A fundamental change in the England national team shirt causes a huge uproar

The change to the flag in the new England national team shirt caused a sensation, and even Prime Minister Rishi Sunak chimed in, saying: “We shouldn’t mess with national flags.”

Nike, the sponsor of the English national team, changed the appearance of the St. George’s Cross in the English flag, using two purple and blue horizontal stripes in what it called a “fun update” to the shirt before the European Cup finals scheduled next summer in Germany.

The company and the English Football Association said that the colors of the cross (purple, blue and traditional red) on the back of the collar, which differ from the traditional red cross on a white background, were inspired by the training clothes worn by the 1966 World Cup-winning team.

But the decision led to an angry reaction from some fans and former players, with some senior politicians also getting involved.

Sunak, who supports Southampton, said he preferred the original England shirt, adding, “My general view is that when it comes to our national flags, we should not mess with them because they are a source of pride, our identity, who we are, and they are perfect as they are.”

Culture Minister Lucy Fraser, whose specialties include sports, said that the federation and Nike did not think about the fans first, adding on the “AX” website: “Our national heritage, including the Cross of St. George, brings us together. Tampering with it is meaningless and unnecessary.”

Keir Starmer, leader of the opposition Labor Party, which supports Arsenal, called on Nike to reconsider its decision, adding in a statement to the British newspaper The Sun: “I am a big football fan. I go to England matches, whether men’s or women’s, and everyone uses the flag.” “It unites us. It doesn’t need to change. We just need to be proud of it.”
In a statement issued Friday, Nike said its intention was never to offend but did not indicate any intention to change the design.

She added: “We are proud of our partnership with the English Association since 2012. We understand the importance of the St. George’s Cross and it was not our intention to offend at all given what it means to England fans… Along with the English Association, the goal (of the change) was to celebrate the 1966 heroes and their achievements.”

The English Football Association said in a separate statement that it was proud of the new design, also noting its association with the 1966 World Cup team.

A spokesman pointed out that “it is not the first time that different designs inspired by the St George’s Cross have been used on England shirts.”

The debate over the new design comes amid political tug-of-war over so-called “culture war” issues that have pitted supporters of “traditional” values, such as Sunak’s ruling Conservative Party, against those with more liberal and “progressive” views.

Former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, the most capped player for his country, told the BBC that he did not agree with the changes, describing himself as a “traditionalist,” while his teammate John Barnes was surprised by the uproar.

“I don’t get into the culture wars anymore, but this whole fuss…I didn’t even know there was a St. George’s Cross (on the back of the collar),” Barnes told the Associated Press.

He added: “They are not changing the color of the shirt. The black (the England national team’s nickname) is still there. If they are going to change the national flag of England and change the colours, that is a discussion worth having.”

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