Two of Britain’s oldest clubs go head to head in the queen’s backyard.
Preparations for the first football match to be staged at Buckingham Palace were stepped up when a pitch was marked out in the garden on Thursday.
Two of England’s oldest amateur clubs will play in the grounds of the official London home of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II next month as part of the English Football Association’s 150th anniversary celebrations.
Prince William, the Queen’s grandson, is president of the FA, English football’s governing body.
Now the groundsman of Wembley Stadium in northwest London, the England national side’s headquarters, is working with his counterparts at Buckingham Palace to install the pitch after the Queen gave her permission for the match to go ahead.
“When I first heard about it I thought it was quite an exciting prospect, this is something we’ve never hosted before,” Mark Lane, the palace’s gardens manager, said.
“There’s been a boxing match back in the mid-1950s but a football match is quite a unique opportunity to use the garden for a different event.”
Thursday saw a team led by Wembley grounds manager Tony Stones start to mark out the 100-metre by 60-metre pitch with tape measures and string.
Meanwhile palace gardeners pumped air under pressure into a compacted area in the middle to force the ground back up – a standard procedure at major grounds.
“This will be fine to play football on, it’s in good shape,” said Stones.
“We’re quite busy back at the stadium so we’re getting it all marked out so when we come on the day we can just mark it out again.”
He said this team’s approach would be no different to their work in getting any ground ready for a match.
“We treat every game the same so everything gets 100 percent care, whether it’s a company day, a game at Buckingham Palace or the Champions League final.”
But whereas Stones’s pitches are usually played on by highly-paid professionals, the October 7 match at Buckingham Palace will be a Southern Amateur League fixture between two west London clubs, Civil Service FC and Polytechnic FC.
Civil Service are the sole surviving football club from the 11 teams who founded the FA in the Freemasons’ Tavern, Great Queen Street, central London, in 1863 and later drafted the 13 original laws of association football. Polytechnic FC were formed in 1875.
Prince William will host the match and also present medals to 150 volunteers in recognition of their contribution to grassroots football.
“It’s an honour to be here but it’s not about us, it’s about the volunteers that are getting recognised on the day,” Stones said.