The Prince of Wales is facing growing pressure in Britain over his plans to skip the FIFA Women’s World Cup final in Australia where England’s “Lionesses” team will face off against Spain’s “La Roja” on Sunday.
Prince William is president of the Football Association in Britain and has been a core supporter of England’s national women’s team, being present at their UEFA Women’s Euro’s win in 2022, where he made headlines by hugging captain Leah Williamson and her teammates when presenting their medals.
This is the first time the England women’s team has reached the final round of a World Cup.
The prince is facing backlash after reports that he will not fly out to Australia for the match on Sunday, with some commentators suggesting that he would have done so if the England men’s team had reached a World Cup final.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph on Thursday, FA chief executive Mark Bullingham said that he and the team had been made aware some time ago that the prince would not travel to Australia should the Lionesses make the World Cup final, owing to logistical constraints.
“We always knew that he couldn’t,” Bullingham said. “He sent various messages of support and he was really upfront that, even if we made the final, he unfortunately couldn’t make it. It just sadly wasn’t to be.
“I know he’s committed to the Lionesses, as he is to the England men as well. He came to see them before they flew and was explicit in the fact he couldn’t fly.”
No official reason for this decision has been given by Kensington Palace, though the prince and other members of the royal family reduce their working output during July and August, as they take an annual summer break.
The prince is also a vocal advocate for eco-concerns, including climate change, which could see an objection raised over flying to Australia to attend a singular event.
News of the prince’s potential absence from the stands at the Stadium Australia in Sydney on Sunday has seen a number of prominent voices come out against him, including broadcaster Piers Morgan.
The former newspaper editor took to X, formerly known as Twitter, on Thursday, writing: “Get on a plane to Australia asap, YRH [Your Royal Highness]—you would if the men’s team reached a World Cup Final… so why not for the women?”
This sentiment was echoed by prominent royal historian, A.N. Wilson, who wrote in an op-ed for the Daily Mail, that: “I have no doubt if England’s men had reached the World Cup final, Prince William would be there.”
Skipping out on the event would prove to be a “missed opportunity” for William, particularly given the amount of good will it would generate, and in the wake of the news that Spanish Queen Letizia and her youngest daughter, Infanta Sofia, are making the journey to Australia for the match, royal expert Richard Fitzwilliams told Newsweek.
“In good and bad times every nation likes an opportunity to celebrate. The success of the Lionesses in reaching the World Cup final, is simply amazing and the nation will be watching. At such events, symbols are important,” he said.
“Spain’s Queen Letizia and her daughter, the Infanta Sofia, will be present to cheer on the Spanish team. I only wish Prince William and perhaps Princess Catherine were also there.”
“He is president of the Football Association and has been a great supporter of the women’s game. With much of the nation watching, this would have been an ideal opportunity for the world’s most sought after royal, or perhaps royal couple, to appear,” he continued.
“His message of support is certainly welcome as is King Charles’s, but his appearance would be much more so. If it was the men’s final, both he and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak would almost certainly be there, so this invites charges of sexism.”
On how this could affect the prince’s overall popularity, Fitzwilliams noted that it would be a rare “own goal” for the royal.
“This is clearly a missed opportunity It would show spontaneity as well as enthusiasm if he changed his plans, when on holiday,” he said. “It would also be appreciated Down Under, where the republican movement gets ever stronger. It’s an own goal not to go!”
Alternatively, some commentators have suggested the prince is “damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t,” highlighting the many different considerations that go into royal travel.
Former spokesperson for Queen Elizabeth II, Dickie Arbiter, posted to X on Friday, saying: “There’s a lot of media huffing & puffing as to whether Prince William should go to @FIFAWWC in #Sydney. Consider—flight over 20 hours, security costs to the #Australians & the carbon footprint—he’s damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t. Stay home sir and like the rest of us, watch it on TV.”
Newsweek approached Kensington Palace and the Football Association via email for comment.
James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek‘s royal reporter, based in London. You can find him on Twitter at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek‘s .
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