New England kit causes controversy over St George’s flag change

A close up view of the back of the new England shirt, showing the updated St George's cross
Racks of England's new Nike designed football shirt are displayed for sale in a central London store on March 22, 2024. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)

When a new England kit is announced, it is needless to say it often becomes a polemic topic of conversation. Whether complaining about the away shirt sporting any colour but red or saying the home shirt looks cheap, fans love to make their opinions abundantly clear.

The 2024/25 editions were revealed this week to much anticipation from fans around the country, as usual. The Three Lions will wear the kits during their Euros campaign in Germany this summer, as will the Lionesses and para teams. This time, the issue for most is not the incredulous £125 price tag, but more so the St George’s flag at the back of the collar on both shirts. The flag’s usual red and white received a makeover and now features a mix of vibrant pinks, purples and blues.

Outraged fans argue that the flag does not adequately represent ‘Englishness’ and are disputing that it is simply ‘too woke.’ However, The FA itself has stated that it is a tribute to the ‘classic colour regime’ of the training gear worn by none other than the 1966 World Cup–winning squad. What could possibly be more patriotic than that?

Harmful undertones on display

It seems that just from the simple connotations of the colours in today’s political climate, these ‘disgusted’ fans have taken their prejudiced assumptions and run wild without listening to the whole story. The majority of those wildly offended are also often the first to throw around the term ‘snowflakes’ to describe younger generations.

Nike, on the other hand, stated that the ‘playful’ change is meant to unite and inspire. It seems it has, but not exactly in the way they intended. This feels like an attempt to reference the LGBTQ+ community and the importance of their rights within the sport, given that the colours resemble certain LGBTQ+ flags. A positive move, you’d think. But the extreme reactions allude to the fact that this sudden feigned nationalism is actually masking — albeit not very well — inherent homophobia and intolerance of the much-needed equality in the game.

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Many of the upset fans have no issue carrying a huge ‘defaced’ flag with their club badge and name on it to a match. So why does a tiny multicoloured flag on the back of the neck stir backlash? There are even online petitions asking Nike to recall the kit and replace it with the ‘good old St George’s flag,’ despite not being the first instance of altering the kit’s flag. In 2010, the shoulders on the England home shirts showed off a multicoloured dotted St George’s flag. 

Let’s not forget that the England Women also wear this kit. The Lionesses generally play in a much more tolerant environment in terms of promoting equality within the game. So, is it really outrageous to have a kit that is not only representative of the men’s team but also their female counterparts? After all, these campaigns still require so much more awareness in the men’s game due to its well-entrenched atmosphere of toxic masculinity. Surely it can be said that a small step like this is the way to introduce it. These values of unity and inspiration are much more welcome within women’s football, and their kits should equally reflect this.

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Politicians wade in on new England kit

Amid a cost-of-living crisis, you might think that the politicians who have been so public in their criticism — Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer included — would be more open to criticising the whopping £125 price tag rather than a tiny flag. The ‘replica’ version costs £85 and children’s shirts are £65. You’re out of luck if you want to buy the women’s team shirt too (which simply comes without the star for the men’s World Cup win). It’s not available to purchase until June, even with the massive Women’s Euro 2025 qualifiers just around the corner.

At the end of the day, a small flag on the back of the shirt should not make any difference to the bigger badge on the front. Are there not more pressing issues to be dealing with?

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