The origins of Port Vale’s unique name has caused much debate, but many fans may not be aware just how close the club came to changing its name altogether.
Remarkably, the fans actually agreed that a name change should take place…
This story begins in February 1935.
Port Vale (the club had dropped the “Burslem” part in 1907) were going through something of an identity crisis. Most of their opponents – Hull City, Brentford, Notts County and so on – see the 1934-35 league table – were easily recognised through their geographical references and Port Vale, without the “Burslem” part, were clearly not. It was a problem that clearly perplexed Chairman Frank Huntbach (photographed on the right) and he decided to act.
So, on February 2nd 1935, the club produced a discussion article in their matchday programme pondering whether the club should adopt a new name.
On the 2nd March, all supporters entering the ground for the match against Norwich City were handed ballot papers. And remarkably, the fans actually agreed that a name change should take place. 3,737 were in favour of a change with 3,633 opposed. The club decided to act.
At a shareholders’ meeting later that month, the board proposed the name “Stoke North End” but to their surprise the name proved unpopular amongst the 100 shareholders present. Instead, the name “Hanley Port Vale” was proposed and passed. However, at this point, the Football League put a spanner in the works. Despite the club printing a large amount of stationary with the new club name on it, the League said that any name change could not take place until the end of the season.
By the time the club were ready to act, it was too late. The next season’s fixtures had now been printed by the Football League and the existing name “Port Vale” was still in place…
By the time the season finished in May 1935 popular support for a change of name had decreased and the club hesitated to register the new “Hanley Port Vale” name. That delay proved fatal. By the time the club were ready to act, it was too late. The next season’s fixtures had now been printed by the Football League and the existing name “Port Vale” was still in place.
Despite that setback, the club’s board still pushed ahead with its proposals to change the name. Three years later, in the summer of 1938, Huntbach (who was still the club chairman) used the club’s 27th June annual meeting to propose a change once again. This time the names “Stoke United” or “Stoke North End” were proposed. However, reaction to the change was, once again, mostly negative and the club had to eventually concede that they had not received a single letter in favour of the proposal.
Some four years after it was first proposed, the discussion on changing the club’s name drew to an end…
The club still persisted with the name change idea for another two years. Once again, time was reserved at a club meeting to discuss a name change: this time at the club’s end-of-season meeting on 19th June 1939. However, no-one present was willing to speak on the issue and finally, some four years after it was first proposed, the discussion on changing the club’s name drew to an end.
The name “Port Vale” had survived.