Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Police fears over 'Anyone But England' T-shirt
The looming World Cup football tournament offers many businesses a golden opportunity to make some quick money, not least those in South Africa's overpriced tourism sector where this year's event is taking place.
Entrepreneurs closer to home have also realised the World Cup's economic potential and have acted accordingly, either by putting up prices for things like airline tickets or by producing souvenirs such as replica shirts for those keen to follow the fortunes of their favourite teams.
A Scottish-based company falling into the latter camp has found itself on the receiving end of a visit from police - purely in an 'advisory' capacity - for selling T-shirts with the slogan "Anyone but England" emblazoned across the front. Grampian police said that the visit to the Slanj store in Aberdeen was not in response to any public complaint but rather out of concern that such a slogan might increase "incidents relating to nationality" and as a result they were duty-bound to investigate. In response a spokesman for Slanj said staff were "flabbergasted" by the warning and that in the three months the offending item of clothing had been on sale they had had "a great response".
A lot of people might well think the police in Aberdeen should be focusing their time and attention on more pressing criminal matters rather than investigate garments that - according to Slanj - are "just a bit of tongue-in-cheek football banter" with no genuinely racist undertones. England, after all, are the UK's sole representatives in this year's World Cup and such teasing is bound to occur in those areas of the country not taking part.
But there does seem to be something uniquely Scottish in the "anyone but England" mentality - so famously articulated by tennis player Andy Murray four years ago - that has loomed in one form or another at virtually every major footballing tournament where there is English participation, a phenomenon I've noted previously. Claims that such statements merely constitute 'banter' is, in my mind, undermined by a dearth of similar slogans - and T-shirts - emanating south of the border during tournaments where nations of the UK other than England qualify. I've long suspected that there is some deeper psychological issue at the heart of the matter that transcends mere sporting rivalry.
Slanj's T-shirts will almost certainly continue to sell like hotcakes, perhaps even more now that Grampian police have afforded the store some inadvertent and welcome publicity. One just wonders exactly why a demand for such a product exists in the first place.