WAFL: West Perth name change backed by former president Brian Atkinson


Brian Atkinson.
Brian Atkinson.

RESPECTED WA football identity and West Perth historian Brian Atkinson believes the latest push for West Perth to change its name to reflect its base in Joondalup will be successful.

The issue has reared its head again after the City of Joondalup indicated a renewal of its sponsorship, which ends this year, would include the requirement of a name change.

High-profile West Perth supporters, such as No. 1 Ticket Holder Basil Zempilas and media personality Paul Murray, have backed the push.

Mr Atkinson has been a long-time supporter of the move, speaking at a special general meeting more than a decade ago, which voted to adopt the Joondalup title.

More than 300 members attended that meeting. He said a postal ballot which was held also supported the new name.

However, aggressive opposition stopped it going any further.

“The minority opposition was extremely vitriolic and disruptive and there was unpleasantness,” he said.

Mr Atkinson, who was Falcons president from 1987-88, believes the passion for the heritage name would not be as fierce this time around.

He expected there to be opposition but it “will not have the heat of a decade ago”.

The club moved from Leederville Oval to Joondalup in 1994. “The membership profile has altered enormously since this issue was raised many years ago,” he said.

“Many of the Leederville group have fallen away – in fact many have died. For some time now new members have come primarily from the Joondalup community.”

A Facebook group We Are West Perth Not Joondalup formed this week opposing the name change, but had only 54 backers as of yesterday.

Mr Atkinson could understand the City of Joondalup’s position with sponsorship, saying a previous director had told him local businesses would often deny the club sponsorship because its name did not reflect the district.

West Perth is no stranger to contention over its name.

Mr Atkinson said there was a similarly “vitriolic” response in the early 80s when the club, then known as the Cardinals, proposed becoming the Falcons.

At the beginning of the decade, the board and president Len Roper had commissioned marketing consultant Michael Pritchett to design a new emblem for the club.

Mr Pritchett a consultant for NFL team the Atlanta Falcons, recommended West Perth become the Falcons too.

West Perth compromised by adopting a new emblem featuring a falcon, but keeping the name Cardinals.

Mr Atkinson said the issue resurfaced a year later when a new president Rod Brown and a number of new board members were elected.

They considered the name Cardinals, with its association to a tiny bird, to be at odds with the “towering aggressive image of the falcon” in the new emblem.

He recalled “all hell broke loose” when they pushed to become the Falcons.

Despite vocal opposition, the majority of members endorsed the new name at the 1982 annual general meeting.

“Some very emotional people got very upset,” Mr Atkinson said.