Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer defends Prince William’s decision not to attend World Cup final to cheer on the Lionesses – as sources claim royal was ‘concerned about his carbon footprint’
- The Culture Secretary is in Sydney to watch the Women’s World Cup final today
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer has defended Prince William’s decision not to attend the Women’s World Cup final to cheer on the Lionesses in Sydney.
The Prince of Wales, who is also the president of the Football Association, has faced a major backlash over his decision not to fly to Australia for England’s first World Cup final since 1966, despite members of the Spanish royals travelling Down Under.
Palace sources have claimed that the heir to the throne – who apologised to the Lionesses in a video message with Princess Charlotte yesterday – was concerned about his carbon footprint and the diplomatic ramifications of going to Australia.
Ms Frazer – who will be joined by Foreign Secretary James Cleverley at Stadium Australia for the final – was quick to defend the prince in an interview in front of the Sydney Opera House.
The cabinet minister responsible for sports policy, who was wearing an England shirt, told Sky News: ‘Prince William has been a fan of sport and really supportive of football. He’s the president of the FA.
‘You’ll have seen he’s apologised for being unable to come but I know that he’s backing the England team. I know he wants the Lionesses to come… and I’m sure he’ll be celebrating with them whether they win or lose, you know, after the match today.
Prince William has apologised for not attending the Women’s World Cup final to cheer on the Lionesses in a video message with Charlotte
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer (pictured) has defended the prince’s decision not to attend the final in Sydney
The Lionesses are on the brink of World Cup glory. They take on Australia in Sydney at 11am BST
When pressed on whether William’s decision not to attend was a ‘snub’, Ms Frazer shook her head and said: ‘The Prince of Wales does a massive amount for sport. He’s the president of the FA.
‘Not just this sport, I was at Wimbledon a few weeks ago and both him and the Princess of Wales were there. I think they do a tremendous amount for the country and I know that he’s backing the Lionesses.’
READ MORE: ‘Girls, you’ve got this!’: Geri Horner, Emma Bunton and Jess Glynn lead the stars wishing England’s Lionesses good luck ahead of the World Cup final against Spain
It comes after William apologised and wished the Lionesses luck alongside his daughter Princess Charlotte in a video posted on the Prince and Princess of Wales’ social media account yesterday.
In the video, William said: ‘Lionesses, I want to send you a huge good luck for tomorrow.
‘We’re sorry we can’t be there in person but we’re so proud of everything you have achieved and the millions you’ve inspired here and around the world. So go out there tomorrow and really enjoy yourselves.’
A beaming Charlotte, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt while clutching a football, added: ‘Good luck Lionesses!’
King Charles also gave a rallying cry ahead of today’s clash, declaring: ‘Good luck today Lionesses, and may you roar to victory!’ His stirring message on social media was signed Charles R.
Kensington Palace sources last night cited several reasons why William has decided to watch the game at home in Anmer Hall, Norfolk, instead.
One is the carbon footprint, particularly because he will travel to the US next month to support his green campaign, Earthshot.
England celebrates after Alessia Russo scores the team’s third goal in the World Cup semi-final
England Lionesses train on the pitch ahead of their final match at Stadium Austrlia
England’s Lionesses booked their place in the World Cup final against Spain with a famous victory over Australia on Wednesday
It was also considered not to be a diplomatically sound move – both on a family and political level. William’s father Charles has still not visited Australia as King, a country where he is also monarch, and it is thought a short visit from his son would not be diplomatically astute.
A source added: ‘It was a finely balanced decision. The Prince of Wales hasn’t visited since 2014 so he would wish his next trip to Australia to be a substantial visit. He met them [the Lionesses] in St George’s Park before they flew out and he has been supporting them throughout the tournament by sending private good luck messages to the manager and team.’
The royals have been largely criticised in recent days for not planning to travel to the final, with fans of the England squad wondering if the same decision would have been taken if it was the men’s team in the final.
The England team’s Spanish rivals, however, will enjoy support from their Queen, Letizia, and her 16-year-old daughter Sofia.
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.
On Saturday evening the royals were seen arriving in Australia, where they will ‘show, once again, the royal household’s support for national football’.
But British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will not be in an attendance which has fuelled further criticism. He will be absent due to ‘existing Government business commitments’, but will be ‘cheering the Lionesses on from Yorkshire’, a source said.
Kensington Palace confirmed earlier this week that the Prince of Wales would not be making the trip Down Under. He will instead be roaring on the Lionesses – who are playing in their first ever World Cup final – from home.
