Nike’s new England men’s football shirt makes a splash with its re-coloured flag
Nike’s new England men’s football shirt makes a splash with its re-coloured flag

LONDON (AP) – New in England men’s soccer team the shirt is causing a bit of a stir. It’s not just the price that annoys some.

Nike’s decision to change the color of the St George’s cross on the shirt from the traditional red and white even prompted the Prime Minister and the man favored to succeed him to express their displeasure.

A petition calling for a design change had attracted more than 22,000 signatures by early Friday afternoon.

Nike’s new design jersey modeled by the England captain Harry Kanespread on the eve of European championship in Germany. The altered cross on the back of the shirt collar has purple and blue horizontal stripes.

Nike says it’s a “playful update” of the shirt and references the training kit England wore at the 1966 World Cup, the only major tournament won by the men’s team. England will start Euro 2024 this summer as one of the favourites.

Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labor Party and a fan of English Premier League leaders Arsenal, said he believed the flag, which was emblazoned with an image of the cross of St. Georgi, is a “unifier” and Nike should “reconsider” its decision to change it.

“It doesn’t need to change,” he told the Sun newspaper. “We just have to be proud of it.”

Conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunakon a visit to northern England, was also asked about the altered cross.

“I prefer the original and my general opinion is that when it comes to our national flags, we shouldn’t mess with them because they are a source of pride, identity, who we are and they are perfect as they are,” said Sunak, who support Southampton, who are fighting for promotion back to the Premier League.

Nike and the FA have indicated they will not change course.

Despite the criticism, the FA defended the design, saying it was “not the first time” different colored designs inspired by the cross of St. George, appear on England shirts and is “very proud” of the traditional cross.

“The new England 2024 home kit has a number of design elements which have been conceived as a tribute to the team that won the World Cup in 1966,” a spokesperson said. “The color trim on the cuffs is inspired by the training kit worn by England’s 1966 heroes and the same colors feature on the back of the collar.”

England manager Gareth Southgate said the upset was “not high on my list of priorities” this week as he prepares to lead the team in friendlies against Brazil on Saturday and Belgium on Tuesday.

“It’s a difficult question to answer because it’s probably some artistic approach that I’m not creative enough to understand,” Southgate said when asked what he thought of the new design.

“What you’re really asking,” he said, “is should we tamper with the cross of St. George? In my head, if it’s not a red cross and a white background, it’s not a St. Cross anyway.

Southgate added that it was more important to him that the symbol of the three lions remain on the shirt than the cross of St George.

“It’s our iconic symbol — it sets us apart not just from football teams around the world, but from English rugby and English cricket,” he said of the three lions.

John Barnes, one of England’s best players, said he couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

“It’s much ado about nothing,” said the 60-year-old former winger.

For most people, the problem will not be so much the color of the flag as its cost. An “authentic” version for adults will cost 125 pounds ($155) and 120 pounds for children. That’s a pretty big outlay at a time when household budgets are strained by one of the sharpest cost-of-living crises in decades.

The Football Supporters’ Association has long complained about the high cost of replica shirts and suggested putting a “sell by” date on kits so buyers know how long they will be used before a newer version is released.

“An unwitting parent can easily buy a set for Christmas or a birthday party only to find it is ‘out of date’ within a few months,” a spokesman for the group said.


AP sports writer Steve Douglas contributed to this story.


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