HMV rejects 'anti-English' ABE T-shirt slur
Entertainment retailer HMV has rejected claims anti-English World Cup merchandise in its Scottish stores could incite racial hatred.
The chain has been criticised by members of the public and the Campaign for an English Parliament (CEP) for stocking Anyone But England T-Shirts.
The company said it had "toned down" displays featuring the ABE slogan after police visited its Kirkcaldy store.
However, a spokesman said the T-shirts were "good-natured football banter".
He added that a police officer had visited its store in Fife but had left without taking any action.
In a statement printed on its website, the CEP called the merchandise "insensitive and provocative" and said retailer Debenhams had made similar concessions following a complaint about ABE T-shirts being sold in Welsh stores.
It said: "During the last world cup, a number of racist attacks were committed in Scotland against English people and anti-English racism remains a problem whether it's a world cup year or not."
The organisation's spokesman Stuart Parr added: "The Campaign for an English Parliament will challenge any company that incites racial hatred towards the English.
"Racism is unacceptable no matter who it is directed against, including English people."
Slanj, the company behind the ABE brand, denied its goods were racist and insisted they should be taken as "tongue-in-cheek football banter".
Manager Ross Lyle said: "They're our local rivals. It's the same as Celtic-Rangers, Liverpool-Everton. It's just football banter and football rivalry.
"On a personal football level, I'm just jealous because Scotland aren't there, so I don't want England to be there either."
An HMV spokesman said: "If we thought the shirts were in any way inflammatory, then we certainly wouldn't have stocked them, and we believe it's plain wrong for anyone to suggest otherwise.
"I bet if you ask most Scots, and even quite a few English fans for that matter, they wouldn't see what the fuss is about, accepting, like the Equalities & Human Rights Commission, that the shirts are simply the latest bit of good-natured football banter that's been traded between both sets of fans down the years.
"In our view, they are not against England or the English, but are simply about some Scottish fans expressing their view that they want a team other than England to win this year's World Cup, which I would have thought they are entitled to do, even though it's not a sentiment we agree with."