ISSN 1652–7224  :: Published 30 March 2011
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Some Reflections on Representations of the English Football Team through Ephemera from the 1966 World Cup to the Present

Mike McGuinness
Sport and Exercise, School of Social Sciences and Law, University of Teesside, Middlesborough, UK

The English national identity emerged and developed gradually from the 900s onwards, in the context of the seven kingdoms of the Heptarchy. In 973, Wessex, East Anglia, Mercia, Northumbria, Kent, Sussex, and Essex gave up their independence and a united English kingdom was created, to fight the invasion of Danish Vikings. The following 700 years saw a deepening and strengthening of the English identity, as the Kingdom of England was consolidated, including the introduction of a parliament, a successful merchant fleet, educational institutions and increasing military power. Around the year 1700, negotiations for a union between England and Scotland were intensified, and in 1707 The Acts of Union were passed by the respective Parliaments. The Kingdom of England was now the Kingdom of Great Britain, the first step towards the dissolution of an English identity into the larger, and rather indistinct, British identity. Britain became the world’s leading colonial power, and in 1801 Ireland also joined the Kingdom, again renamed as the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The final stage of state formation was in 1922, when most of Ireland left the Union, and in 1927 the nation that we usually call the UK received its current name, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. By then, the words ‘English’ and ‘British’ had become interchangeable, and the English national identity was increasingly dissolved – at least on the surface.

The Kingdom outside of England, that is, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy since they became part of the Union. During the Blair government, there were significant changes in the direction of increased autonomy, which led to enhanced national identities in the sub-nations; particularly the Scots and Welsh have been clear in their demands for ‘national’ sovereignty. Parallel to the development of these national identities, the question of ‘Englishness’, an English national identity outside of ‘Britishness’, were high on the agenda for public discussions among the indigenous English. In politics, academia and culture, people are looking for the English roots, and books, movies and music from the past 10–15 years reflect this interest and the uncertainty that is: What is it like to be English? Signs of the emergence of a new English national identity is also apparent within the world of sports. In his article in this update, Mike McGuinness takes English football as his starting point, tracking an historical development from 1966 to the present day. When England won the World Cup 1966, the stands at Wembley Stadium were a sea of Union Jacks. By following the tracks from then until today, in the form of pamphlets, buttons, stickers, and other ephemeral materials, McGuinness can clearly demonstrate the gradual shift towards an English identity, not least when it comes to banners. Nowadays the flag hanging from cars and houses when The Three Lions are on the pitch in an international championship is the English flag, the Cross of St. George.

Introduction: Sports and national identity

In recent years there has been a growing debate about the perceived development of an English identity within the United Kingdom at a time when the process of devolution in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales is gaining pace. The three Celtic ‘nations’ have generally been clear about their identity, apart from some tensions in Northern Ireland, but in England there has been confusion around the notion of Britishness or Englishness. Football has played an important part in maintaining the “knowledge that England, Scotland and Wales were separate nations in the period when England assumed English and British were the same.[1] Representations of an English identity, especially around the England football team and its manifestation in, inter alia, the waving of the Cross of St George flag rather than the Union Jack has been observed by a number of researchers.[2] During the World Cup in Italy 1990 the England fans were chiefly waving the Union Jack and in the course of the 1990s the Cross of St George began to take over.[3] Martin Polley sees the World Cup in Japan and South Korea in 2002 as the point at which there was a move away from the Union flag towards the flag of St George and, “by extension, English identity” as English people were “waking up from history”.[4] A study of the tabloid press reports at this tournament by Jon Garland suggested that there was a belief that success on the football field had led to a “growth, or even a rebirth, of the idea of Englishness and English patriotism”.[5] The political theorist Anthony Smith refers to this by making reference to national symbols, such as flags, as conveying identity in a ‘taken-for-granted’ way.[6] The aim of this paper is to engage with two interlocking approaches, firstly to look at ways in which the England football team has been depicted using the 1966 World Cup held in England as a starting point. This will attempt to show how representations have moved from Britishness to Englishness. Secondly, to explore it in the ways in which ephemera provide reinforcement for the potential change in this representation. Throughout this period England has qualified for a number of tournaments, both World Cups and European Championships, and at each stage representations have begun to show clear developments in the nature of its identity.

