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I Want England’s Flag on My England Shirt - Not a Gopping Highlighter Accident

Updated: Apr 23

I’m really rather grumpy. Thanks to the impulsive urge of companies to crack open Pandora’s political box, I’m forced to sit here and write about Nike changing England’s flag. It’s not like we’re in a climate emergency or threatened by a mad Russian dictator or anything, so I suppose people have nothing else to worry about than meddling with national identities.


Just in case you’ve missed it. The England football team’s 2024 shirt has been revealed – but there’s a problem. The iconic St George’s flag – white with a red cross – has been replaced by some gopping pink and blue lines. This means it looks nothing like England’s flag at all. In fact, it looks more like some LGBTQ+ publicity stunt shoehorned onto the back of the shirt’s collar.


Now, like everything else to do with identities, this debate has spiralled out of control. Some people are spitting feathers and calling it ’woke, gay communist nonsense’. Nike, meanwhile, have claimed it is based on the World Cup-winning England team’s 1966 training kit. This can be proven as futile balderdash by a quick Google. The kit in question bears no resemblance to the new splodge, which looks like an accident in a Stabilo Boss highlighter factory.


Let’s get one thing straight. Whether you think it’s a Trojan horse for Pride activists or not, a company changing a country’s flag is simply unacceptable – especially when that company is not even English.


What Nike are doing is pinkwashing. They are using identity politics as a vehicle for profit. Again, no matter what you think of this whole farce, it’s wrong for a company to leach on the energy of progressive activists purely to make money. Nike aren’t interested in positive change – unless it checks out with the accountants.


What gives Uncle Sam the right to change England’s flag on a whim? Can you imagine what the reaction across the pond would be like if we tried to adorn the US flag with fluorescent pink, Lamborghini yellow and Irn Bru orange? We’d be inundated with gunshots from enraged Texan cowboys.


How would any other country react? Imagine if France’s iconic ‘Les Bleus’ kit suddenly became lime green. The French would be piling across the Eurotunnel aboard tractors and bread vans in protest. And God help us if someone decided Russia’s shirts should be emblazoned with red and white stars and stripes. We’d get World War III.


But we won’t do anything like that here in little England. It’s taken fans’ sheer outrage for the Football Association (FA) to act at all. And, in classic Great British style, they’re going to review their kit approval process in time for 2026. In other words, they’re littering nonsensical management jargon everywhere to try and calm everybody down and make it seem like they’re working hard to fix the problem – when they’re not.


And this perhaps underlines in bold and italic the big problem we’ve got here in England. Everything has got to be compliant with health & safety, equality, and diversity. This is how we’ve ended up with an England football shirt without the England flag on it. It’s why the FA’s response to this PR crisis is to undergo a review. And it’s why our roads get shut when it rains.


We seem to have lost that bulldog spirit – the spirit of the Blitz where we’ll knuckle down and get on with the job, no matter what obstacles we face. Any determination has just evaporated into being bound and cuffed by safety manuals, warning signs and diversity monitoring. All of this shines through clear as day in the unfortunate situation we’re in with our football shirt.


Now, I should be very clear at this point. Health and safety is important to make sure workers don’t lose their limbs in the workplace. Similarly, equality and diversity monitoring is important to ensure nobody is wrongly disadvantaged for just being themselves.


This is different. No matter what Nike’s spin doctors say, they have tried to politically redesign England's flag to pander to progressive activists and make money from doing so. A flag is a flag – don’t mess with it.


But I’m afraid I haven’t finished tearing Nike apart. This is because we haven’t even got to the cost yet.


For a plain white England shirt complete with a flag that isn’t an England flag, you will be charged £84.99. The price has risen by £20 in the past four years – even though England’s shirts are probably made by 10-year-olds paid £1 an hour in a Nike sweatshop in Thailand.


I’m sorry, but how can Nike justify charging that sort of money for a shirt? Football is supposed to be a sport of the ordinary. A sport which, in England, was born in the working factories of the Industrial Revolution. But now it’s being bulldozed by fat rich giants who want to charge almost a tonne for an England shirt with no England flag on it. That’s an insult to progressive politics in itself.


So here we are. We’ve arrived at the conclusion of this article that I shouldn’t have to be writing, and that you shouldn’t have to be reading.


How sad is it that this unbelievable England team – who are our greatest ever chance of winning the men’s Euros or World Cup in recent times – will be forced to wear a shirt at Euro 2024 this summer that doesn’t even bear our national flag? It honestly beggars’ belief.


Let’s be crystal clear. National flags are national flags. They are historical symbols, and you change them at your peril. The FA needs to be stronger in defending symbols of national unity. Scrap your process review and give Nike a firm ticking off instead.


Let’s make sure that, when we win the Euros this summer, it will be England taking home the trophy – not a political movement or Stabilo Boss. Image: Lewis Clarke

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