World Cup Willie, a roguish little lion with a Union Jack jersey, emerged as one of the leading personalities of the 1966 World Cup competition. He was designed by Reg Hoye, a freelance commercial artist, who, on the strength of Willie (who he based on his own son, Leo), found himself the art director for a publicity house.
The Football Association paid Mr Hoye a fee for the design but they held onto the copyright for the millions of different products which bore the Willie emblem, including rosettes, tracksuits, T-shirts, tea towels, masks, bagatelle games, plastic mascots, toy drums, mugs, glasses, snowglobes, scarves and dusters (!). Watney’s even marketed a World Cup Ale.
Meanwhile, Syd Green composed the World Cup Willie song which was recorded by Lonnie Donegan.
He’s tough as a lion and never will give up
That’s why Willie is favourite for the cup
He’s everybody’s favourite for the cup