LONDON - Prince William and former England captain David Beckham helped launch The Football Association's (FA) 150th anniversary in London on Wednesday.
The FA President welcomed 400 guests to the Grand Connaught in central London at the start of what will be a 12-month celebration of English football. Beckham was one of several of the sport's greats to contribute messages of support while the star-studded audience included five England managers of different times and a host of World Cup winners.
"Over 150 years, football has become a part of the very fabric of our society," said Prince William. "I would like it to highlight the efforts of the 400,000 volunteers that deliver the game week in, week out, up and down the country. The mums and dads, coaches, referees and administrators who give their time to make pitches ready, organise the fixtures and wash all those kits."
The anniversary will see football's oldest governing body recognising the 400,000 volunteers, 300,000 coaches and 27,000 referees who give their time every week to the nation's favourite game.
FA Chairman David Bernstein said FA is a not for profit organisation who reinvests 100m pounds into the game each year.
"It was on this very site 150 years ago that Ebenezer Cobb Morley and his friends met in what was then the Freemasons' Tavern, " said Bernstein. "They changed the world by producing the first laws of the game. Their original handwritten minute book is on display here today."
Bernstein hailed the grassroots heroes of England football and emphasized the efforts for striving towards FA's vision of " football for everyone".
"The bedrock of English football are the over 2 million people who play the game at least once a week in 29,000 clubs, competing in more than 1100 Leagues across every County in the land."
FIFA President Sepp Blatter and UEFA President Michel Platini both sent a video message to the FA.
Blatter said, "The privilege of being called The FA is because the modern game has been organised in England, and more than that, they have organised what they call, and what we call, 'The Beautiful Game'."
Platini praised FA's contributions in modern football.
"We were honoured to play our part in celebrating the anniversary of the oldest football association in the world. We thank The Football Association for its contribution to creating, fostering and building our sport."