Downing Street has today slapped down Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp’s defence of fans who jeered the National Anthem and Prince William at the FA Cup final.
Reds fans sparked fury after boos echoed around Wembley Stadium while Prince William – the President of the FA – was introduced to Chelsea and Liverpool players ahead of their cup final clash on Saturday.
Supporters also drowned out singer-songwriter RAYE’s rendition of ‘God Save The Queen’, as well as the hymn ‘Abide With Me’ – a much-loved FA cup final tradition.
The jeers were condemned by some, including Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, who described the booing as ‘totally shameful’. Lib Dem leader Ed Davey, added to the condemnation, saying those involved ‘do not represent their clubs or our country’.
But when asked about the incident Reds boss Klopp appeared to justify the actions of Liverpool fans, describing them as ‘wonderful’ and suggesting there may be historical ‘reasons’ for their jeers.
‘They wouldn’t do if there was no reason,’ he told reporters at a pre-match press conference today.
But minutes after his comments – made ahead of Liverpool’s Premier League clash with Southampton tomorrow night – Downing Street appeared to slap down Klopp’s defence.
Asked in a briefing if Klopp was right to say Liverpool had a reason to boo the national anthem, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson replied ‘No’.
The spokesperson added that the booing was a ‘great shame’ given the FA Cup was meant to ‘bring people together’.
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has defended Reds fans who booed the National Anthem
Prince William, who is the president of the FA, met with both sets of players ahead of kick-off
The response from some Reds fans ahead of kick-off on Saturday caused widespread outrage as jeers rang out around Wembley Stadium as Prince William, who is president of the Football Association, greeted players.
Fans gesticulated and made obscene hand gestures while the Duke of Cambridge stood singing God Save the Queen.
Klopp, who addressed the media ahead of Liverpool’s upcoming Premier League match this week, called the club’s supporters ‘wonderful’ and claimed they wouldn’t boo ‘without reason’.
He said on Monday: ‘Of course I have thoughts but I think in these situations it’s best to ask the question: why does it happen?
Reds boss Klopp said fans wouldn’t boo Prince William, president of the FA, ‘without reason’
‘They wouldn’t do if there was no reason. I’ve not been here long enough to understand the reason for it – it’s for sure something historical – and that’s probably questions you can answer much better than I could ever.
‘The majority of our supporters are wonderful people. Really smart, go through lows and highs. They wouldn’t do it without reason.’
The jeers started during a rendition of the Christian hymn Abide With Me by the 60-strong B Positive Choir, whose members have sickle cell disease or who have close friends or family suffering from it.
It erupted again as Prince William was introduced to the crowd and began shaking the hands of the players. The booing and jeers reached their peak during the National Anthem.
One Liverpool fan took to Twitter to slam the fans who booed prior to kick-off and asked Klopp to ‘nip this in the bud’.
Former Crystal Palace chairman and now pundit Simon Jordan hit out at the treatment some Liverpool fans dished out, telling talkSPORT: ‘There’s not a necessity for it, I don’t think it’s a culture we should want to encourage in this country.
‘I think it’s a spirit of an outlook and disposition that is not appropriate and I don’t think anyone of a sensible mindset would think that the future King of England – you see him on the front page of newspapers having visited that wonderful lady who’s dying of cancer and given her a damehood and this is the kind of King that we might have and people are sitting there booing here.
‘You’ve got to be a special brand of moron to boo the National Anthem. I can’t relate to it. If I could relate to it I’d feel there’s a bigger tragedy because if I could relate to that kind of behaviour then I’ve got a problem as much as they have. I can’t relate to it.
One Liverpool fan took to Twitter to slam fans who booed asked Klopp to ‘nip this in the bud’
‘I can’t see whatever your grievance is about whatever country you live in, the argument that somehow because there’s difficulty in this climate, we’re all having a difficult time, the cost of living crisis, you boo the National Anthem because you don’t like the Government.’