The justification for looking at England is based on the general political situation within the United Kingdom. From 1998, a system of devolved bodies has been created by legislation with a Northern Ireland Assembly, a Welsh Assembly and a Scottish Parliament reinforcing the identities within these areas. There was no such arrangement made for England, which still operates under the authority of the Westminster/UK Parliament and no noticeable demand for any new constitutional settlement. For the most part Englishness had not taken off as a mainstream political idea[7] and according to Ben Wellings the concept of ‘English nationalism’ appeared to be empty of any particular aim.[8] Christopher Bryant[9] feels that there are a number of reasons for this reticence amongst the English, which is not found in the other parts of the United Kingdom. Firstly, the English are unfamiliar with the concept and lack what Tom Nairn (1977)[10] calls mobilising a myth of ‘the people’ and in many respects regional identities are stronger. There has even been an attempt at developing Regional Assemblies in England although the only one suggested so far, in the North East of England was rejected by a referendum in 2004. Secondly, loyalty within the state was to be built up not to a people but to its institutions, and Britain and the British came to be identified with the Crown. The English had given the State its cultural heritage[11] and assumed the role of a cultural state-sponsored ideology representing the uniform identity of the British state.[12] But legitimacy was seen as problematic, because it could be claimed that there is no uniform British cultural identity, and the concept of Britishness is “artificial, invented, forged” and lacks the “substance of a core national identity”.[13] For the English Britishness came to subsume Englishness, with English identity being indivisible from British identity,[14] but for the Scots, Welsh and Irish Britishness was more of an overlay. National anthems used at sporting events reflect some of this confusion, the English use ‘God Save the Queen’, the Scots and Welsh their own anthems (‘Flower of Scotland’ and ‘Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau’(Land of My Fathers)) and Northern Ireland, possibly because of its political history, still use ‘God Save the Queen’. Thirdly, the Scots, Welsh and Irish have thought of themselves in contradistinction to the English, constituting themselves in opposition to an English hegemony. On the other hand the English lacked an equivalent ‘Other’ as regional loyalties are strong, for example Yorkshire, Cornwall. Thus the ‘Other’ may well be within the borders of England in the guise of, for example, the North-South divide.[15]

Nationalism has been one of the driving forces in twentieth century European politics but had received little attention in England and has played little part in electoral politics.[16] Krishan Kumar felt that when the question of English national identity was a matter of public debate in the 1990s “it was often remarked how little there was to go on” (p 4).[17] There appears to be a more latent and reserved sense of national pride or an historical ‘obscurity’ of an English sporting identity.[18] But more recently in sporting contexts things have begun to change, and, especially in football, they have provided symbolic expressions for a changing patriotic sentiment, although some of the debate is speculative.[19] This turn was illustrated by the choice of the St George cross over the Union Jack, which suggested that many English people were recognising that the use of the United Kingdom’s flag to “stand for England was no longer viable”.[20] However, Robinson suggests that since 1996 it has become apparent that the “one place where England exists as England is on the international sports field”.[21] Sport forms one of the most significant arenas by which nations become more ‘real’ and sports can be metaphors for national character.[22] Cricket had become almost synonymous with all that is English and a metaphor and representation of society,[23] the embodiment of ‘quintessential Englishness’, imparting meaning to the nation.[24] To Richard Holt it was “the English national sport” – a way of “defining their identity and knowing themselves”.[25] Cricket has never had the same sort of representation or support in the rest of the United Kingdom. Football, as the national game, had not had that role even though the United Kingdom is the only state not to be represented by a single football team but officially by the four ‘home nations’ of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. They are all members of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the governing body of world football, and are members of the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the ‘custodian of the Laws of the Game’.[26] Each of the ‘home nations’ has a single vote and FIFA, representing the other 204 members, has 4 votes giving them enormous influence in global football. The recognition of the ‘home nations’ in this way stems from the founders of FIFA deferring to Britain’s symbolic hold over football when at its foundation in 1904 they agreed to British demands to be admitted as separate members with autonomous voting rights.[27] Arthur Hopcraft provides an example of this when he stated he felt that British arrogance has ’been reflected vividly... in football’[28] and Britain’s role as the “apparent originator and homeland of modern sport created a legacy out of proportion to British achievements”.[29]

