiresome and frivolous Evening News campaign.

However the Scottish Daily Express did manage to get wind of the new plans and on July 9th confidently predicted that Ferranti would be known as Meadowbank Thistle from the following day onward. As history has proven their exclusive was 100% accurate and on July 10th the title "Meadowbank Thistle" was rubber-stamped by the League and slotted into the fixture list for 1974-75.

With the ground and name now settled upon Meadowbank Thistle could now start preparing for the season ahead without any further controversy. Or so they thought.

Just three days later the SFA drew the Scottish Qualifying Cup with Meadowbank Thistle still included. Because the League place had not yet been fully finalised, Thistle had not been given the customary bye to the First Round proper. This meant that Meadowbank would have to, theoretically play 3 or 4 more Cup games more than their Second Division rivals. Selkirk were to be the first opponents.

Unsurprisingly this decision was unpopular with the club itself. Initially John Bain suggested that Meadowbank scratch from the competition in protest. Similar to the situation with Manchester United in the 2000 FA Cup this move would have to be made with the co-operation of the SFA.

SFA assistant secretary Ernie Walker was adamant that Meadowbank would have to qualify - "There is no chance of Meadowbank getting exemption from the Qualifying Cup this year. The Cup draw has been made and it is too late to make any alterations." he commented.

The club backed down and reluctantly agreed to take part although under protest. The Selkirk match was pencilled in for Meadowbank Stadium, 21st September.