Changing an international flag on a football shirt or club crest for marketing highlights differences of opinion for many…


I’ve spent much of this week in my car. My job means I’m up and down motorways for what seems like days at a time, but this time of year is particularly hectic. February was so busy that I wondered if I could get bed sores from a car seat.

On Thursday I was on the M4 when my earphones packed in. I’d forgotten to charge them the night before so, my car being far too old to be Bluetooth configured, I had to make do with the radio.

Now, I don’t like TalkSport. There are tons of reasons why but I find its programme making strategy (Say something controversial and hope people ring in. They always do) to be a bit turgid, a bit vulgar. On top of this, I find Jim White and Simon Jordan to be particularly odious so my shoulders sank when I realised that it would just the three of us for the next hundred miles or so. 

I know. I could have tried other channels, but, despite my disappointment, faux outrage is always entertaining so I stuck with it. It was, at the very least, educational.

Without their programme, I would never have known about the England shirt thing. Nike have changed the St George’s flag to include different colours, apparently to incorporate the colours of the 1966 World Cup training kit. No, me neither.

Now, England is none of my business and I haven’t seen them in the flesh since Euro 96 (which, I have to say, I enjoyed) so their shirt designs fly even lower on my radar. 

Liverpool shirts however …

I love a Liverpool shirt. The older the better. 

You know you’re getting old when you still own what eBay terms ‘retro shirts.’ I’ve still got my 2001 home shirt in a drawer upstairs and consider it still wearable as that season was only five or six years ago. It’s disappointing to realise that it’s actually 22 and should probably been thrown out by now. 

Is it okay for a designer to mess around with a shirt? With a flag or badge? Do England fans have a point?

Well, I don’t really care so it’s funny, but if someone had pissed around with the Liver bird, I wouldn’t be too pleased. 

And that’s happened. Albeit on a cross-brand advert with a club sponsor. 

In 2015 Dunkin’ Donuts ran an advert which replaced our badge with their own products in the main places. The ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ motto was replaced by ‘America Runs on Dunkin‘(relatable content there), while ‘Est. 1950’ sat where ‘Est. 1892’ should be. A harmless bit of fun? Fair enough. How about replacing the Hillsborough flames with drawings of two iced coffees? Yes, they did that and, though they apologised for it later, one question remains. Who the hell signed that off?

I could say that I now favour the Donut people with the curtest of stares, but I was hardly in love with them or their gloop in the first place.

For some people the colours of the St.George flag is as important as the Liver bird is for us. I get that.  The key difference was where blame was apportioned. For us it was at a far-off marketing department cashing in on our, gulp, ‘brand’ to make money while much of the England shirt farrago has been thrown at various causes despite Nike saying that it was just a ‘playful’ nod to an earlier kit. Many jumped on the rainbow/LGBT+ emblem and banged on about the ‘politics in football’ debate again. One ‘newspaper’ referred to the kit as ‘woke.’ Go on. Guess.

TalkSport didn’t let me down.

‘The FA will have their virtue-signalling fingers all over this,’ roared Simon Jordan. ‘I don’t quite understand why Nike want to have a ‘playful’ brief on our identity. I don’t understand why we would want to do this. Is our national identity a joke, is it something we’re ashamed of?’

I agree with part of that. I don’t like shirt manufacturers deciding what is important and what isn’t when they have no skin in the game. Sponsors logos being just as significant as the badge – that sort of thing. Virtue signalling though? Where did that come in? I suppose that accusation is never too far away when a flag and anger come into focus. 

But that bit about national identity question confused me. I’m not sure what his definition of that is but I’m fairly sure it would differ greatly from mine. A lot of it seems to be him puffing his chest out and saying: ‘Yes, but I’m English.’ I’m guessing there’s not much tolerance there. Anyway, that’s their fight and my shirt is far more important.

I don’t like advertising. I don’t know what Standard Chartered do but I resent my advocating and promoting their business when I play footy on Friday nights. A few years ago I wrote a fairly moany piece about the Western Union sleeve advert and received predictable replies about ‘it’s a business now’ while one even told me to ‘be grateful that they’re investing.’ Grateful!

A necessary evil, true, but the badge comes first. Then the colour of the shirt (blood red rather than washed out) and the flames. Don’t get me started on the away shirts. They should be yellow or white. Green at a push. Colours that are on the badge.

I have some sympathies with England fans here. Marketing departments and shirt designers shouldn’t have a say over the significance of a badge or a flag (mine happens to be the same thing). They’re primarily interested in sales rather than a statement. Some sympathies, yes, but none towards their targets. If it annoys people like rent-a-quote gobshites then I’m in. 

I can’t wait for Liverpool to play again.


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