Although the English were welcomed by FIFA in 1905 there was initial resistance to the separate membership of the other UK associations, but the founding influence and dominance of the English Football Association persuaded FIFA to admit them.[30] As the developers and codifiers of the modern game of football, competition developed within the United Kingdom until it was necessary to engage reluctantly with the rest of the world. The Associations were founded at a time when internationals were between the nations of the United Kingdom as no other opponents were available, and within Britain sport has been one of the main strands to which submerged nations have clung to in order to assert their distinctiveness.[31] The United Kingdom is composed of a number of nations and it was nearly thirty years after the first international in 1872 that those between other nations had taken place. The British Associations have retained a dominant position in the administration of world football but since the early 1970s the pre-eminence of the four nations has been challenged and it is surprising that separate representation has been maintained.[32] Recent discussions about a United Kingdom football team at the 2012 Olympic Games in London has raised the spectre of identity further. It has been rejected by the Associations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as it would, in their eyes, challenge the independence of the ‘Home nations’ and put in jeopardy the hold over the games via the IFAB. To have a British team would be a “challenge to both political and cultural independence that is expressed both in and through football in the UK”.[33] It is expected that a UK football team would be selected only from English players as had been the case in some of the earlier Olympics.


Sport history emerged during the 1970s and developed rapidly during the 1980s[34] and has tended to follow traditional historical methods, and Donald Reid felt that this bias was in favour of written documents[35] created at the time or near the time of the event.[36] However, Marilyn Constanzo suggests that there is a necessity to turn to alternative sources to enhance understanding.[37] Wray Vamplew went further by stating that sports historians needed to broaden their methodology and make use of the artefacts of sport[38] but have been held back because non-written sources have been regarded as “extras, peripheral to their discipline”.[39] Historians and analysers of sport should use the evidence at hand in order to try to understand the ‘human past’[40] and ephemera could be seen to be at the extremities of this concept. The material is in the area usually described as popular culture or that which is a rejection or subversion of ‘high’ culture.[41] A lot of the material would be seen as short-lived, transient or transitory, disposable and occasional or “minor transient documents of everyday life”,[42] as they are mainly items intended for a limited use and usually intended to be discarded.[43] But some material is recognised as providing information, for example advertisements and handbills, but others, such as tickets, stamps and postcards, are usually less so.[44] It has been suggested that there is a difficulty with the material in “conferring... long life on essentially short-lived objects”.[45] However, ephemera can also be seen as framing events at the moment “they erupt”[46] and are “emissaries of the culture out of which they come”.[47] These objects can be seen as markers of identities, central pieces that attach and fix meaning[48] and these objects are used as a system of classification helping to makes sense of the social world and allowing the researcher a share in those meanings.[49] Much of this involves the collecting of a range of objects which can have a subjective value,[50] viewed as a language system.[51] They are interrelated sets of differential objects from which one can derive meaning “from the entity”.[52]

1966 and all that

The 1966 World Cup was held in England for the first and, so far, only time in its history, with the background of the idea that England was the home of football and that it gave the competing countries “the opportunity of playing in the country where the game originated”.[53] What had not changed in the presentation was the general acceptance of a British national identity in which Englishness remained the dominant characteristic.[54] The selling of the competition led to processes, much of it associated with ephemera, which have become an accepted part of presenting a tournament. The 1960s had seen the emergence of a marketing revolution in English football and it was “fitting with the new spirit of commercialism that the Football Association decided to use a marketing image to promote the 1966 World Cup finals”.[55] It was felt by the Football Association that in attempting to sell tickets for the tournament it called for substantial publicity to produce financial success. However, their view was that the maximum level of publicity needed to be produced with the “minimum outlay”.[56] One of the first steps was to establish an insignia for the tournament, and work on this began in 1962 and was eventually approved on the 30th of June 1963. This was the work of Arthur Bew a commercial artist who had been nominated by the Council of Industrial Design although there had been talk of an open competition to produce a design. This accorded with the concept that only the highest standards would suffice and the objective was that of staging the “best-ever World Cup Competition”.[57] The insignia was part of this ambition as it would be represented on a wide range of publicity and official material. It comprised a background of a Union Jack with a circle bearing the legend ‘World Championship – Jules Rimet Cup – England – 1966’ and containing a football representing the globe, with the Jules Rimet Cup and the Football Association coat of arms superimposed upon it.[58]

