Football may be coming home, but the party has been brought to an abrupt halt for a historic landmark.
Fans draped red plastic ribbons across Westbury White Horse in Wiltshire, turning the 17th century figure into a giant, equine St George’s flag.
But English Heritage, which owns the site, took a dim view of the prank and instructed Westbury Town Council to remove the ribbon.
“The red cross that was added to the white horse has been removed this morning and this was at the request of English Heritage, who own the site,” said a spokesman for the council on social media yesterday (10 July).
England play Croatia in the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup tonight (11 July). Kick-off is 7pm (BST).
This is the first semi-final the Three Lions have reached in 28 years, following a 2-0 victory over Sweden in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
If England win, the team will face France in the finals on Sunday (15 July) for the chance to bring football home for the first time since England hosted and won the tournament in 1966.
“We fully support the England football team and wish them the best tonight,” said an English Heritage spokesman.
“It’s great to see people coming up with ingenious ways to show their support but we do need to make sure that the Westbury White Horse is not damaged in the process.”
There is no suggestion that the landmark was damaged by the mischievous fans.
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Records dating back to 1742 suggest the horse was cut into the chalk hillside in the late 1600s, probably to commemorate the Battle of Ethandun in which Alfred the Great defeated the heathens, which is thought to have taken place at Bratton Camp in 878AD.
The horse originally had to be scoured frequently to keep him white — grubby greys are not confined to live equines, it seems.
But the horse was covered in white-painted concrete in 1950 to preserve it.
In this week’s Horse & Hound magazine, out on Thursday 12 July 2018, don’t miss our ‘Rider fitness’ special including what top riders eat, fitness for across the disciplines and more.
Plus, read our interview with Royal Ascot-winning trainer Eve Johnson Houghton and in this week’s ‘Vet clinic’ we take a look at bacterial meningitis in horses. We also have reports from eventing action at Barbury, racing from Sandown Park and much more.