We all hear it. Whether it’s a conversation in the workplace or an interview on the street by a reporter. I’ve lost count of the many men (and a few women) who proclaim that the woman’s game isn’t as exciting or watchable or even a proper football match.
For the record, I’m not a big football fan. I dabbled in it in my late 20’s whilst courting my husband but it’s very low on my priority list so I rarely watch it these days. Men or women. However, this blog post isn’t really about football. It’s about how the patriarchy decided that it wasn’t right that women had the upper hand and found a way to put them back “in their place”.
The first women’s tournament of football was held in 1885 and slowly became more popular. In 1917 a women’s team was put together from a factory called Dick, Kerr & Co, a manufacturer based in Preston that had become an ammunition factory. Initially discouraged they were finally “allowed” to play and play they did. They began by playing against the male apprentices and often beating them they started to be managed by one of the office workers. They did Charity fixtures around the country raising money for injured serviceman and they started strong, beating Arundel Coulthard Factory 4-0 in front of a crowd of 10,000 on Christmas Day 1917.
In 1920 they played 4 fixtures as an England side against France winning 2 games, drawing 1 and losing 1. This French tour created such publicity that when they played a fixture in Liverpool in the same year on Boxing day, they drew a crowd of 53,000 spectactors. Reportedly a further 10-15,000 people were turned away! This was the highest number of attendees to a football match at the time.
These numbers were unprecedented and were often far higher than any of the men’s games being played around the same time and often on the same day.
So what do you do when women start showing skilful, exciting and watchable football?
Well, you ban them.
Sadly, just a year after the Liverpool game, the FA decided that the game was too “show biz” and “…the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged.” This was all backed up by so called “expert advice“. So it banned women’s football from all FA affiliated sites. Which as good as banned it entirely due to the obscure grounds they now had to play in which drew much smaller crowds and couldn’t generate the money required or the publicity. The Dick Kerr Ladies did stick it out for 48 years, however.
As a result of this the game did suffer a huge setback. They did continue to play matches though despite a tour of Canada being stopped by the FA (The Canadians agreed with them that they shouldn’t play) and the women eventually headed South. They were then told they could only play men’s team, so they did. Playing 6 good men’s teams they won 2, lost 2 and drew 2. They drew large crowds as well, more than had attended the men’s tour in a previous year. Pretty impressive stuff.
The FA lifted the ban in 1969 but the damage had been done. The women’s game struggled right up until 1993 when the FA took over administration and funding again.
It was a huge setback for the women’s game and to this day we still do not have a professional side.
When I first stumbled upon this information I was truly dumfounded and I’d like to thank all of the websites linked above for providing me with the information for this blog post and for enlightening me to these events of the 1900’s.
I’ve now taken to telling everyone I see, replaying the story of how once upon a time….
Women Ruled Football.