Author Topic: The ladies football team so good the men at the FA banned them  (Read 11002 times)

Offline John

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The ladies football team so good the men at the FA banned them
« on: September 01, 2010, 08:54:41 PM »
SEEMINGLY frail Edna Broughton was walking her dog under the crumbling chimneys near her milltown home when a football from a street game landed at her feet.

It was a temptation Edna - then in her 70s - simply couldn't resist. Trapping the ball expertly, the pensioner began dribbling it towards the dumbfounded youngsters.

As one youth gingerly went in for a tackle, Edna dropped her shoulder and beat him, then went round another and another.

Edna, now a sprightly 80, said last night: "Their jaws hit the ground."

But those with a deep knowledge of women's football history wouldn't have been surprised.

For 5ft Edna was once the "little star" striker of the all-conquering and world famous Dick, Kerr Ladies football team.

Started in 1917 by munitions workers at Preston factory Dick, Kerr & Co, they became a huge success to rival the men's game of the time - and the unofficial women's England team.

On Boxing Day 1920, 53,000 fans packed into Everton's hallowed Goodison Park to watch Dick, Kerr play St Helens Ladies. Some 15,000 others were unable to get in.

International acclaim soon followed.

On Friday April 30, 1920, a crowd of 25,000 at Preston North End's Deepdale ground erupted in celebration as Dick, Kerr Ladies defeated a French representative side in the first ever women's international.

At the final whistle, hundreds swarmed on to the pitch to lift match-winning goal scorer, little Jennie Harris, on to their shoulders in joyous triumph.

The team were treated like superstars - regularly starring in Pathé newsreels and commanding newspaper headlines.

The popularity of the women's game was now rivalling that of the men.

In the stuffy Football Association corridors of power, it caused deep consternation.

There were mutterings that the rough and tumble of football was no good for lasses.

So in 1921 women footballers were banned from all FA-affiliated grounds. On December 5 that year, the Association ruled the game was unsuitable for women's bodies.

Minutes of the meeting read: "Complaints have been made as to football being played by women and the Council feel impelled to express their strong opinion that the game is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged... "

The ban would last for 50 years.

After the decision, a completely independant English Ladies' Football Association was formed with 24 teams entering their first competition in 1922.

Edna, now of Chadderton, Lancs, played for Dick, Kerr from 1945 until 1959. She said: "They were chauvinists - they didn't want us on their pitches. I think the men were worried because we were becoming as popular as they were."

Dick, Kerr goalie June Gregson, 76, proudly displays yellowing programmes from her glory days at her Blackpool home.

The former sales rep represented Dick, Kerr between 1949 and 1957. She said: "The FA got frightened. Women's football was getting too popular. My own dad thought women should be as near the kitchen sink as possible. He even burnt my football boots on a bonfire when I was 16."

Astonishingly, the FA ban wasn't lifted until 1971 and the women's game was left to struggle on its own until as late as 1993 when the FA took over its administration.

Gail Newsham, who has written a book about Dick, Kerr, said: "When the FA banned them in 1921, around 900,000 people had watched them over the course of the year.

"The guys thought, 'We're not having this'. They wanted them back in the kitchen after the war."

The year was 1917 and, with British troops entrenched on the Western Front, thousands of women were undertaking back-breaking work in factories.

At Dick, Kerr & Co the women liked to join the men in lunchtime kickabouts. When the men played the women - and lost - office administrator Alfred Frankland believed the team was good enough to fill stadiums.

He hired Preston's Deepdale and on Christmas Day 1917, in front of a crowd of 10,000, Dick, Kerr beat Arundel Coulthard Factory 4-0.

The Daily Post reported: "Their forward work, indeed, was often surprisingly good, one or two of the ladies showing quite admirable ball control." They weren't alone.

In August 1917 a tournament was launched for female munition workers' teams in north-east England. Its title was the Tyne Wear & Tees Alfred Wood Munition Girls Cup but it was popularly known as The Munitionettes' Cup.

The first winners of the trophy were Blyth Spartans, who defeated Bolckow, Vaughan 5-0 in a replayed final tie at Middlesbrough on 18 May, 1918.

Though unpaid amateurs, the Dick, Kerr ladies were now superstars though their gate receipts went to charity. They played in heavy leather boots, shorts, jerseys and woollen hats.

Team stars included Lily Parr, a tricky left-winger who would score more than 900 career goals.

St Helens-born Lily lived openly as a lesbian and is now a hero to equality campaigners.

International matches followed, including a beating by the French at Chelsea's Stamford Bridge, but the FA's 1921 ban began the process of sending women's football back to village pitches and town parks.

Manager Alfred Frankland set his sights on the New World. In late 1922 the team went on a tour of Canada and the US. On their arrival in Canada, they were told they couldn't play so they crossed the border into the USA.

