Prince William criticized for not planning to attend Women’s World Cup final

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England’s appearance in the Women’s World Cup final against Spain on Sunday (coverage begins at 5 a.m. ET, with kickoff at 6 a.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app) has sparked a royal controversy back home, with Britain’s ruling family receiving criticism over the decision not to send leading dignitaries to Australia for the game.

While Spain’s Queen Letizia and Princess Sofia immediately announced plans to fly to Sydney and attend one of the most anticipated matchups in women’s soccer history, neither head of state King Charles, nor his oldest son, Prince William, will be making the journey.

Prince William’s absence has drawn particular criticism in certain sections of the British media and its wider public. Now first in line to the throne, the prince has served as president of England’s Football Association for the past 17 years.

However, according to multiple reports in England, he does not plan to break into his summer vacation and undertake such a long flight for what would be a trip of no more than a few days.

“I think the Prince of Wales should be there,” Gerry Sutcliffe, the United Kingdom’s former Minister for Sport, told the Daily Telegraph. “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, and he’s the president of the FA.”

For England’s only previous World Cup final appearance, when the men’s team won it all in 1966, King Charles’ late mother Queen Elizabeth was in attendance and presented captain Bobby Moore with the trophy, although that game did take place at London’s Wembley Stadium. 

Prince William was present when the England men’s team lost to Italy in the final of the European Championships in 2021 and also when the Lionesses won the Euros against Germany last year. Again, both of those games were at Wembley.

The England women’s team and their show of high-quality soccer and fearless resiliency has captured the hearts of the nation, perhaps even more so than during the Euros triumph on home soil. 

In late June, Prince William, in his role as President of The Football Association, wished good luck to the England squad ahead of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. (Photo by Phil Noble – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Criticism of the royal stance has been strong, while it has also not been well-received that prime minster Rishi Sunak will not be flying Down Under.

“As soon as we got to the final, (Prince William) should have been on a plane to get out there,” former national team goalkeeper Peter Shilton, a member of the 1990 men’s team that lost a World Cup semifinal penalty shootout to West Germany, told GB News. “He should show (his) face.”

“Why isn’t Prince William flying to Australia to watch the Lionesses? Row breaks out on royal’s absence,” read part of a Daily Mail headline. 

On the Spanish side, Queen Letizia and Princess Sofia wasted no time in arranging plans as soon as La Roja beat Sweden to advance to its first final appearance for the women’s team. The royal announcement was warmly received in both Spain, and by members of the squad.

In fairness to William, he did visit members of the Lionesses squad before their departure for the tournament and also presented an honorary award to coach Sarina Wiegman, a native of the Netherlands. At the time when his vacation was arranged, it was obviously not known how far the England would progress.

Women’s World Cup final preview: Spain vs. England

Women's World Cup final preview: Spain vs. England

However, under the innovative and impressive Wiegman the Lionesses have surged through to the championship game, seeing off host nation Australia in a strong semifinal performance, coming from behind against Colombia a round earlier, and surviving a penalty shootout against Nigeria in the last 16.

In-form forward Alessia Russo was full of confidence when asked whether she and her teammates could finish the job and lift the trophy.

“Yes,” she told the BBC. “Why not?”

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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