Matt Hancock, the former health secretary, has been accused of still being in possession of - and wearing - a signed Newcastle United shirt that he pledged to auction off for charity in 2020.
Ahead of the Magpies’ Carabao Cup final match at Wembley on Sunday (26 February), Hancock posted a video to TikTok with words of encouragement for the team he supports. However, viewers quickly pointed out that they had previously seen the shirt he was sporting.
Hancock promised a signed Newcastle shirt to radio DJ Chris Evans back in 2020 as part of an auction to raise money for Scrubs Glorious Scrubs, a charity which provided essential equipment to NHS staff who were underequipped due to the pandemic. Celebrities like Ant and Dec and Rod Stewart also donated items to the cause.
Following the auction, Chronicle Live reported that Hancock’s cherished shirt sold for £1,850. Here is everything you need to know about it.
What did the original shirt look like?
Social media users believe it has to be the same jersey promised to the auction because of the recognisable autograph over the left breast. If it’s not the same shirt, the similarities are startling.
The shirt was described as “my pride and joy” in Hancock’s description of the lot at the time of the auction, and was seen hanging behind Hancock - who is originally from Chester and is currently the MP for West Suffolk - during many of his Skype interviews in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This shirt was gifted to me by Uncle Dave,” he said. “It was because of him that I am now a lifelong supporter and fan of Newcastle United.”
At the time of the auction, the then-health secretary was under fire for issues with the availability of protective equipment for NHS staff, and was facing calls to resign after implying that doctors and nurses might be overusing essential protective equipment.
“I will sign it for you also if you like,” he added. It is unknown if the winning bidder accepted Hancock’s offer to add his own signature alongside those of the Newcastle players.
Is it the same shirt?
Jonathan Liew, a sports writer for The Guardian, tweeted: “You’d think the best part of this is the fact he’s wearing a signed shirt. In fact the best part is that it appears to be the same signed shirt he promised to auction for an NHS charity in 2020.”
A spokesperson told LBC that there is no truth to reports that the winning bidder never received the item. They said: “Matt put his signed Newcastle football shirt up for sale as part of Chris Evans’ NHS charity appeal to raise money for scrubs, but the person who bought it very kindly gave Matt’s beloved shirt back to him as a gift.”
Hancock also took to TikTok to address the criticism stating: “A load of people have been in contact about my shirt that I was wearing last night and they spotted that it’s the same one that I auctioned for charity a couple of years ago.
“What happened was, the guy that bought it then gave it back to me as a gift, which is really kind of him, I’m very grateful. So I’ve still got my beloved signed shirt.”
The Financial Times’ Alphaville said it had made contact with the successful bidder, ”who has no apparent links to the MP.”
The bidder reportedly replied with a “one and only” statement, which said: “I bought Matt’s signed Newcastle shirt because I cared about the charity and I wanted to raise money for Chris Evans’ NHS charity appeal.
“The shirt is of little value - nowhere near what I paid for it - but, when I saw how much it meant to Matt, I wanted to gift it back to him as a little thank you for all his hard work during the pandemic. It’s a shame that politicians sometimes get flack for doing the right thing.”
The FT went on to wryly suggest that Hancock should have declared the donation back to him as a gift if he actually received what was, in terms of market value, a £1,850 shirt...