July and August used to be known as the ‘silly season’ as parliament wasn’t sitting and there weren’t a lot of really serious stories in the media. Then you could expect to read stories in the press about donkeys in Spain or the to-ings and fro-ings of celebrities you may not even have heard of.
This year, the silly season has come forward; at least in Northern Ireland. As is common in advance of an expected new football season, the South Belfast-based team Linfield FC released their new away kit. This is a purple top with a diagonal orange bar running from the shoulder to the waist. In Ulster’s divided society, Linfield; colloquially known as ‘The Blues’, is a team with a largely Unionist following.
A large number of internet trolls with an axe to grind have drawn attention to the colours of the new top comparing them to the Purple Standard; the flag of the illegal loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force. An outraged Twitter mob soon piled on to the club suggesting that this was a deliberate act but if not, it was ‘offensive’ to the victims of UVF violence and should be withdrawn.
Linfield has rejected these claims as spurious; “For the avoidance of all doubt, the design is of a football kit for a football club and any similarity/ likeness/ resemblance with any other design used by any other entity is totally coincidental and entirely unintentional. Any allegation or inference to the contrary is robustly and vigorously rejected by this club which prides itself on being inclusive, open to all and representative of all.”
Stan Collymore intervened in this made-up controversy as has the recently elected Alliance Party MP for North Down, Stephen Farry. Despite Northern Ireland dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, potential economic collapse and the likelihood of large-scale redundancies in the Northern Ireland workforce Mr. Farry chose to make a fool of himself by calling on the club to change the design of the new away kit.
Needless to say, the sheer ludicrousness of these claims has boosted sales of the kit. Mr. Farry has been mocked mercilessly, and no wonder. Many commentators have pointed out other items in ‘UVF colours’; a bottle of Ikea’s sunscreen, Cadbury’s Double Decker chocolate bars and a costume worn by Spider-Man in 2017. As Ikea has a large store in Mr. Farry’s constituency, we await his call for the Swedish retailer to change the colours of the bottle of this sunscreen. The UVF does not have a monopoly on the colours purple and orange.
More seriously, however, is the panicked reaction of the club’s kit manufacturer, Umbro which issued a grovelling apology as it threw the club under the bus, “At Umbro we believe in the unifying and democratic power of football. This is why we are opposed to all forms of discrimination, discriminatory behaviour and violence. Kit designs are a collaborative process and this kit was based purely on guidance from the club. We apologise unreservedly for any offence. Furthermore there will be no promotion of this product on any Umbro channels.” Linfield would be wise to consider another supplier for future seasons after this disgraceful behaviour.
The most amusing comment came from James Morgan, a commentator from the Glasgow Evening Times newspaper. “Would Linfield have accepted a design in the colours of The Starry Plough?” (an Irish republican Flag associated with the Official IRA). Well, yes! The modern version of the Starry Plough is Blue and White. This happens to be the colours of Linfield FC’s home kit!