Klopp’s comments have split opinion though, with many Liverpool fans rallying behind him.
One said: ‘Love that. They expected him to throw our fans under the bus. Great answer tbh.’
Meanwhile another added on social media: ‘This man was made for this football club and its people.’
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 that the reasons date from the city’s antipathy towards Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government in the 1980s.
He said: ‘The Conservative Government’s “managed decline” of the city was then followed by the failings of the Government following the Hillsborough disaster, which further entrenched those feelings.’
Klopp’s comments have split opinion though, with many Liverpool fans rallying behind him
There were also reports of supporters booing the National Anthem earlier this year, when Liverpool played Chelsea in the Carabao Cup final, also held at Wembley.
The outburst by thousands of fans at the weekend was denounced across the political spectrum.
Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle said: ‘I utterly condemn any fans who booed Prince William at Wembley today.
‘The FA Cup final should be an occasion when we come together as a country. It should not be ruined by a minority of fans’ totally shameful behaviour. In this year of all years – the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – this is dreadful.’
Tory MP and former Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said: ‘It is utterly unacceptable and disgraceful that fans booed Prince William. I would urge the FA to take all necessary action and pursue those responsible.’
Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats said: ‘We have the most wonderful Monarch and those fans who booed do not represent their clubs or our country.’
Former BBC Royal Correspondent Michael Cole described the booing as ‘disgraceful and deplorable’ and called for the Football Association to take action.
He also criticised BBC football commentators for failing to even mention the Liverpool fans’ ‘repulsive behaviour’.
Speaking to The Mail on Sunday, the broadcaster – who had more than 25 years’ experience with the BBC – said: ‘There is no excuse for that sort of behaviour. I’ve been a football fan for 67 years, and I’ve never heard such a thing.
‘We don’t want sycophancy in this country, but we want respect. And respect is due to the head of state.
‘Respect is due to the Queen, particularly at 96 when the whole world has been celebrating the fact that, after not being able to attend the State Opening of Parliament, she was at least able to go to the Royal Windsor Horse Show yesterday. So it’s bad manners.’
Sally Bedell Smith, who has written a bestselling biography of the Queen, criticised the booing as ‘really inappropriate’ and said that William would have found the outburst ‘very dismaying’.
She added: ‘George V and Queen Mary used to go to Wembley for the FA Cup Final so the tradition goes all the way back.
‘Prince William is the head of the FA and only wants to do well by the sport. It’s really unsportsmanlike of them. They may have their own agenda but I think they can probably put it in their pocket, particularly in this Jubilee year.
Left-wing trade unionist Howard Beckett, who last year stood to become general secretary of the Unite union before pulling out, praised Liverpool fans for ‘rejecting blind patriotism and the establishment’, adding the outburst was ‘pure quality from socialist fans’.
But he was condemned for his comments on Twitter. Paul Embery, a firefighter and fellow trade union activist, said: ‘This guy came within a whisker of leading Britain’s second largest trade union. Thank God he failed.’
The booing seemed to increase during a rendition of FA Cup theme Abide With Me and then again when God Save the Queen was sung
German-born Klopp has previously refused to be drawn into commenting about his club’s fans’ booing of the National Anthem.
He said in 2019: ‘I don’t think I’m the right person [to ask], I know a bit about the history but it’s not for me to judge.’
Following the match, which Liverpool won after a tense penalty shootout, Prince William gave out medals to the victorious team. No further booing was heard.
The controversy came a day after Prince William personally delivered a damehood to cancer-stricken campaigner Deborah James before sharing afternoon tea and champagne with her and her family.
Fans also took to Twitter to slam the booing. One said: ‘Liverpool booing the National Anthem. Doing Merseyside no favours.’
Another said: ‘No allegiance to either but Liverpool can do one, their fans booing Prince William then our national anthem, what’s that about?’
A third said: ‘Liverpool fans once again booing the national anthem, disgusting fan base.’