State visit shirts prove un-Pope-ular

A company that manufactured football-style shirts to commemorate the Pontiff's visit has admitted its sales failed to score.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 31 Oct 2011
You’d think the good Lord would be smiling on any enterprise where his representative on earth was involved, but one Coventry-based company has proven that that isn’t necessarily the case. When 4 Club and Country designed special football-style shirts (yes, really) to commemorate the Pope’s visit to Birmingham in mid-September, it hoped they would whizz off the shelves faster than a speeding Popemobile. Unfortunately, though, it has admitted that, despite pledging to donate all profits to help fund the Papal visit, it only managed to shift 520 shirts – a touch under the 20,000 it had originally expected. Bless.

4 Club and Country had expected to raise something in the region of £50,000 from the shirts, which it planned to put toward the fairly unholy £12m (£4m more than planned) UK taxpayers forked out to pay for the papal visit – plus the £7m the Catholic church spent. Paul Sullivan, who works for the company, blames the poor sales on ‘apathy and negative publicity’. Speaking to the BBC News website, he said while the Pope had managed to win over the public toward the end of his visit, ‘there was hostility and indifference in the early stages that hit our sales’.

It could also have something to do with their appearance: the £18 shirts are half white and half yellow, with an England crest on the white side and the Vatican’s emblem on the other. So while the British public may have been accused of ‘aggressive atheism’ by one of the Pope’s aides before his visit, let it never be said that we have poor fashion taste.

There’s still a glimmer of hope for the rejected shirts, though: apparently, the company is currently in talks with Real Madrid to see if they can be ‘rebranded’ in time for the Papal visit to Spain in November. In which case, it’s very lucky (or simply God’s will?) that the English side of the shirt is white, and therefore relatively easy to re-dye.

So maybe this will all work out in the end. After all, they do say that the Lord moves in mysterious ways…
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