Prince William is a keen football fan and an avid Aston Villa supporter
Credit: Mike Egerton /PA
The Duke of Cambridge is believed to have been thanked by the head of European football for his help breaking up the Super League rebellion during a special meeting ahead of the European Championship.
A private video call with Aleksander Ceferin, the president of Uefa, on Wednesday is further evidence of Prince William taking an increasingly prominent role in the game.
The conversation is the first time the pair have spoken since the Duke, who is the Football Association’s president, took it upon himself to help torpedo the proposed European breakaway by 12 leading clubs in April.
Senior figures within sport believe William could eventually play a pivotal role if the home nations formally table a bid to host the World Cup in 2030. Winning support from key figures in European football is critical to that ambition.
The Duke, meanwhile, has formed close ties with Mark Bullingham, the FA chief executive. Sources say the two are in regular dialogue, with the royal’s "genuine enthusiasm and commitment" to the game always shining through.
There was no input from aides or politicians prior to William tweeting in April that "now, more than ever, we must protect the entire football community".
Now, more than ever, we must protect the entire football community – from the top level to the grassroots – and the values of competition and fairness at its core.
I share the concerns of fans about the proposed Super League and the damage it risks causing to the game we love. W
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) April 19, 2021
With the breakaway imploding within 24-hours of his intervention, the Aston Villa supporter – who always signs off any personal messages on official accounts with "W" – welcomed the decision by English football’s "big six" to walk away from the plans. "I’m glad the united voice of football fans has been heard and listened to," he said. "It is now really important that we use this moment to secure the future health of the game at all levels. As President of the FA, I’m committed to playing my part in that work."
It appears this week’s meeting with Ceferin, who had repeatedly spoken gratefully of the UK’s prominent role in combating the rebellion, was set up as a result.
The Government, which triggered its pre-election pledge for a fan-led review of the game in light of the outrage, has also been working with both the FA to beef up its powers to to stop any further breakaways.
It has since emerged that overseas players and managers would have their work permits revoked if they took part in any future plots. The Home Office has agreed to give the FA the option of withdrawing its Governing Body Endorsement (GBE) needed for work permits.
The six English rebels – Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham and Chelsea – also this week agreed to sign a £22million cheque to grass-roots causes as part of a settlement with the Premier League.
They had pulled out of the ESL just 24 hours after the Duke’s tweet. While political interventions by royals are rare in football, it is not the first time that William, who has appeared on Peter Crouch’s BBC podcast to talk football, has pursued causes in the game.
The future monarch is actively involved in the management of football at all levels in England
Credit: Andrew Milligan /PA
In January, he made an impassioned and personal intervention following a series of incidents of racist abuse against footballers, demanding "it must stop now".
"We all have a responsibility to create an environment where such abuse is not tolerated, and those who choose to spread hate and division are held accountable for their actions," he said at the time.
He had felt compelled to speak out after incidents this week against Chelsea defender Reece James, West Brom’s Romaine Sawyers and the Manchester United players Marcus Rashford, Axel Tuanzebe and Anthony Martial.
William, who has taken son George to an Aston Villa match, first took up the role as FA president in 2006, and is expected to be in attendance at Wembley for at least some of the matches in the weeks ahead.
While working with the FA, he has helped champion the Heads Up mental health campaign, a partnership between the FA and the Cambridges’ Heads Together initiative. Uefa declined to comment on the meeting with Ceferin.
Buckingham Palace was also contacted by The Telegraph.