The wearing of the orange


IS nothing sacred? The notion of the Republic of Ireland wearing a new orange alternate away strip against Macedonia tomorrow week appeared to be met with outrage by republicans, traditionalists and perhaps more pertinently, hard-pressed parents of young football fans yesterday.

The Merrion Square switchboard was inundated with calls from disgruntled football fans. Vox pops conducted on yesterday morning's radio programmes gave the new strip a thumbs down.

Meanwhile, the kit's manufacturers, Umbro, and the FAI, were sailing serenely through it all. The new shirt goes on sale at sports shops today, and, after all, there is no such thing as bad publicity - least of all in the commercial world.

Eddie Cox, the FAI's commercial manager, said yesterday that Umbro "haven't changed the away strip since they took over. They are entitled to a change and on the basis of market research they came up with this proposal to the FAI which the FAI was happy to go along with as an alternate (away) strip. And I would stress that, because a lot of people seem to think that this is replacing the home jersey."

Cox said the Republic of Ireland "will play in green whenever we can, so I can't see us wearing it all that often."

Indeed, given that there will be few clashes with countries which also wear predominantly green, it is therefore quite feasible that the Republic of Ireland will, ultimately, only wear the new orange strip once - tomorrow week in Skopje.

Cox played down the possibility of the FAI reaping additional revenue if the new strip sold more than a stipulated number as part of their five-year deal with Umbro, believed to be worth in the region of £2.5 million. Instead he points to the 50-odd games in which various international Irish teams are supplied with kit by Umbro.

How successful the `orange' shirt ultimately becomes will partially depend on the result against Macedonia. "Obviously, success will sell more than failure, there's no doubt about that, but I feel that the young people will go for it. It's primarily based at young people, who are more likely to wear it anyway."

Cox rejects the charge that the FAI are guilty of exploitation. "There's two home jerseys and two away jerseys every four years, that's it. That is absolutely it categorically - no more, no less. That will not change, because that is exploitation and we wouldn't do that. This will not change for two years and that is better than most."

"At the end of the day we're in a commercial world and Umbro invest a lot of money within the FAI and they're entitled, within reason, to have something that they believe will be commercially acceptable. But it is not, and I stress it is not, replacing our green jersey. The green jersey is our first choice and will continue to be our first choice."

Much ado about nothing?