There they discovered they would be playing against men's teams, including at least one American who would go on to represent the US at the 1930 World Cup finals.

Yet the Lancashire women again proved stars, winning three games, drawing three and losing three.

American Paterson FC goalie Pete Renzulli said: "We were national champions and we had a hell of a job beating them."

The team carried on playing in England on non-League pitches.

Goalie June, who never married, said: "We had great camaraderie in the team. There was no bitching or arguments. We would stop off at a pub after a game and have a drink and a sing-song."

But crowds and fixtures began to wane. And in 1965 the once world-famous team folded, its glory days confined to flickering black and white news reels. But their record was one any men's team would envy: Played 828, won 758, drew 46, lost 24.

Football - and the public - then forgot the first superstars of the women's game.

June, who still keeps a football at home, added: "Women's football today is 50 years behind the lads' game - and it goes right back to that FA ban."

Author Gail Newsham, a local government officer from Preston, added: "The story of Dick, Kerr was then forgotten but these women should be celebrated like Kelly Holmes and Paula Radcliffe."

There has, belatedly, been some recognition. In 2002, 24 years after she died, Lily Parr joined the likes of Sir Stanley Matthews, Jimmy Greaves and Alan Shearer in the National Football Hall Of Fame.

She was followed by fellow Dick, Kerr star Joan Whalley in 2007.

Back home in Chadderton, Edna laughs and says in the thick accent of her native Crewe: "Looking back, the men didn't like us because we were just too good."

Women in the 1920s

THE stars of Dick, Kerr Ladies were pioneers for women's rights.

Parliament only agreed to give women over 30 the vote in 1918 - after years of struggle.

Suffragettes chained themselves to railings, set fire to post boxes and even set off bombs. One campaigner, Emily Davison, died after she leapt in front of the King's horse, Anmer, in 1913.

The First World War saw a shortage of men to work in factories and on farms. This led to a new view of what women could do. The government encouraged sports like football among factory girls.

The 1920s redefined womanhood - smoking and drinking in public were more acceptable, as well as closer contact when dancing, short hair and make-up.

It wasn't until 1928 that women were given the full right to vote.

Golden girls ... the team line up together in 1921, the year they were banned

Proud ... Edna Broughton

'Little star' ... Edna in heyday

Keepers ... June with programmes

In action ... shot from a match in 1925

News in briefs ... newspaper report on 'scanty' knickers

Offline Dr Gonzo

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Re: The ladies football team so good the men at the FA banned them
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2010, 10:32:32 PM »
They seemed to get some good crowds...wonder how many they'll get to turn up for the super league...

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Offline cheeks100

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Re: The ladies football team so good the men at the FA banned them
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2010, 09:48:07 AM »
I always find the history of women's football fascinating.  I like this article (original source:'s_football:_They_were_first_belles_of_the_ball

The rise of women’s football is sometimes regarded as a recent trend. But, in fact, the sport enjoyed an early heyday many years ago. Here Peter Seddon recounts the background to the occasion, in 1921, when a team billed “the best in the world” played at Derby County’s Baseball Ground.

SOME extremely talented sides have appeared at Derby County’s Baseball Ground in its long and illustrious history – Real Madrid, Benfica, Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea to name but a few.

But could any of them justly have billed themselves “the best team in the world”? In truth no, but one team did fit the bill – a side named Dick Kerr’s Ladies, who were the main attraction at the Baseball Ground on Wednesday August 31, 1921.

It was the day the fair sex proved to a sceptical football town that they really could play the game.

In a historical context, the match was made possible in light of a desire long held by women to play a game traditionally associated with men.

Records linking women and football go back many centuries. In 1586, the poet Sir Philip Sidney penned the iconic lines which many a girl since has sought to uphold: “A time there is for all, my mother often says, when she with skirts tucked very high, with girls at football plays.”

Some of the earliest records of women’s football can be traced back to the Highland region of Scotland during the 18th century, where the game was a form of folk football linked to local marriage customs.

Single women would play married women, while prospective husbands looked on hoping to select a bride from the singles’ ranks.

Social historians believe that such games were emulated elsewhere – Derbyshire no doubt had its equivalent.

But it wasn’t until the late 19th century that ladies first took to the now familiar organised version of the game known as association football.

The first official match in England was played at the ground of Crouch End Athletic, London, on March 23, 1895, between teams of middle and upper-class schoolgirls representing the North versus the South.

Its organiser was Miss Janetta “Nettie” Honeyball, secretary of the newly-formed British Ladies Football Club, who told all who would listen (not many men!) that “football is a manly game which can be womanly as well”.

Honeyball’s efforts had only a fleeting effect for, in its first incarnation, ladies’ football was perceived at best as a mere novelty and at worst, as one critic labelled it, “an excrescence of the worst kind”.

