England’s women’s football team is within 90 minutes of eternity – but the government has ruled out an extra bank holiday if they win.
If they beat Spain in Sydney on Sunday, they will become the first England team to win the World Cup since 1966.
But the government says there are “no plans” for an extra day if the lionesses pull off a famous victory.
Whether they win on Sunday or not, Sarina Wigman’s leading lionesses have already made history by becoming the first English women’s football team to reach a World Cup final.
On Wednesday, His Majesty led the team that is close to winning its second major trophy in just over a year after the 2022 European Championship.
“While your victory may cost the Magnificent Matilda her chance at the game’s biggest prize, both teams have been an inspiration on and off the field – and for that reason, both countries are united in pride, admiration and respect.” King, who holds the presidency of both the United Kingdom and Australia.
The Welsh Guards could be heard playing Sweet Caroline – one of England’s unofficial football anthems – during the Changing of the Guard on Wednesday outside Buckingham Palace after the match.
Despite popular support for an extra bank holiday when the England team looks set to win a major tournament win, there has been no event to mark a sporting occasion.
Asked about the possibility of a change of heart this time around, a government spokesperson said: “We congratulate the Lionesses on their fantastic achievement of reaching the final of the Women’s World Cup.
“The current pattern of public holidays and public holidays is well established and there are no plans to change this.”
In a subsequent statement issued after this story was published, a government spokesperson added: “Winning the World Cup will be a huge moment for the country and we can’t go wrong with finding the right way to celebrate.
“As Sarina Wegman herself said, the first thing to do is focus on the final and the whole country will be for the Lionesses this weekend.”
Understandably, however, the government is not considering the bank holiday as part of any post-tournament celebrations.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer called the semi-final victory “extraordinary” and backed calls for an extra bank holiday.
“I’m never satisfied with anything…but there must be a celebratory bank holiday if the Lionesses bring it home.”
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey also endorsed the call, calling the England team “an inspiration” and saying the final victory “definitely” deserved to be celebrated with a bank holiday.
Echoing the bank holiday calls, Gurinder Chadha – who directed women’s soccer classic Bend It Like Beckham – told Channel 4: “It deserves a kind of celebration, it deserves a kind of national holiday.”
It appears the match will be played without Prime Minister Rishi Sunak or the Prince of Wales – who heads the Football Association – on the field, neither of whom are expected to make the trip to Australia.
And after Wednesday’s match, Mr. Sunak congratulated the team, tweeting: “What a performance the lionesses have. Only one more game left… Bring it on Sunday.”
William tweeted: “What an exceptional performance from the Lionesses – until the final!”.
The Right Reverend Libby Lane, Bishop of Derby and senior Bishop of Sport in the Church of England, told BBC Newscast she would understand if people wanted to change their Sunday church plans to watch the final.
She said, “We know a lot of people are going to want to watch it live or go to church and catch up later – and so to avoid the outcome during worship. Either way, I’m sure it’s going to be a great occasion.”
While there is likely to be public support for an additional bank holiday, the government is wary of the associated costs.
Estimates of the impact on the economy vary widely, but in 2010 the House of Commons library a report The extra bank holiday bill is set at £2.9 billion, which both the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility say is negatively impacting growth.
Additional bank holidays have been held for several royal events, while one was moved in 2020 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
England and Wales have eight public holidays a year, while Scotland has nine and Northern Ireland 10. There was an additional bank holiday in 2023 for the king’s coronation.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had called for a bank holiday there if his team won the cup.
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