England's kit change takes the shirt off the fans' backs

Angry football supporters say changing the team's strip in January is exploiting youngsters who will have to buy new colours
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The Independent Online
The row over changing football strips resurfaced yesterday after the Football Association announced that it would revamp the England strip in January, just days after thousands of children will have received scaled-down versions for Christmas.

The controversial move, made in conjunction with the manufacturers Umbro, will provoke fury among parents who have spent up to pounds 70 on the strip worn by the England team during Euro 96 only to see it go out of date.

For many die-hard fans, wearing the up-to-date kit is almost as important as seeing their side win and every year pre-season debates rage about the insensitive profiteering of clubs who release new strips at extortionate prices.

Yesterday's move predictably outraged consumer groups and was heavily criticised by supporters clubs and the Labour Party, who accused the Football Association of exploiting fans.

"Young supporters, who will be overjoyed to get the England strip at Christmas, will be very disillusioned in January when the new kit comes out," said Labour's consumer affairs spokesman, Nigel Griffiths.

"Football bosses would be better employed in introducing measures to maintain the strong support they have from youngsters instead of cashing in on what is effectively a pre- and post-Christmas bonanza."

Tony Kershaw, chairman of the National Federation of Football Supporters' Clubs, said that after England's success in Euro 96, thousands of parents would be buying the replica kit as Christmas presents.

"To allow people to do this and then have a change early in the New Year seems like they're wanting to clear the old stock first before producing a new one," he said.

"I can well imagine little Johnny going to school, and the lads will be pulling his leg for having last year's kit, and he's just had it for Christmas!"

Manufacturers Umbro confirmed yesterday that England's home strip featuring the three lions on a white shirt would be revamped. The away strip, currently in indigo blue, is expected to be replaced next May by a red version of that worn by the 1966 World Cup-winning team.

"It has been planned for a long time to introduce the new strip early in the New Year, and it will be part of England's campaign for the World Cup," a spokesman for Umbro said. "While Umbro can see that the Euro 96 strip could get out of date in the New Year, it is still a very valuable strip, and will be a collector's item."

The Football Association yesterday defended the change, saying that the team's strips were restyled every two years: "The kits are changed on what is effectively a two-year rota," FA spokesman, Steve Double, said. "The away kit is being changed a bit sooner because there was a chorus for the return of the red kit before the Euro 96 semi-final against Germany ... It's always been accepted that the kits have a two-year life span."

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