So, the game wasn’t widely taken up. And, as for local links, it seems likely that not a single ladies’ match took place in Derbyshire before the First World War. But that conflict changed everything.

With thousands of men away at war, women were, for the first time, widely employed in the heavier factory jobs, especially munitions work.

That led to their employers encouraging them to maintain their strength and fitness by following so-called “manly” sports.

For countless factory girls that manifested itself in membership of a works ladies’ football team.

And so it came about that organised ladies’ football was first widely played.

By the time the Dick Kerr’s side arrived in Derby in August 1921 they were a celebrated outfit.

They were formed in 1917 as the works team to the Dick Kerr and Co Ltd munitions factory in Preston, named after the company founders W B Dick and John Kerr, both Scots from Kilmarnock.

Adopting the black and white stripes of Newcastle United, the ladies made rapid progress and soon established a routine of playing games for charity, raising thousands of pounds for good causes.

Many of their games were played on Football League grounds, attracting phenomenal crowds. Their biggest was at Everton’s Goodison Park, on Boxing Day 1920, when their game against St Helen’s Ladies was watched by a staggering 53,000 – with 10,000 more locked out!

All opposition fell in their wake, including teams abroad, hence the “World Champion” tag.

Derby certainly had no team to match them, for there was no ladies’ team in the town at all.

Instead, the opposition at the Baseball Ground was Coventry City Ladies, who were duly brushed aside 3-0.

Derby’s mayor, Alderman Dr R Laurie, graciously kicked off the match and all proceeds, after expenses, were in aid of the Hospital Day Fund.

A crowd recorded as 15,000 generated gate receipts of £600.

Scepticism had been rife before the game. The Derby Daily Telegraph said: “Their efforts may be encouraged since they play for charity, but ladies’ football will never be more than a novelty.”

Derby County supporters were of similar mind, for laughter and ribald comments characterised the opening minutes.

But once they saw that the Preston girls had mastered the rudiments of play, the crowd settled to enjoy a proper game.

Centre-forward Florrie Redford bagged a brace, but the star attraction was the beanpole inside-right Lily Parr, an impoverished girl who joined the Dick Kerr team when she was 14 and carried on playing to the age of 46, scoring almost 1,000 goals in the process.

After the game, all present agreed the spectacle had been better than expected and when the signed ball was auctioned off, as was the usual custom, it went to Mr E Maycock for 11 and a half guineas – might his prize yet lurk in a Derby attic?

Dick Kerr’s appearance at Derby was just one of 67 games the team played for charity in 1921, before an aggregate crowd of 900,000.

From such a high point, ladies’ football was poised to make ever-greater strides. But then came a bombshell.

On December 6, 1921, the Football Association banned ladies’ football from the grounds of all FA member clubs.

The official reason was put down to “misappropriation of charitable funds”, but the ladies believed the FA’s motive was more sinister – that crusty male committee members simply decided enough was enough, deeming football “unsuitable as a serious exercise for women”.

The Dick Kerr’s team carried on but were confined to playing abroad or at local level and ladies’ football entered a rapid decline.

Teams did play from the 1930s to the 1950s but the game was essentially a sub-culture associated with joke matches or the tomboy breed.

Only in 1969, four years after Dick Kerr’s finally folded, was the Women’s Football Association formed, interest having been boosted by England’s 1966 World Cup triumph.

The FA officially recognised their female counterparts in 1971 but, remarkably, it wasn’t until the late 1980s that the ban on women playing on League pitches was fully lifted.

Derby County Ladies now boast a highly-organised and flourishing club, with teams at all age levels.

But their formation came only after a long journey. In 1921, having witnessed Dick Kerr’s in action, a group of girls wrote to Steve Bloomer requesting help in setting up a Derby County ladies’ side.

Bloomer made the right noises but nothing permanent transpired.

In 1970, a team named Hector’s Edition was formed, loosely affiliated to the Rams and named in honour of Kevin Hector.

They trained and played on Markeaton Park and their team picture even appeared in Goal magazine, but the side soon folded once initial enthusiasm had waned.

Finally, by 1992, under the guidance of player-coach Sheila Rollinson, a Draycott teacher, Derby had established a ladies’ team officially attached to Derby County.

They have progressed from strength to strength, as has the women’s game as a whole.

More than two million girls in Britain now play football at school. There is a flourishing national league, FA Cup, countless local sides and high-profile European Championship and World Cup tournaments. While the Dick Kerr’s Ladies take much credit for pioneering the trend, the 1920s editor of the Derby Daily Telegraph might well be eating his words from beyond the grave: “Ladies’ football will never be more than a novelty.”

Offline EliteImp

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Re: The ladies football team so good the men at the FA banned them
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2010, 12:20:04 AM »
Nice articles.

If those are scanty knickers then God help us  :o