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Optus Stadium at sunset with the Perth skyline at the horizon

Football showcase a reminder of the royal visit that wasn’t

Amid the gloom of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the exclusive front page splash on the state’s Sunday paper earlier this month about a potential royal visit raised some excitement, and eyebrows.

It revealed an apparent last-minute attempt by Premier Mark McGowan to lure ‘Wills & Kate’ to Perth, or Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, for the International Festival of Football at which the Duke’s beloved Aston Villa is set to take on Manchester United.

But, as a seasoned royal watcher noted with scepticism, they don’t travel on a whim.

Royal visits are traditionally planned over a number of months to the nth degree and instigated by the UK Government or by an invitation from the host country.

The proposed itinerary will include matters of importance the host government would like to highlight as well as some of the visiting royal’s personal interests (which the Premier in this case was hoping would include a football match and potential quokka selfie for the kids).

The draft itinerary is then put through its paces by an advance team made up of the royal’s personal staff, policy, press and security team who liaise with local protocol and security experts to sense check travel times, camera angles and vehicle movements.

Once the list of activities has been finalised, a minute-by-minute daily schedule is developed, including biographies and head shots of the key people the royal party will meet, dress codes and proposed routes through each venue, including media locations.

Three days after the front page splash, follow up stories emerged, suggesting the invitation to Perth appeared to have been snubbed.

Acting Premier Roger Cook said the proposal had been met with silence. It wasn’t clear whether any of the reporters checked if the WA government felt they’d given enough notice of the exciting opportunity, or taken into account potential postal delays.

I love a royal visit and have been fortunate to be part of the local team supporting the visit by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to Perth for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 2011, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to Perth and Albany in 2015 and King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands (known for her excellent hats) to Perth in 2016.

I’ve proudly worn the official visit pin and wrangled dapper English and Dutch press packs through myriad locations including organic wineries, the Big Aussie Barbecue, Cottesloe birthday bashes, the National Anzac Centre, Melbourne Cup Day at Ascot (getting in and out early enough to miss the messy bits), Kings Park and the Maritime Museum.

There is no doubt these visits put a global spotlight on our state and bring attention to important causes and initiatives, as well as providing excellent opportunities for enthusiastic local rubberneckers to get a glimpse, wave or even a handshake from a visiting royal.

As well as the visit pin my trusty straw hat has been a key part of my ensemble on each occasion.

And while I would be very excited for the Duke and Duchess to pop up at Optus Stadium this weekend, it was so unlikely that I would have wagered eating my hat on a royal appearance.

On July 17, the confirmation came that the trip would not take place.

Prince William thanked the premier for his kind letter, noting: “the diary for the forthcoming months had already been confirmed at the time of your writing and I am afraid that it is not possible to change plans now.”

A spokesperson for the premier might have puffed up the prince’s response a bit, with claims the letter was an acknowledgement that: “Perth is recognised on the world stage and is testament to Western Australia’s efforts to highlight just why WA is the best place to visit, invest, study and do business in.”

As a PR professional, I commend their commitment to reinforcing key messages throughout the story cycle.

So, while this visit won’t magically materialise, the Premier shouldn’t be afraid to have another, more considered crack, at getting William and Kate to WA.

With Australia now having its first-ever Minister for the Republic, the 200th anniversary of the founding of WA in 2029 might be a bit too distant.

Perhaps, instead, the premier should reserve some accommodation in Exmouth for the 2023 Total Solar Eclipse and send a save the date as soon as possible.

About the author

Jean has more than 20 years’ experience in media and public relations, stakeholder engagement, large scale events and project management in Perth, Sydney and London. She was once mistaken for a young Fergie on the steps of the Duomo in Florence. Contact her here.