Skip to main content

Buckingham Palace: Home to British royalty and now a soccer stadium

By Ravi Ubha, for CNN
updated 6:18 PM EDT, Sun October 6, 2013
Prince William is a huge soccer fan who arranged for a special game to be played at Buckingham Palace as part of the English Football Association's 150th birthday. Prince William is a huge soccer fan who arranged for a special game to be played at Buckingham Palace as part of the English Football Association's 150th birthday.
HIDE CAPTION
Buckingham Palace transformed for a day
Buckingham Palace transformed for a day
Buckingham Palace transformed for a day
Buckingham Palace transformed for a day
Buckingham Palace transformed for a day
Buckingham Palace transformed for a day
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Buckingham Palace will host its first ever soccer game as part of the FA's 150th anniversary
  • Prince William arranged the game between amateur teams Civil Service FC and Polytechnic
  • Prince William is the president of the FA and also a fan of the Premier League's Aston Villa
  • A sporting event was held at the Palace in 2000 when a charity tennis match was held

(CNN) -- When it comes to soccer's most hallowed grounds, London's Wembley and Rio's Maracana are two that spring to mind. They are steeped in history, having staged World Cup finals.

Other revered stadiums include Barcelona's Nou Camp, Real Madrid's Bernabeu, Manchester United's Old Trafford and the San Siro, shared by AC Milan and Inter Milan.

But a venue that has never housed a game could trump those arenas, if only for a day: Buckingham Palace.

Yes, Buckingham Palace.

Queen Elizabeth's London residence will host its first and perhaps last official soccer match Monday as part of the English Football Association's 150th anniversary celebrations when amateur clubs Civil Service FC and Polytechnic meet.

None other than Howard Webb, who refereed the 2010 World Cup final, will be the official in charge.

Prince Williams first intv as a dad
Alex Ferguson's recipe for success
McClaren: Moyes was the right choice

Prince William arranged the game, and on the day 150 grassroots soccer volunteers will also be given medals by the Queen's grandson, who happens to be president of the FA and an Aston Villa supporter.

The Southern Amateur League sides found out last month they'd be lining up at Buckingham Palace and the buzz quickly grew.

"We all agreed that this was much better than playing at Wembley and is something we will be able to tell our grandchildren," Polytechnic manager Geoff Brown told CNN.

Civil Service's standout midfielder Ryan Cameron used to play professionally for East Fife in Scotland and even had the chance to take on his preferred team, Rangers.

But the 38-year-old knows this is a "once in a lifetime" opportunity.

That said, Cameron initially forgot to tell his wife about the game.

"It slipped my mind," Cameron, employed in the IT sector in the English capital, told CNN.

She only learned of Civil Service's involvement by watching the news while working out.

"I think there was an understanding that the game would be played in London," Cameron said. "Most of the lads just automatically assumed it would be at one of the Premier League pitches because there's already a pitch there.

"To find out that it was going to be at the Palace and that they were going to put a pitch in the gardens, it was something that took us by surprise."

Cameron won't be star struck when he meets the Prince, having run into him at a bar when he returned to St. Andrews -- the Prince graduated from the university in 2005 -- to play in an alumni game.

The Queen isn't expected to be in attendance, the Buckingham Palace press office said. Guests from both teams will be there but members of the general public won't be allowed in.

How were the teams chosen?

Civil Service is the sole surviving club from 11 "that met to create the FA in 1863," the FA said on its website, and as such is celebrating its 150th anniversary, too.

In its heyday in the early 1900s, Civil Service would regularly beat the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona on European tours, said team vice-president Neil Ward.

Polytechnic was formed in 1875 and is Civil Service's arch-rival, with the clubs separated by about a mile in west London.

"I believe we first played Civil Service in 1893," Polytechnic chairman Barry Madigan told CNN. "We're very near neighbors."

But just as important, Civil Service was due to face Polytechnic in the round of games taking place this weekend, said Ward.

Officials then asked Civil Service if they could move the game from a Saturday to a Monday to accommodate the Palace.

It didn't take long to say 'Yes.'

