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Women’s football…bigger than ever before?

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Women’s football is currently getting more attention than ever before. The FIFA World Cup in France is being shown on mainstream tv, BBC1, it’s being reported in major newspapers and David Beckham is attending England matches with his daughter! On average, across all matches played so far, almost 20,000 fans have attended each match.  This is the most popular women’s football has been in almost all living memory.

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FIFA Women’s World Cup Trophy Tour, Brighton Pavillion, Brighton, UK – 23 Apr 2019
Photo: Thomas Lovelock for The FA

Except, almost 100 years ago, in 1920, around 25,000 fans packed into a ground in Deepdene in the UK to watch Dick Kerr Ladies FC play a team from Paris in what was believed to be the world’s first international women’s football game. This was followed by a crowd of 53,000 for Dick Kerr Ladies FC against St Helen’s Ladies on Boxing Day, 1920. Women’s football was huge!

But then, in December 1921, the FA made it almost impossible for women to continue to play, effectively banning it.

“Complaints having been made as to football being played by women, Council felt impelled to express the strong opinion that the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and should not be encouraged.” From a resolution passed by the FA, 1921.

Women’s teams were not allowed to play at any FA grounds and were given no official recognition. They moved onto rugby pitches, school playing fields, wherever they could find. It became impossible to maintain the level of interest from fans that had culminated in 1920.

Women’s football continued, albeit under the radar, until the success of the men’s World Cup in England in 1966 gave rise to the Women’s FA taking control in 1969 and then the FA lifting the ban in 1971. Almost 50 years further on from the ban being lifted, women’s football in 2019 Britain is only just starting to be taken seriously again as a professional sport.

A club trailblazing the way for this is Lewes FC. Their campaign #EqualityFC means equal pay, facilities, resources and training for their men’s and women’s teams. Their response to #football matters?

“football is an engine for social change” Karen Dobres Lewes FC press officer. More on this to follow in the next blog….in the meantime let’s get viewing figures for the World Cup games even higher!