Downing Street has slapped down Jurgen Klopp for suggesting Liverpool fans had a reason to boo the national anthem during the FA Cup Final.
Klopp defended the club's supporters as "wonderful people" after MPs criticised a section of spectators who also appeared to jeer the Duke of Cambridge ahead of kick-off at Wembley. "I know our people wouldn't do it unless there's a reason for it," the manager said of the national anthem booing on Monday.
Immediately afterwards, the Prime Minister's official spokesman was asked whether Klopp was right to say Liverpool would have had a reason to boo the national anthem. "No," the spokesman replied, before adding it was a "great shame" given the FA Cup was meant to "bring people together".
Boos were heard at Wembley when Prince William, who is the president of the Football Association, was introduced to fans during the pre-match BBC television coverage.
A section of fans in the stadium had also expressed disapproval during the national anthem and a rendition of Christian hymn Abide With Me.
Liverpool eventually beat Chelsea 6-5 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes but the behaviour of some fans at the stadium prompted Commons speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle to "utterly condemn any fans who booed Prince William."
Klopp, who addressed the media ahead of Liverpool's penultimate Premier League match, was directly asked about the booing of the national anthem.
He said on Monday: "Of course I have thoughts. But I think in these situations it is always the best to ask the question 'why does it happen?'
"I know our people that well that they wouldn't do it if there was no reason for it.
"I'm not here [in Liverpool] long enough to understand the reason for it, it is for sure something historical, and that is a question you can answer much than I ever could.
"Our fans - and I knew a few fans from other clubs see it slightly different - the majority of our supporters are wonderful people. Really smart, and all these kinds of things, they understand, they go through lows, they go through highs, they suffer together all these kind of things, they wouldn't do it if there was not a reason.
"That is what I know and maybe we should ask these questions but of course I realise it was not something I enjoyed or whatever but that's the answer."
Liverpool fans' disdain for the anthem can be traced back to the 1980s, when there was widespread resentment within the city at the perceived neglect of Merseyside by Margaret Thatcher's Tory government. Anti-establishment feelings then increased in the wake of the Hillsborough Disaster, when 97 Liverpool fans were unlawfully killed at an FA Cup semi-final, prompting a police cover-up which falsely blamed supporters for the tragedy.
However, Saturday's jeering - which took place just weeks before the Queen celebrates her Platinum Jubilee - drew sharp criticism from across the political divide. Hoyle told The Mail on Sunday: "I utterly condemn any fans who booed Prince William at Wembley. The FA Cup final should be an occasion when we come together as a country. It should not be ruined by a minority of fans' totally shameful behaviour. In this year of all years - the Queen's Platinum Jubilee - this is dreadful."
Conservative MP and former Culture Secretary Karen Bradley added: "It is utterly unacceptable and disgraceful that fans booed Prince William. I would urge the FA to take all necessary action and pursue those responsible."
Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: "We have the most wonderful Monarch and those fans who booed do not represent their clubs or our country."
Neither the FA nor Kensington Palace formally responded to Saturday's incidents, although the Duke did tweet his congratulations to Liverpool in the wake of their victory on penalties.
Q&A: How did the furore begin?
Why did Liverpool fans boo the Duke of Cambridge and national anthem?
Liverpool fans have long jeered 'God Save The Queen' over its perceived glorification of an establishment they despise. But Saturday's FA Cup final against Chelsea saw them personalise their contempt for the monarchy by targeting Prince William himself as he was being introduced to both teams. There are many reasons why they feel this way, which can be traced back to the 1980s and particularly the 1989 Hillsborough Disaster. A flag regularly spotted at Anfield reads 'Scouse not English' and will most likely be on display at most games, while many Liverpudlians will even refuse to support England at the World Cup or European Championship.
When did they start doing it?
Due to the nature of booing, it is unclear exactly when it started but it has intensified following the attempted cover-up of police responsibility for the Hillsborough Disaster and shifting of blame onto fans, and the publication in 2011 of official papers that showed Margaret Thatcher was secretly urged to consider abandoning Liverpool to a fate of "managed decline" after the 1981 Toxteth Riots. Resentment has continued to grow in recent years, with many believing foodbanks outside Anfield and Goodison Park is evidence of widening inequalities the Government has failed to address properly.
What is the club's position?
The club has said nothing officially but manager Jurgen Klopp on Monday said: "Our fans – and I knew a few fans from other clubs see it slightly different – the majority of our supporters are wonderful people. Really smart, and all these kinds of things, they understand, they go through lows, they go through highs, they suffer together, all these kind of things. They wouldn't do it if there was not a reason." When Liverpool fans booed the national anthem before the 2019 Community Shield, he said: "I know a bit about the history but it's not for me to judge. "I know the Liverpool supporters are respectful. If they give that sign, the reason might be a bit in the past."
Why has this blown up now?
It would appear the combination of booing Prince William himself and doing so just days before the Queen's Platinum Jubilee celebrations begin was enough to trigger an unprecedented degree of outrage. The Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle told The Mail on Sunday: "In this year of all years – the Queen's Platinum Jubilee – this is dreadful." Downing Street then slapped down Klopp for suggesting fans had a right to boo.