"The only thing is that all the lads have to take time off," said Ward, a 60-year-old Everton fan. "At that stage I couldn't tell them why we were moving the game.

"Suddenly the players and officials have a chance to make their own history and join their predecessors."

Wembley Stadium: Home of world football
Flyover: Wembley Stadium

Wembley groundsman Tony Stones will combine with the Palace's gardeners to get the pitch ready, the FA said.

It won't be the first time a sporting event has been played at the British institution and tourist hotspot -- a charity tennis event featuring John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg was held in 2000.

With a day to go before the game, don't be surprised if several of the players expected to participate take it easy in training to avoid getting hurt and missing what could be classified as their biggest Cup final.

"The potential inevitability might be not wanting to get injured, and there are players on the periphery definitely wanting to try to force their way into the team," said Cameron. "But I think that can only be good for the squad.

"We realize it's a special fixture but we can't get carried away and that's why we have to train hard, take it like any other game. I'm sounding like a Premier League manager but it's absolutely true."

It won't be like any other game, though.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:23 AM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
After 20 years, more than 300 goals and a host of major honors, Thierry Henry has called time on his glittering football career.
updated 5:14 AM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
They do things differently at Sociedad Deportiva Eibar, up in the mist-cloaked valleys of the Basque country. And it is working.
updated 8:53 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
He might be struggling to score goals for Liverpool, but Mario Balotelli's cheeky tweet about the British monarch hit the spot during the World Cup.
updated 8:53 AM EDT, Tue October 28, 2014
How Real Madrid's new stadium will look
They splash the cash on the world's best players, now Real Madrid are giving the Bernabeu the same treatment with a bling makeover.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Mon October 27, 2014
Football world mourns South African captain Senzo Meyiwa who was shot and killed during a botched robbery in a township near Johannesburg.
updated 9:48 AM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
A man as a Roman centurion and who earn his living by posing with tourists gestures in front of the Colosseum during a protest where some of his colleagues climbed on the monument on April 12, 2012 in Rome. The costumed centurions are asking for the right to work there after they were banned following a decision by local authorities.
From the ancient ruins of Rome, a new empire rises. But the eyes of the city's newest gladiator light up at thoughts of the Colosseum.
updated 12:22 PM EDT, Tue October 21, 2014
Once part of Germany's largest Jewish sports club, now he's the first ISIS suspect to stand trial in a country left shocked by his alleged radicalization.
updated 10:11 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
One goal in eight matches for new club Liverpool, and dumped by the Italian national team -- Mario Balotelli has yet to shine on his English return.
updated 2:19 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Ched Evans smiles during the Wales training session ahead of their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifier against England on March 25, 2011 in Cardiff, Wales.
Should a convicted rapist, who has served their time in prison, be allowed to resume their old job? What if that job was as a high-profile football player?
updated 8:47 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
After 10 years of golden glory, it's easy to see how Lionel Messi has taken his place among the football gods.
updated 6:34 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
A football fan wipes a tear after Inter Milan's Argentinian defender Javier Zanetti has greeted fans following the announcement of his retirement before the start of the Italian seria A football match Inter Milan vs Lazio, on May 10, 2014, in San Siro Stadium In Milan
When will the tears stop? A leading Italian football club is pursuing a new direction -- under the guidance of its new Indonesian owner.
updated 6:41 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Norwegian 15-year-old Martin Odegaard is the youngest player ever to feature in a European Championships qualifying match.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Fri October 10, 2014
After revolutionizing cricket with its glitzy Twenty20 league, India has now thrown large sums of money at a new football venture.
updated 10:53 AM EDT, Thu October 2, 2014
Get ruthless. That is Rio Ferdinand's message to soccer's authorities in the fight to tackle the scourge of racism.
updated 9:28 AM EDT, Wed September 10, 2014
A picture taken on May 16, 2014 shows 15-year-old Norwegian footballer Martin Oedegaard of club Stroemsgodset IF cheering during a match in Drammen, Norway. Oedegaard is set to become Norways youngest player ever in the national football team.
He's just 15 and the world is seemingly already at his feet. Norway's Martin Odegaard is being sought by Europe's top clubs.
ADVERTISEMENT