The Palace grounds are best known for accommodating heads-of-state and extravagant lawn parties, but on Monday Queen Elizabeth II’s residence became a football pitch for a match marking the English FA’s 150th birthday.
"I cannot tell you how excited I am that we will be playing football on my grandmother's lawn,” said Prince William ahead of the match. “One warning: if anyone breaks a window, you can answer to her."
The prince took part in exercises prior to the first ever match at the 400-year-old Palace. The historic clash saw Civil Service FC, the only surviving member of the 11 founding clubs at the FA’s launch in 1863, against Polytechnic FC, founded in 1875.
Palace staff reported ‘patches of camomile’ on the playing surface, but Wembley Stadium groundsmen were called in to make it playable. The match was refereed by Howard Webb, who had taken charge of the 2010 World Cup final.
“It was a fantastic experience,” Civil Service club secretary Steve Evison told Metro, despite the disappointment of a 2-1 defeat. “It was a bit surreal playing in a royal park and meeting the Duke [of Cambridge]. For the first ten minutes we were a bit nervous but after that it was a good game.”
The match was part of a ‘Grassroots Heroes’ day, in which contributions to community sport were recognized with awards presented by former England footballers. This was one of 150 events over 2013 to mark the anniversary of the world’s oldest football association, although with the English national team in danger of failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, upcoming events may have less of a party atmosphere.