Sales blow for shirts celebrating Pope Benedict's visit

By Maurice Blisson
BBC News, Birmingham

Image caption,
Part of the money from the sale of the shirts was earmarked for helping to cover the cost of the visit

A plan to help fund the Papal visit to the UK by selling 20,000 football shirts has failed to hit its target, with only 520 of the £18 shirts sold.

Instead of £50,000 being given to the Catholic Church only £1,200 was raised.

Thousands of left-over shirts will now be rebranded and sold for Pope Benedict's forthcoming visit to Spain.

Paul Sullivan, from shirt suppliers Club and Country, said apathy and negative publicity over last month's UK visit hit sales badly.

Real Madrid

"The Pope won the public over towards the end of his visit but there was hostility and indifference in the early stages and that hit our sales," he told the BBC News website.

"We are in dialogue with Real Madrid to rebrand the shirts and hope to sell them in Spain for his visit there.

"Once again we will donate a percentage of the proceeds to the church, so hopefully they will not lose out in the end."

His company has bases in Coventry and Norwich.

One half of the shirt featured the England team colours and the other was inspired by the Vatican flag, bearing the emblem of the independent sovereign state.

In August, Canon Pat Browne, dean of St Chad's Cathedral in Birmingham, told the BBC: "The producers tell me it will raise somewhere in the region of £50,000 for the papal visit fund."

The cost to UK taxpayers of the Papal visit in mid-September was about £12m, and it also cost the Catholic Church around £7m.

The Pope used Cofton Park in Birmingham for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman, who is buried nearby.

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