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Wednesday, January 27, 1999 Published at 16:11 GMT

Sport: Football

Three lions on a skirt

Umbro tested the market with this dress last year

The growing number of female football supporters will soon be able to dress for success.

The traditional England football kit is having its hem lowered to become a soccer skirt.

But the chance to sport the national colours will come at a price - the figure being quoted is £60.

And the idea was met with some bemusement from the worlds of football and fashion.

"Frankly it's not me," admitted Kevin Miles of the Football Supporters Association.

But he had little objection to the idea in principle.

[ image: David Beckham: Famously stepped out in sarong]
David Beckham: Famously stepped out in sarong
"I don't see why women shouldn't have tailor-made football accessories," he told BBC Radio 5 Live. "It's a step towards equality."

And top designer Wayne Hemingway of trendy fashion house Red or Dead predicted great success for the dress.

"It will sell because it's a good merchandising exercise."

But he had an even more radical suggestion for the game: "I think we should start by dressing referees like that."

Others have cheekily suggested that England star David Beckham might be first in the queue for the new garment - and not for his girlfriend, Spice Girl Victoria Adams.

The midfielder made headlines last summer when he wore a sarong on a night out with Miss Adams.

Devil dress

Umbro says the dress is evidence of their commitment to women's football, and the company has also manufactured shirts, shorts and boots specifically cut for the female figure.

[ image: Glenn Hoddle in a long shirt: Did England's coach start the trend when playing?]
Glenn Hoddle in a long shirt: Did England's coach start the trend when playing?
The firm has already tested the market for football dresses with versions based on the shirts of Beckham's club Manchester United, Chelsea and the current England kit.

The firm says the idea has proved a success with women wearing the garments to matches.

A call to the Old Trafford megastore revealed that the Red Devil dress have gone down well with female fans, and there are now "very few left" at £49.99.

An Umbro spokesman defended the £60 cost of the new England dress, saying it was a "durable item" which would not be replaced for two years.

The dress will be available at the same time as the new replica kit for the national team.

Adults who want a new shirt will have to shell out almost as much - £50 is being quoted.

Parents who want to satisfy their child's wish to be seen in the full kit will have find more than £60 for the full outfit or £35 for the shirt alone.

Grey days

This latest offering is not the first time England kit suppliers Umbro have attempted to keep pace with fashion.

The famous grey away shirt - worn for the infamous Euro 96 penalty defeat by Germany - was produced because it went well with jeans.

But the company's similar effort for Manchester United did not go down well with players or manager Alex Ferguson, who changed the shirts midway through a match at Southampton.

The team later claimed they were losing the game because the players could not see each other against the background of the crowd.

And finally a warning for any Scots hoping to poke fun at the latest England merchandise.

Umbro's latest strip for their national team is bright pink.

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