THE owner of Sunderland Football Club wore a pin badge insulting rivals Newcastle United to a meeting with a world leader.
Ellis Short was spotted wearing the red and white badge bearing the fans’ motto FTM – which is commonly used to mean F*** the Mags – on his suit lapel as he welcomed the President of Tanzania, His Excellency Dk Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, to Wearside.
The African delegation was given a tour of SAFC’s facilities by Mr Short on Sunday as the club announced plans to lend its expertise to an academy which is to be built in the East African nation.
The billionaire chairman also wore the same badge at the Stadium of Light before the Everton match in April to present medals to soldiers from Sunderland Gunners who had just returned from a tour of Afghanistan.
The distinctive scarf-shaped badge is believed to be one of a handful of pin badges the Texan bought in person from the A Love Supreme (ALS) fanzine shop near the Stadium of Light.
Though the motto is often censored due to it being an acronym for foul language, Martyn McFadden, editor of ALS, says it shows Ellis’s passion for the club and its fans.
“It’s meant in a jovial way,” he said. “Most clubs have a jibe aimed at the rivals and Newcastle have SMB (meaning Sad Mackem B******s) which they use against us.
“It isn’t meant to be taken literally and people who wear it don’t mean they want to fight Newcastle. It’s used as a way of saying Newcastle’s irrelevant.
“I think it’s cool that Ellis Short is embracing Sunderland pop culture.
“I think most people in the city know what it means, but whenever children come into the shop and ask, we say it means Follow the Mackems.”
Short visited the shop in March and chose about half a dozen badges which he said he wanted to wear for business meetings.
Chris Thompson from ALS, who served him, said: “He got out his wallet to pay for them, but I wasn’t prepared to accept the money.
‘You’ve just spent over £20m on Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson,’ I told him. I think we could spare him a few badges.”
Across the Tyne, Steve Wraith, editor of NUFC fanzine No 9, also thinks it’s a tongue-in-cheek choice of accessory.
“I think it would be wrong for Newcastle fans to criticise Sunderland over it,” he explained. “We’ve got a clown in charge who’s done much worse things than that.
“Maybe he’s done it for the banter. If you look into it, FTM can mean the expletive or it can mean Follow the Mackems, and it may be that he’s been misled into thinking it means something else.
“Or maybe it’s a smart PR move to endear himself to the fans.
“I think it needs to be taken tongue-in-cheek. There’s enough bad spirit between the teams drummed up while the football season is in full flow.”
Sunderland AFC declined to comment.