What is interesting is that right from the beginning of the process there was no attempt to look at a specific English representation and one has to be curious as to why the Football Association wished to promote the event as a celebration of Britishness rather than Englishness.[59] The other ‘home nations’ would have almost certainly attempted to emphasise their identity in similar circumstances. The insignia had, by 1965, become well known at home and abroad with a number of licences granted for merchandising through the work of the company appointed to negotiate these licences, Walter Tuckwell and Associates Limited. However, there was a feeling within the Football Association that the emblem was too dignified for commercial application on a wide scale so an alternative symbol was required for such commercial exploitation. Tuckwell’s, through the work of Richard Culley and artist Reginald Hoy, developed the character World Cup Willie, the first mascot for a major global sporting event. Mascots have since become a common and essential feature of any sporting event or team, and have developed into ‘animated caricatures that represent the sporting event’.[60] More than that they are polysemic texts with inscribed meanings and “provide communities with a material expression of their self identity...”[61] Initial discussions revolved around using a bulldog image but this was quickly dropped in favour of a lion as according to Crolley and Hand, “in a sporting context... the king of the beasts is associated with English football.[62] World Cup Willie was described as a “square-shouldered little lion wearing a Union Jack football shirt”[63] or an English lion emblazoned with the Union Jack rather than the ubiquitous Cross of St George of more modern times.[64] It was launched in July 1965. Again the focus of the representation was British rather than English and it was reinforced through a successful campaign of licensing and merchandising. There were almost 100 licences covering such things as jigsaw puzzles, belts, badges, car stickers, scarves, dolls, T-shirts, glove puppets, horse brasses, bath mats and a World Cup ale. Dortmunder Hansa beer in Germany also produced as series of beer mats for the tournament with a depiction of World Cup Willie and the tournament insignia.

The British theme was also noticeable in the form of the human self-appointed England mascot Ken Baily, who attended most international sporting events until his death in 1993. During the tournament he would be seen adorned with a Union Jack waistcoat, a Union Jack on his top hat and waving a Union Jack flag.

World Cup Willie was immortalised in the formof a song and record written by Syd Green and sung by the ‘King of Skiffle’ Lonnie Donegan, produced by Pye and titled ‘World Cup Willie’. It failed to appear in the charts but Paul Lewis[65] said that it has the “power to evoke memories of real jubilation” as it is associated with England’s only major win. Continuing the British theme, the chorus had the repeated line ‘All dressed in red, white and blue, that’s World Cup Willie’. Even more curious was the release of a version of the song by the West German football team entitled ‘Fussball-Willi’, and strangely re-released as a B-side on the teams record for the World Cup in Mexico 1970. The character also appeared in the TV Comic, a children’s publication drawn by Bill Titcomb and involving Willie in a number of hilarious situations. Not surprisingly, the British theme was present in the breadth of representations both official and unofficial. A number of football related publications were produced as tournament souvenirs, for example by the Evening Standard newspaper and Football Monthly, a football magazine, and without exception the flags representing the competing nations were present with England always represented by the Union Jack. Even in official representations this was the case, as on the certificate presented to the Football Association by FIFA to acknowledge England’s first place in the tournament. The Union Jack motif was replicated on the front cover of the Official World Cup Report published officially for the Football Association.


Even a special edition badge of the Robinson’s Jam ‘Golly’ character celebrating England’s win included the Union Jack as part of the motif. A popular form of representation was the collector’s card available originally in cigarette packets but later as trade cards and collectable via sweet products. A set of World Cup ‘stamps’ were produced by A&BC, collected from their chewing gum packets that depicted players from the various teams and some team based representations. For England this was represented by Bobby Moore, the captain, and the words ‘England for the Cup’ alongside a Union Jack. Commemorative stamps were also produced for the tournament by the Post Office, not the first for a sporting event, as that had been for the 1948 Olympic Games in London followed by the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff. Donald Reid argues that they are excellent primary sources[66] and yielding significant information[67] even though they have also been described as “insignificant pieces of gummed paper”.[68] There was nothing of any significance in terms of national identity within the design and even the 4d ‘England Winners’ special issue overprint did not attempt to emphasise the English aspect. However, later stamps have emphasised the English theme.

