Chants of ‘Liverpool, Liverpool’ and loud boos drowned out the anthem, which could only be heard faintly. God Save the King was drowned out by boos and chants at Anfield as it was played ahead of the Reds’ 1-0 win over Brentford to mark the crowning of King Charles III and the Queen Consort. The jeering started immediately after the PA announcer confirmed that the national anthem would be played moments before kick-off.
Reds skipper Jordan Henderson appeared to sing along with the anthem from the touchline as a substitute, but most players from multiple nationalities decided to keep silent. Fans were seen at Anfield with anti-monarchy banners, some of which read ‘not my King’ in reference to legendary Liverpool forward ‘King Kenny’ Dalglish. Clubs were not obliged to play the anthem before kick off, but the Merseyside club announced they would do so on Friday as they anticipated failing to do so could lead to national backlash.
Liverpool supporters did respect a minute of silence for Queen Elizabeth II following her death last September. But the national anthem had been jeered by some of their fans prior to last season’s FA Cup final at Wembley. Liverpool’s history of booing the national anthem stems from long-held anti-establishment sentiment within the city and a feeling of disconnect with the British government, rather than a distaste for individual royals.
The goal, Salah’s 100th at Anfield and 30th of the season, moved Liverpool within one point of fourth-place Manchester United, although they have played two more games.
Jurgen Klopp’s side followed the anthem controversy with an important if unconvincing 1-0 win over Brentford, as Mohamed Salah scored the only goal of the game after 13 minutes. Klopp’s men will next be in action on May 15 when they face relegation-threatened Leicester. The British national anthem has been met with resounding boos at Anfield, with Liverpool fans drowning out the music with heckles before their fixture against Brentford hours after King Charles’s coronation.
The club said it was asked to play God Save the King by the Premier League to mark the king’s coronation, despite strong opposition. Liverpool said how spectators chose to react to the anthem was a personal choice, while the team’s manager, Jürgen Klopp, said he did not have an opinion on the subject. The booing coming from around “the entire ground” was so loud people did not even know the anthem had started.
They also booed Prince William before the FA Cup final last year when the national anthem was played. Just over a week ago, the Premier League contacted all home clubs and strongly suggested to mark this historic occasion across home matches this weekend and provided a list of activity for clubs to get involved in. Before kick-off and in recognition of the Premier League’s request to mark the coronation, players and officials will congregate around the centre circle when the national anthem will be played.
It is, of course, a personal choice how those at Anfield on Saturday mark this occasion and some supporters have strong views on it.
That is over the whole country. Liverpool fans have been booing the national anthem since the 1980s, beginning as a protest against the establishment, particularly during then prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s managed decline of the city, and now representing dissatisfaction with the condition of the country. It was 5.25pm and the traditional Premier League fair play handshake had just taken place.
In block 202 of the Kop, an already unusually hyper atmosphere for a low-key end-of-season fixture was about to significantly change. In this section of the stadium, they had just been singing for Mo Salah — Liverpool’s Egyptian King, in their words — but they knew what was coming. Everyone did.
So George Sephton, Anfield’s long-serving stadium announcer, began to explain the National Anthem was about to be played. Sephton’s tone is as recognisable at Liverpool’s home as the team’s red shirt but it was becoming harder and harder to hear what he was saying. There was shouting and whistling, widespread dissent, and then the drum roll for God Save the King began.
But Sephton had pressed play too early.
And in block 202 — and all around the stadium — the reaction everyone outside the city had expected from Liverpool supporters and the marking of the Coronation had come to pass. Usually this level of animosity is only reserved for when the Manchester clubs are in town but this was different. Half the stadium did not want anything to do with the National Anthem, so they booed and they whistled and they shouted.
By the time Sephton had properly started the anthem, you could only make it out if you really listened hard. Those who were not booing showed their true allegiances, hollering the words ‘Liverpool! Liverpool!’ repeatedly. At the other end of the stadium, Brentford fans, some of whom were dressed in Union Jack hats, joined in but there was nothing from Liverpool, save for Jordan Henderson — club captain and England’s vice-captain — who sang on the bench.
There have been many remarkable moments at Anfield and this, for many reasons, was another that would not be forgotten. Liverpool had been placed in an impossible position by the Premier League, who had issued its members with flimsy guidance on April 28, and, as a club, they were angry. Not as angry as the fans, however.
This, to be clear again, was not about booing King Charles or any single member of the Royal Family per se.
The long-standing grievance Liverpool supporters hold is focused on the establishment. The National Anthem is symbolic of their distrust. It is why the booing and whistling got louder in block 202 until the final note of the anthem, when Sephton instantly flicked a switch and played the first bars of You’ll Never Walk Alone.
Now there was unity and now a stadium was singing something in which it believed. Sephton, whose first match doing this particular job was in August 1971, has a feel for the mood of the crowd and there are days when he simply fades out the music and allows those in the stadium to take over from Gerry Marsden. This was one such occasion.
Undoubtedly, there would have been Liverpool fans dotted around Anfield who were uncomfortable with it all. There were plenty of flags outside homes in districts not far from the ground and many within the city are proud of the Royal Family. Let us not forget, as examples, that Sir Kenny Dalglish was overwhelmed when he received a knighthood in 2018 and Henderson was similarly humbled when he was made an MBE last year, considering the day when he received his gong from Prince William one of the proudest of his life.
But in block 202 nobody was interested in marking the start of the New Carolean era — and that was always going to be the case.
The only ‘royalty’ they cared for here was Mohamed Salah, whose first-half goal carried him into the top five on the club’s all-time scoring list, and Dalglish. In the 62nd minute, long after the booing had stopped, they did sing for ‘The King’, but that man was Dalglish, for whom a banner had been unfurled before kick-off, not the man being feted outside Buckingham Palace. It was never, though, going to be any other way.