England’s women’s football team are 90 minutes away from immortality – but the government has ruled out an extra bank holiday if they win.
If they beat Spain in Sydney on Sunday, England will become the first team to win the World Cup since 1966.
But the government says there are “no plans” for an extra day off if the Lions win a popular victory.
Victory or not on Sunday, Sarina Wickman’s men have already made history by becoming the first England women’s football team to reach the World Cup finals.
On Wednesday, King took charge of a team looking to win their second major trophy in a year after Euro 2022.
“With your win the wonderful Matildas may have lost the chance for the greatest prize in the game, both teams have been an inspiration off the pitch – and for that, both nations are united in pride, admiration and respect,” he said. The King is the head of state of both England and Australia.
A band of Welsh guards played Sweet Caroline – one of England’s unofficial football anthems – during Wednesday’s Changing of the Guard outside Buckingham Palace after the match.
Whenever the England team is on the brink of a major tournament victory, it has never been marked by a sporting festival, despite popular support for an extra bank holiday.
Asked if there would be a change of heart this time around, a government spokesman said: “We congratulate the Lionesses on their fantastic achievement in reaching the Women’s World Cup finals.
“The current pattern of public and bank holidays is well established and there are no plans to change this.”
In a statement released after this story was published, a government spokesperson added: “Winning the World Cup will be a huge moment for the country and make no mistake, we will find the right way to celebrate.
“As Sarina Weikman said, the first thing to do is focus on the finals and the whole country will be rooting for the Lions this weekend”.
But the government has not considered the bank holiday as part of any post-match celebrations.
Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer called the semi-final win “fantastic” and backed calls for an extra bank holiday.
“I’m not complacent about anything… but if the Lionesses bring it home it should be a celebratory bank holiday.”
Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey also backed the call, describing the England team as “inspirational” and saying the final victory “absolutely” deserved to be marked with a bank holiday.
Gurinder Sada – who directed the women’s football classic Bend It Like Beckham – echoed calls for a bank holiday, telling Channel 4 News “it deserves some sort of recognition, it deserves some sort of national holiday”.
The match appears to be taking place at the stadium without Prime Minister Rishi Sunak or Football Association president the Prince of Wales, neither of whom are expected to travel to Australia.
After Wednesday’s match, Mr Sunak congratulated the team, saying, “What a performance Singhams. One more game to play… bring it on Sunday.”
William tweeted: “What a fantastic performance from the Lionesses – all the way to the final!”.
The Right Reverend Libby Lane, the Bishop of Derby and England’s lead bishop for sport, told BBC Newscast he would understand if people wanted to change their Sunday church plans to watch the final.
She said: “We know a lot of people will want to see it live or go to church – so they can skip the score while they’re in worship. Either way, I’m sure it will happen. It’s going to be a wonderful occasion.”
While there is public support for additional bank holidays, the government is wary of the costs associated with them.
Estimates of the impact on the economy vary widely, but in 2010 the House of Commons Library Report Putting the extra bank holiday bill at £2.9bn, both the Bank of England and the Office for Budget Responsibility say it is negatively impacting growth.
In 2020, to mark the 75th anniversary of VE Day, additional bank holidays have been granted for various royal events.
England and Wales have eight bank holidays a year, while Scotland has nine and Northern Ireland has 10. In 2023 the King’s Coronation was given an extra bank holiday.