Liverpool fans sparked widespread outrage yesterday for booing Prince William and the national anthem during the FA Cup final.
Jokes rang out around Wembley Stadium when the Duke of Cambridge, chairman of the Football Association, was introduced to Chelsea and Liverpool players before kick-off.
Fans gesticulated and made obscene hand gestures as the solemn prince sang God Save the Queen. The outburst of thousands of fans was denounced across the political spectrum last night.
House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: ‘I totally condemn all the fans who booed Prince William at Wembley today.
“The FA Cup Final should be an occasion where we come together as a country. It should not be ruined by the utterly shameful behavior of a minority of fans. In this year of all years – the platinum jubilee of the queen – it is appalling.
Tory MP and former Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said: ‘It is completely unacceptable and shameful for fans to boo Prince William. I urge the FA to take all necessary action and prosecute those responsible.
Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “We have the most wonderful of monarchs and the fans who booed do not represent their clubs or our country.”
The mockery began during a performance of the Christian anthem Abide With Me by the 60-member B Positive choir, whose members have sickle cell disease or have close friends or family who suffer from it.
It erupted again when Prince William was introduced to the crowd and began shaking hands with the players. The boos and jeers peaked during the national anthem.
Connor O’Neill, football writer for the Liverpool Echo, said Liverpool fans “are well known” for booing God Save The Queen at Wembley and claimed the reasons date back to the city’s antipathy towards Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government in the 1980s.
He said: ‘The ‘managed decline’ of the town by the Conservative government was then followed by government failures following the Hillsborough disaster, which further reinforced these feelings.
Fans also booed the national anthem earlier this year when Liverpool faced Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final, also held at Wembley.
Former BBC royal correspondent Michael Cole called the boos “shameful and deplorable” and called on the Football Association to take action.
He also criticized BBC football commentators for not even mentioning the “disgusting behaviour” of Liverpool fans.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday last night, the broadcaster – who had over 25 years’ experience with the BBC – said: ‘There is no excuse for this kind of behaviour. I’ve been a football fan for 67 years and I’ve never heard of such a thing.
“We don’t want sycophancy in this country, but we want respect. And respect is due to the head of state.
Prince William, who is the chairman of the FA, met the two groups of players before kick-off
“Respect is due to the Queen, especially at 96 as the world celebrates the fact that after not being able to attend the official opening of Parliament she was at least able to make it to the Royal Windsor Horse show yesterday. So it’s the wrong way.
Sally Bedell Smith, who has written a best-selling biography of the Queen, criticized the boos as “really inappropriate” and said William would have found the outburst “very appalling”.
She added: “George V and Queen Mary used to go to Wembley for the FA Cup final so the tradition goes way back.
“Prince William is the head of the FA and only wants to do well through sport. It’s really unsportsmanlike on their part. They may have their own program, but I think they can probably put it in their pocket, especially in this Jubilee year.
Left-wing trade unionist Howard Beckett, who last year became general secretary of the Unite union before stepping down, praised Liverpool fans for “rejecting blind patriotism and the establishment”, adding that the outburst was ” of the sheer quality of socialist fans”.
But he was convicted for his Twitter comments. Paul Embery, firefighter and fellow union activist, said: ‘This guy was a stone’s throw away from Britain’s second biggest union. Thank God he failed.
German-born Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has previously refused to be drawn into commenting on his club’s fan boos over the national anthem.
He said in 2019: “I don’t think I’m the right person. [to ask]I know a bit of the story but it’s not for me to judge.’
After the game, won by Liverpool after a tense penalty shoot-out, Prince William presented medals to the victorious team. No other boos were heard.
The controversy came a day after Prince William personally paid tribute to cancer activist Deborah James before sharing afternoon tea and champagne with her and her family.
Ms James, a 40-year-old former assistant manager, has now raised nearly £6million after setting up a Just Giving page.
Hours later, the Duke enjoyed a rare meal with friends at Oswald’s, a private club in Mayfair, central London.
Fans also took to Twitter to slam the boos.
One said: ‘Liverpool boo the national anthem’. Doing Merseyside no favors.
Another said: ‘No allegiance to either but Liverpool can make one, their fans booing Prince William then our national anthem, what is it?
A third said: “Liverpool fans are booing the national anthem again, disgusting fanbase.”
Prince William, Duke of Cambridge during the FA Cup final between Chelsea and Liverpool
The anthem boos are believed to be a tradition for Liverpool supporters, dating back to the 1980s.
It is believed to be linked to opposition to the Conservative government of the time, as well as anger over the fallout from the Hillsborough tragedy.
Omid Scobie, a close friend of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, tweeted: “An unexpected moment during today’s #FACupFinal where Liverpool fans booed Prince William and the national anthem. From what I understand (correct me if I’m wrong, Twitter), it still feels like there was an establishment cover-up over the Hillsborough disaster and justice was served.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has previously been asked about his team’s fan anthem boos.
He said in 2019: “I don’t think I’m the right person (to ask), I know a bit of the story but it’s not for me to judge.”
“I know Liverpool supporters are respectful. If they give this sign, the reason might be a bit in the past. But I have nothing more to say about it.
Liverpool shrugged off the fury to go on and win the game on penalties.
The boos seemed to increase during a performance of the FA Cup theme Abide With Me, then again when God Save the Queen was sung
Prince William then handed over the medals after the game, with no more boos reported.
It’s the latest bad press for the future king, after an awkward tour of the Caribbean that saw him and Kate hit with protests and public relations gaffes.
Prince William and Kate Middleton want to modernize the royal family after their chaotic Belize, Jamaica and Bahamas.
This would include getting rid of bows and curtsies with their official titles so that they are simply known as Kate and William.
The scrutiny of their tour came to a head when Prince William released an unprecedented end-of-tour statement addressing growing Republican sentiment in the three countries – acknowledging that it had ‘raised even more specific questions about the past and the future”.
Following criticism of the “colonial era” optics of their tour, many have called for an end to similar trips abroad by members of the royal family.
The Sunday Times Royal Editor Roya Nikkhah believes the tour has sparked an overhaul of the way the Royal Family plans overseas visits in the future.
Speaking on the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, she said: “I think it will definitely [spark a rethink] and to be honest, I think that thinking started before this tour started because I know William thought a lot about how to approach certain things.
“There have obviously been some missteps. We had this extraordinary statement from him on Saturday night that he’s taking it on the chin and he kind of wants to see things differently.
Prince Edward and Sophie Wessex faced similar issues during their royal Caribbean tour last month.