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Why is the St. George’s Cross on England’s new Nike kit causing controversy?

Nike’s new England kit features a “playful update” to the St George’s flag

Albert Toth
Friday 22 March 2024 12:54 GMT
Starmer says Nike should recall England's Euro 2024 kit over change to St George's Cross

Nike has unveiled its new England kit ahead of Euro 2024, receiving mixed reactions from fans, pundits and politicians.

The new design features a St George’s flag on the back of the collar, with different colours to the typical red. The horizontal cross of the flag instead also features navy, blue and purple.

This has provoked criticism from some football fans, with many users on X deeming the reimagining of the England flag ‘disrespectful’ or ‘insulting’.

Nike originally shared the new kit design with fans on 18 March, posting the new home and away kits on X. The sportswear giant said the new collar motif is a “playful update to the flag of St. George appears on the collar to unite and inspire”.

The new away kit features a new purple design, featuring graphic side panelling which Nike says is to “pay homage to forward-thinking fashionistas”.

‘Authentic’ versions of the kits cost £124.99 for adults and £119.99 for children. Nike also offers cheaper ‘stadium’ versions costing £84.99 and £64.99.

The row around the kit was reignited in the days following its release, as politicians began to weigh in on the new design and the cost.

What have politicians said?

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has criticised the new England kit, calling for Nike to scrap the design in an interview on 21 March.

“I’m a big football fan, I go to England games, men, women’s games. And the flag is used by everybody, it’s unifying, it doesn’t need to change,” Sir Keir told The Sun during an interview.

“We just need to be proud of it. So I think they should just reconsider this and change it back. I’m not even sure they can properly explain why they thought they needed to change in the first place.”

The north London MP went on to criticise the cost of the shirts, arguing Nike should reduce the price.

England have unveiled new kits ahead of this summer’s Euros (England football/Nike)

Veteran Labour MP Emily Thorberry backed the leader’s view in several TV interviews, calling the change “weird” and arguing that “you wouldn’t expect Nike to look at the Welsh flag and change the dragon to a pussycat”.

The Labour front-benchers lended their voices to similar calls from unlikely allies Lee Anderson and Nigel Farage. Conservative turned Reform UK MP Mr Anderson had called the new kit “virtue-signalling woke nonsense”.

Mr Farage, who also has strong links to Reform UK, called the design an “absolute joke” which “bears no relationship to the St George’s Cross whatsoever”.

How has Nike responded?

The American sportwear brand has been resolute in the face of the criticism, not answering calls to redesign the new kit. Responding to the row, a spokesperson for the brand 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.”

England and Arsenal footballer Declan Rice has given his approval to the new kit, telling England Football: “This kit is a 10, a classic. It is proper retro; it feels like the 1966 kit.”

Lionesses striker Alessia Russo shared a similar view: “I really like it. It is retro. I would give it ten out of ten.”

The new kit does not represent the first time Nike has chosen to reimagine the St George’s flag. England’s 2011/12 kit featured several small crosses in different colours across the shoulders.

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