Post 1966 Developments

England continued to qualify for a number of tournaments after 1966 and began to display noticeable developments in respect of representations. Despite the success of World Cup Willie it was felt that a change in the mascot was required. The alternative chosen was a bulldog, and although it was frequently associated with Britishness it had become a “symbol par excellence of the English”.[69] For the 1970 World Cup it was a live bulldog called Winston, obviously named after a former Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and for the tournament in Spain 1982 a football strip clad character called ‘Bulldog Bobby’. The strip worn by the mascot was that with the red, white and blue trimming of that period. As in 1966 the mascot was memorialised in a record released in June 1982 by Dave and the Bulldogs. In reality this was Dave Dee of the popular music group Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, and he sung to the tune of ‘Sloop John B’, originally by the Beach Boys. A relevant reference to England came in the song with the line ‘so hoist up the English flag’ unlike the red, white and blue references in 1966.

It is unclear whether this is the Union Jack or the Cross of St George, especially as the England football strip at that time was red, white and blue and clearly referenced the former. The official record by the England World Cup Squad was ‘This Time (We’ll Get It Right)’ which included the words ‘We’re on our way, we are Ron’s twenty two, Hear the roar of the red, white and blue...’. The reference to the Union Jack is either for the sake of a rhyme or evoking a feeling of Britishness. However, the sleeve of the record had a picture of the England squad in their red, white and blue kit designed by Admiral (see below) and the word ‘England’ on the centre of the record was overlaid with a Union Jack.

Over this period there had been growing concern that the bulldog had been adopted as a symbol by right wing and extremist parties, for example the England First Party, the National Front and the British National Party. Crolley and Hand stated that by the late 1990s the image of the bulldog had been tarnished and that “its role as a symbol of England in a football setting seems to have been taken over by that other emblematic beast the lion”.[70]

For the European Championships held in England 1996 the mascot was Goaliath the lion, once again in a football strip but no longer emblazoned with a Union Jack shirt. As was becoming usual for such an event another record was produced destined to become an anthem for the England team, ‘Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home)’ by the comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner with the Lightening Seeds (a popular singing group). The record reached number 1 in the British charts (even reaching number 30 in the German charts) and can be described as an anthem as much as a celebratory record.[71]

There are no direct statements of Britishness or Englishness in the lyrics but the reference to ‘Three Lions’ is significant as the lion has been the symbol of the crown of England since at least the 11th Century and represents England in the United Kingdom’s Coat of Arms. The ‘Three Lions’ are most likely to be associated with Richard 1, the Lionheart in the 12th Century. The first emblem or badge of the England team in the 1872 international with Scotland was the ‘Three Lions’ and has been thus in various designs since that day. It is also the emblem or badge of the England cricket team. The basic theme of the song is an attempt to connect England’s World Cup win in 1966 to the present, although some commentators have suggested it could be viewed as overtly nationalistic.[72] Such was the success of the song that it was re-recorded as ‘Three Lions 98’ as an unofficial anthem for England’s World Cup campaign in France 1998. It also reached number 1 in the record charts beating the official England song “(How Does it feel to be) on Top of the World” by England United. It was also re-released to coincide with the World Cups in 2002 (Japan and South Korea) and 2006 (Germany). The latest emblem used by the England team on its shirt has dispensed with the word ‘England’ above the three lions.

The 2006 European Football tournament in Portugal saw the manifestation of another form of representation which reinforced the concept of Englishness, the car flag. It appeared that every other vehicle was flying the flag of St George[73] and ‘for those brief summer months, these flags were a powerful statement of national pride and solidarity and “marked out a reformed national community... a new form of nationalism in England”.[74] References have been made to Benedict Anderson’s concept of the ‘imagined community’ with the flags providing an “interaction ritual”, announcing support for the England team, not individualistically but focussing communal attention on England.[75] However, it could also be associated with Michael Billig’s concept of ‘banal nationalism’.

