Much like most other sports around the world, it took a while for women’s football to gain popularity. But before that was even on the cards, women weren’t even allowed to participate in official competitions and tournaments in many places around the world. Back then, the sport was considered “masculine”, far too boisterous for “dainty”, “fragile” women. This was especially true in the United Kingdom.
Women In Football at the Start
However, women have been playing football – or soccer, as many call it – pretty much since the game was invented. In fact, there is evidence that women played football during the Han Dynasty, dating back to 25 – 220 CE in China. This evidence constituted a depiction of two women playing an ancient form the game called “cuju”.
In Midlothian, Scotland, there were reports of an actual match being played in the 1790s. However, at this point, a lot of sport involved violence and aggression, which contributed to the idea that women shouldn’t be involved. However, many years later, in 1863, many western football governing bodies changed the rules – they prohibited on-field violence. As a result, football was seen to be more suitable and “safe” for women.
International Women’s Football
In 1881, the first ever international women’s football match was played in Edinburgh during a tour of Scottish and English teams. A year later, in 1892, the Scottish Football Association recorded a women’s football match, making history.
Following the success of the 1881 tour, the British Ladies’ Football Club was established in 1894. Nettie Honeyball was the female activist at the forefront of the club’s established, and she left an incredible legacy in British history of women in sport.
Unsurprisingly, the British football associations that existed at the time weren’t in favour the women’s club. They wanted the sport to continue to be male dominated and they didn’t want the ladies to be granted the same respect as them as they believed that allowing women to play the sport officially would jeopardise the masculinity of football and ruin it for men.
However, they pushed forward, and on Boxing Day in 1920, Preston played a match against St. Helen’s Ladies and attracted a crowd of 53,000 spectators at Goodison Park. It was after this in 1921 that the FA (Football Association) banned women’s soccer from all of its club grounds.
However, women weren’t about to accept being excluded from football, and in 1969 they established their own organisation – the WFA, the Women’s Football Association with 44 member clubs. Thus, by 1971, the band had been rescinded and the first Women’s FA Cup Final took place later that year.
Women’s Football Continued to Grow
In the years that followed, women went on become more and more involved in the sport, both in terms of playing and an organisational perspective.
Today, where we can find football and horse racing betting odds at the touch of a button and there are more than two genders, compensation for men and women is far from equal. Yet, women are allowed access to just about all the same competitions that men are, but the journey it took to get there will never be forgotten.