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Tuesday, 23 April, 2002, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Football urged to fly the flag
Euro 2000
Football hooligans have hijacked the national symbol
Football needs to "reclaim" England's national flag to help end its association with racism and nationalism, says a political think-tank.

St George's Day is the perfect time to celebrate football's contribution to England's multi-racial community, according to a report published to coincide with the annual feast day.

Football can help engage us in a new sense of positive pride in our country

Matthew Taylor
IPPR director

The image change has been suggested by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) ahead of the World Cup.

The report's author Mark Perryman said: "No BNP or National Front march is complete without the St George flag.

"Almost every incident of England fan violence will have a shot of the flag being worn by those involved."

Negative associations could not be "wished away", he added, but the flag's symbolism could be softened by linking it "the good that football can put back in the world every April 23".

Positive message

IPPR director Matthew Taylor said: "Football is the people's game and it can help engage us in a new sense of positive pride in our country and communities."

The report says the football industry, including the Football Association, the Professional Footballers' Association and the League Managers' Association, should organise special events to bring the community together on St George's Day.

It suggests everything from sponsored penalty shoot-outs to five-a-side 'footballathons' to one-off team strips replacing corporate sponsors with charities' logos.

The report - called Ingerland Expects: Football, National Identity and World Cup 2002 - is a departure for the IPPR, which usually focuses on issues such as sustainable development or social responsibility.

See also:

21 Apr 02 | England
St George comes under fire
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