England St George Car Flag

Since the 1966 issue of stamps there had been very few further issues to commemorate England’s, or indeed any of the other ‘Home Nations’, specifically Scotland, qualification for major football tournaments. England has been the prime focus for United Kingdom commemorative stamps relating to football, although it is alleged that a stamp was prepared for the eventuality that Scotland would win the World Cup in Argentina 1978 – such was the optimism in Scotland. The 1996 European Football Championships were the first to be held in the United Kingdom, and specifically England, since 1966 and was commemorated by special issues of First Day Covers and Stamp Books. Notably they contained within the design representations of the Cross of St George replicating some of the changes in football strips at this time (see below). A 1999 stamp for the Millennium series depicted Bobby Moore holding the Jules Rimet Trophy in 1966 with no overt representation of England. The 2002 World Cup stamps produced clear representations of England, with a lion and shield with the cross of St George prominent on a 1st class stamp. This was reinforced by a set of four stamps which when put together formed a large flag forming the cross of St George. A continuing move in this direction was identified with the issue of special stamps for the victory of the England Rugby Union side in the World Cup 2003 with one stamp showing the flag and the presentation set being encased in a representation of the Cross of St George. For the 2006 World Cup in Germany a set commemorating World Cup winners from 1966 included one with the Cross of St George with a special First day Cover reprising the image of World Cup Willie.

An interesting development emerged between 2005 and 2007 when a company called Jules Rimet Cup Limited wanted to resurrect the World Cup Willie image and trademark in order to use in a variety of merchandise. It had been assumed by the company that the copyright had lapsed and that no one owned a registered trademark over the nearly forty years since the 1966 World Cup. The company decided to modernise the lion and then license it for use on merchandise using the original design as the basis of the image. The lion was shown in a kicking pose as in the original, he was wearing a football kit but the representation on the shirt was not the Union Jack as in 1966 but the Cross of St George. They wished to register the figurative device and the words ‘World Cup Willie’ as trademarks. The Football Association when aware of the situation indicated an intention to oppose them as they believed it had infringed their copyright and alleged it owned the goodwill on both. A case was brought by Jules Rimet Cup Limited against the Football Association Limited at the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division. The court found that the Football Association owned the copyright and Jules Rimet Cup Limited did copy from the original World Cup Willie, but because of the significant differences it did not infringe the copyright. More significant was the representation of the character with a clear move from Britishness to Englishness between 1966 and 2005.

Football Shirts

The football shirt or jersey can be a site of commemoration and can be “a site for the production of political meaning outside football.[76] At the 1966 World Cup Final, England wore a red football shirt which has since become an iconic image; but from the first ever international football match, a 0 – 0 draw with Scotland, in 1872 it has predominantly been a white shirt, blue shorts and white socks. White appears to have been chosen in response to the fact that Scotland chose to play in dark blue, the background colour of the Cross of St Andrew.[77] However, major changes came after 1974 when the Football Association contracted a deal with the shirt manufacturers Admiral. The development of the England football shirt has been well chronicled by John Devlin,[78] who has been able to identify significant movements in the representations of Britishness and Englishness. The home kit from 1974-1980 introduced red and royal blue sleeve stripes, which were also found on the shorts and socks, and the away kit was the customary red with blue and white trimming mirroring the design of the home kit. These changes are described by Devlin as “controversial embellishments”,[79] especially as they appear to define a British identification.

England home kit 1974-1981 admiral

The conflation of English and British identity was seen to be unproblematic at the time.[80]

Admiral changed the design of the kit from 1980 to 1983 and incorporated large red and blue shoulder panels on a white shirt with royal blue shorts trimmed with red, white and blue on each leg. The away strip reflected the design of the home. It is from this point that the kits begin to move back to a more traditional design and eventually to reflect a growing relationship with Englishness. Between 1984 and 1987 Umbro were responsible for the design and included the England emblem/badge on the shorts for the first time. By 1988-1989 the “famous ‘three lions’ graphic appeared on the socks for the first time[81] and for the 1990-1993 design the three lions were included in the sock turnovers. A third kit was developed for 1992-1993 which was an all pale blue strip which incorporated a three lions design that stretched over the chest and sleeves.

Minor adjustments were incorporated towards the representation of England between 1993 and 1997 with the 1993-1994 home kit having a miniature replica of the England badge/emblem in the shirt’s collar. Further, the 1996-1997 away strip added the word ‘England’ beneath the three lions badge/emblem on the shirt and shorts. From 1997 representations of England became stronger with the 1997-1999 version incorporating a collar adorned with a miniature St George’s cross. The away strip went further with the broad shadow striped design blended with a multiple St George’s flag motif on the centre of the shirt.[82] The 1999-2001 strip was more traditional in its design but was significantly launched on St George’s Day. Umbro’s 2001-2003 strip brought in a red single vertical stripe on shirt and shorts which Devlin suggests is the influence of the national flag[83] which one assumes is the Cross of St George.

