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Newspapers Knew New Team GB Kit Was Not a ‘Flag Redesign’ Project

A Team GB spokesperson told Nathan Jones-Sparkes that the British Olympic Association was very clear with the press that its new kit design would always feature the Union Jack

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Team GB is a hotbed of left-wing radicalism, intent on destroying our national institutions and defacing our flag.  That is, according to the Mail, The Sun and the Telegraph.

Because last week it emerged that the ‘wokerati’ in charge of the British Olympic Association, which runs Team GB, had torn up the glorious Union Jack of red, white, and blue, and replaced it with an un-British mash-up of purples and pinks.

The Sun led the charge with a frontpage splash on 2 April declaring: “UNION JOKE: Fury at Team GB Flag; Red, White, Blue Axed.”

MailOnline was close behind, announcing “fury as Team GB’s Union Jack goes woke” and calling the new design a “wholesale rebrand”. The president of “the Flag Institute” deemed the flag an “insult” to the war dead. British javelin thrower Fatima Whitbread described herself as “absolutely disgusted”.  While former England goalkeeper, Peter Shilton CBE, observed that “nothing is held sacred these days”.

The Telegraph joined the outrage, arguing that “the new Team GB flag trashes everything that’s iconic about the Union Jack” and that “fashionable liberals are allergic to patriotism and think the whole idea of the Olympics is ‘elitist’”.

Based on these headlines, readers may have been forgiven for believing that Team GB had indeed set about redesigning the Union Jack – that British athletes at future tournaments would no longer display red, white and blue on their kits, and that perhaps there was a broader agenda to promote a new national flag.

The reality is very different. 

This entire story is a textbook example of how some newspapers will conjure controversy out of thin air; converting innocuous and perfectly reasonable events into ‘red meat’ for their own confected culture wars.

Here are the facts.


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Firstly, this ‘redesign’ is not new. It was completed and launched in June 2023. Items bearing the logos and designs have been on sale for months.

Secondly, the brief for the branding project was to create a full suite of graphics, colours and other design assets to complement the Union Jack.  There was no brief and no intention to amend the Union Jack and the design does not do that – it is a complimentary graphic for use on select merchandise.

Thirdly, there were no plans to alter the kit designs with the new graphics. Team GB has confirmed that team kits at the Paris 2024 Olympics – and for all foreseeable future tournaments – will include unaltered images of the Union Jack.

Finally, and this is where the press controversy-generating machine really comes into its own, several reports referenced allegations of ‘wokeness’ in the designs. On what basis a series of designs, which are limited to a range of simple patterns and colours borrowed from the Union Jack, could possibly be described as a sign of ‘wokeness’ is unclear. Team GB has confirmed that, although it is of course fully committed to diversity and inclusivity, this was not a specific part of the brief.

But no ‘culture war’ article is complete without some claim of wokeness or political correctness, and these publications weren’t about to let the facts get in their way.

In summary: a year ago a design agency came up with a few complimentary graphics based on the core Union Jack colours, which Team GB has used on some bits of merchandise.  That’s it.

If you search hard enough in the coverage, there are fragments of Team GB’s response published in the publications, among the various allegations, which spells this out. 

A Team GB spokesperson told me that the British Olympic Association was very clear with the press that the kit would always feature the Union Jack and that this was not a “flag redesign” project. These newspapers decided to run with their groundless attacks anyway.

As the general election draws closer, manufactured outrage on ‘woke’ flashpoints is only likely to become more common in parts of the press. Newspapers will seek to make them into election issues and, to an extent, they have already succeeded.

While the cost of living crisis rages on, thousands of people have defaulted on their mortgages, and wars rage around the world, both the Prime Minister and Labour Leader Keir Starmer recently took time out to comment on how Nike has portrayed the St George’s Cross on the England men’s team football shirts.

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But the first victims of the culture wars will always be the public, who will be less informed as a result of misleading or inaccurate press coverage. More specifically in this case, readers are at risk of believing that there is an ‘anti-Britain’ conspiracy everywhere they look, and of losing trust in organisations like the British Olympic Association for no good reason.

Cumulatively, this kind of coverage promotes division – suggesting to readers that there is some kind of a covert operation being waged to undermine national symbols and values.

There are also other consequences. The design company which worked on this project, so far as I understand from Team GB, did a perfectly good job and met the brief for the work very well. Yet, two of the individuals from the firm have now been named – one of them pictured, and both of them roundly attacked in one of the newspapers. The business has subsequently received aggressive messages online.

The solution to misleading or inaccurate press coverage is competent regulation. It is telling that none of the newspapers mentioned in this article are regulated – they are all instead members of the industry-controlled complaints handler IPSO.

Broadcasters are regulated in this country but newspapers are not – and one consequence of that is that publications which tend towards lower standards are able to engage in campaigns of disinformation or misleading coverage, as they have done so here.

The Mail, The Sun, and the Telegraph have a lot to answer for. But, until they become regulated, there is no one to answer to this groundless, agenda-driven reporting which will persist – with serious consequences for us all.

Nathan Jones-Sparkes is the CEO of the Hacked Off group which campaigns for a free and accountable press

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