KARL STAPLES just wanted to back his national team as they prepare to do battle in the World Cup.

But football nut Karl’s great display outside the council flat he shares with partner Katie Hems, has been given the red card.

Karl claims he was told his collection of St George’s flags, bunting and red and white balloons was “racist”.

But last night council bosses insisted Karl was only ordered to take down those flags placed in communal areas because they are a health and safety risk. It was a reference to the recent fire at Shirley Towers.

Now the councillor responsible for housing, Phil Williams, has stepped into the row to make sure more people can fly the flag – which ever nation they support.

Karl, 20, who works for Tesco, had hoped the decorations on communal balconies outside the flat in Hurstbourne Place, Weston, pictured, would help get people in the World Cup spirit.

The tournament starts on June 11.

“I thought I’d put them up to support the boys,” he told the Daily Echo. “I just want to get people in the mood – I’m definitely in the mood, I can’t wait, so let’s get ready.

“If the players see stuff like that it’s going to boost them on a bit, but if they don’t they’re going to think ‘there’s no-one behind us’.”

Yesterday a neighbourhood warden came to the flat and told him to remove flags and bunting.

He says he later received a phone call from the council’s housing department again saying the flags had to come down.

He claims on both occasions it was mentioned that the flags were racist.

Southampton City Council’s housing boss, Cllr Phil Williams said no workers had suggested racism as a reason that the flags should be removed, and offered to personally step in to ensure fans can show their support.

He said: “I’m going to do my absolute best to see if there’s anything that can be done in this instance and others as the World Cup approaches, to try to allow more flags to be flown.

“Officers are already planning a meeting to try to sort out a consistent approach and I will look to speed that up, to see if there is a way that we can keep everyone happy.”

It is not the first time the city council has been involved in a row over St George’s flags.

In February, taxi drivers were threatened with having their licenses suspended if they did not take down the stickers bearing the St George’s Cross and the slogan “English speaking driver”, which were labelled “racist”

by an equality charity.

The cabbies said they were designed to ease worries expressed by customers that many drivers can’t speak proper English. The council said there was no justification for them, insisting there are no language problems with any of its drivers because they have to pass strict tests before they get a licence.

Council Response

By Nicky Murphy, executive director of neighbourhoods

“Southampton City Council is right behind England in the World Cup.

“We are supportive of any resident showing their support for the team and we are certainly very excited about the tournament beginning. We would encourage people to fly the flag of whoever they support.

“In council residential buildings, if people wish to fly flags from their windows or put flags up on the inside of their buildings we have no problems, as we will always take a common sense view and we know people will want to support their team.

“Like every local authority in the country, shared communal halls and the side of buildings need to be kept clear throughout the year of objects, signs, posters and flags. Recent events have shown how important it is to keep communal areas free from flammable objects.

“Any accusations of the council telling this resident that the flags are racist are completely untrue.

Southampton City Council is proud to fly the flag of St George.”