A group of builders were banned from flying the England flag – because their boss feared it might ”offend” the local multi-ethnic community.
Stunned workers hoisted the St George’s cross on security barriers in support of the England football team who start their World Cup campaign against the USA.
But site managers at the new Sidney Stringer Academy in Coventry – a predominantly Muslim and West Indian area – ordered them to remove the flag after just 20 minutes.
One boss told workers: ”Look where we are. It might offend the local community.”
A furious worker said: ”We want to get behind the lads. There are flags everywhere and we just want to show our support.
”There are Polish lads and Lithuanian lads on site and they don’t mind – there’s been loads of really good banter between everyone.
”The flag lasted about 20 minutes. We were told to take it down because they said it would offend the community.
”It was just a bit of fun.”
Another builder, who did not want to be named, added: ”We thought the bosses were having a joke when they told us to take the flag down.
”We felt like a bunch of naughty school kids and the idea of upsetting anyone horrified us.
”We know the area is very diverse but had no intention of offending anyone. It’s ridiculous.”
Astonishingly, bosses at the Kier Group, which runs the building site, performed a series of U-turns just hours after they banned the flag on Thursday morning.
Initially they told workers the England flag was removed to ”protect their corporate image” but later inisted it was taken down for ”health and safety” reasons.
Hours later they took down their own company flag and hoisted their St George’s cross in its place.
A spokesman said: ”In this instance an operative was asked to remove an England flag from the scaffolding for health and safety reasons.
”There is no directive from Kier that states that England flags should not be displayed on site during the World Cup and the team at Sidney Stringer Academy are currently looking for a safer location to display the flag.”
The site, which is building a £30 million academy, is located in the middle of a predominantly Muslim and West Indian area of Coventry.
Local residents expressed outrage at the ban.
One said: ”I find it insulting that the firm feels the England flag is somehow insulting to the community.
”People who live around here, whatever their racial background, are proud to be English and I think most people are backing the England team in South Africa.”
Shopkeeper Mohammed Hussain, 34, added: ”It is patronising to assume the St George’s cross would offend Muslim people and fuels the prejudice of racists who want any excuse to hate Muslims and Asians.”
Ward Cllr Jim O’Boyle (Labour) said: ”The flag was flying in celebration of an event that everyone wants to enjoy.”