Prince William and Rishi Sunak’s decision not to travel to support England at the women’s World Cup final sparked anger today – as Spain’s Queen Letizia announced her attendance in Australia.
Kensington Palace confirmed that Prince William, who is president of the Football Association, would not be making the trip Down Under, but instead will be roaring on the Lionesses from home.
The Prince of Wales, a huge champion of the fight against climate change, is believed to be concerned by the impact of flying across the world for a very short period of time.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will also not be in attendance for the weekend’s showpiece event in Sydney, Downing Street sources suggested.
However, their absence sparked fury from some commentators, who felt they should have committed to the visit.
Queen Letizia (pictured alongside King Felipe) will be in Australia on Sunday to cheer on her Spanish counterparts in the World Cup final against England
Kensington Palace confirmed that Prince William, who is president of the Football Association, would not be making the trip Down Under, but instead will be roaring on the Lionesses from home
England booked their place in the final with a famous 3-1 win over Australia on Wednesday
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will also not be in attendance for the weekend’s showpiece event in Sydney, Downing Street sources suggested
Royal expert Phil Dampier tweeted: ‘If #PrinceWilliam as President of the FA isn’t going to the Women’s World Cup final we should be told why not. It’s a long way and Australia hasn’t had a visit by him or #TheKing since Charles came to the throne. That’s the problem. If the final was in Europe he’d be there!’
Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, added: ‘No chance that Prince William would be ‘missing in action’ if the England Men’s Football Team made it to the World Cup Final.’
Another football fan wrote: ‘FA president Prince William, who’s on his summer break, will not attend the women’s World Cup final. I would have thought it was the kind of thing FA presidents did.’
A fourth added: ‘It speaks volumes that the PM and royal family can’t be bothered to attend England Women’s World Cup final even in a Commonwealth country.’
Neither William nor Mr Sunak attended any of the England men’s World Cup games in Qatar last winter.
However, the Royal Spanish Football Federation has confirmed that Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter, Infanta Sofia, will be jetting to Australia for the match.
The pair will sit in the presidential box at the Accor Stadium, but won’t be joined by King Felipe, who is busy with other official duties.
Letizia visited the Spanish team in Madrid before they travelled to the tournament, watching them train and being presented with a personalised jersey.
She ended the visit with ‘a motivational speech that resonated deeply with the players and coaching staff’, the federation said.
Yesterday, King Charles III led tributes to the Lionesses, sending them his ‘warmest congratulations’ as they beat Australia 3-1 to book their place in the final.
In his message, the monarch said: ‘My wife and I join all our family in sending the mighty Lionesses our warmest congratulations on reaching the final of the World Cup, and in sharing our very best wishes for Sunday’s match.’
He added: ‘While your victory may have cost the magnificent Matildas their chance for the greatest prize in the game, both teams have been an inspiration on and off the pitch – and, for that, both nations are united in pride, admiration and respect.’
The Prince of Wales tweeted: ‘What a phenomenal performance from the @Lionesses – on to the final! Commiserations to @TheMatildas, you’ve played brilliantly and been fantastic co-hosts of this World Cup.’
Mr Sunak also hailed the Lionesses’ semi-final – but No10 poured cold water on calls for a Bank Holiday if they bring home the World Cup.
The PM celebrated the England team’s stunning victory on social media, saying ‘bring on Sunday’ for the final.
But although Downing Street stressed the government would find the ‘right way’ to mark the team becoming World Champions, it is understood a Bank Holiday is not currently under consideration.
It comes as the Lionesses hit the beach today as they enjoyed a rare day off ahead of Sunday’s historic final.
England’s heroes were seen taking advantage of some very well-earned downtime as they dressed in comfortable, baggy tracksuits and relaxed with their families.
Striker Rachel Daly was pictured holding an orange bat on the sand, while goalscorer Ella Toone enjoyed a sit down outside a cafe with boyfriend Joe Bunney.
Elsewhere, captain Millie Bright was seen outside a doughnut shop, goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck was out for a walk with her loved ones, and midfielder Jordan Nobbs was seen enjoying a hot drink while on a stroll.
It comes as new footage of the players’ celebrations behind the scenes was released this morning.
The video shows Lauren Hemp, who scored England’s crucial second goal in the semi-final, being met with screams of delight from her teammates as she returns to the dressing room with her Player of the Match trophy.