england 2001-2003 change kit

This was further developed with the 2004-2006 away strip which had a white cross on each shoulder incorporating the St George’s cross, surely the most identifiable English shirt. From 2005 it is clear that the St George’s cross was an integral element in England football kit design with the 2005-2007 home kit having a cross of red on the right shoulder, on the collar at the back of the shirt and a shard of red on the shorts. The away kit (2006-2008) had a Cross of St George on the right shoulder. According to Anthony King the strip symbolizes the transformation of English national identity, a changing national affiliation, and “England players no longer play in the Union Jack as they did in the 1970s and 1980s, but in the exclusively English Cross of St George” and further, it seems to be in accord with “public self-understandings and identities”.[84] However the kit

england 2005-2007 kit 

unveiled at Wembley Stadium in March 2009 moved away from the seeming trend towards St George colours by being all white, including the shorts and socks, without any adornment as the design team from Umbro felt that a new approach was required as the kits were becoming ‘unnecessarily cluttered’. Interestingly this ‘clutter’ involved the growing signs of Englishness as represented by the England flag and its assorted colours and flags. Much was made by the Football Association of the fact that the players had had much involvement in the design process.


British society has changed in numerous ways since 1966, with, it is suggested, the Thatcher years of the 1980s and 1990s producing major change which was not just incremental but qualitative, increasingly characterised by diversity, differentiation and fragmentation rather than homogeneity.[85] The responses from Scotland and Wales were to look more to the nationalist parties against the centre, and peripherally an increased identity were developed through sporting representatives. Anthems, flags and all ephemeral artefacts contribute to this intensity of identification. Northern Ireland had its own issues with internal conflict and had had a different political culture. In reviews of Britishness from Tom Nairn in the 1970s to the present there has been what has been described as an “anticipatory ‘endism’” assuming a break-up of the United Kingdom.[86]

When devolution became a reality for the other ‘home nations’, it was asked whether there would be an English backlash which would embrace devolution itself and reinforce an English identity.[87] The British Social Attitudes Survey in 2009 surveying English respondents did not find any significant changes in identity during the period 1996 to 2007 under a number of measures with British identity still outscoring English identity.[88] The only year where this was not the case was 2006 and it was postulated that this may have been occasioned by the fact that the survey coincided with England’s participation in the World Cup in Germany in that year.[89] The concept of a temporary rise in English national identity is reinforced by the research undertaken by Steve Fenton between January and September 2002, a year in which England participated in the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. He states that people interviewed were conscious of the contexts in which national identity is evoked, and as it was World Cup year the link with supporting England was recognised. However, it was quite common to see it as a temporary enthusiasm or ‘just a bit of fun’ as there were other ‘competing identities’ such as local communities, family and friends.[90]

The representation of the England football team has gone through major changes allied to the prevailing changes in society, but at this stage there is no clear evidence that it was a deliberate policy by the Football Association to reflect growing expressions of Englishness, although they could not have failed to notice the changing levels of representation in the crowds, especially the presence of the Cross of St George over the Union Jack. It is not clear whether the manufacturers were under instructions to reflect this situation or were driven by commercial considerations to produce designs that would be appealing to supporters. However, it would be too simplistic to dismiss the increasing reflections of Englishness as temporary and shallow. The build-up to England’s participation in the World Cup 2010 in South Africa has shown significant levels of English identity through the ephemera and commemorative material being produced to celebrate the event. The return of the Cross of St George flying from houses and cars, adorning publicity material and the multiplicity of representational forms is striking. As Fenton (2007) and Curtice (2009) have suggested one would expect to see a rise in English identity under these circumstances but it is not of itself conclusive proof that there has been a significant move to a strong English identity.


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[1] Robinson ‘Tackling the anxieties of the English’, 223.

[2] See King Nationalism and Sport; Abell et al ‘Who ate all the pride?’; Robinson Ibid.

[3] King Ibid., 253.

[4] Polley Sport and national identity, 10.

[5] Garland ‘The Same Old Story?’, 89.

[6] Smith 1991 cited in Fenton ‘Indifference towards national identity’, 323.

[7] O’Neill Unfinished Business, 336.

[8] Wellings ‘Rump Britain’, 396.

[9] Bryant ‘These Englands’.

[10] Cited Ibid. 393.

