Women have balls too…

The British are a football crazy nation and football fever reaches new heights whenever there is a cup final on the horizon. Let’s face it Women’s football is gaining ground, in no small way!.  The Woman’s final between England and Germany/France is coming to Wembley on Sunday 31st August 2022.  No longer contented to restrict themselves to the more traditional sports associated with women, the ‘fairer sex’ can be seen tackling, dribbling and passing on the football field with the fervour and enthusiasm of any passionate athlete. The men could learn a thing or two from watching our Lionesses. They have demonstrated, not only are they a force to be reckoned with but that they epitomise the meaning of team play. They get on with the game! Football is no longer a sport designated to men alone. Women take their football every bit as seriously as their male counterparts. Women’s football has secured a firm foothold on the sporting calendar and continues to attract more and more girls into the game. It was wonderful to see such a big crowd at the England/Sweden Semi-final at Bramell Lane last night. What a match!

However, contrary to belief, girls and women playing football is by no means new to the world of sport. Historical sources refer to women’s football teams as early as 1895. World War 1 saw the formation of women’s teams, based around the munitions factories, the most famous perhaps being Dick Kerr’s Ladies from Preston. The war years saw an enormous increase in the numbers of women’s teams nationwide. Not surprising really when women’s roles at that time had undergone such dramatic change with women taking on the jobs previously held by men as part of the war effort. By the start of the ‘roaring twenties’ women’s football held widespread appeal and attracted ever increasing crowds. Records reveal that a match at Goodison Park in 1920 between Dick Kerr’s Ladies and St Helen’s Ladies drew a crowd of some 53,000 people, a sizeable crowd by any standards. Women’s football was big and getting bigger, a situation which by all accounts did not seem to gain too much favour with the FA at the time. The war was now over, and the men were back. Where did this leave the ladies? In December of 1921 the FA declared a ban on women playing football on Football League grounds. Shame on the FA but they were just reflecting how things were at the time. Thankfully, times have changed.

Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in women’s football both on and off the pitch. The Women’s FA was founded in 1969 and heralded a new era in women’s football. Pressure exerted by UEFA brought a long overdue lifting of the FA ban on women’s football in Britain in 1972. It was in this same year that the first official Women’s International in Britain was played at Greenock with England beating Scotland 3 -2. Women’s football was once more to assert itself as a sport for serious consideration in the world of sport and this was further endorsed by the formation of the first Women’s National league in 1991. That same year saw the FA lift its ban on mixed football for the under 11’s in our schools. 

Young girls are finding themselves more and more attracted to the country’s national sport. In our primary schools, boys and girls may play side by side on the football field as members of the same team working towards a common goal. The emphasis at this level is clearly concentrated on the development of team spirit and co-operation. However, girls are as fiercely competitive as boys and equally eager to show off their newly acquired skills. Today’s youngsters will grow up in a society where it is the rule rather than the exception for girls to play football. 

. Women’s football is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. New clubs are forming, and the number of registered players continues to increase. It is not surprising that women’s football grows in popularity with girls now being allowed to participate as players from an early age. Increased media coverage of the sport can only add to the attraction.

The biggest move forward is the involvement of the Football Association which in 1993 demonstrated its commitment to women’s football by instigating the establishment of a Women’s Football Committee which would ‘deal with all matters relating to the development of female football, including the arrangements, administration and selection of International Representative Teams and the Coaching and Education Programme’. By appointing a Women’s Football Co-ordinator within the Coaching and Education Section the Football Association was showing its commitment to the continuing development of women’s football. The ensuing years have seen women’s football rise up, like the Phoenix from the flames. We would do well to remember those early pioneers who played the game at a time when women were still fighting for the right to vote.

Women’s football has returned, and it is staying. The future for women’s football looks remarkably bright, both for women and for football. Women have balls too!

Best of British Luck to our Lionesses this Sunday! You got this Ladies!

‘Football’s coming home’.

© Liola Lee 2022

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