Critics have rounded on the prince this week with Mandu Reid, leader of the Women’s Equality Party, telling MailOnline: ‘It’s utterly ridiculous that England wasn’t and still isn’t prepared to celebrate the women’s World Cup final.
The row was intensified when the Royal Spanish Football Federation confirmed that Queen Letizia and her 16-year-old daughter, Infanta Sofia, will be in Sydney, ‘to show, once again, the royal household’s support for national football’
Queen Letizia of Spain and her daughter Infanta Sofia arrive in Sydney ahead of the FIFA Women’s World Cup Final with Spain vs England
The royal duo exit a jet in Sydney on Saturday ahead of the match on Sunday morning (GMT)
The Lionesses prepare for their match against Spain, where they will be led by captain Millie Bright (left)
Lioness Rachel Daly celebrates after the end of the team’s semi-final match this week
Ella Toone celebrates after scoring England’s opening goal in the World Cup semi-final on Wednesday
Lauren James will be available to Sarina Wiegman after a two-match ban following a stamp in the last-16
‘The President of the Football Association, Prince William isn’t bothering to attend, licensing laws haven’t been relaxed, there won’t be a screen at Trafalgar Square, and there’s been no word of any kind of large celebration should they win.
READ MORE: Why isn’t Prince William flying to Australia to watch the Lionesses? Row breaks out over royal’s absence as he and Rishi Sunak remain in Britain for World Cup final while Queen Letizia jets out to watch Spain
‘This last minute scramble to show support for the Lionesses by our leaders isn’t just embarrassing, it reveals how little they think of women’s sport.
‘You can guarantee that there’s no way the men’s football team would be treated with such disregard and disrespect.’
Meanwhile, appearing on BBC’s Newscast, sports broadcaster Gabby Logan said: ‘I have to say I’m disappointed that Prince William isn’t going with his role at the FA and the history that is going to happen and be created on Sunday, one way or the other.
‘I just wonder would neither of those people come to a men’s World Cup final, would Britain not be represented by at least one of those two figures at a men’s World Cup and I can’t help thinking that they would be there.
‘I don’t know what prior engagements that can’t be moved or if there’s something that’s enormously important that is getting in the way of this, but it does feel like we should have somebody of national (importance).’
Royal expert Phil Dampier added: ‘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!’
Labour MP Kate Osborne told Times Radio: ‘We all know that if this was the men’s final, Sunak, and the FA president, Prince William, would be in attendance no matter how long the flight to Australia is.’
Gerry Sutcliffe, who served as sports minister under Gordon Brown between 2007 and 2010, told the Telegraph: ‘I think the Prince of Wales should be there.
‘I know it’s a long way and I’m sure he has family commitments but this is a unique moment, it’s the World Cup final.’
The England squad inspect the stadium and pitch ahead of their big match against Spain
Revealed: How Lionesses’ salaries compare to stars of the men’s team
Star defender Lucy Bronze trains at the Central Coast Stadium with her teammates
The England team huddle after winning the semi-final against Australia. They are on the brink of World Cup glory
The row comes as Lioness fans continue to point out the stark differences in the women’s and men’s game, and call for a boycott of Nike after the retailed still fails to stock England hero Mary Earps’ goalkeeper shirt.
MailOnline has also reported that even Lionesses’ star players’ salaries are dwarfed compared to the men’s, with Georgia Stanway reported to be paid £34,000 a year.
Meanwhile Harry Kane’s recent transfer to Bayern Munich is thought to have seen him receive a paycheck worth £21million per year.
The winners of the women’s World Cup will also take home a quarter of the prize money awarded to the winner’s of the men’s tournament.
After the UK knocked out co-hosts Australia from the World Cup in the semi-finals this week, William led the way in congratulations as he sent a message to the squad: ‘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.’
Shortly after the King and Queen sent their own congratulations: ‘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.
‘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.’
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said previously bosses had always known William would not be attending, but that he had been a ‘brilliant supporter of the team throughout’.
Fans’ disappointment was net yet over, however – as No.10 refused to say it would consider a national Bank Holiday if England won the championship.
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.
England have not won the World Cup since the men’s team took the trophy home in 1966.
The Lionesses, who have made the semi-final in the last three World Cups, are in the final for the first time in their history, after superb goals from Ella Toone, Lauren Hemp and Alessia Russo secured a 3-1 win against the Matildas.
Wiegman has a full line-up to choose her 11-strong team from today, after striker Lauren James served a two-match ban for a stamp on the back of a Nigerian player in the last 16.
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