Nike told not to mess with England flag

Nike's new England shirt features a "playful update" of the St George's Cross that's annoyed fans.

Nike's new England shirt features a "playful update" of the St George's Cross that's annoyed fans. Photo:AAP

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak says national flags should not be “messed with” after sportswear giant Nike’s controversial decision to use an altered design of the St George’s Cross on England’s soccer shirts angered fans.

The firm that makes the kit for England’s national soccer teams unveiled its new design this week, which it said paid homage to the country’s 1966 World Cup-winning men’s team.

It features the St George’s Cross, which is red on a white background and is England’s national flag, but in shades of red, blue and purple on the back of the shirt collar.

Nike called the change a “playful update” that was meant to “unite and inspire”, adding that the design “disrupts history with a modern take on a classic”.

But the move has spurred calls from some fans writing on social media and calling in to radio shows to scrap the new design.

With a national election expected in Britain this year, in which cultural issues are likely to feature prominently, politicians from across the spectrum have commented on the design.

“Well, obviously, I prefer the original,” Sunak told reporters. “My general view is that 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.”

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said Nike should reconsider the design.

Former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton, who played for the national team at three World Cups, said there was no need to change the flag.

“I think we see a lot of changes these days with different things and I just think the colours for England, like the Three Lions, it’s traditional,” he told BBC radio.

Nike is not favour of the month in Germany either after its shock deal with the country’s football federation (DFB) that ended its 70-year partnership with home suppliers Adidas, who’ve long enjoyed iconic status there.

Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck accused the DFB of being unpatriotic while the Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder, whose local side Bayern Munich have a big deal with Bavarian-based Adidas, was aghast that a 70-year success story was ending.

“It is wrong, a shame and also incomprehensible that this piece of history should end now,” the CSU politician wrote on X.

“The national team plays in three stripes – that was as clear as the ball being round and a game lasting 90 minutes. German football … is not a pawn in international corporate battles. Commerce is not everything.”

But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who said he had not been consulted by the DFB and did not have to be, tried to calm the row by telling a news conference in Brussels: “What’s most important is that they score goals.”


Topics: Nike
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