21 August 2023

Rishi Sunak would not have attended men’s World Cup final either, says minister

21 August 2023

The Prime Minister would not have attended the men’s World Cup final either, as his schedule is “so busy”, an education minister has said.

England’s Lionesses made history by making it to the final of the World Cup but remained one step from victory after losing 1-0 to Spain on Sunday.

Notably absent during the match were Rishi Sunak and the Prince of Wales, who is also the president of the Football Association, sparking criticism there should have been top-level representation at such a national moment.

Making an appearance on Sky News on Monday morning, Claire Coutinho was asked whether the PM and William’s absence suggested they are just paying lip service to the women’s game.

She said: “No, I don’t think so. So the Foreign Secretary was there and the DCMS (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) Secretary (Lucy Frazer) was also there.

“This Government was represented. And I know that the Prime Minister would have loved to have been there but he’s also got a huge amount of work to do.

I’m sure he (Rishi Sunak) would have loved to have been there

“And I think the travel time is probably difficult. But I know how proud he is of the Lionesses. We all are. It’s an amazing achievement to get to a World Cup final. It’s absolutely extraordinary.”

On whether Mr Sunak would have got on a plane if it was the men’s World Cup final, she said: “I don’t think he would have because his schedule is so busy and I know that from working with him, but I do know how proud he is of the Lionesses like we all are. It’s such a tremendous achievement. It was absolutely just brilliant to see.”

The education minister also told LBC Radio the PM is a “huge football fan” and that he supports his hometown team Southampton FC.

On the Women’s World Cup final, she said: “I’m sure he (Rishi Sunak) would have loved to have been there. He’s a huge football fan. And he’s got two daughters. And he’s been so excited about the Lionesses.”

On which football team he supports, Ms Coutinho added: “The Southampton team. Is that the Saints? Yeah, he is a big Saints fan.”

I’d like nothing more than to be able to watch England play around the world

Speaking to broadcasters during a visit to a nursery in North Yorkshire on Monday morning, the Prime Minister said that “like many others” he watched the game at his local pub in Northallerton.

He added: “I’d like nothing more than to be able to watch England play around the world. I love football. I love sport. I love cheering on England.

“Sadly, I wasn’t able to go to the World Cup in Qatar last year. I wasn’t able to go to this final but as I said, I enjoyed watching it in the pub with friends and constituents in Northallerton.

“I think we’re all being incredibly proud about what the Lionesses have achieved and what an incredible set of memories we’ve all got.

“And even though, you know, we didn’t get the result we wanted yesterday, their legacy is completely secure. I mean, what an incredible achievement, inspired a whole generation of youngsters and something that we can all be very proud of.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for the Lionesses to be given honours after their World Cup final run.

Asked whether Mr Sunak agrees, his official spokesman told reporters: “I think no-one’s in any doubt about what an inspiration they have been, and that they’ve represented this country incredibly well.

“Obviously it’s for the Honours Committee to make a decision on recognising that significant achievement.”

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