New England kit draws criticism from politicians

The Football Association (FA) have defended the new England shirt that will be used at this year’s European Championship after political criticism over the alteration of the St. George’s Cross.

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer have criticised the jersey and called for it to be changed before the tournament.

– Stream on ESPN+: LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

The shirts have been under the spotlight since they were launched on Monday. The FA said on Friday that the design pays tribute to England’s World Cup-winning squad from 1966.

“The coloured trim on the cuffs is inspired by the training gear worn by England’s 1966 heroes, and the same colours also feature on the design on the back of the collar,” an FA spokesperson said.

“It is not the first time that different coloured St George’s cross-inspired designs have been used on England shirts.

“We are very proud of the red and white St George’s cross — the England flag. We understand what it means to our fans, and how it unites and inspires, and it will be displayed prominently at Wembley tomorrow — as it always is — when England play Brazil.”

The spokesperson added that the FA has no intention of recalling or redesigning the shirts, according to ESPN sources.

In a statement to ESPN, Nike also defended the design as paying homage to the 1966 World Cup winners.

“We have been a proud partner of the FA since 2012 and understand the significance and importance of the St. George’s Cross and it was never our intention to offend, given what it means to England fans,” it said.

“Together with the FA, the intention was to celebrate the heroes of 1966 and their achievements. The trim on the cuffs takes its cues from the training gear worn by England’s 1966 heroes, with a gradient of blues and reds topped with purple. The same colours also feature an interpretation of the flag on the back of the collar.”

Speaking at a news conference later on Friday, England manager Gareth Southgate played down the furor.

“It’s not been high on my list of priorities but that depends which bit is [causing the controversy] because I don’t know if the debate is about the St. George’s flag needing to be on the England shirt because obviously it hasn’t always been,” he said ahead of England’s friendly with Brazil on Saturday.

“I think the most important thing that has to be on an England shirt is the Three Lions, it’s our iconic symbol, it is what distinguishes us not only from football teams around the world but from England rugby and England cricket.

“It’s the thing that when I put my shirt on at Burnham Beeches, 30 years ago, I looked in the mirror — and I clearly don’t look at my face too often when I do that — but the Three Lions really stood out.

“So I suppose what you’re really asking is should we be tampering with the Cross of St. George. But in my head, if it’s not a red cross on a white background, it isn’t the cross of St. George anyway, so it is a hard question to answer really because it is presumably some artistic take on which I am not creative enough to understand.”

Starmer had said the multicoloured St George’s Cross printed on the collar should be changed back to the original white version.

“I’m a big football fan, I go to England games, men, women’s games. And the flag is used by everybody, it’s unifying, it doesn’t need to change,” Starmer told The Sun.

“We just need to be proud of it. So I think they should just reconsider this and change it back.

“I’m not even sure they can properly explain why they thought they needed to change in the first place. They could also reduce the price of the shirts.”

Sunak weighed in by saying he prefers the original flag.

“When it comes to our national flags, we shouldn’t mess with them because they’re a source of pride, identity, who we are, and they’re perfect as they are,” Sunak said.

The shirts will be sold for £124.99 ($157) for adults and £119.99 ($151) for children. England will wear the new shirt for the first time against Brazil at Wembley on Saturday.

Information from ESPN’s James Olley contributed to this report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *