The women’s game has certainly gone through a rollercoaster ride throughout the decades. Starting with the first women’s game taking place between the North and South of England back in 1895.
The outbreak of World War 1 in 1914 had a big impact on the women’s game when men’s competitive football stopped in England with many players enlisted to fight in The Great War. The Football League and FA Cup was suspended and it didn’t resume until after peace time was established in 1919. With no competitive men’s football to watch, the support and prominence of women’s football began.
During the war effort, the ladies back home would take over the roles held previously by men in the factories and the ‘munitionettes’ we’re born. They would be encouraged to play football to keep them fit and healthy for work. Although at the time it was seen as extremely unladylike it proved to be very popular with supporters of the beautiful game.
The early pioneers of the women’s game was the famous Dick Kerr’s ladies from Preston who in the early part of the 20th century attracted huge crowds that outstripped many men’s matches including a record crowd of over 53,000 at Goodison Park on Boxing Day 1920, to watch the Preston side beat St Helen’s Ladies in a 4-0 victory. Lily Parr, was the star of that team and she became the first women to be inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame. Over six feet tall, the talented forward scored over 1,000 goals during her time playing for the Preston based side.
Just two years after peace was declared, post The Great War and the FA banned competitive football for women on the grounds. “…the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.”
1921: The FA bans women from playing in a Football League
1969: The Women’s Football Association (WFA) is formed with 44 member clubs.
1971: The FA Council lifts the ban which forbade women playing on the grounds of affiliated clubs.
1971: In the first Women’s FA Cup Final, Southampton beat Stewarton and Thistle 4-1.
1972: The first official women’s international in Britain is played at Greenock. England beat Scotland 3-2.
The ban lasted just under 50 years, until it was lifted in 1969. It’s been described by some as one of the biggest sporting injustices of the last century.
Today though, women’s football is thriving, with its own Super League, national teams and year on year growth in coverage, attendances and participation levels. There are still some who say that attitudes toward it have a way to go until it completely catches up with the men’s game, but, partly thanks to those munitions factory workers during WW1, young girls can grow up to play football on the global stage.
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