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More than 120 years of history of the Athletic Club Coat of Arms Shield

Athletic Club was founded in 1898. This year, therefore, it celebrates its 125th anniversary, which makes it one of the longest-living football teams in the world. Four years after the lions were founded, their first official shield crest was documented. Let’s take a look back over 120 years of the Athletic Club’s Shield history.


The first official shield of the red & white team is documented in 1902. The journalist José María Mateos refers to it as follows: “in the centre in blue and white a ball with the letters A and C intertwined in the middle”.

There are hardly any graphic testimonies left of those years and of that crest, beyond the heading of official letters, membership cards or the players’ own shirts, such as the one worn by the player Juan Mosser in the match he played against Burdigala Bordeaux in 1903.

Original Athletic Shield. Year 1902.

Decade of the 1910s

It is believed that this logo lasted until 1910, the year in which the original blue and white shirt was modified for the traditional red and white striped one. However, it was in the 1912-13 season when the colour red appeared for the first time on the Athletic Club crest. As an important new element, the flag was added to the logo and the letters AC, Athletic Club, of yesteryear were maintained.

Heading used in 1913.

At the same time, a ‘new shield’ emerges in which the red & white flag with the letters A and C continues, but to which a ball is added, and in which the border or top is still blue with yellow stars. A crest that could be called transitional.

Badge used in the first years of the 1910s.

To these two shields we have to add the one that the team wore at the inauguration of the San Mames stadium on 21 August 1913, and which consists of the classic intertwined A and C of the beginning of the century adorned with the Bilbao and Bizkaia badges.

This evolution would continue at the end of the 1910s, with its design becoming the most immediate predecessor of the official Athletic Club shield of today. The characteristic elements of Bilbao and Bizkaia, that is, the San Antón Bridge and the wolves of Lope de Haro’s house next to the tree of Gernika, were incorporated into the shield with which the team played at the inauguration of San Mames. And as an important novelty, the vertical stripes of the shirt were integrated for the first time.

A Coat of arms shield that appears in a collection of stickers from the 1922/23 season.


The next shield adopted by the lions is the one currently in force, whose first documentary evidence dates from 1922. The name of the club and the city were added to this crest, and the shape was changed to a wider one on the sides.


This shield has been in force from at least 1922 to 1941, and from 1972 to the present day. It should be remembered that during the dictatorship, an edict of Spanishisation of names was promulgated, by federative regulation, so that the name of the club changed from Athletic Club to Atlético de Bilbao from 1 February 1941 to 26 July 1972. As a result, the crest also underwent a slight change, with the original name being replaced by the governmental name of Atlético.


With the reinstatement of the title Athletic Club, the shield once again returned to the same format as in the 1920s.

Symbols that appear in the current coat of arms shield

The Bridge of San Antón and the Cathedral. Medieval walled Bilbao had a fort to defend the only bridge in La Villa against enemy attacks. The castle and the bridge formed the image of the first coat of arms of Bilbao until, in the 16th century, the castle was replaced by the church.

The two black wolves. They are the coat of arms of the Lords of Bizkaia, one of whom, Diego López de Haro, founded Bilbao in the year 1300.

The “X”. In this case they are the blades of St. Andrew, which also appear in the coat of arms of Bizkaia.

The Tree of Gernika. The Gernika oak tree was the place where the Lord of Bizkaia was recognised as such and where he swore the oath of the charter of Bizkaia.

AC Museum

You can enjoy first-hand the history of the lions’ coat of arms shield at the Athletic Club Museum. The AC Museoa immerses you in more than a century of football through a collection with original pieces from all times, as well as audiovisuals and interactive games. More than 1,000 original objects and 900 videos take you into the red & white essence in a different way. You can book your ticket now to enjoy the Museum, whose visit can be accompanied by a Tour of San Mames.

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