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St George’s cross row: Rishi Sunak says Nike should not ‘mess with’ England flag

March 22nd, 2024

Peter Shilton and David Seaman have criticised the change to the Cross of St George on England’s new kit – Paul Harding/Getty Images

The Prime Minister says the national flag should not be “messed with” amid a growing revolt over the multicoloured St George’s Cross on England’s new football kit.

Rishi Sunak intervened in the row after his Government accused the Football Association and Nike of “toying” with the country’s heritage by switching the cross from its traditional red.

Speaking to reporters, Mr Sunak said he “prefers the original” and the national flag is a “source of pride” and identity.

“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,” he said.

England kit 'gone woke': Three Lions fans are furious as Nike give St George's Cross a 'playful update' with navy blue, light blue and pink in new international shirtEngland kit 'gone woke': Three Lions fans are furious as Nike give St George's Cross a 'playful update' with navy blue, light blue and pink in new international shirt

England’s kit for Euro 2024 features a multicoloured St George’s flag – Nike

Lucy Frazer, the Culture Secretary, earlier said the FA and its kit partner had failed to put fans first. She posted on X, formerly Twitter: “Fans should always come first, and it’s clear that this is not what fans want. Our national heritage – including St George’s Cross – brings us together. Toying with it is pointless and unnecessary.”

Two of England’s greatest goalkeepers also hit out over England’s kit for this summer’s European Championship, with David Seaman asking: “Are they going to change the Three Lions to three cats?”

Seaman, who played 75 times for England, said his generation of players would not have wanted to wear the new kit for this summer’s European Championship.

He told MailOnline: “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. I’m sure that if they’d approached the lads and asked them about it, they would have said no. Just leave it alone.”

Peter Shilton, who made a record 125 appearances for his country, told BBC Radio 4’s Today: “If you’re going to put the St George’s Cross on a kit, which obviously Nike have done, then just put it on with the traditional colours.

“The colour is, really, it’s a little bit woke, I think. And 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.

“I think the fans have to put up with design changes to kit nearly every year and that’s really done to make fans buy new kits. And it’s all about money.”

He added: “I don’t agree with it. I’m a traditionalist. And England represents our country, and red, white and blue are the colours that we have on our flag. And I think that we have so many changes to kits these days in terms of design changes even, so it really makes the fans have to buy a fresh kit to be up-to-date. And it’s very expensive. But now we’ve got – it’s only slightly – but it’s a colour difference.

“And I think it’s significant because, once you start trying to change colours, there’s no end to it, really. And that’s what my point is. There’s no need to change the flag, the colour of the flag, and I just think it’s maybe the start of introducing new colours to the strip.”

Adrian Bevington, the former managing director of Club England at the Football Association, told talkSPORT he would not have “signed off” on the shirt.

He added: “It’s our flag. It’s a national identity and I just don’t really think it needs to be changed.”

A petition on Change.org calling for a design change had already attracted 17,000 signatures by 9.20am on Friday morning.

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