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Women's Football - Where it all began

Women & Girls football continues to be this countries fastest growing sport. The number of girls playing and the number of clubs available are at an all time high. What is surprising is that women have in fact been playing football in this country for over 100 years!

So why is it that only in the last 10 years have people really started to notice that girls can and do play football??

Here are some important dates in the development of the women’s game, which might explain why:

1895 March 23rd, the first women’s football match recorded was held between a northern and a southern team. The north won the game 7-1.

1902 The football Association banned men’s teams from playing against women’s teams.

1917-1919 During the First World War, women’s role in society changed and this allowed women’s football teams to grow, using the games to raise money for charity.

1920 April 30th, the first international game was held between two women’s teams. Dick Kerr’s ladies (a Preston based team) invited a women’s French representative team to play a series of games for charity. A crowd of 25,000 saw Dick Kerr’s Ladies win 2-0. Boxing Day, the biggest ever crowd recorded for a women’s game in this country took place. 53,000 people watched Dick Kerr’s Ladies beat their closest rivals, St Helen’s Ladies, 4-0.

1921 December 5th, the Football Association (FA) banned women from playing on Football League grounds. The FA’s reason for enforcing this ban are outlined in the following statement: “Complaints have been made as to football being played by women, the FA feel impelled to express their strong opinion that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged”.

1921-1965 This decision effectively ended the wartime boom and attendances and the number of teams began to fall. Women’s games did take place but interest diminished.


1966 - 1966 saw the men’s England team win the World Cup and football mania swept the country. The women’s game began to grow again. 1969 - The Women’s Football Association (WFA) was formed with 44 member clubs as a result of the growing interest in the sport.

1971 The FA lifted its ban, which prevented women from playing on the grounds of its affiliated clubs.

1972 The men’s FA, on the instructions of UEFA, began to work with the women’s WFA in organising the sport. November, the first official international in Britain took place with England beating Scotland 3-2.

1989 Media coverage improved the profile of the game when Channel 4 screened a series of one-hour programmes, attracting audiences of up to 3 million.

1990 The English Schools Football Association changed its rules to allow mixed competitive football in schools up to the age of 11.

1991 The Women’s Football Association launched a National League. The League began with 24 clubs divided into a Premier, Northern And Southern divisions.

1993 The FA took over the responsibility for the management and administration of the Women’s National Squad. 1995 - The FA took over full responsibility for the organisation and the administration of the Women’s game in its entirety.

1997 FA launched the ‘Charter for Quality’, which included a ‘Talent Development Plan for Women’s Football’. Key priorities of this plan involved the appointment of a National coach for the women’s game, development of Girls Centres of Excellence and National U16 and U18 representative squads.

1998 Hope Powell is appointed National Coach, the youngest ever male or female!

1999 The World Cup in the USA proves to be a major breakthrough in the women’s game worldwide. 90,000 attend the final and an estimated 1 billion watch on TV. FIFA predict that by 2010 there will be as may women playing football around the world as there are men (100 million). 2000 - Fulham Ladies FC, become the UK’s first full time professional footballers.

2001 USA launched the first fully professional league. Kelly Smith is the first English player selected in the second round draft for the Philadelphia Charge! UEFA launched the European Women’s Club Championship. With over 32 countries taking part, Double winners Arsenal represent the UK and reached the final eight, going out in extra time in the second leg away to Toulouse.

Also in 2001.. Leyton Orient become the 32 FA licensed Girls Centre of Excellence!!

The Future….. The FA look set to develop National U14 squads as part of its ongoing commitment to developing the Women’s game.

It is anticipated that 2003 will see the launch of Women’s professional league in the UK.

As you can see the futures bright, but it has taken a long time for all the developments at the top level to really make a difference.

What often happens is that the lower levels of competition are neglected which after all lay the foundations for all other areas of the game.

Here at the Leyton Orient Community Sports Programme we aim to provide opportunities to everyone who expresses an interest in football. Whether it be playing, watching, coaching or refereeing, nobody misses out! In order to achieve this, a great deal of activity currently takes place across East London and the idea behind this Website is to simply increase the profile of Women & Girls football and to let everybody know what has been going on.

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