The Angel of the North was briefly seen wearing an England badge ahead of the Euro 2020 final – before police intervened.
A team arrived in the early hours of Saturday morning to covertly add the patriotic adornment to Sir Antony Gormley’s Gateshead sculpture – but no sooner was it up than three police officers arrived and asked them to take it down.
Ben Fada, a rope access specialist who was part of the team that put the badge up, said it was intended to make people smile ahead of Sunday’s final against Italy – although he said they did not get permission in advance.
“It was just about bringing a bit of happiness and putting a smile on people’s faces,” he told the PA news agency.
Mr Fada and friend Robbie Woods have taken on similar projects before.
In 2018, they scaled the sculpture to put a Santa hat on its head at Christmas, while last year they marked Armistice Day by attaching a poppy to its chest.
Both received widespread attention and they were hoping for similar this time.
But Mr Fada said that, while it was “disheartening” to have to take the England badge down, he fully understood why the police intervened, saying they were “just doing their job”.
He added: “You’ve got to understand from their point of view as well, they’re just looking out for everyone.
“They didn’t know I was specialist with 20 years experience.”
While not a huge football fan, Mr Fada said he had been enjoying watching the tournament with his family.
But he admitted he will have mixed feelings if England emerge victorious on Sunday.
“I think they’re going to win and I’m going to be devastated because the Angel’s not going to have a badge on it,” he joked.
A spokesperson for Northumbria Police said: “At around 1.15am today police were contacted about a group of people erecting the England badge on the Angel of the North.
“Officers patrolling nearby attended and had concerns those involved were putting themselves in danger and asked them to remove the badge, and come back down.
“We are as excited as everyone else is for the big game but hopefully the Three Lions will have us flying high tomorrow without the need for anyone to scale the region’s tallest structures.”