[11] Langlands ‘Britishness or Englishness’, 56.

[12] Palmer ‘An Ethnography of Englishness’, 8.

[13] Aughey ‘National identity’, 338.

[14] King Op cit, 252.

[15] Bryant Op cit, 393-394.

[16] Heath et al ‘British National Sentiment’, 155.

[17] Kumar ‘Empire and English Nationalism’, 4.

[18] Holt 1989 cited in Tuck ‘The Men in White’, 183.

[19] Abell et al Op cit, 99.

[20] 10

[21] Robinson Op cit, 219.

[22] Tuck Op cit, 180.

[23] Simons ‘The ‘Englishness’ of English Cricket’, 41 & 44.

[24] Tuck Op cit, 180.

[25] Holt Cricket and Englishness, 48.

[26] FIFA International F.A. Board

[27] Giulianotti Football, 25

[28] Hopcraft The Football Man, 215.

[29] Polley Op cit, 13.

[30] Duke & Crolley Football, Nationality and the State, 13.

[31] Moorhouse One State, Several Countries, 71.

[32] Duke & Crolley Op cit.

[33] Robinson Op cit, 222.

[34] Vertinsky ‘Gender Relations, Women’s History and Sport History’, 9; Chakrabarty ‘The Fall and Rise of Indian Sports History’.

[35] Reid ‘The Symbolism of Postage Stamps’, 223.

[36] Phillips et al ‘Broadening Horizons in Sports History’, 272.

[37] Costanzo ‘One Can’t Shake Off the Women’, 31.

[38] Vamplew ‘Facts and Atrefacts’, 276.

[39] Phillips et al Op cit, 272.

[40] Reid Op cit, 246.

[41] Pearce Collecting in Contemporary Practice, 13.

[42] Encyclopaedia of Ephemera cited in Young ‘Evidence’, 12.

[43] Ibid, 13.

[44] Scott A Matter of Record, 13.

[45] Burnette 1969 cited in Seeman ‘’Collecting and Managing Popular Culture Material’, 4.

[46] Lyons ‘Hand-to-hand History’, 410.

[47] T S Eliot quoted in Vamplew Op cit, 268.

[48] Benzecry ‘Azul y Oro. The Many Social Lives of a Football Jersey’, 49.

[49] Douglas & Isherwood 1979 cited in Ibid, 67.

[50] Muensterberger Collecting, 4.

[51] Pearce Op cit, 6.

[52] Belk, Wallendorf, Sherry & Holbrock 1990 cited in Ibid, 3.

[53] Mayes The Football Association World Cup Report 1966, 15.

[54] Porter ‘Your boys took one hell of a beating’, 42.

[55] Soccer History ‘World Cup Willie’, 10.

[56] Mayes Op cit, 41.

[57] Ibid, 13.

[58] Ibid, 42-43.

[59] Soccer History Op cit, 10.

[60] Freeman et al ‘Symbolism and the effectiveness of Olympic mascots’, 42.

[61] Magdalinski ‘Cute, Lovable Creatures’,75.

[62] Crolley & Hand Football, Europe and the Press, 28.

[63] Mayes Op cit, 43.

[64] Crolley & Hand Op cit, 28.

[65] Lewis ‘That time... they got it oh so wrong’.

[66] Reid Op cit, 223.

[67] Ibid, 229.

[68] Cusak ‘Tiny Transmitters of Nationalist and Colonial Ideology’, 591.

[69] Crolley & Hand Op cit, 19.

[70] Ibid, 20.

[71] McGuinness Friday Night and the Gates are Low, 183.

[72] Carrington Football’s Coming Home, 110,112.

[73] Robinson Op cit, 220.

[74] King Op cit, 249-250.

[75] Ibid, 251.

[76] Benzecry Op cit, 61.

[77] King Op cit, 254.

[78] Devlin True Colours 2.

[79] Ibid, 177.

[80] King Op cit, 254.

[81] Devlin Op cit, 179.

[82] Ibid, 182.

[83] Ibid, 183.

[84] King Op cit, 254.

[85] Hall & Jacques 1989 cited in Law ‘Jubilee Mugs’.

[86] Aughey Op cit, 336.

[87] Curtice Is there an English backlash?, 1.

[88] Ibid, 3-7.

[89] Ibid, 4.

[90] Fenton Op cit, 335-336.

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