Belfast Club Forgets That Its New Kit Is Identical To Colors Used By Local Terrorist Organization
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Linfield FC is the most successful team in Northern Ireland, winning the NIFL Premiership an astounding 53 times, but recently they made the news for another reason.
On June 10 they launched their new away kit for the 2020-21 season, which, upon first glance, looks like an awkward combination of purple with an orange sash.
The issue is the kit bears a remarkable resemblance to the colors used in the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) flag, a Northern Irish paramilitary group that is classified as a terrorist organization in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, and United States.
— Ronan Og McVeigh (@ronan_mcv19) June 10, 2020
Formed in 1966, UVF is a Protestant loyalist group that believes Northern Ireland should stay under British rule and maintain separate borders from the Republic of Ireland. Over the years it has waged an armed campaign against Irish nationalists (who believe in a united Ireland) and is responsible for over 500 murders and countless terrorist attacks, mostly against Irish Catholic civilians.
Although the UVF officially ended its armed campain in 2007, since then it has been involved in organized crime, drug dealing and racist attacks.
Conflict still lingers between loyalists and nationalists in Ireland today, with violence and discrimination propagated by both sides as the question of Irish reunification remains.
Linfield is a Protestant club with strong loyalist ties. The fan base has a history of violence (though this has improved in recent years), most significantly an incident in 1948 when fans stormed the pitch, attacking and injuring rival Belfast Celtic players (a Catholic club). The following year Belfast Celtic left the league and the club dissolved.
To say there are strong feelings toward the UVF flag would be an understatement.
The club issued a statement June 12, basically appologizing that anyone was offended by the shirt: "Earlier this week Linfield FC revealed images of the club's new Away kit for the 2020/21 season. The design has met with approval from large numbers of supporters but unfortunately and sadly, there have been certain suggestions from a small number from outside the club which this club can not ignore.
"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
"Linfield FC is totally opposed to all forms of bigotry, prejudice, violence and discrimination."
I find it perplexing that no club officials or anyone involved in designing the kit had the piece of mind to say that these colors might not be a good idea (even if they were unintentional), because it's clear from the Twitter replies that many people immediately recognized and associated the colors with the UVF.
Kit maker Umbro also released a statement, which contained more of an actual apology:
Sportswear firm Umbro has apologised to anyone offended by the new Linfield shirt.
It says it will no longer promote the kit. pic.twitter.com/XkdEHtJkel— Mark Simpson (@BBCMarkSimpson) June 15, 2020
Northern Irish elected officials even had their say, as Member of Parliament Stephen Farry tweeted:
This may well be purely coincidental and unintentional, but I do think a rethink would be appropriate. The similarity to UVF colours is too striking. Many other colours and designs are available. Why leave any ambiguity and risk offence to so many? https://t.co/El3rUj4vhz— Stephen Farry MP (@StephenFarryMP) June 12, 2020
Linfield Chairman Roy McGivern responded, tweeting: "Is this where we are as a society when an elected MP thinks that ordinary every day colours can be owned or monopolised by a paramilitary organisation?"
Umbro has removed the Linfield away kit from its catalogue, but it still can be found on the Linfield FC online store (it's currently sold out).