FA defends changes to St George’s Cross on England shirt by Nike

UK

Rishi Sunak has warned against “messing with” the national flags after Nike changed the colour of the St George’s Cross on a new England football shirt.

Wading into the controversy, the prime minister argued the standards are “a source of pride, identity, who we are and they are perfect as we are”.

His comments came as a backlash grew over the modification to the iconic flag by the US sportswear giant, with fans demanding the original flag be reinstated and an online petition collecting thousands of signatures.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has already called on Nike to “reconsider” its decision, as the symbol was a “unifier”.

Labour’s shadow attorney general Emily Thornberry has also branded it “peculiar”, pointing out people would not expect the heraldic Welsh dragon to be swapped “to a pussycat” or the French tricolour to be altered.

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The row was triggered after Nike revealed it had changed the traditional red cross and introduced purple and blue stripes.

The company dubbed it as “a playful update” to the shirt ahead of Euro 2024, inspired by the training kit worn by England’s 1966 World Cup winners.

Mr Sunak said: “Obviously, I prefer the original and my general view is 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 we are.”

Ms Thornberry said: “It’s all very peculiar. The England flag is a symbol of unity.

“People, particularly in the last few years when we’ve been having such a difficult time, the England flag at the time has been a symbol of unity… the Lionesses and so on.

“So you wouldn’t expect Nike to go off and have a look at the Welsh flag and decide to change the dragon to a pussycat.

“I mean, you wouldn’t expect the England flag to be changed like this.

“You wouldn’t expect bits of purple in the French tricolour. I mean, why are they doing it? I don’t understand.”

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Back in 2014, Ms Thornberry was forced to resign from the shadow cabinet by the then party leader Ed Miliband after being accused of mocking “White Van Man” in a social media post during a visit to Rochester, which pictured a housing block with St George’s flags flying from the window.

Responding to the Nike redesign, England’s most capped men’s player, Peter Shilton, wrote on X: “Sorry but this is wrong on every level I’m totally against it.”

Former England goalkeeper David Seaman said: “It doesn’t need fixing. What’s next, are they going to change the Three Lions to three cats? Leave it alone. It’s the St George’s Flag. Leave it alone.”

The price of the shirt has also faced criticism since it was launched earlier this week.

An “authentic” version costs £124.99 for adults and £119.99 for children while a “stadium” version is £84.99 and £64.99 for children.

A Nike spokesperson previously said: “The England 2024 home kit disrupts history with a modern take on a classic.

“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 of St George on the back of the collar.”

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