On Boxing Day 1920, 53,000 people watched the Dick, Kerr Ladies beat St Helens Ladies 4-0 at Goodison Park – the largest-ever crowd recorded for a women’s football match in England. The game had blossomed during the First World War, as lunch-break kickabouts at munitions factories evolved into 150 women’s clubs across the country. But months after the Boxing Day fixture, the sport was banned by the Football Association – deemed “unsuitable” and dangerous. The ban remained for 50 years.
In this rich personal reflection on the women’s game, the New Statesman’s podcast producer May Robson looks at how it has evolved since 1971 – both less well-funded but more inclusive and vibrant than the men’s game. Robson’s own grassroots club, Goal Diggers FC, now has over 200 members and an international reach; an exceptional England women’s team reached the final of the Euro 22 tournament. How did they get here? In the words of the Dick, Kerr Ladies FC captain Alice Kells, more than 100 years ago: “We play for the love of the game and are determined to go on.”
Written and read by May Robson.
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