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The World Cup history of the Royal Garden Hotel

England may have made history with their first ever penalty shootout win in a World Cup this week (3 July), but Royal Garden Hotel has its own connection to the greatest football tournament in the world. Back in 1966, it played a very important role in proceedings and welcomed the players home with a sumptuous victory reception.

World Cup 1966 draw

Royal Garden Hotel was completely rebuilt in the 1960s and reopened in 1965, just one year before the historic World Cup. It was chosen as the location of the draw in January to see which teams would face each other in the opening rounds of the tournament.

Football officials and reporters gathered in the hotel’s ballroom for the draw, with the teams put up on the wall in their groups as they were announced. England were drawn in group one, alongside Uruguay, France and Mexico.

Things got off to a shaky start for England when the tournament kicked off, as they only managed a goalless draw against Uruguay in their first match. Momentum started to build, however, and they beat both Mexico and France 2-0 in consecutive matches.

Football heroes

Sporting history was made on 30 July 1966 when England lifted the Jules Rimet Trophy after beating West Germany 4-2 in extra time during the final at Wembley. Some 97,000 football fans were in the stadium and another 32.3 million people watched at home.

Among the England team were footballing greats such as: Sir Bobby Charlton, his brother Jack Charlton, Bobby Moore and of course, Sir Geoff Hurst. The only hat trick ever to be scored in a World Cup final was accomplished by Hurst, sealing the team’s victory.

There was a party atmosphere at Royal Garden Hotel on the day of the final, where one of the chefs had prepared a special cake to mark the occasion. Centred on a large replica of a leather football made out of sponge and icing, it was complete with a model of the trophy and decorated with flags.

Winners’ reception

In a wonderful cyclical move, the reception to celebrate England’s World Cup victory was held at Royal Garden Hotel. The venue had become something of a hub for England throughout the tournament and it was fitting that the festivities should be held at the five-star hotel.

A huge image of the iconic trophy was put up in the hotel behind where Sir Alf Ramsey and his wife Victoria sat during the reception. He had managed the team to victory and therefore secured his own place in history.

Hurst could be seen walking in the vicinity of the hotel hand-in-hand with his wife Judith, while the Charlton brothers attended the reception together. Huge crowds congregated outside Royal Garden Hotel to catch a glimpse of the heroes and celebrate their success.

50 years later

Half a century after the momentous occasion, several of the players returned to the hotel to relive their memories. George Cohen, Gordon Banks and Geoff Hurst were all there on 1 August 2016 to enjoy a champagne brunch. They were joined by Stephanie Moore, the widow of Sir Bobby Moore; and Alan Ball’s daughter Keeley Ball.

Hurst remarked to journalists during his return: “We had a banquet after the final, with the magnificent scenes of Kensington High Street absolutely packed with people. But it was a fantastic occasion and, for me, those images looking over the edge of the balcony are something I will never forget.”

Continued sporting connections

Royal Garden Hotel continues to host sports teams to this day, with its proximity to Stamford Bridge – the home of Chelsea Football Club – making it an obvious choice for visiting Premier League squads. Many an FA Cup finalist has stayed in the hotel’s 394 rooms, meaning guests are following in their footsteps.

It’s not just footballers who have enjoyed a stay at Royal Garden Hotel either, as international rugby teams have used it as a base. South Africa, New Zealand and Australia have all stayed at the hotel when playing matches at Twickenham Stadium.

Back to World Cups, but of the cricketing kind, the Australian team made Royal Garden Hotel their home while competing and winning the tournament in 1999. A whole host of international sides have stayed at the hotel when playing at either Lord’s or The Oval.

More World Cup football

After Tuesday’s nail-biting penalty shoot-out, England are through to the quarter finals on Saturday, where they will take on Sweden. Let’s hope there are more reasons to celebrate and cheering will be heard in the hotel once again.

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