England’s Rachel Daly is seen smiling and holding an orange bat while on a beach in Australia today
Ella Toone enjoys a sit down in a cafe with boyfriend Joe Bunney who led the celebrations long into the night
England captain Millie Bright (left) relaxes outside a doughnut shop following Wednesday’s historic win
Goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck enjoyed some downtime with her family by the water as the team looks forward to Sunday’s historic final
She is then dragged into the middle of a circle of players, where she dances with midfielder Georgia Stanway to the sound of Marvin Gaye’s Motown classic, Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.
Another pitch side video shows captain Millie Bright embracing England legend and Queen of the Jungle, Jill Scott, and telling her: ‘What did you say…England never give in!’
Previous pictures showed Hemp and Ella Toone, who opened the scoring yesterday, leading the jubilant scenes Down Under, as the Lionesses partied to Sweet Caroline – the Neil Diamond classic which has become something of a celebratory anthem in recent tournaments.
But the focus is clearly already on the weekend, as the players were pictured with cans of Fanta and Coke, rather than champagne.
Boss Wiegman appeared especially keen to keep a lid on celebrations, even telling defender Lucy Bronze to ‘stop jumping’ and to immediately begin preparations for Sunday’s historic final.
For the players’ families and other halves, however, the night was theirs to enjoy, and Toone’s boyfriend Joe Bunney – a footballer himself – led the celebrations.
He shared videos of England fans drinking and singing in an Australian bar, before revealing how he finally called it a night at 3.42am.
Meanwhile, the defeated Matildas were seen with their bags packed at Brisbane Airport having been dumped out of the tournament.
England’s Rachel Daly checks her phone as she relaxes on a beach ahead of Sunday’s final
England midfielder Jordan Nobbs enjoys a hot drink and a stroll in her tracksuit near the beach
Millie Bright departs a doughnut shop as she enjoys some downtime following England’s historic win over Australia
Goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck waits for her family in a car park as she enjoys a walk just outside Sydney
Millie Bright also appeared to be carrying an orange bat in her bag, similar to the one seen carried by teammate Rachel Daly
Jordan Nobbs dressed casually in a baggy cream tracksuit and held a hot drink as she enjoyed a stroll Down Under
Sam Kerr of the Australia Matildas arrives in Brisbane following the team’s loss to England
Mary Fowler (centre) of Australia is seen arriving with team mates at Brisbane Airport following her side’s World Cup exit
Tameka Yallop (centre) of Australia is seen arriving with team mates at Brisbane Airport
Clare Polkinghorne of the Australia Matildas and team mates arrive in Brisbane following their loss to England
Courtney Nevin of the Australia Matildas arrives in Brisbane following the team’s loss to England in the World Cup
Australian coach Tony Gustavsson is seen being interviewed by media after arriving at Brisbane Airport on Thursday
It comes as it emerged today that the Lionesses’ battle for glory is expected to give a £185m boost to the UK economy as supporters flock to pubs and bars to watch.
Analysis by savings site VoucherCodes.co.uk found that 13.7 million viewers around the UK are set to tune into the match, with around a fifth heading to their local pub, bar or restaurant to soak up the atmosphere.
Viewers could spend around £138 million in supermarkets to stock up on food, drink, merchandise and decorations ahead of the 11am kick-off, according to the report which uses forecasts from GlobalData.
And total spending in hospitality venues could reach £47 million, the highest of the tournament, with the bulk of spending on drinks including teas and coffees as well as alcoholic beverages.
It would mean that consumers spend about a third more than was splashed out during the Women’s Euro final last summer.
Last year’s tournament provided a 5% boost to pints sales, with a 10% boost during the final with England versus Germany, according to the British Beer and Pub Association.
The total spend for the entire World Cup is estimated to reach up to £747 million, supporting hospitality venues and retailers across Britain, according to VoucherCodes’ research.
Emma McClarkin, the chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association, said: ‘With the Lionesses roaring into the final this Sunday, pubs will be looking forward to welcoming fans to come together to cheer on England.
‘Pubs are the home of live sport, with the atmosphere and sense of togetherness unrivalled, and even when broadcast from the other side of the world, this tournament is no different.’
Kate Nicholls, the chief executive of trade body UKHospitality, said: ‘We’ve seen venues already make a huge effort for the Women’s World Cup and we expect that to go even further this Sunday, which will inevitably lead to a boost for hospitality businesses.
‘We all know the best way to watch sport is down the pub, so I’d encourage everyone to turn out in their droves this Sunday to support the Lionesses.’