Explained: Why & when God Save the Queen national anthem is played before Wembley finals

Wembley national anthemGetty

Wembley Stadium may be the home of English football, but it plays host to much more than international outings for men and women’s national teams and will often reverberate to the sounds of ‘God Save the Queen’ ahead of contests featuring domestic outfits.

From FA Cup showpieces to FA Trophy finals via League Cup clashes and Football League play-off encounters, a royal seal of approval is intended to be delivered in fixtures involving club sides at all levels of a famous sporting pyramid.

Why is that the case and are there occasions where the national anthem of England is not played ahead of major finals? GOAL takes a look…

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Why is God Save the Queen anthem played before Wembley finals?

The playing of the national anthem prior to international fixtures has been a staple part of an English sporting diet for decades, with the first FA Cup final to be staged at Wembley taking place in 1923.

The League Cup final became a one-off event, as opposed to a two-legged affair, in 1967 and also moved to a famous venue in north London.

England’s men’s national team played their first game at Wembley in 1924, but only used the stadium for meetings with Scotland through to 1951.

Only 10 Three Lions home fixtures were played away from that venue between 1951 and 1999 – with the 1996 World Cup final taking place at Wembley along with many memorable outings at another home tournament during Euro 96.

An elaborate rebuild took major events away from Wembley between 2001 and 2007, but national anthems still rang out at all finals hosted by the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

The Football Association has sought to ensure that God Save the Queen continues to be used on a regular basis as, despite a league of nations representing the respective sides on the field, many of those in the stands are English nationals.

Not everybody takes kindly to a familiar song being sung, though, with Liverpool supporters causing controversy – with their actions being discussed in the House of Commons at one stage – after booing the national anthem ahead of the 2022 FA Cup final.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp said of the incident: “I know our people that well that they wouldn’t do it if there was no reason for it. And I’m not here surely not long enough to understand the reason for it, is for sure something historical and that’s a question you could answer better than I could ever.”

Welsh supporters following Wrexham to Wembley for the FA Trophy final in 2022 also took to jeering the national anthem of England prior to them facing off against Bromley – with Hollywood owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney among those in attendance alongside ex-England captain David Beckham.

Footballing authorities in England will not be changing their ways as – similar to the United States where their national anthem is sung ahead of major sporting occasions such as opening day fixtures, play-off encounters and prestigious events like the Super Bowl and NBA finals – the intention is to drum up a sense of patriotic pride in contests that capture the imagination of a global audience.

When is God Save the Queen not played before Wembley finals?

While the English national anthem is a common feature of major finals at Wembley Stadium, it no longer figures at every showpiece event.

Back in 2003, the Football Association decided not to have God Save the Queen sung ahead of a Division Two play-off final between Cardiff City and Queens Park Rangers.

Similar action has been taken since then when Welsh sides have a prominent role to play in proceedings, with no anthems played prior to Swansea City facing Reading in the 2011 Championship play-off final.

The same was true when the Swans faced Bradford City in the 2013 League Cup final, and when Cardiff took on Liverpool a year prior to that.

A FA spokesperson said at the time: “It is the long-standing policy of the Football League not to play national anthems when English and Welsh clubs meet in finals.

“The League regards these matches as domestic rather than international occasions and introduced this policy after fans failed to respect both anthems at previous finals.”

While that stance has been taken in League Cup finals, both the English and Welsh national anthems were played at the 2008 FA Cup final when Portsmouth edged out Cardiff.

Two anthems were also sung before Swansea locked horns with Brentford in the Championship play-off final of 2020-21.